Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RBS Meeting

Last night was the meeting where we learned about grafting pines from Peter Jones of Northern Virginia Bonsai Society. It was a great lesson and even moreso, a great meeting. We had 4 brand new visitors to the club. I brought home 2 grafts. One arakawa (jap white pine) and one (bansho?) i forget but I'll have someone remind me soon enough and I'll edit. Great lesson. I can directly apply it to the shimpaku grafts I plan on doing in the near future.

So for now the pines are in indirect sunlight protected from the wind. The grafts should take in 10 days or so but then I'll leave the rubber bands on until they disintegrate some time in July.

I also picked up a pot from one of the members on an impulse buy. I loved the texture and color of it. It looks masculine and rugged. The potter's name is Dale Cochoy out of Ohio.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lunch Breaks at the Nursery

Whenever I mention "the nursery" I'm usually referring to The Gardener Nursery on Broad Street. They have the most interesting stock. Not stuff you'll find in Lowe's because the plants have actual character! I picked up a "Scout" Azalea and a Japanese Green Maple. I can't find any information online about scout azaleas anywhere. So then I'll just call it an azalea. Good? Good.


The maple chop is a bit higher than it will be when all is said and done and the azalea is going to get the haircut of its life when I get home.

Pics Of Trees from the Workshop

Bonsai Workshop with Bill Valavanis

This past Saturday I was lucky to have found a bonsai workshop 2 hours away in Lynchburg with Julian Adam's CVBS and Bill Valavanis. The topic was literati style. Bill started with a tree critique of a few members' trees. I love watching critiques. People become so intimately attached to their branches and sometimes seem like they are offended when a credible source tells them to chop one off. But it takes that fresh perspective sometimes I think. It is possible to lose the forest for the tree. Bill then showed us slide shows of some of the literati that he felt were good representations and we discussed what makes a literati. Long lesson short, it's not so much the composition, but rather the feeling one receives when viewing a literati. It's thin. Light. Wispy. Whimsical. It's the representation of any tree you might find in nature. Here's one of my favorite examples:

The workshop ended with Bill doing a demonstration on a shimpaku he selected:

Next up, the raffle. Any good bonsai meeting has a raffle right? I was the last to purchase $5 worth of tickets and long story short, I won BOTH top prizes. I went home with a hardback book about Chinese bonsai and the tree that Bill V. shaped. There was jealousy afoot! Honestly, folks were all happy for me and I was grinning from ear to ear.

Following, we were all able to select a shimpaku and Bill came around as the ten of us designed our own. He was helpful and I met others that were equally instrumental in instructing me. It's a great environment to learn if you're open to receiving lessons. The best lessons begin or end with, "I learned this the hard way".

I wasn't too thrilled with what I ended up with honestly. I think it has potential; but I'll need to remove two lower branches if it's to become a true literati. Good thing I get to add Bill's to my collection. Here was my attempt:

We ended the day at Julian's home in his garden looking at his growing fields, 100s of prebonsai (especially pines) and purchasing wire and pots. The pots are nothing overly special but I have to start accruing them at some point and his were priced correctly. Not collection worthy but definitely enough to start off. I brought home about $100 worth of wire and learned something very important to working with copper. Turns out, you have to baby the stuff before applying it to keep it soft. Letting it bump into stuff or get jostled in my tool bag is bad news for wire. It hardens to any trauma at all. I brought home my new wire very carefully.

More than the retail therapy, I enjoyed being around the old heads today. They always take interest in the young guy and no matter where I go, I'm usually the youngest one in the room.


Tonight is the Richmond Bonsai meeting. I can't wait to share my stories with my friends there.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Into or out of pots

Lovely day today. I cut out an hour early to get some potting done:

And I bought this little guy off ebay a while ago and it was already in a bonsai pot. Hindsight is 20/20. It's such a small stub I thought I'd stick it in the ground and give it some space and time. We'll check back on this guy later.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just practicing

Matty came by and we forgot to lift weights in favor of working on some trees. It's been unseasonably warm and experts are all disagreeing on whether repotting is appropriate yet. I tend to side with the less patient of the experts because it's been boring all winter!
You won't believe the amount of roots in the pots of the junipers I posted last time. There was very little soil in there at all. Just a thick matted mass of roots. They were so tangled that I couldn't take them all out and make them neat without taking off 80% of the root ball. So then, I did some "semi-slip" pottings in hopes that in a year they will be more agreeable to being combed out. I don't believe I'll be putting these guys in pot any time soon. I'll probably wait 5 years to start reducing. So, they are going to be allowed to grow in a giant grow pot for the next few.

After that, we stayed up far too late to be a work night wiring up and doing some basic stylings on some junipers. I was gnot really planning on doing any work but we were kind of in the groove. This juniper found its shape in a record time. I normally have to focus on this kind of stuff for hours and hours but I suppose this one either was close, was obvious, or maybe my eye is improving. Remember, I'm just practicing here. Please disregard the timing of this work. I fear if I spend the first 3 years "wait" "wait" waiting I'll lose interest. Here's the rough shape. I'll do some refinement when it settles into its pot and starts pushing new growth.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Warming up

I'm going to go ahead and say, again, that spring has officially started. Tonight I'm building a window screen seive and MAYBE replanting a couple junipers. I've been thinking about what to do with 5 large Juniperus Parsonii I have out back. I think I'm going to try my hand at grafting some shimpaku foliage onto the trunks of at least a couple. I've read that it is a good species fit and it can save some time in getting workable foliage that is closer to the trunk. Also, I prefer the shimp foliage.

