The yearly maintenance on black pines/kuromatsu (Candle cutting, needle pulling and any necessary thinning) has been going on now for a short while as we start pretty early at Aichi-en. We start with the biggest and work are way down to the smallest over the span of a month.

This is the second tree that I did this year.

  
 And after work.

  
There are many tree’s at Aichi-en, from recently purchased to the span of the nurseries existence.  This tree actually falls close to being here from the very beginning, one of the longest here and has seen all four generations of Aichi-en. From Mr Tanaka’s great-grandfather’s time, it’s been here for one hundred years. Originally a collected tree (yamadori) it was styled and designed by him. The shari isn’t actually original and was made by Mr Tanaka’s great-grandfather though, to look at it now you really couldn’t tell. 

This tree actually features in Mr Tanaka’s grandfathers book from twenty years ago. Recently an apprentice here decided to go home and Mr Tanaka kindly gave us a copy each.

  
 This book contains some pictures of old Aichi-en tree’s, some of which  were made here & still are here today and some that have been sold or no longer with us. 

This is the same black pine by, twenty years ago.

  
The tree has in fact not been changed or re-styled since. It does though gradually naturally fall slowly in the pot over time. Each time it’s re-potted it is re-angled back up but, it continues to gradually fall and hence the current picture angle of the tree. The tree has got wider/more full and although it’s not really visible from the photo’s the thickness of the bark has changed significantly. As Mr Tanaka said (as I made this observation) twenty years is a long time and tree’s develop a lot.

This is a picture of Mr Tanaka’s grandfather at the time of the book making.

  
This is a picture of the first two generations of Aichi-en. Mr Tanaka’s great grandfather and grandfather.
  
It was nice to hear some stories behind some of the tree’s here at Aichi-en the other day whilst looking at the book with Mr Tanaka. With such a long history and heritage it is humbling to be a part of it, work with them and as today marks my official date of two years here since my return, after my trial period. It is nice to reflect, be grateful and think what the future holds. An apprenticeship is a marathon to be run daily, with ups and downs, It’s not all good or all bad, happy times and sad times. At the end of the day though I feel that I’m a very lucky person, this is a life changing experience and for certain it’s one of the best things, if not the best thing I’ve done in my life! The future is uncertain but, it certainly is bright.. Onwards and upwards…!!!!

After finishing the maintenance work on the developed Japanese maples and trident maples we then moved on to doing some work to tree’s in development. This tree has been here for a while and I felt it was time it could do with a little work. It was ideal at this time because the branches had now not been cut this year and there was length to graft.

  
 The tree is a yamamomiji/Japanese mountain maple with poor leaf quality. The leaf is not good because of the size is large and the inter nodal distance is long. At sometime it was partly grafted with Seigen and left to grow for the most part, probably to let the grafts take and heal the scar’s (which are healed now).

Here you can see the difference between the different foliage types. 

  
I then defoliated the tree to see what could be done and make the work more easy. I did however make a mental note on which was original foliage and which parts were grafted.

  
At the time I also remove the secondry branch on the left as it was un grafted, coming from an ugly position and not very beautiful being straight. 

I made four approach grafts using a saw, nail’s, hammer and wound sealant.

   
  

               

  
Three out of the four grafts that were made are Seigen grafted back on to the tree, to make two new branches and a new apex. The first, was a new secondary branch grafted in a better position. The second was on to the back branch as it was still yama momiji. 

The very top two parts of the tree after the apex splits in two are also still yama momiji leaf. The left  top will be cut in the  future but, is left for now for vigor. The right side will be used as the tree will be moving to a right direction and the main branch that side. 

The fourth and final aproach graft is yama momiji the graft is not to create a branch but to use to lower the apex by 11cm.  The middle section of the tree has little taper or movement so to improve the tree it has to go.

  

  

If all goes well, the graft will keep the apex alive as the middle section is cut out and the apex re-attached at a lower point. The reason for trying to do this is to speed up the tree’s development and the challenge is certainly appealing as it’s perfect material for trying this. It was messured with a clipper and the difference is very minimal and the chosen point should be a good fit.

