Archive for July, 2013

Tosho

Posted: July 30, 2013 in Aichi-en tree's, Japan, Tree maintenance
Tags: ,

Just recently I was assigned this Tosho/needle juniper to trim and clean up.

Not the best photo but, it was on the floor to start with so I could reach the top.

Not the best photo but, it was on the floor to start with so I could reach the top.

This tree was originally bought by Oyakata’s grandfather and had very little foliage or branches. Oyakata said his grandfather bought it, his father grew it on and he styled it. So three generations in the making. Last year the tree became weak, most probably because the soil became too compact and the tree couldn’t get enough water. So the tree was re-potted this year to help regain vigor. If I could give one tip for keeping needle junipers it would be don’t treat them like a shimpaku. They love to be kept moist so, if you have a reasonably well-drained mix, keep on top of the watering. They are also weaker than other junipers and care needs to be taken in not overworking.
Needle juniper’s have a reputation of being pretty prickly but, on the pain scale this one is fairly tame although my finger tips are feeling a little tender at the moment.
I cut back to green or buds on old wood, defined pad lines where I could and cleaned out any old dead needles from the inside.
Here’s the tree after working on it.

Front

Front

Side

Side

Back

Back

Other side

Other side

It took me a good deal of time to do the whole tree. It is very dense (especially the top) and the tree is a meter tall/a monster.
There are some weak area’s/weak branches which had to be left and it could do with a little wire here and there but as they say here ‘shogunai’.
It was nice to work with a great tree with a long history here.

On the subject of Tosho my dear friend John Trott asked if I could find out any information on white stuff that forms on the trunks of needle juniper’s and Cryptomeria’s. I have seen it on several tree’s that have come in from Japan and we had speculated on what it might be before. Thinking that it could be a fungus or lime deposits.

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It just so happened that when I looked up into the canopy of the big tree I spotted the same white stuff. Being that Oyakata was in the workshop having a smoke after lunch and I was there working through part my lunch break to get the tree done, I promptly asked. I asked if it was a fungus and he said no. The best answer he could give was moss but, what I believe he means is lichen. Apparently you only get it on old tree’s and it isn’t a problem. I think that is more of a revered thing, than a bad thing, showing age and most probably wouldn’t be taken off for an exhibition.
So there you go John, it can be removed by scrubbing with a brush according to Oyakata if you want to.

Thanks for reading.

Having lived in the countryside back home & growing up on a farm, I’ve always been surrounded by nature and always had an interest in it. So, coming to a foreign place with a different climate and flora & fauna, some what intrigues me. I have been thinking for a while that a post on some of the critter’s here that surround me at Aichi-en would be a good idea. Recently in my free time I have been trying my best to take some pictures of said subject. It seems to be a tough job though. My feeling is it is a harsh place to survive and is a bit dog eat dog here because nothing seems to stops still for very long, if at all. Having said that I have managed to get some decent pic’s.

Now referring to the title…

I was fortunate enough (whilst pottering around with the camera) to meet a couple of guys having a tussle.

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As I crept closer (to get some better pictures), I disturbed them I think and brought their match to a premature end.

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The Victor (or at least for now)!

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He was tuckered right out (poor fella) and happy for me to get a nice photo of him.
It was nice to see the little guy win and it backed up a theory of mine. I noticed before that these little lizard’s seem to have their own territory round the nursery and I normally disturb them with the hose watering the tree’s here (cold water obviously isn’t for them, haha). Knowing that I guessed that they fight for the best spots and this only confirmed it.

Here’s some other creatures that stopped still long enough for me few snaps of.

A nice orange coloured butterfly that unfortunately wouldn’t play ball and open its wings whilst still but, you can see a glimpse of it in the first photo.
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A nice blue dragonfly I think it must have been about 3 inches/7.5cm long in body length.

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A cicada. These seem particularly flighty and make a hell of a racket mostly in the morning and evening. I felt really fortunate to get such a good picture of it considering how jumpy they are. A very beautiful insect.

For an idea of scale the piece of wood is 4cm wide.

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A type of wasp chewing on the wood to build a nest somewhere. They have long dangly front legs when they fly which looks very strange.

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There’s some others I’d like to get some photo’s of but, that’s all for now.

Thanks for reading.

It seems for now that we have broken the back of the candle cutting which, has freed us up to do a few other things. It is certainly nice to have a change of jobs.

Yesterday I was given the job of trimming a Tsugi/Cryptomeria. I got a little way into it when I thought it might be nice to share it here.

