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.

Scots Pine Next Step

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.

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.

Kimura Masterclass Course

Once again I’m honoured to get a chance to preview and review the latest online Course from Bonsai Empire.  Oscar has done well to keep this one quiet for so long. Back in November he filmed two long format case studies with Master Kimura in Japan, and from today you are able to access this content on Bonsai Empire.

The beauty of the Covid lockdown, if you can find any beauty in it, is the spare time many of us have to soak up more bonsai knowledge from online sources. I should really add the ‘trusted’ to that as we know that there is a lot of poor content online as well. The thing about Bonsai Empire’s content is you know what you are going to get for your money. Namely, lifetime access to top quality, well edited, factual video content. The Kimura Masterclass is no different.

I sat down to watch all four hours of the content last week. Normally time is tight and I skim over the content to get a feel of what the course is like for review, but this time I put the feet up and sat back.

What you first see from scanning the lectures column is that you are getting two demonstrations by Mr Kimura, something that I think will rarely be seen these days. As he says himself in the course, his students do all the world travelling now so he doesn’t have too. Therefore this is a great opportunity for those new to bonsai to sit and learn from a master who in all likelihood you have heard of but most likely will never have the change to seen in action.

The first demo is a yamadori Japanese White Pine that Mr Kimura transforms into a windswept image in his own style. It’s an educational process and gives some insight into his design process as he progresses with the tree. Techniques are discussed and used throughout.

The second demonstration is the creation of a rock planting using six Itiogawa junipers. These have become one of Mr Kimura’s mainstays with many being seen in Europe at exhibitions. We get to see a rock he created by carving being transformed into a really stunning image that many now try and emulate. Lots to learn from his step by step process starting with how to prepare and attach trees, their placement to give depth, the mossing and then styling of the trees to give us the finished image.

Foe me one of the most interesting elements was watching how his apprentices worked for him trying to anticipate his every move and be one step a head.

Bonus video content takes you on a walk around his public and private gardens and we get to hear him speaking about some of his most famous trees featured in his books.

In all you get 4 hours of content to watch again whenever you want. The open demo format gives this course a different feel to the previous Bonsai Empire courses, perhaps not as concise and loaded with carefully thought out dialogue from the like s of Michael Hagedorn or Bjorn Bjorholm, but I don’t think anyone buying this corse would have expected that same format. We get to watch Mr Kimura preform and we can follow along with clear subtitles and enjoy seeing his decision making.

The course is available from today for $79.99 for lifetime access.

Here is a short trailer to give you a feel of the content.

Well done Oscar, I look forward to seeing where Bonsai Empire can take us after this 🙂

 

 

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

In an attempt to get into a routine of posting on the blog again I thought I’d share this Rhododendron Blue Diamond here.

This years peak bloom.

You’ll notice the one branch at the front without flowers. It’s a weak branch which gets weaker every year. There is a very thin live vein on it and I had removed the flowers from it for the last few years to try and strengthen it with no joy. Enough was enough. It had its chance so time to remove and redesign.

And then past peak with dead flowers showing.

The ideal time to remove the flowers and more importantly the little seed pods at their centre.

I’m sure we missed some late openers.
After deflowering before pruning.
Structural pruning
After pruning and set for the post flowering flush. You’d hardly notice the front branch at the main apex gone. A few bits wired to fill the gap.

Below is how the tree came to me in 2002.

Tale of Two Malus

Exactly a year ago a was wandering around a garden centre in Dublin. A great wee place called Murphy and Woods. All the plants were a little different than you usually see and staff could be seen everywhere taking the time to chat properly with customers. Remember those days when you could just pop into a garden centre 🙄

Anyway, I walked past a open gate marked staff only and about 10 metres inside the gate I could see a lump of malus trunk with a few weak branches and a small cluster of flowers. What can I say, when your eyes in it’s in 👀. As it was staff only I walked on but soon came across some other malus in 10 litre pots up at the back. These weren’t bonsai just small ornamental apple trees. I hoped they were crab apple and spotted one that might make a reasonable tree in time. At 50€ it was worth a punt.

I asked about the 50€ tree in the shop and was told it wasn’t a crab apple but the fruit wasn’t too big. They had been bought as crab apple but turned out not to be. On the off chance I asked about the one I could barely see in the staff area. I was told it belonged to the owner of the centre and had been a bonsai that he displayed in his own Japanese garden at home. However it was diseased and had gone down hill over the last few years. I was taken over to see it and it was a sorry sight lying bare rooted with a lot of dead areas on the tree. The mix it had been in looked way to moisture retentive for a bonsai pot.

A short time later I got to chat with the owner and asked if he’d part with the old bonsai malus. He told me to make him an offer. I asked how much would you pay for a nearly dead tree and that I was actually just trying to save it. We had a laugh about it and he then gave me the tree to try and save. As a good will gesture I then bought the 50€ tree as well as a few plants.

When I got the sick tree home it went into a free draining mix and into a Polytunnel under a misting system. It got sprayed with some big hitting fungicide and insecticide.

The 50€ tree got a little pruning to shape and was stuck in a corner. I watched it produce apples over the year and in the Autumn I sampled one and feck me they were delicious and super sweet 😀

The sick tree took a month or two to settle in and then started to sent our extension growth, even from part of the tree I assumed to be dead. The tree will need to have some deadwood features but with a few more years I hope to prove that it was worth the time and effort.

Anyway, here’s the sick tree now.

And here’s the 50€ special.

I’ll be keeping both trees, one for the challenge and one for the tasty apples 😂

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.

Close Up

A few trees in close up from European Bonsai San 2019

Accents of European Bonsai San 2019

Some of the accents that caught my eye at the show.

European Bonsai San 2019

I’ve put most of this up on social media during the exhibition but I wanted to record the event here on my blog with a few words about the event.

This was my first time attending EBSS and I was blown away with the standard of the exhibition but more so the relaxed atmosphere in which it is run. Others exhibitions could learn from this. You could walk the display area and take photos and not once did I feel others doing this was an inconvenience to me. In fact I think photos being shared on social media probably attracts more of a buzz around the event and gains more visitors year on year. I know I was one of them this year.

Here is a rather large gallery of photos from the event all taken off my phone. Apologies if the odd shot was taken from someone else on social media as I saved a few to my phone. I’ll do a few separate posts covering the demos and accents etc just to split it up a little. Enjoy.