At a later stage there will most certainly need to be some more branches grafted and the tree has a long way to go yet but, hopefully it is a step in moving forward.

Recently I was given this exposed root White pine to wire. It is a customers tree that he wanted wired.

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For an exposed root I think it has character, it’s pretty old and nice small leaf quality.

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I must say that I like the tree and I’m glad I was given it to work.

The 85th Meifu-ten exhibit was on earlier this month and I’ve just got round to sorting through the Photo’s. It is a local show but, is one of the biggest in Japan and it is on at the same time as Gafu-ten so often people will visit both in the weekend. I didn’t take pictures of all the tree’s but, the one’s I thought were worth taking a picture of.

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Recently I was give a goyomatsu/white pine to wire for Meifu-ten baiten/sales area. White pine’s need a lot of wiring at the best of times, this was no exception and was certainly the most wiring I’ve had to do on a tree yet. I missed my planned time to finish the tree but, not by too much. I was pleased to get it done in the end.

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I just hope that it finds a new owner at Meifu-ten this weekend.

The past Taikan-ten exhibition I was very fortunate to prep a display and tree’s for my good friends Mark and Ritta Cooper. The tree in question was a Momiji/Japanese mountain maple that has been at Aichi-en for the past 6-7 years and has previously been in Kokufu-ten exhibition.
It was always a tree that I admired here with an awesome trunk and superb leaf quality. The leaf quality is so good and the internode distance is so short it isn’t pinched in the spring. Certainly a rare find on any tree but, to find such a thick well tapered trunk certainly makes this a very special tree.
To cap it off, Mark and Ritta won a prize for the display and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I’m very glad that it has found such good owners and I’m honoured that I had the chance to work on it before the exhibition. Thank you Mark and Ritta.

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Working here in Japan we do a lot of work on different species and you quickly get to know the characteristics of them. Although the work is pretty much the same process of cleaning up, wiring & styling they are all slightly different. All species have their plus point’s and negative points but, certainly my out right favourite has come to be goyomatsu/japanese white pine. I find them a pleasure to work with and very much enjoy styling them.
The minus points of this species is it has a tendency to be weaker and you can’t push them as hard as a black pine for instance. Also to make a white pine look nice after a styling really requires a dense tree. Especially if it is good needle quality and small needles. Otherwise they look very sparse and it can be difficult to define the pads.

Here is an example of a tree I wired where it was too sparse for the size of the tree to make it shine in a photo after a styling.

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Once I had removed the old needles and dead branches, on most of the tree, there wasn’t a huge amount to work with. The main branch wasn’t so bad but, most of the rest of the tree had far to little branching to make it look nice.

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As you can see some area’s don’t look so bad but, others there isn’t enough definition around the pads. Even though it doesn’t look so great, the reason I decided to share this is to show the importance of the work. The main aim is to set the structure and spread each tip out evenly. So in the future as they divide they will fill out. When the tree is sparse you can make the pads smaller by putting the tips closer together and making more defined pads. This is more show wiring and not development because you hamper the growth of the next push. The less space/light the buds will get and the tree won’t fill out.

This is a root over rock white pine. Not a very exciting tree but the foliage quality is top-notch. In fact too good as Oyakata put it, it meant that the needles are very brittle which, made it awkward to wire.

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This little guy was just a touch up job with a few strands of wire. Cute little tree.

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I didn’t re-pot it and although it is an improvement on the terracotta training pot, I think there is a better match for it. For me I would prefer a simpler pot.

This is the last tree for the post.

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Oyakata had pre-bent the branches earlier in the year (they were very horizontal) around late winter/early spring time, I think. It was safer to do it then and wire later. Bending and a full wire would be pretty dangerous then, as the tree was weak.
The branches were now set and it was ready for wiring. This tree was very dense, so had a lot to use.

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I don’t think it turned out too bad in the end.

Thanks for reading.