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.
This Scots Pine, recently arrived into Northern Ireland, hade been featured in Peter Warren’s book, ‘Bonsai’ published by DK. This showed its first styling by Peter.
When it arrived here it was obvious that in the interim it had undergone further changes and refinement.
The tree was ready for the next step and the new owner asked if I would do a little work on it. I was going to wait a little longer to allow the new foliage time to harden but it was surprisingly resistant to a tug on new needles. So with a soft touch I set about following the framework already set in place before. I discussed the tree with Adam the new owner and we agreed on a front but knew the tree had been set up for either side to look the part. My reason for the left lean being the front was the added depth the foliage created and the better base to the tree.
This is the back but styled to give the tree a great look all around.
There’s a few little bits of deadwood that might be distracting but I’m leaving them to see how the tree matures, they can be removed later by the owner if he feels the need.
I run a study group once a month for some friends who want to learn more. This has become two separate groups, one on a Friday evening, one on the Saturday morning.
This Weekend we were putting together some trees with rock.
First up was this shore Pine which had some initial work done by Peter Warren in 2017 and was recently rewired by myself.
The tree in September 2017 as raw material.
prior to wiring 2019. after wiring.
The rock collected by a friend over 20 years ago at Blessington lake Dublin
The work. The original plan had to be changed after the heavy roots on the tree wouldn’t let us place the tree on the highest portion of the rock. We looked at other planting options and liked the drama of the option selected.
If you are reading this and are within travelling distance of Newtownards near Belfast feel free to join us once a month for sessions like this.
Last weekend I was invited as a guest of Munster Bonsai Club to attend the Peter Warren two day workshop hosted by the Cuan Mhuire Garden Centre in Bruree. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to watch and listen to Peter at work so popped down to road to Limerick to see the action. Peter flies under the radar in the bonsai world, a self confessed self deprecating personality with a unique but practical approach to bonsai cultivation and design, always putting the tree first over the owner. A true tree lover, you could almost call it Budan love 😉
We had two glorious days in the Limerick sunshine and even had to move outside to stop melting at one point. With 6-7 participants each day and a few added observers we had a pretty full house. It was great to meet up with a few people who to date I’d only texted with prior. More bonsai friendship in action, what it’s all about and makes for a fun weekend.
Congratulations to Munster Bonsai, especially Mark and Michael for organising and hosting the weekend. Your club continues to push bonsai learning and September marks 5 years from the point where we started this journey together in a Hurling Club in Cork. A long way in a short time.
Below is a gallery of some of the photos taken included before and after pics for the overly curious and many shots capturing the days activity. Some are a little out of order but you’ll figure it out.
It’s taken me a full week to thaw out but I’m able at last to feel my fingers and type out a blog post about my trip to Peter Warren’s Saruyama Bonsai aka Monkey Mountain.
Myself and a friend Mark from Cork flew over to Peter’s on the Friday and got stuck in to a full schedule of repotting over the next three days. Peter had lined up some great projects for the both of us with a heavy emphasis on learning and gaining experience with tricky techniques. Big trees featured a lot along with a wide range of species and a few rock planting creations. Friday was T Shirt weather but the snow greeted us on the Saturday morning but hard work kept us warm, mostly! Ireland beating England in the Six Nations Rugby in England on St Patrick’s Day also warmed the heart 🙂
Instead of adding a gallery of a gazillion photos I’ve put together a short video of the weekend. Many of the photos used were from a phone using a shivering hand, so apologies if some aren’t as clear as they should be.
Massive thank you to Peter and Satomi for a great weekend. Never stop learning folks.
I’ve been looking for a Japanese White Pine for a while, but something a little different than the usual shaped pines we see everywhere. Back at the start of the Winter I was offered one that fitted the criteria.
Peter Warren of Saruyama Bonsai had imported some JWP that had been part of the Daizo Iwasaki collection. I had the pleasure of wiring one of them back in January 2017 whilst studying at Saruyama Towers. I think this was the catalyst to my desire for one. Peter had sold one in the Autumn of 2016 but it just come back into his hands as part of a swap deal and I jumped at the chance of buying it.
This is it back in Japan where Peter first spotted it.
The tree arrived with me just before Christmas, along with Mr Warren 🙂 This is a few angles before we started work.
Getting down to work with the professional.
I love this tree, a spreading multi apex image and out of the normal cookie cutter Pine image. A few branches are a little behind development wise, especially around the back were we brought up a back branch to make the highest part of the tree. A few branches will be removed within a year or two. The last video clip is probably the best way to view it. It helps give a view of it’d funky quirky style and shows the real age and character in the trunk and branches. I look forward to developing this tree further, it should be a fun journey.
Thanks as always to Peter Warren, the most genuine bonsai professional out there, and, as the music playing in the last video says, ‘Go your Own Way’. 🙂 Let’s not run with the herd.
Peter told me to pick something out to work on and I fancied a Juniper. With lots of great material to pick from both large and small, I opted for this Kifu sized one. I was left to figure out what options we had for the tree and if possible make it good from both sides. Most of Peter’s smaller (shohin) trees are good for either side, a great option for shohin display stands. Be nice to do the same with this one even at Kifu size. I gave the tree a preliminary clean up allowing me to study the trunk movement and branch structure a little more. Steve and I had a play around with it looking at a few possible angle changes both up and down. However what drew me to the tree in the first place was the angle it was at now. I gave my ideas to Peter just adding a possible tilt forward. I wanted to try and get two apexes on the tree but more separation was needed between the two main branches. As the lower one had shari, we opted to split the deadwood from the live vein a little to allow us to lower the branch further. A slightly risky procedure but fun. First Peter explained that before we carried out the split and bend that we should first look and see what other options we have if it goes wrong as a back up plan. There was a nice tree even if we lost the branch that was to be split.
