A great video I watched over on the Capital Bonsai Blog with Ryan Neil talking about pines. A very interesting approach and an easy explaination about why you do it this way or that. Well, not that easy, I had to watch it twice It never does any harm to refresh the memory.
Alan, a relative club newbee, emailed me a few days ago asking if I could have a look at a Japanese White Pine for him. I am bored out of my head not being able to do much with my dodgy shoulder. I was delighted to have him down on Friday afternoon.
This is the Pine he brought, a typical JWP that you see on the market. Bought 2 years ago by Alan’s good lady wife as a present.
He has done a great job in keeping it healthy. Too much rain here in the UK to be ideal for JWP which I find like it on the dryer side. The growth was too strong at the apex and weaker on the lower half of the tree. A common fault when the owner doesn’t know the correct steps to take to balance the growth. I decided to make an afternoon of it and help Alan do two things. Learn about Pines and JWP in particular and learn how to set about evaluating a tree before styling.
We must have spent an hour talking through the needs of a pine and what we need to do at different points to achieve results, and also why it actually works!
I have a particular process that I try and teach beginners to follow when evaluating a tree. This was drilled into me years a go by Robert Porch, one of the most underrated bonsai artists in the UK. I have adapted it for my own needs and have probably missed some important steps in the process! I’ve never put this in writing but some might find this of interest. Aspects of it can also be applied to tree critiques and judging.
#1 When you look at a tree, even if it’s one of your own and you’ve had it for years, try and look at it with fresh eyes every time. Hard with your own trees I know, but how many times have you looked at trees at a show and just whizzed past not really taking in the image and missing learning opportunities.
#2 When you look at the tree decide what it is that first catches your eye. Is it a positive or a negative feature in your opinion. Where does your eye go from there? Is your overall opinion of the tree good or bad.
#3 look through the tree from it’s ‘front’ as displayed. Assess what good points the tree has. Always be positive when possible, especially when publicly critiquing a tree. Anyone can poke holes in a trees design, for some, that’s all they do!!
#4 Now do it again but looking for negatives. Make sure you assess the pot during this process. If you don’t like it, why? What pot would you put it in?
[Points 1-4 can also be done when looking at photos of bonsai in books or on screen, never just flick on to the next image without evaluating how it was done.]
#5 If you are offering advice on styling options, now is the time to look for other options in the tree. Spin the tree around on a turntable, and using the points above, select alternate fronts. This can be fun to do in a group. Make everyone mark their front with a piece of wire stuck in the pot. At the end each person has to explain why they picked that front. This can be entertaining Always remember that the tree can be tilted etc, you are not stuck with it’s current position or style in any way.
#6 Having made several front selections, work through each one to assess which one is the best option. How many positives does each option have and how can you show these off? How many negatives is there and can these be removed hidden or even ignored?
#7 Most important, if it’s not your tree, then remember the owner is fully entitled to their opinion and to chose the option that suits them best.
#8 You should now have a clearer idea of where to go with the tree but if available, get another experienced eye to have a look for other options. Sometimes, what you have missed is the biggest part of the learning experience.
Back to Alan’s JWP. We went through this process and came up with 8 viable options for the tree. These were discussed and Alan decided what he wanted to do. Most options involved a front change and even a slight angle change. This is the front selected to best show off the root base, which can be improved when repotting, the trunk movement and make best use of a lower apex.
I put Alan to work removing old needles before he wired the tree.
This is the final image.
A few points: This tree has a long way to go and will required proper care to produce ramification. Tthe overall height of the tree have been lowered, after a wiring the image is far more ordered and pleasing to look at. The nebari, once repotted and cleared will now be wider and show more interesting lower trunk movement. The graft mark has been hidden by the lower branch. The apex, although light now, is leaning towards the front and will fill quickly.
The trunk line is still somewhat straight in the middle but less noticeable than before. Apex needs time to fill again and several branches will need to be extended to add interest to the overall image. A few branches at the lower level should have been removed but have been left to allow for a future option of a shohin tree. This was my personal preference on the day but this isn’t the best time of year to be removing 4/5 of the foliage on a JWP and watching it bleed to death. This is the lower area where the shohin option is still available down the road.
