Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

From simple beginnings

Posted: February 7, 2020 in Uncategorized

I enjoy all aspects of bonsai but, normally what we see on the internet is mainly conifers re-made, styled, made to look nice, etc. This post is hopefully something a little different than most and I hope can show what can be done growing native tree’s in their native environment in a relatively short time.

I have found that although perhaps deciduous can be a little generic to look at and thus sometimes considered a little boring, making deciduous tree’s is the most satisfying work in bonsai.

I purchased a shohin trident maple from a nursery whilst at an auction in the summer of 2015. The tree was already had a good image but, it had spindly branches. They hadn’t been grown out to get thicker and it had a good leaf character thus slower to put girth on. The negative point when developing higher quality trident maple’s is it takes four times the time to make the same tree. In the end though the possible ramification is way higher quality thank normal trident’s.

I decided to change the front slightly and remove a branch. This was the tree after a year of growth.

The position that I removed a branch was in the front right here.

As you can see the scar had almost completely healed at this point. Instead of throwing the branch away I decided to strike a cutting.

The cutting did in fact take and I re-ported it at the same time I was re-potting this tree. As doing so I saw that I had done well and had plenty of strong long roots. Seeing this I thought it had good potential to make a root over rock. I then scoured around looking for a decent rock to use.

A standard here in Japan for root over rock style is to tie the tree with wire. I’ve seen them with all kinds of wire but, I decided to use aluminum and use rubber tubing. Most often especially with bigger tree’s the wire is left to bite and be swallowed inside the roots. I wanted to avoid this and this is why I used rubber. It wouldn’t stop it biting but, it should be enough so that it wouldn’t be swallowed completely as long as it was kept an eye on.

One initial tie to hold it in place

The root’s fully tied down.

The tree was then planted in normal deciduous mix, plastic mesh tied around and filled with river sand. I decided to use river sand as I thought it would encourage the roots to grow faster searching for moisture. It did in fact work but, I would like to try using akadama one day as the do in field growing. I think would be slower but perhaps the root formation, with selection would be more aesthetically pleasing. My feeling is sand created straighter not so interesting roots.

Moving on a growing season later (March 2017), with nothing done but, general care and left to grow freely. This was the result.

For the next stage I removed the plastic mesh, washed off the sand and cut the wire.

I then made root selection and removed unwanted fine roots.

As you can see the wire did bite in to the tree quite hard but, this will disappear and grow out, in a relatively short time.

It had developed nicely but the bottom third of the root’s were too young to be exposed so I retied them and replaced that section with using the same technique as before.

I felt at this stage the tree had thickened sufficiently and the sacrificial top could be cut hard and start to make some structure with what was useful.

Here I didn’t cut back to the first pair of buds because the tree wasn’t re-potted. This is to control the next push of growth. If the tree was to push very hard the internode distance may well be too great and rent it useless. By leaving some extra potential sacrificial bud’s we can control the next flush of growth.

During the summer I did a little structural wiring and in November (same year) this is the progress it had made.

I removed leaves, wire and cut back the structure.



The left hand side of the tree was developing nicely but, the direction of the tree was going to flow right so I needed to work on the right side and form a main branch. The plan is have the main branch come from the back and swing to the front cascading down.

Getting the tree back in the workshop next spring (March 2018) it was time to remove the remaining mesh to see how the roots had developed on the lower part.

After the same technique used the exposed roots where then finished enough to leave them exposed. From then on it is just a case of building more branch structure and then ramification.

Nearly a year and an half on in August 2019, with growing, wiring, cutting and defoliation this is how the tree looked.

The trees roots had hardened off well and it was starting to look a little more like a tree.

This was the Autumnal colors at the end of the year. For the future I think I will cut back the main branch maybe a third to create more taper and better structure but, for the most part I will defoliate and grow slowly. The tree has a long time before it will be close to it’s finished image but, I’m pleased with its progress and look forward to seeing it develop in the future although I know it will be slow. Thanks for reading.

I would first like to apologize for the lack of content for a long time. It isn’t without reason but, I’m not going to into that right now. What I would like to say though, is that I have now been in Japan for five years now, it has been a roller coaster of up’s and down’s to say the least. I have a lot of respect for anyone who comes and does any length of time as a full apprentice. I believe no matter where you do your apprenticeship it is never an easy task, everyone sacrifices a lot and it can only ever be taken a step at a time.

After all this time, I’m proud to say that I have received my certificate from the Nihon Bonsai Kyōkai/Japan Bonsai Association and I have finished my apprenticeship.

I would like to thank Oyakata, Daiju-en Oyakata, fellow apprentices that have we have worked together and soldiered through, all friends who have helped and supported me and my loving family in the United Kingdom. Most of all I would like to thank my wonderful loving wife and our children, without your help & love this most truly wouldn’t of been possible and makes it all worth doing.

The title of this post is a quote from Winston Churchill, who needs no introduction at least back home anyway. I thought it was slightly apt as, although my time as an apprentice has finished the start is only in sight and from now my hope is only to continue to support my family doing what I love, spreading bonsai where I can. Yoroshiku onigaishimasu!

