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Another tree that has been worked recently was this Japanese Red Pine.

It was a tree that I styled for a friend that later found it way onto my benches. I really love this little tree and enjoy working it and getting lost looking at it.

The tree had a fairly dramatic first styling back around 2016. The before after shots of that work are in the bloc post below:

CLICK HERE

It was also displayed at the 2018 AABC national convention where it was in great health and form. It’s the last tree you see in the 6 trees I displayed in the below video:

The work this time around was more of a maintenance styling and of course I forgot to take a before image as i got carried away in the work. The tree like many others had suffered with my poor water issues and has lost a few branches and shoots so I had to be a bit creative to fill the gaps once more. That said, I am pretty happy with how it all turned out and I am looking forward to the next couple of years as the tree develops further.

As per my pervious post, this tree is also a little thin in the canopy. That said I am fairly confident that this will fill in nicely this next growing season. It may be due for a repot also this year so I might see what containers I have on hand to mix up the image a little. Pretty sure I have a nanban style pot hidden away somewhere…. I just need to find it.

I don’t grow cedars myself but I have worked a number of nice ones over the years. The tree below is no exception.

It is owned by a good friend of mine who had just got it back after it spent a number of years with someone else. It was a little weak when he got it so he had spent some time letting it gain strength once more…….. which gets us to the below (terrible quality phone pic) image.

I’d love to take all the credit for this tree but really all I did was follow the bones that were there. I compressed the apex a little and moved some things about, all in all I was just bringing out the qualities that already existed.

The tree still has a ways to go but it is covered in buds in all the areas you would want to fill out (like the bottom branch) so I’m pretty confident that even after one year the tree will look full and much more developed.

On a side note, the roots remind me of a hand grabbing at the soil. Try to un-see it.

I’ve been working through some of my trees. Two of which are these black pines that were featured in the below blog post earlier this year:

CLICK HERE

Those two trees had their yearly needle work done and I now finally got around to wiring them.

Due to my water issues I had let many of my trees grow out (without doing the usual candle work etc) to gain some strength, and as a result their styling looks a little more sparse than it might otherwise. That said, I am happy with the strength they are now displaying and this styling will set them up for the next few years where I will work towards some more back budding and ramification.

Before after’s below:

I discovered on the tree above some significant rot had formed on the left side of the trunk. I dug out what I could but I will have to further investigate / treat it during repotting in the next few months.

This next tree was fairly straight forward, it was wired out and it’s branching spread to allow for the in-fill budding and ramification that I will hopefully build over the next couple of years. With any luck, this tree will fill in fairly quickly and present a dense canopy.

There is something to be said about the different ways in which you might approach styling depending on what stage the material is that you are working on. Trees like the two above, I tend to try to spread things out much more than if I was to style something that was more “finished”. You need to make a guess as to how many future buds and branches you need to make room for. If you style developing material as if it were a display tree (tight, dense branches) you end up having to re-wire almost yearly to re-distribute the branch ramification to make room for the new shoots.

All in all nothing ground breaking with the above two trees but I suppose it tracks the often mundane nature of the slow improvements over the years. Not every styling is a dramatic transformation and in fact the real skill lies in the fine tuning, not the dramatic, which is something I am still trying to perfect……….

I’ve had a spur of motivation lately. In my private life i have changed jobs and am now working a 4 day week. It’s given me the hint of a day a week i can spend on myself and thus far i’ve been dedicating it to Bonsai.

One of the trees that has benefited from this work is a Japanese Maple that i begun work on several years ago. You can read a blog post about it below:

CLICK HERE

Its been a slow road, mainly due to my lack of attention but I have been slowly removing course growth and re-growing better branching.

It has a long way to go but finally I am beginning to see it growing into its final form.

The upper areas of the tree have a lot of length to add to the branching and there is the start of another trunk (which will be the fourth, shock horror) on the bottom right of the trunk.

That said I am pretty happy with where it is at and with a little more time up my sleeve I hope to get some more mileage out of it this year.

This post will hopefully be the first in a run that i have been preparing and working on. I have a couple of pines left to un-wire before repotting season hits us so i will try to cover off some of that as it happens.

I am thinking that when I repot this tree it will likely get a change of pot to mix things up a little.

Until the next one………

One of the recent trees I worked was the below Pinus sylvestris or Scott’s Pine.

It’s a tree I have gone on a rollercoaster ‘love-hate’ relationship with over a long period of time. The tree was originally owned by a woman in my local bonsai club. From a very early stage she had told me she wanted me to have the tree when it became too big for her to handle.

