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.

I’ve been trawling through some of my old photos lately, pictures of previously sold or styled bonsai or trees that I’ve worked on over the years.

It’s been good to look over them with a fresh set of eyes, noticing all the mistakes, problems and weaknesses. Trees that I was once proud of now show bare my shortcomings during that period.

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A tree I styled almost 10 years ago while in Japan in 2007. When cleaning the foliage I was overly keen on stripping old growth from the first branch, leaving it weak, and was reprimanded accordingly. I didn’t do that again.

Some of those trees still bare signs of those errors years later and it will take many more years to correct them. It is a good reminder of just how far my skills have improved over time and how this art we pursue is an ever evolving learning process.

Just when you think you think you are getting a handle on what it is you are doing, a new avenue of possibility opens up and challenges your understanding.

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A huge flat bottom pad. I would approach that differently these days.

The beauty of bonsai is that the trees we work on evolve over time along with our skills, vision and understanding of the art. Your actions on the tree, right or wrong, shape both the bonsai and yourself.

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I was overly concerned with needle length over health and candled pruned when I shouldn’t have. It set this tree back years and is only really just getting back into it’s rhythm again 5 years later.

There are trees that I have worked that have shaped the way I look at bonsai as much as I have shaped them. I am constantly challenged and surprised by trees I see which keeps the art fresh and engaging.

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I tightened the bends in the deadwood, leaving it less interesting than when I begun.

I’ve enjoyed digging back through time in this way and I look forward to gazing back in another few years time and seeing how my understanding of the art has once again changed, improved and ultimately furthered my approach to creating bonsai.

Just a quick post for those clubs, organisations and individuals out there looking for bonsai demonstration, workshops, teaching and private work this year. I have been taking bookings since late last year and my schedule is filling up fast.

So far I will be working with clubs and individuals around Victoria (Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat), Canberra, Sydney and Western Australia.

I still have some openings and would love to get to other parts of the country and share ideas and knowledge with new faces.

Tasmania, The Northern Territory, Queensland, New Zealand or anywhere else for that matter, if you are looking for a demonstrator I would be keen to discuss how I can work with you.

I am a Level 1 demonstrator with the AABC but am also able to organise work on private collections and or targeted teaching for individuals.

If interested, send me an email and we can go from there.

nichigobonsai***gmail.com

Note: to use email address, substitute *** with @

The idea of using Australian native plants as bonsai has been gaining momentum over the last few years. Bonsai growther in Australia are very excited about developments and experiments with various local species to the point where dedicated native bonsai clubs have been established.

This is all good news in my books. We have a great range of interesting plants and while I personally think that many that are used as bonsai currently are not ideally suited to bonsai there are some species that not only are suited to bonsai cultivation but thrive under it.

Having said that, I haven’t owned any natives in my collection. It’s not that I didn’t want some, it was more to do with the fact that I haven’t come across any stock that grabbed me or that I was willing to collect.

Most stock i see is converted from normal nursery stock and has never really grabbed me although i know of at least one grower that is now putting in the hard yards to grow high quality native stock spefically for bonsai.

I also have mixed thoughts on collecting natives from the “wild” and personally would rather remove the many exotic weeds that are damaging the bush rather than remove the few interesting native bonsai specimens that i might find. I personally have enjoyed stumbling across contorted native material during hikes into the bush and Ithink it is somewhat selfish to remove this opportunity for others just so i can have something in my backyard.

My native  bonsai situation changed however this past winter when a good friend allowed me to dig a plant from her garden. It’s a Baeckea and has some amazing features that should see it becoming a top tree in years to come.

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Twisting deadwood, extreme movement and tight foliage should all work together to form an interesting bonsai in the future. 

It was my first time digging a Baeckea and while it suffered some die-back after collection the remaining growth is now putting out new shoots which is always a comforting sign. I will not be in a hurry to develop this tree as it really needs to recover, put on new growth and develop new roots prior to me doing any work.

I will then be looking to down-size the container it is in and begin working on the structure of the tree. This is probably a number of years off but I am looking forward to the journey from this early starting point. I will keep the blog updated as it progresses.

Its always difficult watching or listening to recordings of yourself and it is no different when I watch the below video of myself working a juniper and saying ‘um’ way too many times. (something to work on…..)

Back In August, the Bimer bonsai club invited me to fly up to Brisbane to run workshops and conduct a demonstration for their members.

While demonstrations are always a rush for time, I was quite happy with the transformation of this tree and think it shows what can be achieved with stock that is fairly well available at nurseries around the country.

The full video of the demo and a final image of the result is posted below.  Enjoy!

 

 

The result of the hour or thereabouts work.

The result of the hour or so demonstration.

 

This post is about another red pine I worked for a good friend. It’s a tree i had previously styled a year ago that was in need of some further work. The previous work was documented HERE.

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This was where I left off last time I worked the tree. 

The tree it was ready for a re-pot and I was therefore presented with the opportunity to re-think the front. I decided to stand the tree up slightly and work the foliage around this new angle.

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Post styling.

The photo that is missing between the two above photos is that of a tree that had grown very well and had turned into a solid foliage mass. Unfortunately i forgot to get a before pic.

