This tree once belonged to a bonsai enthusiast from County Cavan. It had been a bonsai, but due to ill health it was planted into the ground for quite a few years while he fought his battle. Sadly he died and his widow moved to a new home but took the tree with her, planting it in a large pot as we see it below in January 2016.
She wanted the tree to go to someone who would bring it back to its bonsai journey and I was offered the tree. Myself and my friend Stephen went to collect but had been told to leave the pot. Now look at the photo above and imagine getting that out of the pot it had been in for years!
We got it home and potted up as above. The tree was dense with a lot of branches that were not usable in a design so I cleared it out to allow light to penetrate for back budding.
It was left for 2 1/2 years with only the occasional prune back where back budding had occurred. Then in September 2019 I brought in in for its first branch placement.
It’s a big tree with a large needle and I was happy to create an expansive image.
In March 2020 I repotted the tree into a more suitable training pot.
It was fertilised heavily throughout 2020 and was a little slow to flush but came good in the end.
So just under 4 years in, I’m happy enough with the progress. The tree has a long way to go and, as it’s my only Austrian Black Pine, I’m enjoying the learning process with this species. A lot of back budding and ramification to be added as the years go by but I think 2021 should be an exciting year for this tree.
The owner has had this tree a long time and it only needs a nudge in the right direction now and again.
The tree needed a good clean before work to clear the last hold out needles and remove the algae starting to clog up the branches.
As many branches had risen a rewiring of most of the primary structure was needed. I find larch need this every 3-4 years even when established. Other work included the removal of branches that had over thickened and replacing them with younger finer ones. Probably the biggest issues with larches is their ability to fatten fast if over fed or left to run too long during the year. Building up a good structure to allow these to be replaced on a cycle over the years by younger finer branches is so important on larch, more so that other species.
After wiring above. Not every fine detail is wired just what was out of shape or needed to be moved to fill space crated by branch removal.
This tree back in the 90’s had the trunk split down the middle to allow more flexibility and had the movement you see now created by heavy wiring. Over 30 years later you’d be hard pushed to see it amongst the flaky bark. Here’s a few other older photos of the same tree dating back to 2012-13.
A Mugo Pine that was gifted to me by an great lady called Valerie. I have watched this tree progress for many years since she first brought it to a club workshop with Willowbog Bonsai probably the guts of 15 years ago now. A tree that was upright, leggy and lacking hardly any branches back then. I only wish I could find the original tree photos. Valerie brought the tree back every few years and slowly the tree progressed.
I did a little needle thinning and bud selection this week and perhaps sat looking to the future for the tree. I think next year will see a few changes. The problem with good care and application of technique is that sooner or later you reach a point were you revert the tree back to a green dome if you don’t pull branches out of the design. As a semi cascade this tree shouldn’t look as full as it does, especially in the crown. After that work is done I’ll need to reassess the pot. By adding negative space and some deadwood I think we can age the image.
Valerie if you’re reading this, it’s in good hands 😀
A few days back I shared a few pines that had been left with me to wire and style and I said I had two left to go. When given the work to complete its human nature to jump in and grab the trees that excite you the most and leave the tricky ones to the end. Well these are the end ones.
This little Mugo Pine is an oversized pot was a challenge. Humble material with a lot of the branches coming from the same spot high up in the tree. How to make an interesting image and at the same time reduce the branches at the top to stop it becoming an unsightly swelling.
Above is the result. An angle change to add more trunk movement and to bring the apex over to the left to be harmonious with the character branch. A heavy apex branch at the back was removed and a few other weaker ones to start the reduction. This trees image will change massively when the pot is changed.
I keep telling my bonsai friends to practice. We don’t have an endless stream of trees to work nor are all those trees going to be high end. However taking a simple tree like this with a few issues and going through the design process can be beneficial. This took 30 minutes.
This second tree, a Scots Pine grown from seed by the owner, was also a tricky proposition. It’s always been leggy branch wise for as long as I remember it. It seems to cycle between periods of extreme growth with back budding and then shuts down. As its not in my care I can’t say for sure what the cause is. Perhaps as a seed grown tree it could just be genetic.
One of issues currently is drainage. When you see all of this crap on the surface you know that it’s way too wet for a pine to thrive. The mix was good but has broken down to the point where a repot in the spring is required.