We have only a couple on the nursery and it was nice to be assigned the tree. My tutor back home (John Trott of Mendip Bonsai Studio) doesn’t have a favourite specie to work with but, crypto’s would certainly be up there in his top 10. It has rubbed off on me a bit too and I certainly have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Here’s some pictures of the tree when I whipped out the camera.

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A mug for scale.

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This is the section I had already done on the top.

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This is the finished result after pulling a late one last night to finish the job. I have to say it was a pleasure to work with and I really enjoyed it.

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Thanks for reading.

Takao Koyo

Posted: July 8, 2013 in Bonsai Pot's, Japan
Tags: , ,

Here is a group of shohin/mame pots made by Takao Koyo which are here, at Aichi-en. I like Takao Koyo and I thought I’d post them here. They are well made Japanese pots, good quality and a reasonable price.

A nice yellow pot would go well with many deciduous species and would give added interest in a shohin display. 12.3cm in length and 3.5cm depth (external).

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A nice cream pot and a very versatile colour. 12.2cm long 3.2cm deep.

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A group or root over rock pot. Would go well with a trident maple/kaede. 18.2cm long and 1.9cm deep.

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A mame green pot. 8.5cm long and 3.3cm deep.

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A round grey crackle mame/small accent pot. 5.3cm across and 2.3/2.4 deep.

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A couple of group shot’s.

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Oyakata is selling the group for $600 which, sounds pretty good to me. I don’t expect they will hang around long at that price.

Thanks for reading.

Over the last two weeks since my return here we have been mainly candle cutting the Black pines and more recently the medium sized tree’s (also pulling needles, if still needed). We start candle cutting earlier here because there are so many black pines to get through. Smaller tree’s are done later so they have less time to grow and the needle length stays shorter.

I’m not going to go into great depth on what we do here because I have briefly gone into it before and Peter Tea has talked about in in greater detail on his blog.
As a reminder we pull needles down to five pair’s per shoot and cut all buds weak, medium and strong all at once.
There are occasional exceptions to this. For example if there is a weak branch we might leave the very weakest of buds or even leave the branch alone if it is very weak.
There is no exact formula and the tree’s health and well-being has to be taken into consideration every time it is worked on.

The techniques used from nursery to nursery are all different. That is not to say that any of them are wrong because the all work and they have their reasons.

It seems to me from experience back home, that we are obsessed with what techniques to use and how to get our pines to back bud. Don’t get me wrong good technique at the right time is vital but, rather than focusing on the techniques we use (there are many that work), we need to look at the health of the tree and getting our them in a position for them to positively respond. If you do this right, back budding is not a problem, in fact you need to remove buds.

What we need to understand is (if it isn’t obvious already), is the techniques or things we do to tree’s (whether it be wiring, cutting, bending, over watering, bad weather or even moving, etc) have weakening/stressful effects to certain degrees on our tree’s. Putting tree’s through too much stress only slows down development and can be potentially dangerous. So a little less at a time in most cases a better approach rather than, going all guns blazing too often. Pushing our tree’s is vital to reach a high level but, knowing their limits is just as important.
On the other hand we strengthen the tree with a good feeding regime, good soil mix, good watering, good weather etc. You can actually over do the strengthening of tree’s as well, especially pines. You end up getting thick growth at the tips and lumps if excess candles have grown.
So, we are always fighting a balancing act to develop & produce good bonsai and mastering this is the key. Something that Japan has mastered over many years.

I believe that better cultivation can improve black pine bonsai back home and we can come closer to using the techniques used in Japan. There are so many benefits from candle cutting regularly and this will be something I will need to experiment with back home once I finish my apprenticeship.

These are a few of the many tree’s I have been working on.

Customers tree before work (front)

Customers tree before work (front)


Side

Side

Back

Back

Other side

Other side

The tree after it has been worked on.

The tree after it has been worked on.

This is a chuhin tree that resides here at Aichi-en. It has very thick bark for such a small trunk.

Front

Front

Side

Side

Back

Back

Other side

Other side

The tree after cutting and plucking

The tree after cutting and plucking

Another tree post working on it.

Front

Front

Side

Side

Back

Back

Other side

Other side

No major changes but, vital work in maintaining the tree’s here at Aichi-en.

Here is a bigger tree at Aichi-en.
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It was styled (before my return to Japan) and to some, may look like plucked & cut to an inch of it’s life. It is however showing a very strong response and pushing bud’s all over and even back budding. A testament to the right techniques, used at the right time, in the right place.
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Rather a long post from me I’m afraid but, thanks for reading/sticking with it and listening to my ranting. I hope you enjoyed it.