Archive for the ‘Tree maintenance’ Category

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…!!!!

The spring defoliation marathon is officially over here at Aichi-en. Most of the tree’s we did here were japanese maples and trident maple’s. I’d thought I’d share a few trident’s that I did. All these tree’s were grown by Oyakata’s grandfather from scratch but, all quite different. All three were partly defoliated, leaving inner weak shoots and weak area’s.

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The second tree.

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Although they are both root over rock style tree’s, they have their difference’s.

The first tree.

We have many tree’s styled like this at Aichi-en because Oyakata’s grandfather was one of the first people to style root over rocks with a long casting branch in Japan. I think it works well when you have a tall rock and helps to balance the image, giving a natural feeling even though it is a more stylised form.
It would be quite easy to imagine a tree in nature clinging to a rock and a long branch hanging from the weight.

The second tree.

The only way I can describe the style of this tree is root over rock meets octopus style. The tree doesn’t have a tapering trunk but, a hump

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and most of the branches come out of one place. The roots wrapped around the rock only help to add to the image of an octopus clinging to a rock. A very quirky tree and slightly grotesque.

Leaf quality.

Leaf quality is something that perhaps we don’t real consider so much in the west but, is a key factor here in Japan and can be the difference between a good tree to a great tree.
Trident maple’s leaf quality varies a lot and when it comes down to it, the smaller the better. A pretty obvious statement but, its true. Although leaf size will reduce with the right techniques, a tree’s genetics will always determine its size.
These two tree’s are a good comparative example.

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Here are a pair of leaves off each tree, one small and one large. The first two (moving left to right) are of the second tree (octopus) and the second two are of the first tree.

The first tree has good leaf quality and the second tree has poor leaf quality. Both varieties’ were originally cultivated from seed by Oyakata’s grandfather but, most likely they were both made with cutting’s of the cultivars.
We have one other tree with the same leaf as the second tree. It is a rather unusual type with a long leaf and long petiole and it was unusual enough for Oyakata’s grandfather to propagate it even though the leaf is big. I think that it suits the tree to some extent being a slightly strange style.

The major exhibition period is in the winter time here in Japan, the deciduous tree’s are leafless so, why do we want good leaf quality? Apart from it looking nice when in leaf, good leaf quality also produces much finer branches and a lot more ramification. A tree with poor leaf quality will never become as dense or as well ramified as a tree with good leaf quality.

However, there is a draw back to growing trident’s with really good leaf quality. They are still vigorous but, thicken slower so, producing a large sized tree on its own root stock with good taper and good tapering branches is slower.

Leaf quality varies in many species as well as trident maples, Japanese maples, Japanese white beech, needle junipers, white pines, just to name a few. Something we should look out for in our native species, as well as imported material. When buying material this should definitely be something to consider and you can even tell when the tree doesn’t have any leaves if it’s deciduous. If the tree had thick stubby branches, without any fine branches it will have poor leaf quality.

This is the third tree I’d like to share.

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A cool tree and one of my favourite trident maples here. This tree has never been wired and only clipped and grown. Notice the bumps from branches that were previously cut and healed. I think they add more of an aged feeling and it seems depending on how vigorously a cut heals depends on how thick the callous is. The quicker it heals the thicker it is. Certainly not your typical Japanese style tree, it throws the ‘cookie cutter’ out the window and this is an old tree/certainly not something new.

Thanks for reading.

It will come to no surprise to here that we have been very busy re-potting recently, as many people have been.
The other day we were finishing some of the last deciduous, of which included this (on the large side) Japanese Seigen maple.

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The tree was originally was bought by Oyakata’s farther and he believes that it probably was started as a garden tree. It’s age is somewhere in the region of 100-150 years old.

It was a standard practice re-pot but, with a few extra things to address.

It’s a pain to move being big, heavy and long sweeping branches but, just about doable with two super deshi!

First job after moving it was for Oyakata to trim back the root grafts.

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Next we cut round the outside to get it out of the pot.

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The tree out of the pot

The tree out of the pot

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The bottom substrate was raked away and all roots growing down were cut.

Don't worry, I did go and help hold after I took the picture.

Don’t worry, I did go and help hold after I took the picture.

The tree with the bottom done.

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Next we started on the surface, removing substrate from the outside and trimming the roots back.

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Me trying to avoid getting a face full of akadama, whilst Oyakata used the air compressor.

Me trying to avoid getting a face full of akadama, whilst Oyakata used the air compressor.

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Cutting back thick roots

Cutting back thick roots

Oyakata used the next moment to address some of the root grafts which were done 4-5 years ago.

Here the graft had taken but the union still could be better so Oyakata cut in-between them hoping that the clauses will form both sides and join together better.

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This is a graft that didn’t take so, bark was cut away on both the tree and the sapling an it was attached with a screw to the side of it.