Roof Goyo

Posted: February 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

This white pine has been living on the roof of Aichi-en since I have been here and is a piece I’ve always admired. It has good leaf, old bark and interesting movement. It is a tree that Mr Tanaka bent the trunk a long time ago, it was a hard bend for such a thick trunk (about 6cm). For some unknown reason the second trunk on died a year or so ago, strange as this trunk wasn’t bent hard (This is the crazy Jin near the base). It was unfortunate because as a twin trunk it was a little more unusual and unique. However these thing’s happen and we have to make the most of the material that it is now. It was re-potted into this terra cotta growing pot, has since gained strength and is now ready for a styling.

The old needles had already been pulled so I set about wiring the tree, bring branches down and making pads.

It’s wasn’t the easiest of tree’s being quite leggy and it has a long way to go to fill out but, hopefully in a little time it will be on its way to being a bonsai.

Bending with shari

Posted: October 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

A while back three collected tosho which had been grafted with itogawa shimpaku foliage came to the nursery. They came from a nursery not too far from here but, they had been commission grafted by Iura-San some time ago. 

They were sold as a group, at one price. They were only bought to sell as business tree’s to buy, style and sell quickly. 

All three tree’s were raw and it was a first styling they had since being grafted.

Two of the tree’s were chunky and were pretty much just a case of bring branches down and make pads. I did these first but, haven’t posted about them.

The third tree was of the least value being a more skinny bunjin. 

As you can see from the photo’s the material has some interest but, is rather boring especially in the middle section. 

My idea to in fact solve this issue was to bend the trunk down to compact the tree on the second looping bend. In normal circumstances with just a live vein and no dead would this would be simple but, this tree had thick deadwood and tosho/needle juniper wood to add. Tosho wood is hard, very hard, often tougher than collected shimpaku wood and this was no exception.

One option is to cut the dead wood, separate the live vein and hollow the live vein. It would then be very pliable and bend very easy. The only problem with this is there would surely be deadwood that would look unnatural, look like it has been touched by man, no matter what you did. What I decided do instead was to bend the whole trunk. Judging by the position & angles I estimated that it would be possible to bend without damaging the live vein significantly. The deadwood would either break or fray, either way it would look more natural.

I placed an iron bar through a gap near the base of the tree and used a wood block to help brace the metal bar against the shari. Using the iron bar gave me more length and leverage to bend the trunk, which really was needed with such hard wood.

I then used the largest steel jack (we have) to start bending.

The wood was tough but, the tree bent without much difficulty with the right setup. Here is a picture as it started to split.

Here the tree got quite far and the live vein started to split a little too but I still wanted it more compact.

I proceeded to bend more which put more stress on the live vein but the cracks were vertically with the live vein and not across so still safe and the tree would survive.  The wood frayed and pulled apart a little but, didn’t break. 

This was the final damage on the live vein after bending.

This was the final position of the trunk after bending, held in place with a stainless wire and screw.

Initially before bending I thought that the first picture was going to be the front side     because it would hide the straight section behind the trunk. However after bending I change my mind because ther is some interesting deadwood which can only be shown from the other side.

I re-angled the tree, tilting it forward and to the left, creating a half cascade and wired the branches. The tree is very raw still but now with the bones set it should grow into a decent chuhin in time.

The tree has in fact survived well and didn’t blink an eye to its styling. Out of the three now this would actually be the most valuable and I look forward to seeing it transplanted, to its new correct angle and a more appropriate pot.

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.



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

Here we go again…

Posted: June 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Time has gone quickly and I’m at this moment, at the airport waiting for my 14-15 hour flight to Nagoya, Japan. I can’t say I’m a big fan of flying but, needs must and it’s certainly going to be worth it. 

It has felt like a stressful month or so, trying to sell my tree’s, relocating tree’s, organising everything and buying what I need for my departure. It will be nice to go back, work hard, learn some new stuff and just focus on doing some bonsai.
I’m looking forward to meeting Juan, who I believe will be my sempai (older apprentice/guide) and I hope we can be good friends. I’ve been told he’s very passionate about bonsai & very talented already which, sounds awesome and I’m sure we will hit it off. It will be nice also, to see my Oyakata and all the family again.
It is a strange feeling knowing that I will be away for potentially  5 years or at least 3 years, with only an occasional brief visit home. I imagine it would feel very alien to some people but, I have to say it is quite refreshing to me, experiencing other people’s culture. Though, I’m sure there will be moments when I miss home and the UK. I find it’s only when your away you really appreciate your country and feel most proud of it.
Finally I’d like to thank all who enquired/bought my tree’s for sale. I hope they do well/prosper and I look forward to seeing some of them again when I return. Any of the tree’s that are left are now relocated and not for sale.
I’d also like to thank all my friends/well wisher’s for their continued support and help. 
Also, a special thank you to all the friend’s who have offered to care for some of my tree’s, it is greatly appreciated.
Lastly a very special thank you to John Trott of Mendip Bonsai Studio. With out him this certainly would never of happened.
It is strange how life sends you on certain path’s and if someone had told me I would be doing this 5 years ago or even a year ago, I would have thought they were completely mad.
Thanks for reading.
Over and out, for now.