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This post follows the progression of 6 months in the life of a Procumbens juniper. Last June i did a demonstration for a local club, Bonsai Northwest Inc. As most of my trees had been worked and I had very little left to do on them it was decided that we purchased some stock for the demo. While digging through all the stock at ‘Baloc Bonsai’ I came across this juniper.

The Juniper before the demonstration

The Juniper before the demonstration but after a bit of a cleanup.

Having looked over the tree for a day or so before hand while it was in my garden I came up with a plan for improvement. From the tree’s original front the foliage mass was not close to the trunk, I thought with  a little work I could compact the foliage mass into a denser crown.

The foliage from the original front.

The foliage from the original front.

I also thought I could change the front and make use of a more interesting trunk and jin line. This plan created a few issues that I had to deal with in order to complete the re-styling. First was the trunk angle. From the original the trunk needed to be stood up around 30 degrees, which in turn placed most of the foliage pointing out towards the back of the tree.

Most of the bending of the larger branches was completed with the help of a bending jack as seen in the photo.

Jack in place prior to bending.

Jack in place prior to bending.

The other issue was that from the new front the jin did not compliment the movement of the tree so this was bent by means of what is essentially steam bending. I wrapped the jin in wet towels and plastic sandwich film over night to moisten the jin and then used a small gas torch to heat up and soften the wood fibres so that it could be bent into a new direction.

After the jin was re-possitioned and main branch bent into possition.

After the jin was repositioned and main branch bent into position.

The next step was compacting the foliage to form the crown and subsequaint branches. This was done with a combination of guy-wires and heavy wiring. The below picture shows the result. A small towel covered some branching that was to be removed once the tree had back budded in that area.

The result at the end of the demo.

The result at the end of the demo.

If you look from the original front you can see how the foliage has been moved from its original positions to compliment the new front.

The re-styling from the original front.

The re-styling from the original front.

Since the demo I re-potted the tree into a new container at the new planting angle. It grew out well in early spring with plenty of back-bedding and fresh growth. It was time to work on the foliage.

After some strong spring growth.

After some strong spring growth.

All this new growth provided me with the chance to cut out some of the leggy old growth and replace it with more compact fresh shoots.

A leggy branch with tired looking foliage.

A leggy branch with tired looking foliage.

The branch cut back so the fresh shoot at its base can replace it.

The branch cut back so the fresh shoot at its base can replace it.

In this way I was able to improve and remove some of the poorer condition and leggy foliage. I cut more out of the strong areas and left a little more in the weaker areas to balance the growth of the tree.

After the cut back.

After the cut back.

I was also able to remove one of the branches on the right side and hopefully in a few months I will be also able to cut back the other right hand branches.

There are a few other thing I want to do, such as lowering the planting position, define the live veins, and work on the shari texture, but for the time being those things can wait.

What the tree desperately needs now is a full wiring, I want to further compact the apex and better form up the crown and branches but unfortunately that will have to wait until my wrist heals. Hopefully I will be able to do it in a few more months.  In the mean time I will keep feeding it heavily and keep replacing old growth with new healthy growth so when it does come time to wire, the tree is ready.

Right now Melbourne is deep within the throes of winter, in fact, judging by the temps we are right in the middle of it. It seems that my quince has other ideas. It has been steadily waking up and has just started producing new growth as if it is spring time.

New Growth.

As a result I have had to re-pot. This is the second re-potting I have given it since I have owned it and was pleasantly surprised by the root-mass I found after the hard treatment it received after its first re-potting.

Looking at the roots from beneath. You can see that the roots that were growing downwards have been removed leaving an almost solid wooden base..

The tree went back into the same pot is was in previously. One thing you may notice is that a lot of my trees are in green pots. There is a reason for this. Where I live most pots of this age were in green tones. Around that time there was a local grower that hated blue pots and as a result of his experience and influence this lead to very few blue pots being bought during this time. As a result all my pots (which have mostly been bought second hand from other local members) are mostly green.

The tree re-potted.

I have not yet seen flowers on this tree. Hopefully this year I will get a few. I am not sure if this tree is mature enough to flower or not, or for that matter how old a quince has to be before flowering. If anyone reading this has an idea please post in the comments.

New buds.

A lot of people have told me that the quince is an early riser and recently I was reading through some old Bonsai Today magazines where in one article they suggested re-potting in autumn due to the early growth and flowering. I think I will give that a go next year.

The tree below is another that was heavily infested with pests. It was infested with Whitefly which in turn had led to sooty mould. Again, in the last garden it was growing in it was almost impossible to control the fly as every time I would spray the tree it would be re-infested a couple of days later.

As a result of the infestation each leaf that was on the tree had a hundred or more eggs laid underneath it. Because of this I wanted to defoliate just before leaf drop so I was able to collect all the leaves and destroy them.

