Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Juniper re-re-redesign

This is an update on this juniper: here.

I swear one day I'll finish this damned tree. In the meantime, I unwired it over the summer to let it gain strength and grow freely. Last night I rewired some branches and tried to fill in some bald spots.

The idea was to compact the design. I removed as little foliage as possible as I plan to repot in spring.

Before / After:

I believe this tree will benefit form some more open spaces and some shari up the trunk to add visual interest.

Thanks for stopping by,


Edit 12/13/13

Wasn't happy with the finished product. Asked some friends online for direction and continued to refine this image last night. I haven't finished the jins nor started the shari, but for now I believe we're in a much better place. Let me know what you think in the comments?

This one is shown with a heavy back branch covered. I'm leaving it on for health reasons.

Though I plan to remove it, this is the tree with the back branch exposed. What do you think?

As always, thanks for stopping by.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Shohin Barberry

If you're anything like me, during this time of year it's difficult to drive past a nursery with a "40% OFF SALE" sign flapping in the cold breeze of November.

I had a slow day yesterday which afforded me some time during lunch hour(s).

I stopped by a nursery looking for nothing in particular when this berberis darwinii jumped out at me. I've been on a shohin kick lately. I've more to post in the near future in fact. At $15 it didn't take more than a cursory look at the base to decide to take this guy home.

After cutting 85% of the tree off, carefully avoiding thorns, and breaking off another 5% (oops) this is what we're left with. I have a pot ready to go for spring time when the buds start swelling. There is a bare spot on the left. LOOK I TOLD YOU I BROKE A BRANCH!!! :) Truth is, these things are very brittle and even moreso this time of year. No worries. There are buds in perfect locations to fill the void this coming spring and summer.

My goal with this is to cut it back continuously during the late spring after it's motor is jump started.

This maybe took an hour of cutting and just a touch of wire.

Thank you for stopping in to look.

Hi reddit.


Pardon the picture quality. Evidently I took these pictures with a potato.

Follow up post HERE

Maple Update

The last time this tree was posted was here.

Aside from some leaf burn, it's had a good season and threw new branches every which way to offer new options. This post will be a quick one. As the leaves were falling off, I defoliated to get better access to the branches. Made some selections and cut the unnecessary branching off. Wired and placed branches.

The nebari is beyond repair, especially because this is going to be planted at a new angle. Ground layering is the only option I see. This coming spring, the pot bound tree will be lifted and planted into an anderson flat at the desired new angle. The tree will be ring barked and dusted with rooting hormone as a new root pad is forced from the trunk. Though shorter, the tree will be more powerful and rooted for the experience. As my friend JudyB from bonsainut says, " go forward, sometimes one must go back..."


Ugly roots are ugly!

 New planting angle

And a 360:

Until next time!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shohin Pyracantha

In the recent past I've been more and more interested in shohin trees. With these smaller guys, the devil is in the detail as the minuscule size will accentuate any flaws present on the finished bonsai tree. They also happen to be much easier to handle and come at a more friendly price. So I've set out this time of year to pick up some suitable shohin stock from local nurseries.

Got this from the Great Big Green House for a discounted price. You gotta love this time of year if for nothing else the cheaper stock.

Took some advice from Brian Van Fleet of and gave it the old chop since he's told me about their resilience to bonsai technique and propensity to backbud. I hear they're like weeds, akin to elms.

I was going to make a slew of cuttings but since the season would make that much more difficult and the plant stock is relatively cheap... picking my battles this time.

Here's some before and afters:

Is there a tree in there somewhere?


Set phasers to chop.

Ahh yes. There it is. 

Something along these line is what I'm thinking. In spring, this is repotted in something small yet not final, fed well and continuously pruned for shape and balance. Will be updated then. 

A thanks goes out to BVF for his information and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cutting back a hornbeam

The first piece of material I ever dug was a hornbeam discussed here.

Here's a picture I just found of it after its first year on the bench:

And what was done about a year ago briefly:

This year, as it finishing up its second growing season, it's the first to drop all of its leaves as we enter into dormancy. The nights have been in the 50s and in the next few days the forecast warns of low 30s. Winter is upon us, seemingly.

Here's a look at it as it came off the bench. I snipped the top after leaf fall to more easily handle it. It was about 8 inches taller moments before this video was taken:

Jess and I cut it back hard to begin the long process of branch building for deciduous trees. This tree has but 3 main branches. Cutting back so hard will hopefully induce more adventitious buds to pop from the trunk. Time will tell. If not, we'll make do with what is there.