I had never really loved the tree but I got along really well with the owner and was touched that she wanted me to take on her tree. Each time I saw the tree we talked about it’s future and health. The more I saw the tree the more I liked it and could see a future in it.

Fast forward a while and the tree declined in health and lost some branches. It was brought back to health to a point where it was offered up as demonstration material at a local club. During the demonstration via a visiting tutor, a number of branches were cut off and the tree was styled as a wind swept style. Now the styling was fine enough but I really dislike windswept styled trees, and the styling removed many of the branches apart from those at the upper most section of the trunk. The tree was then again left to grow out and several years later I inherited the tree.

At the time I had no idea what to do with it but wanted to hang onto it due to how much the previous owner had wanted me to have it. So I stared blankly at it each day as I watered it and wondered what to do.

Fast forward a few more years and I was selected to demonstrate at the Australian Association of Bonsai Clubs annual convention (2018) along side Bjorn Bjorholm. I decided that this tree would be a good contender for testing my skills so I began to prepare it and get it strong for the convention.

It was wired and styled as per the images below over the course of an afternoon (having been pre-wired)

I was pretty happy with the outcome given where it started and the tree grew on me a little more.

Fast forward a few years and the health of the tree had gone backwards due to some water issues I later discovered I had (see HERE) .

So I let the tree grow out as I dealt with the the pH problems.

I decided it was time to re-work it and begun to pull old needles and fully re-wire the tree. I also removed a number of branches that may or may not have been required (i cut one off that i didn’t like but probably should have kept in the short term….).

The remaining needles were a little shorter than i would have liked having been somewhat knocked about by my water issues and the overall styling is much more tight than that of the AABC demonstration (which I prefer), but as i see it this tree has a few years to grow out, extend a few branches, develop the ‘second apex’ etc. For this styling I focused on a tighter styling so that it sets a solid structure to then build future stylings upon.

All in all I am happy with where this tree is at and where it is heading. Its certainly a weird tree in the grand scheme of things but it is one of those trees I find myself starring at in the garden against some of the more ‘normal’ bonsai shapes.

The below tree is bonsai i have had on my benches for a number of years. For some reason i hadn’t really worked it much over that time and was putting it off so it could be used as demonstration stock. With covid hitting and my calendar being cleared i thought it made no sense to put it’s styling off any more. I think this tree was last worked in 2012 so it was certainly due for a re-visit.

The work revolved around framing the trunk movement and shortening / compacting the lower branch. Most of that was accomplished with a handful of guy wires and standard wiring.

Not the neatest job on the planet but as the new needles were still a little delicate i left more on than i otherwise might in case i damaged some during the styling. All in all i am pretty happy with the results and will begin hunting a new pot for this coming re-potting season. (probably means i will have to dig through all the boxed up supplies….)

Another in the series of updates i will be posting over the next few weeks. The tree in question in this post is a japanese black pine that was originally a demonstration tree styled as part of the Central Coast bonsai societies Touch of Japan festival back in 2017.

I ended up liking the tree and purchased it post demo.

A year or so later a friend drove it from Sydney back to Victoria where it sat on my benches and it slowly deteriorated. The tree was in a plastic grow bag and on further inspection the root ball consisted of a sticky clay bulk that had been top dressed with good bonsai soil. I had assumed that the bonsai soil went the whole way through the bag but it didn’t and as a result a large percentage of the root mass had rotted off. I did an emergency repot into better soil and a smaller pot and soon the tree showed signs of growth and recovery. The tree continued to gain health and was re-styled as per below:

And now the tree has grown out for a full season without candle pruning to build strength, needles are a touch on the long side but i am happy with the level of back budding and strength the tree is showing considering it was on deaths door a couple of years ago.

Looking at the above image there is certainly room for fine tuning, but i will likely do that towards the end of Autumn / early winter while i am doing pine needlework.

This little lump of wood is something that has been sitting on my benches for a number of years. I’ve been slowly building branch density and roots having arrived in my garden shortly after it was collected.

With my re-potting supplies delayed due to a Covid19 lock-down I had some spare time and gave it a quick first style. I need to next go through my pots and find something that might fit it when i do get around to re-potting.

It obviously needs a fair amount of more tweaking but I will likely leave that until I get it into a more suitable pot. That said and looking at these photos I can see that the apex is bothering me and will likely need adjusting regardless.

The below pine is one I’ve had for a number of years.

It started it’s life as a much taller formal upright but by the time I took over the care of it, the upper portions had developed severe wire scarring and ugly lumps. It was restyled using only one branch, and so a formal upright became a semi-cascade.

The tree grew in this form for a number of years and slowly developed and filled in. I’d never really been very attached to the tree and I could never really put my finger on quite what it was that annoyed me about it.

