Archive for the ‘My Trees’ Category

Around five years ago at a visit to Ken Fujiwara’s nursery I was checking out the tree’s and came across a white pine that caught my eye. It had very good leaf and looked healthy. It had some inverse taper though and I wasn’t sure if it was grafted on to black pine or if it was natural white pine. After a chat with my Sempai he confirmed it was grafted and that was why it had inverse taper. The bulge did have Shari to it one side and this gave that area some interest and not only a bad point. I could see that the tree had some potential and I knew it was bendable so, I proceeded with asking a price. Being as it was grafted on black pine it made the material more affordable for me, otherwise it probably still would be expensive as a natural white pine and Oyakata said he would of bought the tree if it was natural white pine. Setsu Goyomatsu can still command high prices if the are very good tree’s otherwise they have a tendency to be cheaper. I decided that I wanted to try to make the tree even though I didn’t know how exactly but, I thought there is a good tree in there.

One day when I had some free time at night I started working on the tree. Unfortunately I lost the photo’s of the initial bend before but, this is the tree in October of 2015 near the end of one growing season after I bent the tree. The big bend was bent best part of forty five degrees.


As you can probably see the tree suffered a little on the top where it had the hard bend.


You can see more clearly  from these two pictures. The first is the top of the tree and it pushed weakly with short new needles compared to the second photo of the bottom bench which was not so severely bent. It was this point I was glad I didn’t work the whole tree because it possibly could of been too much for the top section and died. With any type of tree, bending hard and later wiring is the safest option but, knowing your species and how far you can push them is paramount. White pines are certainly more tricky even when they are strong compared to other species.

Here you can see the damage and Shari caused from the bend after I removed the tape.


The tape doesn’t stop the damage happening but, helps to limit and hold the bark, cambian, etc.

I then followed up with some maintenance to try to help balance and strengthen the top part.

I left the top half alone, leaving all needle and on the strong area I cut all old needles leaving only this years needles. This is to open up the strong area, let light in and potential new buds from the cut needles can still form. Leaving the weak area should help to strengthen this part and give it the best chance to catch up with the lower branch.

This how the tree looked after the sessions work.

I then decided to re-pot in March 2016, to strengthen the tree and get into a better mix also to adjust its angle ready for its styling.


This was a quick snap mod re-potting, is isn’t take an after pick at the time and forgot to take later as I think it was getting late.

The tree was then left to grow and the only work for that growing season consisted of some candle pinching on the strongest of shoots on the main branch.


This is the tree in its new pot with the chosen front. The top half has got stronger but, still not quite caught up to the main branch on the right. The ceramic choice is maybe my favorite style of pots, of course not suited for every tree but, I believe a good choice for this one. I love very deep powerful ovals such as this one and this has just enough femininity to use with a white pine in my humble opinion.

Even still I decided it was ok to style and wire the tree.

Here you can see the detail of the Shari ball which is to be the focus and main interest of the tree. With the combination of the bend and angle change the tree looses most of its inverse taper and crates an interesting swirl of movement for a main trunk.

The start of the work consisted of running a screw through the bent part of the trunk to ensure that it wouldn’t move after I removed all the guy wires. I then proceed to remove all all needles and some new needles on the strong branch because it was still very strong and to give space to wire. I was only going to remove old needles on the weaker part if I needed to as I wired. I also cut any branches and made Jin which weren’t needed.

The tree then ready, I went on to wire one branch at a time starting with the main branch and working up.


I went branch by branch till I got to the apex. My analysis of the top was that it wasn’t the easiest to make but, had several options. There are three branches and all could be used. I discounted the already natural apex as it was too long, was difficult to fit and I couldn’t use it to fill in the top because it would always look like the tip of the apex if I left it. So I cut it out and the Jin you see in the picture above is it. It’s not always the best move cutting out parts you can use as the apex especially if you want the tree to look full but, in this case it had to be done to create better structure.  I was then left with one viable option in my mind as the other possible option had to be used to make a pad on the left.

I then laid down the left & the right branch and taped the back branch. My plan was to curl the branch around to fill in and form the apex. I felt it was the fullest, strongest and would make the best top on an already leggy apex.


I then curled the branch, following the curve, up and forwards using my jack (for ease and control) and a guy wire connected to the jin & wire.