The Quince before defoliation. You can see how damaged the leaves are from the whitefly.

This is my only quince and since I have owned it I have fallen in love with the species. It grows strongly, approach grafts easily, and buds back well. It also shows great colour in autumn (should you not defoliate it too early such as I did this year) and also gives a display of flowers followed by fruit. The bark is also very attractive. When you add up all these positives you get a species that makes a great bonsai candidate.

After removing the infested leaves.

As you can see from the above image, the tree is still very much in the developement stages. I am in the process of approach grafting a number of branches onto the trunk and am also trying to develop a new first branch. The second branch is where most of the whips for the approach grafts are taken from, which explains the looped twigs. This last summer I was able to graft 4 new branches but 3 still need a little more growth before they can be cut from their parent branch. This coming season I hope to graft a couple more.

For those of you wondering what pot the quince is in, it is a pot by Yamafusa. Yamafusa although not really high-end, is one of my favorite tokoname potters. Their green glazes are very beautiful and suit a wode range of deciduous trees and although at the cheaper end of the price scale their pots are great quality.

After I defoliated this Quince I also sprayed with lime sulphur in the same way i did with my trident maple. Hopefully this will kill any remaining insects and leave it pest free come spring. Fingers crossed.

This year has seen some dramatic changes to my bonsai. The most major of these was moving house and gaining some backyard space. My trees previously were kept in amongst a lush garden. On one hand this was good in that my bonsai were quite sheltered and there was a good micro climate in which to grow amongst. The down side was that I could never really rid my trees of pests as once the garden was infected everything was. As a result my trees ended up with a number of pest problems. Now I have moved I hope to rid them of these problems, which brings me to the subject of this post, my Trident Maple.

Earlier this spring I defoliated the maple and posted the results HERE. I repeated this defoliation process twice more during the season and was rewarded with much increased ramification.

As it began to change into its Autumn colours I set about doing the final defoliation. Usually I would leave the leaves on a little longer in order to see the full range of colours they would turn but I wanted to remove them before they dropped so I could dispose of them along with any insect eggs that may have been laid on them.

The trident at the beginning of autumn just beginning to show signs of it changing colour.

Starting to turn

I removed all the leaves which revealed the structure of the branches and all the new ramification. All the leaves that were removed were put into the household garbage to ensure that any eggs on them would not end up anywhere near my bonsai.


Once the tree was naked I was able to carefully look over the tree to assess the amount of pruning that would be required. I wanted to spray the tree with lime sulphur to kill any remaining pests so I did not prune at this stage. I don’t like the idea of lime sulphur getting into fresh cuts. I am not sure if it is actually a problem or not but I choose to avoid it where I can.

What I did prune off was some insect eggs. I found what I first thought were fungal blooms on dead twigs.

If you look closely you can see the small white tufts of damage.

A close up of a damaged twig

Upon further investigation I realised that the tufts lead to a hollow channel within the twig which was filled with eggs around 0.5mm in size. I did a quick search on the net and realised they were the eggs of Passion Hoppers which lay their eggs in channels they make within small twigs. The twigs die soon after the eggs are laid so cutting the twig off and destroying it is a good way to tackle them.

I then went over the tree with a pair of scissors and removed every twig I could find that exhibited signs of damage.

A pile of some of the damaged twigs.

After removing what I can only guess was hundreds of insect eggs I sprayed the tree with a diluted solution of lime sulphur to prepare the bonsai for winter.

It was a satisfying days work. I hope that the work will pay off next season with a dramatic reduction of insects in my collection. Fingers crossed.

The following bonsai is one of the first trees I collected a number of years ago.

It is a radiata or Monterey pine (Pinus radiata). I quite like the species to work with but i am still trying to really get a grip on how to best grow and refine them. Perhaps i should make a future post on this subject.

Before it began its life as a bonsai it was located on the edge of a pine plantation where it had grown on a road batter. It had a very interesting curve in the trunk which was either from machinery running it over at some stage of its life or from it trying to seek the light through the long, tangled grass in which it was growing.

After collecting it took a couple of seasons for it to recover and become strong enough to be styled.

The tree before is life as a bonsai. It was needle plucked and readied for its first styling.

I styled is initially at a club night as part of a demonstration. At this time i wrapped the trunk in electrical tape as a substitute for raffia and put a second large bend in the trunk. The bend seemed quite severe to those watching at the time but the little pine bent easily. I then wired it fully and placed the foliage.

The first branch bent into position before the major bend was made.

A top view taken some time after the first styling. The dotted line shows the trunk line. The second bend is the one made during the first styling.

The tree recovered well and I lived with its style for some years while working on ramifying the branches. I didn’t mind the style but, I always thought there was something not quite right about it.