Vein to be split from deadwood.
Making a start
Initial bend put in place with an option to drop further if required.
Showing the amazing movement and twisting live vein.
During the wiring process
After wiring and lime sulphur was applied. Again the tree was not styled to look refined now. This is a Sabina with flower buds. As the foliage that is flowering now will die back when finished, we leave more of the fresher growth in behind to allow the foliage mass to be rebuilt later this year. There’s no point in fine wiring flowering areas when it will be removed within a year. What is important is the placement of the primary and secondary branches that will form the structure of the tree in years to come. A lesson learned from Peter all week – no point wiring what is being removed soon. An enthusiast may like to create the best image possible right now but is it good for the tree and a speedier development? No it’s not. Do what is required and move on to the next challenge. I still probably wired branches in this one that didn’t need it. A hard habit to break.
A check to see that it still falls within Kifu size.
It looks good from the other side too, but I forgot to take a photo 😦 A great tree to play with and I learnt a few things about Sabina along the way. Win Win.
I posted on this last week but I wanted to revisit the tree here and get all the photos in one place. As stated, this tree was part of the Iwasaki Collection in Japan. I have pinched Peter’s text from his Facebook page explaining a little about how he came to have the trees.
Last May I took a very short trip to Japan as I was invited by Mr. Morimae of S-Cube Bonsai to have a sneak preview of the sale of the Iwasaki Collection. As you may or may not be aware, Mr. Iwasaki was one of the premier collectors of bonsai in Japan over the last fifty years and he amassed a huge collection. He passed away several years ago and after lots of issues were resolved the collection was put up for sale and it was purchased by S-Cube
Due to my long standing relationship with Mr. Morimae, he let me get into the collection before 95% of the Japanese Bonsai world, let alone anybody from outside of Japan. As a result I got to choose a number of very special trees for a number of clients as well as some for myself to sell or style them and keep until someone wanted them. Finally, they got back here after a long process of quarantine. As they are trees with history and pedigree, some of them will be for sale, some of them not. There are a couple that I want to restyle this year but most of them are suffering a little from the importation and there are a few blind buds and branches so major work will wait until next year.
What you can’t tell so easily from the photos is the depth of character in the bark, the struggle these trees have been through giving them genuine old school bonsai flavour. These aren’t average pines which have been grown quickly and made to look pretty, these have age, character and class. There are another bunch of trees that didn’t make it into the van this time but I should have them by the end of the week, as well as some non Iwasaki collection pines. As with most of the trees that I put up, 95% of them are for sale but not to somebody I do not trust to look after them and not until I am 100% happy with their health.
On arrival at Peter’s last week I was given the task of clearing out the dead twigs and branches on this tree. Some had been lost during quarantine perhaps due to the fact that they were over due a repot and maybe watering was difficult to get right. Peter has turned the health around and there were many strong shoots on the tree.
This is it as I started.
Here after I cleared out the majority of the dead branches. Some left for jin as required.
Peter then informed me that I would be working on this tree for the first few days. A great honour to be trusted with the work on such a tree. My first job was to go through the tree removing shoots that were too strong, mostly towards the apex and then do some bud thinning. This is it before.
And after that process.
I then worked my way up the tree wiring each branch after discussion with Peter. So many little tips were given during this process. Information on JWP, wiring, branch placement, health etc. Below is the tree as we finished the work. This was not styled to look it best now, but shaped for the health of the weaker lower branches and gaining better structure in the next 5 years. A new front was selected due to brach removal but Peter was keen to point out that it must look good from all angles and we constantly spun the tree during the whole styling process.
Back home a few days now after a week away studying at Saruyama Bonsai. I’ve been giving some thought to all the little things that I learned in my time with Peter and also a few bigger things that are more concepts or approaches to creating bonsai. In all I think I got what I wanted from my time and I think Peter was happy with the work I did on his trees. I will now use what I’ve learned here to help progress Bonsai in Ireland and I hope to get back to Peter’s place again soon.
I’ve been through all my photos of the week and want to add them here as a reference for my work and also a memory of the good times had. I did a little posting when I had time during the week, usually in bed, but I’d like to be a little more comprehensive now I’m home. There’s a lot so I’m going to upload them as albums here and split them up over a few different headings. I’ll start with a few general shots from around the nursery.
Thanks to all those who I met at Peter’s place. It was great to work with Steve Salisian over from the United States and see his approach to bonsai, much of it gleaned from his sessions with Ryan Neil. Also to Jose, Steve and Les, who popped in for a few hours during my stay. Good to have time to actually chat to them rather than during the manic atmosphere at Exhibitions. And of course a big thank you to Peter, a great host, teacher and artist and Satomi who made me feel so welcome.
Steve McKee visiting for a few hours
Steve Salisian hard at work.
Jose stopping by for a cheeky beer after a hard days work.
Les spending a few hours with us on Monday, great to catch up.