I then wired the apex and this was the result after a little fixing.

I wasn’t really happy though and felt like the second branch on the right was hiding the nice sweep of the main branch which I wanted to show. That led me to taking it out and cutting it off.

This was the finished tree after it’s first wiring but, it still has a long road ahead of it to eventually become a bonsai. I’ve tried my best to be patient with this tree’s progression but, still try to push to develop it quickly enough. It’s not always easy with white pine knowing how far you can take them without going over the edge. From my experience I feel harder styling should be left in the dormant time, when the tree is strong and this is when I have had my best results.

Moving forward about another two years the tree has only been maintained with old needle and wire removal. I had the tree back in the workshop ready for a re-wiring, older and wiser hoping to improve on what has already been done.

Here I had already cut off a secondary branch from the main branch and the old secondary branch. My reasoning is to compact the tree as it’s grown out a lot and to make a more chuhin size. Another thing is to open it up if the balance branch was kept it would of hidden too much of the trunk. I then continued to wire brining down branches and spreading the apex so in time it will fill out better.

This was my initial finished image for the moment but, reviewing the photo Some changes need to be made. The apex is a little narrow for the moment but there isn’t anything that can be done for now about that but, It will fill out in the future considering it was so leggy.

What I wasn’t happy about is that the main branch and how separate and in compact it was. It was highlighted more from a photo, than in person. So using a guy wire I pulled it up and in to try to correct it.

This was the final image for now . I’m looking forward to see it develop, fill out and mature. It’s amazing how much it has thickened and changed in this short time.

Here is a short video, to give a better idea of the trunk.

Thank you for reading and merry Christmas everyone!

It was an early start sunday morning and the roads on the way to Failand were pretty treacherous. There were three cars and a van which had skidded onto the verge (the van had flipped over too) due to icy patches near Bristol airport. Despite this we ploughed on and we made to the show. It was bitterly cold and I was glad to get inside. All the display tables were put out the night before and all that was needed was for people to set up the displays. After helping my mentor unload the car and partly setup his sales area I started with my display. I pretty much knew how it was going to go but, with a couple of helpful pointers from my good friend Mark Cooper it was done.

Photo courtesy of Mark Cooper

Photo courtesy of Mark Cooper

Close up of my accent

Close up of my accent

I was pleased with my contribution, I had some lovely comments from people, which I was very grateful for and thank you all.
This was my first time that I had exhibited any of my trees and it was certainly an experience I will never forget. I was never in a hurry to start to show tree’s but, I felt that these too didn’t look too bad and I was glad that they got excepted.
I’ve heard that exhibiting tree’s is like putting a part of yourself/soul on display to be scrutinized by the world and well it certainly felt like it. It was a strange feeling watching people looking, talking and taking pictures of my display. I just hope that most of it was positive and it was enjoyed.
The standard was very high and their weren’t any displays that looked out-of-place. This was a credit to the tree selection by Mark, Ritta and Bob.
The venue is on the small side but, this only helped to aid the atmosphere (I can concur that it was as every bit as good as the reports as well) and the lighting is second to none (Which is more than can be said for some venue’s).
All in all I was very proud to be a part if the show, it was a complete success and long may it continue.

I’m sorry that this post was so late but, with evening an evening class, club meeting and getting prepared for my departure it’s been pretty chaotic. Well my bags are packed.. Next stop.. Japan!

The Unexpected

Posted: March 15, 2013 in My Trees
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Itoigawa Jun.1

This is an itoigawa juniper that I bought about two years ago. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of what it looked like when I first got it but, it looked very similar to these pictures here. The tree originally was a lot fuller and was a complete mushroom/dom of foliage. This was the tree after I had separated the branches and thinned the foliage, to open it up a bit. The tree was also re-potted and set on a slightly better angle.

After this work the tree was left to grow freely through the rest of the year.
The tree responded well and this autumn(fall) I had another look at the tree. There were a couple of things that bothered me.
The first was the straight section in the top third of the tree’s trunk. It was totally out of character with the bottom two-thirds of the trunk which, is nice and twisting with interesting shari. This is what attracted me to the tree originally.
The second was the branch and foliage structure. It was still too much of a dome, it offered no depth and a lack of character to the tree.