The bonsai was growing well after its first styling. It was un-wired and soon needed work.

The back side. I had often looked at it from this side and thought about a possible front.

The front after a re-wire. It was around this time that the shari seen in the next images started to develop.

Even after a re-wire the style still was not sitting well with me so, i decided to take it to a critique session by a visiting Japanese Professional, Hirotoshi saito. He suggested that we do re-style and stand the tree up roughly 90 degrees. So, a few days later the tree was styled. It was quite a dramatic change but definitely one for the better.

The results after the second re-style.

That was back in July. The tree was very healthy and had grown strongly,  as a result there were multiple places where wire was cutting in.

The pine after its spring growth.

A side view.

The back. From this view you can get an idea of the extent of the shari that naturally developed. Hopefully i can extend this over time to the front of the lower trunk.

It was time for some work. I plucked and cut needles to allow more light and air into the interior of the tree and also removed most of the wire. I was happy to see that most of the branches had set in position.

The tree after the work.

The tree is far from finished and i will need to re-wire it again this winter. Pines with movement such as this are common in collected pines in europe but you rarely see them in Australia.

Hopefully if everything goes to plan it will have a bright future in its new upright style.

Although there are many forestry species of pine planted around Australia, Pinus radiata is by far the most prolific. Known as radiata in Australia it is also known as the Monterey pine in places such as America where it is indigenous to.

As it has been planted on mass it is one of the few coniferous species that you can find to dig. They produce seed well and generally anywhere you find a plantation you will also find feral seedlings. This is so much of a problem in some areas that they are declared weed species.

The up side of all this is there are many opportunities to dig and grow these pine as bonsai.

The below pine is a radiata that i obtained  through a friend. He had sourced it from an old grower who had no longer been able to care for it.

When i received it, it had a lot going for it; old bark, nice nebari and a trunk with some movement and age. These were all factors that encouraged me to pursue its future.

That said it also had a whole host of problems.

It was quite sick and all the needles were yellow. It had lost most of the lower branches and those that remained all were angled upwards and had foliage mainly at the tips. When I cut the tie wires in the pot it fell over because it had barely any roots.

I re-potted and fed the tree back to health over the corse of a year and then began to think about styling.

The beginning

This was the tree before styling began

As the branches were all old with quite old bark i was reluctant to bend them into their future downward position in one go as i was pretty sure they were going to be brittle.

Early days

After the first round of bending

After bending the branches into the above positions almost every branch had began to crack. It was now a matter of letting the tree grow out and recover before completing the bending.

A year later the tree had been growing strongly and was ready for round two. I had slowly increased the downward angle of some of the branches over the course of the growing season but they had not yet reached their final possitions.

Next step

The tree had recovered well and it was time to make some decisions.

I had decided that the first branch would be removed and i would fill this visual position with a ‘Nozoki no eda’ or peeping branch. This type of branch is basically a first or main branch that originates from behind the tree but occupies the space a first branch would. This style of branch is often seen is junipers.

The branch removed

The branch removed

I removed the branch and began to wire the tree. You can see the result of this first real styling in the image below.

the first styling

After the first styling

The tree was fully wired into shape and some jin was created at the base of the removed branch. I left it long for future use as a guy wire attachment point and still have not removed it. I will probably get around to shortening it and refining it this winter.

Since the above photo the tree has grown strongly and has had one re-wiring. It was starting to take shape and was ready to be un-wired.

before wiring

After some strong growth.

I un-wired the tree and did a small amount of re-wiring mainly to the tips of the branches.

It is nice to reach a stage with a tree where you no longer have to wire every main branch.

After a basic wiring.

After a basic wiring.

Above is how the tree ended up after a basic wiring. It really needs a full wiring which i plan to do this coming winter. Hopefully this seasons growth will fill a couple of gaps in the apex and generally give some more weight to some of the foliage and at the same time strengthen some of the weaker buds so i can reduce the branches to them.

The tree is really only beginning its journey to become a refined bonsai but most of the structure is there. Unfortunately the day that i took the above photo it was raining so the bark is dark and it is hard to see just how nice and crackily the bark is.

Radiata’s are a tree that i am still really trying to work out how to grow well. Last year i tried to treat them like a black pine and cut all new growth off around christmas time. It did not respond very well and didn’t really produce any back-budding. This year i am going to grow them a little more like some of the other growers in my area. That is they pinch out strong growth as it appears and continue to do so throughout the growing season.

I was kind of hoping that there would be a calendar bases technique i could use to remove the new growth but at this time it doesn’t seem like there is. Perhaps overtime i will understand them more and then will be able to develop a better method. In the mean time i will just enjoy watching them grow and the work associated with those phases.

If anyone has any techniques that work with these pines, please share them in the comments.

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