Above shows the tree after being worked. Where I could safely chase back branches, I did. This tree left me with a few interesting dilemmas. I was styling the tree with a free hand from the owner but I wanted to give him a few options for his own tastes. The branch/second trunk bottom right adds character and yet has very poor structural branching. I have made the best of it but there’s actually a great tree there without it. It’s now his choice to keep or remove or even Jin and has no impact on the rest of the tree. There’s another bit of weirdness going on down there with the freaky little low branch at the bottom rear. I love leaving funky things on trees that make them different from the usual fare we see. I think a possible option on this tree is to Jin the bottom trunk but leave the freaky bottom back branch and swing it slightly to the right.
Anyway, a few options to discuss with the owner when he sees it in person. After 30+ years in his care I think it’s only right to let him have a say.
This was the latest on the tidy up list. It wasn’t quite ready for any wiring. Needed the strong areas thinned out and generally balanced out to aid health f lower branches. Ready for work after 2021 flush. The high root at the base was cut through half way to allow a staged removal. As with most of the Shore Pine I mange to collect, the bark is rather special.
It had a major repot in 2019 and sulked in a big way all that year. 2020 has been a shitty year for most of us but this hawthorn made a come back. I decided that although I like my hawthorn to have a natural angular appearance and to not over wired, this tree needed adjustments. The branches had sprung a bit and a slight angle change at the repot meant things weren’t quite in place.
Even after all this time the tree has plenty of ramification still to be added. And some branch fattening here and there. If I knew back then what I know now this tree would be further on and branches in better proportion. Bonsai is a journey that’s for sure.
My last little tunnel was 10’x8’ and along side my little greenhouse, they done a job for me for close to 25 years. The greenhouse was taken down in 2019 and the small tunnel alone just wasn’t going to cut mustard over winter. So, down it came and up went the new tunnel 14’ x 15’.
So far with storms seeming to hit every other day it has stood strong. It’ll be doing well to last as long as the last one. I’ve a misting system for the yamadori still to go in and a watering system as well.
A friend has some Scots Pine that he started from seed over 30 years ago and have never been out of a pot of some sort in that time. They’ve have good years and bad during that period and this month I’ve been sorting them out and doing a little wiring for him.
I love the fact that these trees have been grown from seed by the owner and have stayed with him all these years. I have two more to complete work on which I’m looking forward to.
Here is a Mugo Pine that he also collected from his own garden last year getting a first styling.
Another piece of collected material into the workshop for a basic first design. With Shore Pine I find you have to hedge your bets. It can take 4-5 years from collection and a first post collection repot before you can be certain what branches are going to be retained by the tree. Good health doesn’t mean the tree won’t drop branches, in fact with vigour they can shed lower branches as a result. If you over fertilise or over pot they can also fatten too fast and shed the old bark that has taken many years in hard growing conditions to create. Keeping on top of stronger upper areas in the first few years is critical in maintaining as many lower branches as possible. All that said they are a fantastic tree with bark and character to die for.
Thinned out that strong upper growth, thinning needle mass, opening out structure by wiring primary lines, retaining and wiring up tips of all lower branches, all steps taken for health and to aid budding next year. The design has made the three trunk lines work together and shows off the wonderful bark. However at this stage with too many branches and a need for ramification, it’s far from the finished article. A long term project for someone to take forward and in the meantime I’ll help it on it’s path as best I can.
I’m trying to work my way through some raw stock here that since collecting has established a good rootball and now needs work or they will fast become green blobs.
This lodgepole Pine was collected beside Lough Corrib a few years back. a tall slender tree with subtle movement perhaps not as noticeable in the photo. It has gotten very strong and I wanted to put the tree to work back budding and create a first basic structure. Many would shorten the tree or perhaps bend it into a more dramatic if unnatural shape but I wanted to embrace the tall elegant pine image. Perhaps not making it an old image but that of a tree reaching maturity and starting to show the pressures of maintaining all those branches.
First job was a good clean out removing yellow needles and then balancing the foliage to the same level throughout the tree. I also removed any triple bud tips back down to two.
And then to work. I’m sharing this time lapse more to show how I work. I have issues with my neck and shoulders so be comfortable when I work is important. This scissor lift table allows me to position the tree just right distance and height wise for me.
And the tree after work. The lower hanging branch was actually split slightly from the trunk to get a better angle. there’s a few branches too many at this point but I like to leave options on first styling to allow for future changes. The hanging branch for that matter may be removed or jinned in a future styling. Leaving options for the next owner is always a wise move. Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. Some will say it’s too tall or not dramatic enough. Not to worry there’s plenty of those twisted tree makers out there. I like to go with what the tree offers and what made me collect it in the first place. It’s only the first step on the road to becoming a bonsai.