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.


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.
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 😀

Bonsai Mirai: The Pines

Here’s the first installment of the trees from Mirai. I’m starting with Pines. All the natives and some grafted species as well. Some top end deadwood to be seen.  All shapes, all sizes, raw and refined, an epic collection of trees and pushing the limits of what species can be utilised as bonsai.

A Great Start

I finished work today at 5 and am off now until 13th April. I have lots of bonsai things planned during this time and thought I’d get stuck in by clearing away the mess in the garage left over from the potting up of the collected pines on Sunday. As I was checking the bags before they went in the bin I spotted a missed shohin sized tree in a bag. After a further check I spotted 3 more!! Result 🙂

All were still in good nick as they had been collected with a full rootball still encased in field soil.

This is what we’ve been finding, even small trees with amazing bark and character.







Garage Night Tree #4

This is John’s raw material Austrian Black Pine.

This is young nursery stock that has a long way to go before it will be ready for any real work. However, this doesn’t mean we just leave it as is. The centre of the tree is of no use in the future of this tree as a bonsai. It is too straight and is without branches for some distance.  We looked at viable branches with some ramification at the bottom of the tree and removed all the branches that were not needed in the future. This tree will now be left to grow and will be pinched during the year to encourage more back budding and ramification.

I see a lot of material like this and in many cases it isn’t suitable for bonsai or at the very best, it’s a long way off being ready for work. However, that doesn’t mean that people new to bonsai like John can’t learn from working on this tree for a few years, seeing how it responds to pruning and pinching.