Archive for the ‘Bonsai’ Category

Oyakata gave me a tree a while back to wire, style and make look nice. A mountain collected juniper that had already been re-potted and the front chosen some time ago. It was just a case of recreating structure, making pads and trying to make a clean look, whilst still a natural feeling.

The tree to start wasn’t looking in bad condition and was looking very natural but, in good condition for a wiring to make look good.

I started with normal shimpaku clean up, cleaning the foliage live vein, etc and then on to wiring.

This was the final result.


  I opened op the front to show more trunk, shari and live vein. Separated some of the bigger pads into smaller pads to give the tree more depth and better flow.

Another tree that I was given to work was a small cascade.


The tree was bought and repotted quickly a good year ago and wasn’t in great health at the time. One of my Sempai was watching Oyakata re-pot it and stated the was a good chance it my die. Since then the tree has grown in strength and made it through it all.

Oyakata asked me to wire it now it was in better health. It was a bit of a challenge has it had been changed from bunjin to kengai and structure had to be completely reset.


Overall I was pleased with result and its set it on a path of improvement but, still has a few years to really fill out and reach its potential.

A chuhin Shimpaku that has been here for a couple of years or so, finally got it’s first styling by myself.

The tree had been re-potted and cleaned up back when it first arrived but, hadn’t been touched apart from basic maintence since then. Another apprentice brought the tree to the work shop for maintence but, Oyakata asked me to wire it instead. The photo above was after I had removed all weak foliage and cleaned the live vein. 

I then proceeded to wire, setting new structure as the front was changed and finished with cleaning the Shari & lime sulphur. 


I really want the foliage to gain in size fill out more, so it’s more proportionate to the dead wood and also envelope around the Shari more so, as to break up the powerful Shari more than it is now. I tried my best to bring the foliage and the Shari together but, it’s the best I could do for now though.

Thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my work.

Not every body knows but, Aichi-en has two plots of the nursery a couple of blocks apart. The second area which is least know, we refer as the field. It contains very low concrete benches and a little growing bed area. Most of the tree’s there are very raw, in development or just too big too fit on the nursery. They are watered and mainly taken care of by Mr Tanaka’s mother and acts as an overflow. Recently a Chinese buyer bought about ten field grown black pines and when we where there loading them on to the truck Mr Tanaka asked us to bring back this tree for me to wire.


Most of the tree’s their are nothing to write home about but, there are a few gem’s amongst it all. This tree is one that me and Juan had eyed up a long time ago because we knew that it had some potential to make a nice tree one day. It’s an old collected tree but, still very raw and reminded a little of the collected material back in Europe.

The main feature of the tree is the old shari on the trunk and this is what I wanted to show in styling.



To start off I pulled needles and cleaned the inside of the sabamiki to see what branches & structure I have to use.


I removed a few ‘definate don’t need branches’ and looked at both sides. Either of them could be made both having plus and negative points. In the end though I went with my initial gut choice and what I believed would make the best tree in the future.


Somewhere around this and having made the decision I gave Martín the all clear to remove a big branch going up.


If I had chosen the opposite side as a front then this would have been the main branch, which was one of the main plus sides of using the other side, it being thicker and older branch. Using this side though, it was useless and had to go.

I then set about wiring the branches into place. It wasn’t the easiest of styling’s, with young branches black pine can be very brittle but, they are strong and can handle a few small breaks.

Finally with an up-potting here was the initial styling result.


It’s still very raw and has a very long was to go but, I hope it’s a step in the right direction and on its way to being a bonsai one day.

As I was taking the final picture a happy geisha came to view the tree to my surprise, just like you see in pictures of exhibitions in Japan!

Back along Mr Tanaka came back with a new kifu sized white pine.


The tree is setsu-goyo/grafted on to black pine base which many of us are familiar with being as many are exported around the world. Favored for their strength and size. This one however is very old, older than many you see and sets it apart some what. 

This tree also belonged to a famous collecter and customer who has since passed, Mr Ryoji Fukui. A  customer of shokuji-en(Ishi-San), formally residing in Nagoya and now Inazawa, it was the most famous nursery in Nagoya. Shokuji-en is famous for shohin bonsai and  Fukui-San was a shohin collector but, also had some very nice big tree’s.

There is a published book of Fukui-San’s tree’s but, this tree does not feature in it. The book contains many we’ll known tree’s including Kokufu winner’s.


I set about working the tree according to Mr Tanaka’s instructions with a slight front change. I had remove a branch at the front to show the trunk. 


It had been some time since the tree had been worked, was leggy and really needed a structure set. The tree also could do with a slight tilting to the right and in the future a more suitable pot change to show the real power of the tree. I look forward to seeing the pot selection Mr Tananka chooses and how much it will change feel of the tree in the near future.

This white pine came to Aichi-en about two years ago, it has since been re-potted to change the angle a little and left to get healthy. Mr Tanaka got for a good price and knew with a little work it would make a nice tree. It’s old and has some cool shari including some interesting ita-shari at the top. This is quite unusual with white pines and more commonly found in Shimpaku/Chinese junipers.
As I set about wiring it, I tried to consider the tree and its style. Being slanting with a slight bunjin feeling, I wanted to make the pads powerful enough to fit in with the chunky trunk but, not so heavy that it lost its mountain, literati feeling. I kept the main branch as one pad and tried to break the tree up more further up.


For me the tree at the moment looks too clean for its style. It should look more natural  more bunjin style foliage pads but, for now this was development work and setting the structure. Give the tree one or two years growth the pads will naturally soften up.

One day before Mr Tanaka was set to go to Kokufu he asked me to style this tree for the sales area.


At the time it was just before we watered, it was close to lunch and I need to leave early that day (about 3:00) for personal reasons. Mr Tanaka and the guy’s were heading off to a customer’s for work after lunch.

The tree had been bought previously bought by Mr Tanaka on-line. It is old, good leaf and many things going for it. The only problem with the tree from an earlier inspection is its bad branch structure. Knowing this and with my time limit I knew my work was cut out for me (apprentice pressure). 

So I set about wiring, cleaning the tree and pulling old needles as I went. Quickly we got called for lunch but, I ate fast and I went back to work straight after (not really any time for a lunch break).

I didn’t have so much time to pontificate about which branches to cut or keep but, I tried to keep to Aichi-en style and improve structure best I could with still trying to make the tree look nice.

This was the final result.


I thought that it didn’t turn out too bad but, Mr Tanaka decided not too take it. Not sure if this was because he felt it wasn’t good enough or just decided to keep it. 

A little while back i was given this akamatsu/red pine to wire. 


This tree was first styled back in 2012 by Mr Tanaka for an Kinbon article.

As you can see the transformation was truly impressive and some awesome work. It completely altered the tree making compact and balanced. However as in any process of making a bonsai tree this is only the first stage and is never instant.

Following the styling only maintenance work has been performed on the tree. This included de-candling, pulling of needles and general care. 

The tree wasn’t de-candled last year and now was starting to loose shape. Mr tanaka decided it needed a second wiring and asked me to wire it. I started by pulling needles and removing any branches that had died.


After pulling the needle’s it’s easier to see how much the tree has got out of shape from a picture and it required cutting back quite a bit in areas to bring the tree back to shape.


This was the result after I finished wiring. 

I was pleased with it and Mr Tanaka only cut one small twig as his corrections. Before red pine where closest to the least favorite specie to work with but, my appreciation of red pine has only gone up & up recently, now to the point I believe they are one of the best in many ways.

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…!!!!