I decided to do some thing with the tree a few weeks ago and I took it to an evening class that I do with my mentor for a couple of hours each week in the winter and spring. I feel quite comfortable working on my tree’s these day’s but, I find the classes still good to do. There’s always something to learn, it’s good to set specific time to do bonsai (it can be tough to with a job and everything else), it’s always good to get a second opinion and you can get some different perspectives.

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Here is the tree prior to being worked on. After I explained what I was bothering me about the tree and some discussion. I decided to remove some branches, extend the shari and split the wood in order to give the top third section enough flexibility to put a bend in it. An Iron bar was pushed into the soil to use as a anchor point, with a wedge to bend the trunk and create some more movement. This was the result.

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In order to create a more delicate and more natural look to the final image a new angle was used. Something like a long these lines.

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I saved the wiring to be done at a CBC meeting last weekend which I had fortunately been ask a long too. CBC is run by Mr Dan Barton (and his good wife Cea), it is a group of friends/study group/bonsai lovers that meet once a month to socialize and work on their tree’s. I’m not a full-blown member but, I’m very fortunate to be on the fill in list (if anyone can’t make it) and asked occasionally.
I had a great day, throughly enjoyed my self and managed to wire most of the tree but, not all of it. This was the result after the day.

Front

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Over the rest of this week I finished wiring and placing the branches.

The Front

The Front

The back

The back

The right side

The right side

The left side

The left side

To bring down a fairly thick branch near the top I used a controlled split using a narrow pull saw to make a cut above the top inside of the branch. Which made it a lot more flexible and in time this will heal over and wont even be noticeable.

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I’m pleased with the result but, I pushed the tree quite hard doing the styling. Because of that I will not re-pot to change the angle and secondly the tree really doesn’t need re-potting either. It probably wont be re-potted for at least a couple of years and probably more like three to four. It is straight in the green house for now because winter seems to have come back this last week with frosts down to -5, wind chill of near -10 and now north, westerly winds (cold-ish) with rain. Come back gulf stream, please!

When I was doing the final adjustments to this tree I had a moment of clarity and something clicked. I think that it has changed/adjusted my approach to styling and I understand a little bit more. It’s strange how these things come to you, I guess it is all about progression and a tiny step towards raising the bar. I really didn’t see it coming and it was totally ‘unexpected’ with this tree.

When looking for material for my bonsai collection, I’m always on the look out for a bargain. I’m not saying all I like to buy is cheap rubbish, far from it. I think we should always aim for the best material we can afford to aim for the highest quality collection we can have.
Sometimes though, if you look very carefully through some of the mass-produced tree’s you can spot a potential gem. When I say mass-produced I mean the trees which have been bought in as a job lot. They are all bought in at the same price each and no real attention is given to see which are better or not. Most the time these trees are pretty bog standard and there is little chance of them ever making a possible show tree out of them, without spending time in the ground and a long time developing them after.
However, last October at WindyBank Bonsai I believe I managed to find one such tree among the general riff-raff.

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It’s shohin sized cork bark chinese elm. Yes, I did say chinese elm (Ulmus Parvifolia). They are really looked down on but, in my opinion they are a wonderful tree and deserve more time & respect they are given. They have perfect attributes for bonsai, as good as any deciduous tree if not better than many. They have superb ramification (second to none), lovely mature bark on corked & normal, excellent leaf size and they develop fast.
One thing I have learnt (the hard way) is that whether they are corked or not they need some protection. especially if they start to grow and we get some particularly cold weather. They will start to swell at the meer smell of spring.

This tree is different and has a lot of potential in my eye’s, for several reasons.
The first was the taper, for one of these mass-produced tree’s the taper is good. So often you see mass-produced shohin cork bark chinese elm with a thick straight trunk with inverse taper and a hedgehog of foliage on top. There is no way of curing this, unless you air layer and go for an octopus style tree or maybe start taking chunks out of it. Either way its going to be long-term.
The second was the movement. It had potentially two good options for trunk lines both with good movement and taper.
The third was minor but, certainly a bonus. Where the main branch should start on the tree there was a nice thick enough branch to start one from. Which certainly would save me some time in developing the tree.