I think Alan’s major worry about the shohin option was the reaction of his wife when he took the tree home
I had a very enjoyable afternoon and Alan is one of the keenest members I have had the pleasure of spending time with. This was typical beginner material but was a great tool to be used to help Alan gain knowledge in Pine care and styling decisions. As usual, I always learn a little myself in the process. I even sent him home with homework
Another Mario tree update. If you haven’t got a clue why I’d be doing this, CLICK HERE
First up is his Satsuki Azalea. It’s a variety called Subaru, so I’m told. I always thought the flower colour was equal throughout this tree, as you can see, I was wrong. Nice shades of pink.
Next up is his Japanese White Pine that has budded strongly this year.
His Korean Hornbeam that got a major haircut to produce back budding on some leggy branches. It’s working.
This is his Japanese Black Pine. It had been in a small pot and I thought that while he was away for a while we could get faster development from this tree by putting it in a bigger pot. I opted for a pond basket to improve the roots.
There you go Mario, that’s your tree fix sent all the way to you out in the sands
Part of the fun in looking after Mario’s bonsai while he’s working in Dubai is that I can put them up here to show him what he’s missing
How many people does it take to lift a $1 000 000 bonsai?
I make it 7 Japanese and Peter Warren
Spotted this photo over on a IBC Forum post. It’s a Japanese White Pine that sold this week at the ASPAC Bonsai Convention in Takamatsu, Japan. Priced at 100,000,000 yen, it works out at roughly £823,500.
As my son would say OMG!!
Following on from my last post, here is what Mike and Stephen got up to.
Stephen brought along a Yew to dewire. It was getting rather tight even though it was only wired back in May. See my previous post HERE. Stephen got to work. It was rather cold in the garage and Stephen found that marching on the spot really helped warm him up
I also had to explain to Stephen from a Health & Safety point of view that we had several tables on offer, all at different heights to suit the size of the tree.
The tree after dewiring. It has back budded very nicely since it’s haircut in May. Next year should see some strong growth for this tree.
Michael brought along a Japanese White Pine. This tree had lost a few branches in the last few years and it made the original front hard to work with. This was the original front.
The first part of the trunk line was interesting but the straight top section was a problem. Also, the first branch to the left was heavy and straight and had also suffered die back. We discussed a few options and Phil even took some time out from bark striping to have a look too.
We had a few options. One was to make a shohin tree by taking it back to a low branch. If it had been a Scots Pine, I might have considered this, but not with a Japanese White here in NI. You rarely see a happy vigorous tree of that species here. People allow them to receive far too much water. This new option would require strong growth and the tree would bleed sap profusely from the major wound.
There was a semi cascade option as well with deadwood involved but, we opted for another option that suited Mike’s tastes. This was to be the new front.
This front had a few benefits. The movement in the upper trunk was better and the straight lower branch was now a back branch that couldn’t be seen. The nebari isn’t just as good but there was marginal. The branch layout created a better and more convincing image. I thought that the tree was too tall and that a new lower apex was going to be needed. The biggest problem, and one that can’t really be seen in the photo, was going to be the fact that the apex leaned back slightly. We discussed this and decided to add a guy wire to pull it forward.
We got to work and very quickly got the rest of the tree wired so we could place branches. We ensured that all buds were facing up, important on a JWP. We added another guy line to bring the apex more over the base of the tree. As it sat, the flow of the trunk line was annoying me. By applying these two guys the height of the tree was reduced sufficiently for us not to bother with reducing the height of the apex by removing branches. This was it after wiring.
Mike had to shoot off at the end and there was a few other tweaks that I wanted to do. That branch near the top on the left needs to be lowered to match the rest. However I think we made a better tree out of it in the end. Here are the before front and the after front side by side.
This is a virtual showing a little extra growth and a different pot.
This is how we attached the guy line. Mike hadn’t seen the eye loops used like this before, however he was first to suggest using a wood screw. Sometimes this is the only option as there isn’t anything suitable there to guy too.
This is one of the pads. Where foliage would allow, we rounded out the pad to make a fuller image.
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed the company in the garage