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After they were sealed with some wound sealant.

Pot ready.

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Oyakata said there was no need to secure it in the pot so, we didn’t use any wires to tie it down. We aren’t going to be moving it for quite a while.

Next a drainage layer and some substrate was added to the pot.

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Tree back in the pot and Oyakata making some fine adjustments, to get it in the right position.

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Filling in with substrate and chopstick round, to fill any gaps round the roots.

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Finally a darn good watering.

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The tree done, at least for a couple of years.

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After that me, Juan-San and Oyakata did the Ume which featured in the CBC post.

Just two, after shots of this one as I didn’t want to repeat myself but, it was nice to re-pot a tree with such heritage at Aichi-en.

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Probably best to be weary if you ever see these two suspicious looking characters…

Thanks for reading.

It has been a while since I posted anything, for which I’m sorry but I have busy as always.

A while ago we were cleaning up the white pines on the nursery. This entailed removing old needles from 2 years ago on weaker/not so dense tree’s. These could be easily pulled gently with your hands, as they were turning yellow and going to fall in a while. The reason for doing this was to take them off before they turn brown, just to keep them looking nice.
On stronger/very dense tree’s we were cutting needles from two years ago and cutting the previous years needles. The reasoning behind this is to let some light in into the inner branches/thin them out. By cutting the previous years needles instead of pulling, it means that any cluster of needles with a bud in it that will potentially grow, will hold, the others will fall off, thus preserving any potential buds.

The two tree’s here, were just case of pulling the old needles from two years ago.

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It is a simple process but, just to clarify here’s some examples of what I did.

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A shoot untouched.

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The same shoot after needle removal.

Some of the shoots had old needles and hadn’t grown. The shoots of these that the needles came off easily, I cut off as they were going to die anyway.

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This was the tree after it’s clean up.

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This is the second pine, with the same process.

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Whilst I was working on it Oyakata took a look at and chopped off about three branches, which saved me some work and he explained how he wanted to change the angle of the tree making it an informal upright instead of cascade. The branches were too long as it was.

I made some jin’s were they were cut off.

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The tree after.

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A little while later Oyakata re-potted the tree and used the existing wiring to re-style the tree.

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The tree was then exhibited at the recent Nagoya castle show and was sold their to collector Kito-San.

Thanks for reading.

Recently between me and my fellow apprentice (Juan) we had three junipers to clean and trim. One shimpaku and two Tosho. Juan wanted the shimpaku to work on and I had both of the Tosho’s in the end because I finished my first tree before him.

This is the first tree that I trimmed.

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Side

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Back

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Other side

Other side

This tree has a bit of history, as it was styled by Peter Tea my Sempai this year for my Kinbon magazine, which appeared in Augusts edition. This was its third trim this year even after an out of season re-pot.

The tree after it’s cut back.

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The dead was cut away, a couple of weaker branches were completely left as they were very weak and on slightly weak branch, only the strong growth was cut.

It was fun to work on and I hope Tea Sempai approves.

This is the second Tosho I worked on.

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A very cool tree that I believe was originally collected. I like the way that the trunk is split into two but, it is all the same tree, giving it a uniqueness.

Here’s the tree after it’s trim.

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Other side

Other side

The tree is strong all over so, it was a general shape trim all round and the developing branches which, were long were cut back to start to develop some pads.

I hope you enjoyed reading.

Recently I had this Japanese maple to work on

The tree after de-foliation.

The tree after defoliation.

The picture here is in fact the back. In the rush, I didn’t give it a lot of consideration to be honest and there is no direct back branch which, didn’t make it entirely obvious at a quick glance at the time.
Unfortunately I didn’t get round to taking a pic before it was de-foliated but, this tree has a good leaf character.

A couple of pic’s of the base at its front.

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I then cut back the tree (to improve taper and shorter internodes) and proceeded to wire it.

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This was the first time that I had wired a Momiji here, i was a little unsure what finish to go for and I tried to go for the more natural image of the branches rising as they reach the apex.

Once I finished Oyakata looked over the tree and did any corrections that needed to be made.

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There were a couple of bigger cuts on two branches that were made that I should have known better and I need to be a little more aggressive on. Especially with a tree in development, as this one is.
There were some minor alterations on the lower branches but, otherwise little. Noticeably Oyakata preferred to bring the top branches more down. He said that he wouldn’t do this on all tree’s, it just depends on the tree. If the tree was more a more natural style/more tree like then maybe a different feel might be called for. At the end of the day it’s taste and if you look through kokufu books you can see all number of styles. The theory that all Japanese bonsai are “cookie cutter” is a complete myth and couldn’t be further from the truth.

Now the tree will push new late summer growth and will be de-wired after it’s spring flush has hardened next year.

Still quite a way to go for this tree but, hopefully it is going in the right direction.

As always, thanks for reading.

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.