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Do you ever look at a tree and wonder what you were thinking when you made a previous decision about it?

Pretty sure (according to my detailed and hazy recollection) that this tree was re-potted some time in the last two to three years. It hazards a guess then as to why I chose to pot it with this front at the time?

The tree in question is another English Elm (brother of THIS tree) that I have been slowly growing branches on. I tracked down the gnarled trunk a number of years ago along with some other weird and wonderful stock which are also in similar stages of branch building.

I brought this particular tree into the workshop the other day and removed some old Autumn leaves along with the weeds that were thriving under my care.

As is often the case when performing routine maintenance, you really get a good chance to look at a tree from all angles, inspect features and generally get reacquainted with it, which is exactly what happened here.

Having turned the front 15 degrees I realised that it was a much better front (the square hole of negative space disappears, the canopy is more even, movement is more directional and it flows better).

After making this discovery, it had me questioning why I had chosen the original front in the first place?

Had the tree developed in such a way that the front had gone from a good decisions to a poor choice? Had I not been paying enough attention last time I potted the tree? Has my eye developed so I am now seeing something I previously couldn’t?

There must have been an answer at one point, unfortunately it seems to be lost to my immaculate mental record keeping and the rigors of time.

This is another tree ready for a change of pot (to something more suitable than its current grow pot) and hopefully in the coming months I can rectify these past miscarriages of bonsai artistry and who knows, i might also get around to re-wiring the branching (particularly the lower left branch).

This constant update and change that happens with bonsai is one of the points that keeps me engaged and interested in growing them. As I develop as a grower (heaven forbid I brand myself an artist, (more on bonsai and art in a future post) my eye and tastes have shifted which has often seen previous good decisions become bad choices that need to be remodeled and remade.

It brings me back to the idea of self reflection and looking at your bonsai objectively with fresh eyes each time you work on them. Never accept what you are presented with, and always look to push past where you last left off.

Maybe to be able to do this well you need to forget the decisions that came before…………..

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 have begun to re-pot some of my deciduous bonsai. I like to re-pot my pines closer to spring time so I do my deciduous species a little earlier in order to leave plenty of time for the conifers.

The tree in today’s post is an English Elm (Ulmus procera). I picked it up at a local bonsai show last year. I have always liked clump style bonsai and am always on the lookout for suitable stock (which is quite hard to find). When I saw this little clump I quickly grabbed it.

The Elm after a year in my care.

Since owning it, I have fed, pruned and wired a little. It proved to be a very strong grower so I defoliated 3 times during the growing season. After the 3rd time it did not bud out as strongly as I would have liked which means I will only do two defoliations this coming season.

As the tree had been in a rather large terracotta pot it had developed a large rootball, as a result a fair amount had to be pruned off in order to get it into a bonsai pot.

The underside of the rootball showing the cuts where some lager roots were removed.

This re-potting I concentrated on removing all downward growing roots. This lead to a large percentage of the rootball being removed. Although Elms are strong trees I thought that I would not prune the surface roots as much as I might otherwise due to the large amount I had already removed from the rootball.

The surface roots.

As you can see from the above image there are a number of large un-tapered roots. In the next re-potting I will be looking to reduce these roots to introduce some taper and delicacy to the rootbase. For the time being though, these roots will help the tree recover from the loss of the larger part of its previous rootmass.

If you read my post “Two pots” you will be familiar with the two pot options I had for this tree.

The two pots I had to choose from.

Although I like both choices I ended up chosing the left hand pot.  What i found interesting was how each pot gave the tree a different feeling. The left pot ( ) gave the tree a more spreading feeling while I felt that the right pot ( ) made the clump appear much taller. The beauty of liking both the pot/tree combinations is that I will happily alternate which pot I use in future re-pottings to give the clump a new feel each year.

The prepared pot (minus tie-in wires)

For its size the Yamafusa pot had a good number of drainage holes, each of which needed mesh screening to prevent the soil media falling out and to prevent some of the larger pests getting in.

The potted Elm.

The Elm was then tied in firmly and soil worked in around the rootball. I feel the pot is a good fit to the clump and the green of the pot should work very well with the yellow autumn colours I hope to get next year. This clump has a long way to go before it is a good bonsai but it is now firmly on its way. Hopefully heavy feeding combined with defoliation will add a fair amount of twiggyness and branching to the tree to further enhance its image.

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