Austrian Black Pine

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.

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.

Thinned out.

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.

Before work 2019

It’s a big tree with a large needle and I was happy to create an expansive image.

After styling

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.

Mugo Pine Evolution

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.

The tree being worked by Valerie back in 2013.
2013
And 2020.

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 😀

Hawthorn Adjustments

This hawthorn has been knocking around my garden for probably 15 years and can be seen here as part of a case study on air layering.

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.

After adjustments
Brake detail
But of a spin
Slightly different angle which a like.
Moody Noir

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.

Chuhin Chamaecyparis

This Chamaecyparis Pisifera plumosa dumosa attracts algae to the bark and was in for yet another clean up. My little Japanese power washer was one of the best purchases I ever made and made short work of it.

It’s also a tree that creeps along growth wise and needs work several times a year to keep definition in the foliage mass. Cleaning the underside of branches and keeping subtle space is important or it reverts to a green helmet very fast. It was dewired in the Spring and over the year the bottom pads had crept up a little. I applied some structural wire to reinstate the spacing.

After work
The infamous bottle of Guinness for scale
Foliage detail

Windswept Hawthorn

Had this Hawthorn for quite a few years now but 2020 saw it repotted at a more acute angle giving it more of a windswept feel.

A few reasons for doing it. 1. I love windswept Hawthorn in nature. I think they are one of the most “Irish” representative tree images and are a common sight along our coastline. 2. After several repots and root workings I’m just not able to deal with the heavy root running along the front of the tree right to left. Normally they chase back and allow for a more compact root system. This one is connected to one of the main feeder paths running up the tree and has yet to product any significant backrooting after 15 plus years. On this tree the more acute lean right to left has allowed me to drop that root deeper in the pot and hide its ugliness.

I still need to deal with the ever creeping moss running up the trunk, but while working the tree I noticed tiny little mushrooms popping out of the little ecosystem along the upper trunk line. I think laying it over has helped create it’s own little world on top.

Running along the top centre of the trunkline is the beginnings of a natural Shari. The tree is pretty much split into two main live veins with the dead patch in the middle. Instead of going in there and clearing it out, I’m just going to let it decay at it’s own rate for now and enjoy watching it change year to year.

Shore Pine Rock Planting

This Pine had an average year with some difficulty getting water into the root mass. There’s loads of soil mass in there but a narrow opening into which it’s planted.

Possibly as a result, the lower extending branch to the left got weaker to the point were it was unlikely to bounce back. This was a branch that I was 50/50 on keeping anyway design wise and combined with Shore Pines trait of dropping lower branches, was unlikely to have stayed the course long term.

Before branch removal
After removal the little trunk to the left comes into its own more.
Another angle

A long way to go in development but a few years in I’m happy with the result so far. I’m planning a better option for watering next year.

100 Days in Lockdown

For those who follow me on Instagram you’ll know that back on day 1 of lockdown in Northern Ireland I decided that it might be fun to do a daily post there and, thanks to Facebook global domination, share it their as well.

Here we are 100 days later and I’ve decided it’s a nice round number to stop at. I’ve enjoyed doing the posts but time to resume my more chaotic posting system. As you can plainly see I’m also trying to breath life into this blog. As usual I’ll get carried away and no doubt I’ll slow it down to a drip 💧

As I posted precious little here during lockdown I thought I’d add a gallery as well of some of the trees etc that I posted over the last 100 days.

Gyoten Satsuki

New addition to the benches, a rather funky Satsuki Azalea variety Gyoten. Large pink frilly flowers of different shades of pink and some stripes here and there.

The tree came in from Japan this year from Akiyama San with the help of Peter Warren.

Needs a pot which will be tricky to source I think.

Pinus Nigra

I picked up this Pinus Nigra back in 2014.  It had previously been a bonsai but when the owner died it spent about 5 years in open ground before being transferred into this large pot and kept as you see it for many years.

below we see the tree being removed from the pot. No easy task as the owner wanted to keep the blue pot intact which caused us to have big issues getting it out with roots attached!!

This is the tree potted up and removal of some unwanted branches.

This is the tree in September 2019 after several years getting it to regrow roots and start the process of back budding.

And after a wiring of the primary structure and another chasing back of terminal buds to induce further back budding.

Garden Changes

Two weeks ago I started the process of removing the grass from my back garden. More space for display and additional drainage due to seasonal flooding were my aims.

This was the starting point.

First step was getting a micro digger in.

Next up was 16 tonne of stone, some decorative some for drainage.

Then it was time to start adding trees. I opted to use temporary bench legs while I figure out the layout that suits me best. I’ll replace them when I’m 100% on the spacing etc. I’ve also a few monkey poles to add and some underplanting. I’m also looking for a nice piece of bog oak to use as a sculpture/feature. I’m still looking.

That’s the front part of the garden nearly complete. Next up is the back with a new Polytunnel.