First step, let's take her down a few feet:

We cut back 2 branches both to the second bud. The goal is to start ramification early and promote taper. The lowest branch was growing straight up and was unable to be bent to an appropriate angle so it was replaced with the bud that lives on the bottom of all of these hornbeam brances. It seems any branch growing straight up and be replaced. Good to know for the future. There are a few hornbeam yet to be worked...

Top needs to be wired up.

A Makita die grinder helped carve down the top. Just roughed in for now.

And we're left here for now:

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hollywood Juniper Progression

I got an expiring groupon for a local nursery from my mother. Free trees? Sure. I picked this up for about $35 or so and had $5 left over for some perlite.

This is the earliest picture I have of it.

Because it was long and thin I decided to try and put some big bends into the trunk. So raffia and heavy wire got me to this point:

I left a lot of extra foliage. Something I read about the health of the plant. So it was in this stage for quite some time. over the last year I've removed foliage slowly. The tree has been gaining vigor and has shown much growth. Here it is after a season of good growth.

After thinning out a bit:

Carnage shot:



Slightly different angle on front to consider:

Close up of foliage:

I'd like the top right of the crown to fill in much more. I hope in a season or two it will look more balanced yet still sparse. 

Thank you for looking!



After some tweaking and wire removal:

A Visit from Colin Lewis

This past Friday, RBS brought in another special guest in Colin Lewis. Colin, if you don't know, is a professional from England who's now living in Southern Maine, USA. He has decades of experience and spends a great deal of his time teaching at his nursery, Ho Yoku School of Bonsai. You can check him out here.

The meeting's title was "Ugly Trees". Colin was brought up a tree with less than stellar potential and gave advice on which direction to take it in. He offered drawings, tips on techniques (stuff like how to make deadwood appear more natural) and off-color humor. I found him engaging and I enjoyed his sometimes crude jokes. Political Correctness is an America phenomenon that Colin has not adopted. .

I approached him when I got to the meeting and asked him about his take on Bonsai in America. His take was that there is some absolutely top notch bonsai in the states and the best yamadori. He said there is also a TON of low level, "crap" bonsai here in the states and not much in the middle. He attributed that to a few different reasons, one of them was a look at age and comfort zones. He says that some of the folks who have been doing bonsai for a long while learned from books and have been doing bonsai incorrectly all these years. But at their age they were unwilling to be taught "new tricks". I've never heard it put like that before so I thought I'd share that take on it.

He retired for a hand-rolled cigarette before returning to start the meeting.

Colin dawned our new aprons. Fancy yeah?

Colin drew this on the board having "drawn a bonsai" and then asked, "Has anyone ever seen a tree like this in nature? NO! It's boring!" He's a proponent of naturalistic trees and loves bunjin designs.

This VA pine was considered first. He reached through the branches and decided on a bunjin styling; instructing the owner on which branches to use in the final design.


Steve Miller, the PBA president and acclaimed artist was on hand as he was driving Colin and representing PBA. He pulled out his brush and quickly provided a virtual. 

He remarked that we had not disappointed him with ugly material. 

A big chop for this zelkova.

Back in the ground for this little liquidambar.

Much like Walter Pall, Colin subscribes to the "hedging" method of producing density and ramification. Here he teaches us how to increase taper by allowing branches to grow long before cutting them back. Bonsai trees in development should not be kept beautiful, he said. 

 These parsonii are tricky. Extremely brittle bones. Roy Nagatoshi told me that the best way to use these gnarly trunks was to graft onto it. Colin was also not impressed by these junipers. Says it needed to be cut back hard and still the foliage would be ugly.... Grafting is the best bet for this one. 

This is Nguyen (Tommy). When brought up this little maple that was only ugly because it was in development. Tommy knows what he is doing. Colin mentioned as much. Said that this is how it should be done and picked a few branches that could go and Tommy quickly cut them off with a skillful hand.

 Explaining how maples grow East/West and then North/South in pairs. Because of this directional pruning can be used to make more interesting branches.

"Nice grow box" he quipped at Jonas. This olive needs some serious work to look like a tree. Bring out some power tools!

Steve Miller showing his skills in bamboo painting. 

Chris' red pine was the final tree considered. Not bad for $35 from a nursery going out of business. Because they are so brittle, no amount of raffia in the world would allow the branches to be bent into position. Such a powerful trunk, Colin remarked. This is another candidate for grafting. And to do so successfully, Colin recommended getting help from a professional. 

 It's always great to have access to talents such as Colin and it is one reason I think it's a necessity to belong to an affiliated bonsai club. This program was educational, albeit working on sub-par materials. I'd love to see what he would recommend on nicer stock. I hope to meet him again.

Signing off,