Couple more days to the workshop and I'm trying to figure out a budget. Something tells me it could be expensive if I let it be. Bill Valavanis contacted me blindly on bonsainut and invited me to his seminar this weekend. I'm already signed up but thought it was neat to get the message. These bonsai masters are just people.

Today marks the new URL for the site;

Bernard means bear as does kuma so I thought it was fitting.

Here are a few of the the junipers I'm talking about earlier: They are all in 3 gallon containers and should be in much larger ones I believe. The repotting will begin their recover process which I hope to take 2 growing seasons.

Pretty twisted trunks, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Foiled Again!

I posted about my juniper on the Richmond Bonsai Society (RBS) and on bonsai nut and both times I was told to wait and focus on the growth. Jonas K from RBS suggested 2 years until I do anything to it. I was laying in bed sleepless last night considering these suggestions. I'm starting to think it's a better path to start by learning about plant health. Kind of like learning the basics first. Walk before you run. The crawling of bonsai is learning how to keep a tree alive:

i.e.; watering, fertilizing, pruning and waiting

I feel like Jonas only answers 1/3 of my questions so I'm forced to lose sleep and fill in my own blanks. Very Old Master of him. Maybe I'll make him a bleach bonsai t-shirt for the next meeting.

Speaking of meetings, I'm going to see Julian and Bill V on Saturday and I'm so excited I could spit. It's exciting to get some actual instruction with other folks standing by and a legend like Bill there for guidance in designing a shimpaku literati. I favor both the shimpaku and the literati styling so this should be fun.


In other news the snow is quickly melting and I believe we are finally entering and staying in Spring. There is much to do around the garden and I'm excited to start repotting and doing some root work on my guys. The temptation to add to the collection is great right now. Especially going to shows and seeing good material. ... ........

But I'm supposed to be crawling.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sargent Juniper styling day

A while back I went to a local nursery and picked up 4 1 gallon sargent junipers. Little trees that don't have massive trunks but they are twisted up and have some potential. I'm using them as trees to practice styling with so I have a better handle on things when I go to attack the big boys.

I have an idea what i want to do but will be posting it on bonsain to ask for a second opinion. I hope they respond but if not I'll hop in and start wiring. That always yields something and I guess finding the tree for yourself has merit. But what I've seen repeatedly is skilled artists ask for a community opinion before committing. It's most times to get the community to agree with them because the artist rarely changes his min
d after looking at the same tree for so long. It's harder to look at a picture online and get the "feel" for what the tree wants to be. I believe that you have to get your hands on the branches to learn a tree. Pruning before wiring is often when I find out what the tree wants to become.

Here are some before pics:

With such a small trunk, it obviously needs to be condensed. And I liked the cascade idea since I decided on this front and planting angle. It was 90 degrees counter-clockwise and about 60 degrees pointed away from where it is now. This happened next.

I wired the single lower branch because I wanted to bring it forward to better visualize.

I'll update this post later.
Add Image

Late winter and wire

Last night was our first and (hopefully) only snow for the season. Kind of a bummer that it's so warm today. I took in whatever I had that was in a tender state but the bench is full of conifers so I let them be plants and stay under the snow. For better or for worse, I'll get to see the damage when I get home from the office.

I'm about to order some more wire. I'm a huge fan of Julian Adams Bonsai nursery for wire. Fair prices and I like that he sends the wire immediately with an invoice. Trusting business people always make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Running out of room

As my collection grows, so does my need for more space. I had been talking to my good buddy, Matt for quite some time about building a multi-tiered table to hold my trees and trainers but until I walked past the stair risers in Lowe's, had no clue how I would proceed. I grabbed a couple and pieced together a table in my head while grabbing plans. No plans. No sketches. No former knowledge on carpentry. Just wanted to "build a thing" so it happened. Matt came by last night and helped me finish this beauty. It's 4 feet wide and holds plenty of weight. I think if I had to do it again I would make it 6-8 feet and add a third riser for support.

Over all I'm very happy with how it turned out and that there were literally no hiccups when building. Nice to fly by the seat of your pants and succeed sometimes, is it not?


I started my bonsai journey in June of 2011 and I still to this day have no clue where the interest came from. True to form, I jumped in head first and was wiring a tree before I knew why or how to wire a tree. I bought a couple ready-made trees and let them die quickly. With a budget in mind, I've gathered what tools and materials I need to work on most trees but there are always new and better so I keep my eye out for a good deal. Like most beginners, I wound up with mostly junipers because it is still difficult to kill them; though try I might. I've always had a passion for my grass and landscape and this hobby is so full of reward and so rich in history; it's my new favorite way to pass time. I spend as much time as I can spare reading and watching about the subject so let's hope it starts to sink in soon.

I've already amassed more than a couple trees but rather than introduce them all, I'm going to only go forward with this blog. The past is unrecorded by this blog, but as I continue to work on trees, I'll introduce them slowly. Or not. Some things are better left hidden on the bench.

As a monument, here is me wiring the first tree I ever worked on using what tools I had in my garage and whatever I could find at Lowe's that evening. Including the copper wire, which was not annealed, and had to be stripped from its casing.

Welcome to the Grasshopper's Bonsai Blog