The styling this time around removed a number of branches to re-introduce a sense of openness and lightness into the canopy while the new  planting angle introduces some interesting movement into the lower trunk and provides a more dynamic foliage form.

I like how the canopy has been stretched vertically and how the apex is straining to lean over the trunk. I cant wait to see it now that the owner has re-potted it at the new angle. I think it is a good change for the tree.

For those wondering, the arm holding the tree is attached to the ever handsome Evan Marsh. He runs a great blog (much better written than mine) that is well worth a look and chronicles his exploits studying in Japan and else where. It can be found HERE.

Life as always is busy but lately things have been flat-out. I have been juggling a two-year old,  full-time work, managing our house’s extension, working customer trees, digging/collecting material and also travelling Australia (Perth, Sydney, Canberra, Bendigo, Geelong and Brisbane) as an AABC tutor giving lectures, demonstrations and workshops. As a result the blog has suffered.

Hopefully I can kick start the blog in the coming months. I have a number of posts lined up and I am sure there will be things of interest to share as the growing season heats up.

Today’s post is a small red pine that I worked for a good friend towards the start of winter.

It is rare to see red pines in Australia and particularly rare to see ones as good as this one. It underwent a fairly major transformation during the styling which in my opinion has set it up to be one of the best red pines of this size in the country (at least from those I have seen). It still needs a little filling out but it’s bones are set for it to grow into a really nice tree into the future.

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The material prior to beginning. Nice colour and full growth which left a lot to work with.

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The material prior to beginning. Nice colour and full growth which left a lot to work with.

Most of the work during the styling involved dividing the few branches up into multiple smaller pads that were in better scale and harmony to the size of the tree. Those were then used to accentuate the movement and direction of the trunk line.

There is still a number of areas that need to fill in with further ramification but I think it is certainly off to a great start.

After saying that red pines are rare in Australia my next post will be about another taller tree that is also of very high quality. Until then……..

For those interested i have been invited to participate in a short discussion about my thoughts on Bonsai, my experiences in Japan and the up coming workshops I am running in conjunction with my close friend Natasha.

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An interesting tree I stumbled across recently.

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A synergy?

I am assuming the show will be download-able at some stage and I will supply a link if and when it becomes available via a future post. For those wanting to catch the show live, It will be broadcast on ABC local radio Central and Western Victoria at around 7am this Saturday.

Audio is available HERE

For those interested in the workshops, they will be aimed at teaching people to see and interpret the world through bonsai as an artistic medium rather than via a set of rigid rules. It will guide you through the process of reflecting on how we see the world, how we might become comfortable within this and how we might communicate this to others; An awakening through bonsai if you like which can and will be applied widely outside of bonsai.

Recently featured in Country Style magazine, her property, skirted by forest, will provide the perfect backdrop for learning and sharing ideas.

Another highlight of collaborating with Natasha is that the workshop will be teamed up with a beautiful 2 course kitchen garden lunch cooked from locally sourced, grown and foraged ingredients set in her stunning garden.  Natasha is an incredibly passionate, talented and welcoming host who is sure to make the day a very special one.

Further details can be found at her site: http://www.natashamorgan.com.au/

I have been doing a lot of thinking about bonsai lately. What it is, why we do it and how it relates to modern lives outside of a Japanese context.

While discussing this with my good friend Natasha Morgan, she invited me to run a couple of bonsai workshops of a different kind at her beautiful property, Oak and Monkey Puzzle in Spargo Creek near Daylesford to begin a wider discussion.

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One of the trees at Oak and Monkey Puzzle

The day long workshops will be aimed at teaching people to see and interpret the world through bonsai as an artistic medium rather than via a set of rigid rules. It will guide you through the process of reflecting on how we see the world, how we might become comfortable within this and how we might communicate this to others; An awakening through bonsai if you like which can and will be applied widely outside of bonsai.

Recently featured in Country Style magazine, her property, skirted by forest, will provide the perfect backdrop for learning and sharing ideas.

Another highlight of collaborating with Natasha is that the workshop will be teamed up with a beautiful 2 course kitchen garden lunch cooked from locally sourced, grown and foraged ingredients set in her stunning garden.  Natasha is an incredibly passionate, talented and welcoming host who is sure to make the day a very special one.

Further details can be found at her site: http://www.natashamorgan.com.au/

Be sure to have a look over what else she has been up to while you are there as she is passionate about people, collaboration, food and sharing ideas and skills and brings these all together in such a beautiful way.

 

Just a quick post for today. I was going through some old holiday photos (mainly bonsai pics) and came across a small Japanese White Pine I had worked on in Japan.

I am really getting more and more into shohin sized trees. They are really challenging to grow well yet are easy to handle and take up much less bench space, which is a plus.

The challenge with this tree was to create enough detail in the foliage by means of multiple layers to give the illusion that it was in fact a much larger tree.

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Before

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After

Of course half the battle is starting with good stock which this little tree certainly falls into the category of.

Hopefully I can start producing some stock similar to this in the coming years.

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Contact me

nichigobonsai***gmail.com

Note: to use email address, substitute *** with @