I like the bark, the jin up top, and semi-cascades generally, but for what ever reason the tree never spoke to me. (yes I know, trees can’t speak)

At one stage I had Evan Marsh staying with me and I gave him a shot at styling it. He wired it up and did the much needed task of breaking up some large areas of foliage into individual pads.

I didn’t mind Evans styling but as soon as the tree grew out it again began to annoy me. It became a giant pom pom of foliage and had run out of room for additional ramification.

At some point I re-potted it into a lovely pot I was gifted (or perhaps traded for a gyoza dinner?) from Luke at Adelaide Bonsai Pottery (check him out, he does some very nice containers)

The pot suited the tree much more from both a size and style perspective and it made me think a bit more about the tree. The thinking didn’t go on for too long as I cut off a couple of branches to create some space in the canopy and put it back on the benches.

Which basically gets us to the starting off point of its most recent revisit.

While I liked the pot and the removed branches were an improvement, it was still not a tree I really liked.

I had been putting off working the tree for a while and had planned to simply remove the wire that was on it and pull some needles to prevent too much wire scaring. Like what often happens however, when you start working on a tree, (often during standard maintenance procedures), you make new discoveries and or see things from new angles (often literally).

I cut off a couple more branches. As they came off, it revealed some lines and movement in the upper sections that I thought were worth showing off some more. So out came the wire and I begun fully restyle the tree.

I wired it up and sat back and looked at where I had got to. I had compacted the head and brought it lower by bending the branch supporting the apex down somewhat to make the apex jin more prominent.

But there was still something bugging me about the composition.

The lower foliage was all forming one visual lump. I decided to test what it might look like with another branch removed. Out came an oily rag that had been wrapping an old motorbike carburettor and I tested to see how it would look.

I made the cut and a couple of small adjustments and this is where I finished up.

We are still a season or two away from being exhibition ready but at least now the bones (branches?) I will be building upon are ones I am much more happy with.

I think I will stare at this one on the benches for the next little while and decide where to from here. Maybe a trial run on a display stand… ooooh the possibilities!

What do you think? have you had trees that have undergone similar transformations: from unloved bench space occupier to something that might get a run at a show?

In the coming weeks I have a number of other pines that I need to get around to working (tis the season for pulling needles) so they will form the basis of the next few posts.

If it’s pine content you are after or have questions you want answered (life, pine related or otherwise) chuck them in the comments below and I’ll see if I can answer them in coming posts.

Until the net one……….

Looking back at the date of the last blog post (2017), it kind of feels like i have abandoned this blog!

A lot has happened since the last post with life squarely getting in the way of bonsai on a regular basis.

I now have 2 kids and getting through their young years has certainly taken away from the amount of time I have had to work my own trees.

My motivation has had it’s ups and downs, with it hard some days to look at trees that are screaming out for time to be spent on them, time that I simply don’t have. It’s been hard seeing some trees go backwards while i focus the limited time i have on my better trees.

I will likely be selling off a few trees to get back to a number that I can spend the right amount of time upon.

I have managed to keep the teaching side of my bonsai practice going which has been really good as it is always exciting to help students get the best out of their trees.

I have also recently been announced as one of the Australian Demonstrators at the World bonsai Convention in Perth next year (more on that in a future post) which is very exciting and daunting all at once!

On the home front my trees have been getting some attention but never as much as they need. To rectify that I have built a small shed/ workshop which has allowed me to get some bonsai work done once the kids are asleep. It looks like I will turn into a nocturnal bonsai grower!

I will probably do a shed tour post at some stage if its something people are interested in. One of the things the recent covid19 lockdown has allowed me to do in the shed has been installing an old blind that now serves as my new photo background. Its a warm beige (or perhaps bone, off white, cream, light brown, or any other number of versions of that colour).

It was chosen to be close to the colour that Taisho-en uses for its photo background in my good friend Asunma San’s workshop (some pics of the colour can be seen in the post Quiet Reflection). You can let me know if you think the colour is a good match below….

Anyway, enough excuses, its been over 3 years since my last post and I figured that it is about time I got back into the swing of updating the blog on at least a semi regular basis.

I’ll jump straight in with a small unusual English Elm.  

I wont go into too much detail around the work, in essence it was a gentle rewire but i like the direction it is heading. I guess i will have to start looking for a pot……. Probably a good excuse to go through all the boxes of pots I have stashed away. (more potential future post content)

I am a big fan of weird, lumpy and strange material, so this tree is right up my alley and perhaps the perfect restart to the blog. I hope you enjoy the tree. What pot would you choose?

See you in the next post!

Joe.

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