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,