You can see on the left in the picture that I have already started to bring the main branch down. I did this a couple of months ago as I knew that this would be needed to be done, which ever trunk line I decided to go for. I decided to go for the trunk line on the right, you see in the picture and with this front. The other had reasonable movement but, it seemed a little contorted with a little bit too sharp an angles. Also near top the trunk line ran out of taper and would need to been grown more, takeing more time.
The picture was just before I did major work on Monday. The tree has been well protected and was starting to leave out. I needed to cut back hard but, where there were any branches I wanted to keep, I left opening leaves or at least swelling buds. Here is the result.

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I think it turned out well, the tree has good taper and reasonable branch structure. I changed the angle tilting it to left to improve the trunk line.
There are several scares which are hidden out of view which is a bonus but, they should heal quite quick.
There are certainly some branches that will need to cut back or go and few to be grown but, most are in good positions.
I’ve not checked the root spread yet but, my fingers are crossed there are ok. I do find that cork bark chinese elm do have a tendency to make good Nebari and I hope this one’s decent enough. In a lot of books they always say you should go for trees with good nebari’s. Which is true but, they can be worked on and developed with the right techniques.
In a few years if it grows well it should look fairly reasonable and in a few more probably ready for an exhibition. I certainly think it wouldn’t look out-of-place in a shohin composition, if it’s finished to a high enough standard.
Not bad for sixty odd quid.

Large White Pine

Posted: March 3, 2013 in My Trees
Tags: ,

032This is an imported tree which was originally was sourced from Kyoto Bonsai for a client of my mentors in the UK. The tree was totally re-styled by my mentor for the client and was planted in a custom-made Dan Barton pot.

My mentors client decided to give up keeping bonsai trees and decided to focus on breeding his snakes instead (don’t ask me why). My mentor was offered the collection and he gladly excepted having worked on many of the trees over some time getting good results. He had a small yet great collection with mainly white pines (they were his ‘thing’) and a few other trees. Unfortunately, as is the case with many people who get tired of the hobby they were a little neglected and some looked a bit worse for the ware especially with the harsh winters we started to receive at the time. I was roped in as ‘muscle’ (which I don’t mind, it’s always fun and interesting on these sort of jobs) and looking at the trees I was pretty impressed.

My mentor decided to keep two of the trees which he felt quite close too having worked/developed them and wanted to sell the others. I loved this pine which was for sale and when I saw it, I knew I wanted to buy it. So with a bit of a chat I managed to secure the purchase of it. The tree had a dead branch, was looking a bit weak and because I helped out, I got a really good price for it.

The picture of it, is of the tree just coming up to three years down the line since I acquired it. Since then I only did some minor wiring and maintenance pruning. I decided that the tree was getting a little too out of shape and was due for total wire a re-style. The fact that I am going to Japan for a month in April was another factor but, that’s another story.

The health of the tree seemed to improve year on year that was until last year when I was a little disappointed at its progress. Understanding/reading a trees health is one of the key elements to keeping/developing bonsai and its something I think I’m only truly starting to grasp/understand. I belive the tree is in need of a re-pot. The soil isn’t too bad but, it stays too moist through the growing season especially with the weather we have been having. So, I’m going to re-pot in the next month.

White pine are a mountainous tree, which aren’t used too our wet winters in their natural climate and need to be kept on the dry side in the winter. I learnt from reading a post by Peter Tea, that in Japan that they keep white pines so dry in the growing season that the weeds wilt in the pot. That’s ok when the air moisture is as humid as Japan and the pine can get moisture from the air but, in the UK I belive they need to be watered more with our dry atmosphere. They don’t dislike water but, they appreciate drying out between watering’s.

Here is the tree, post me wiring it this winter. (If you are wondering about the actual size of the tree it’s about 27-28 inches tall with a trunk about 6 inches thick. The pot is about 18 inches across and 4 thick. It’s pretty hefty too.)
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It didn’t turn out too bad, I don’t think. I know it’s a cleshay but, the photo’s don’t do it justice. I’m not much of a photographer, I don’t really have the setup to photo trees and light was fading at the time (well those are my excuse’s anyway).

I could have taken more needles off and neatened the image but, they are a weaker pine (especially in the UK) and I wanted to leave as many as a I could. The final image is not such a problem at the moment its more important to get the structure set and it will fill out in time. I would have liked to put more movement in the two first branches but, they are old and brittle and it was the wrong time to do that sort of thing anyway. Other than that I’m quite happy with it. My skill has certainly improved but, I still have a long way to go yet.