Weekend at Saruyama Bonsai

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.

 

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Iwasaki Japanese White Pine

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.

and afterwards……

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.

 

Steve’s Work

During my time with Mr Warren, Steve Salisian from LA was busy working away beside me. I thought I’d share his work here for you to see.

The first tree is a Sabina Juniper with great deadwood and movement.

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Portuguese Oak

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Another Portuguese Oak

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A raft style Yew

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Japanese Maple

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Thanks for adding to my experiences for the week Steve, look forward to catching up with you in LA in May. 🙂

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Sabina Juniper

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.

The back..

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and front…

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Vein to be split from deadwood.

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Making a start

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Raffia applied

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Wired up.

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Initial bend put in place with an option to drop further if required.

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Showing the amazing movement and twisting live vein.

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During the wiring process

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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.

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A check to see that it still falls within Kifu size.

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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.

Iwasaki Japanese White Pine

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.

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Here after I cleared out the majority of the dead branches. Some left for jin as required.

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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.

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And after that process.

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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.

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Final tweaks

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Structure from underneath.

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A happy me, tired but happy 🙂

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Covetous eyes…

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Check out the video clip…

 

Reflection On a Great Week

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

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Steve Salisian hard at work.

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Jose stopping by for a cheeky beer after a hard days work.

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Les spending a few hours with us on Monday, great to catch up.

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And the boss, cheers Peter.

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The rest of the general shots from the week….

Saruyama Bonsai Update

In case you missed it, Mr Warren has updated his website, click image below to visit.

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Saruyama Wisdom

Mr Warren has let me share these words of wisdom here, what a gent 🙂

I would hope that by the end of the last post you realised that it was actually a bit of an April Fools inspired post. There is no benefit to placing your fertiliser on your trees in a clockwise fashion from the back, under a full moon with underpants on your head. Glad to see some people came up with some suitable suggestions though. In actual fact putting dead fish on your trees is a great fertiliser, but very smelly.

There is a lot of nonsense out there about fertilising trees and not a lot of application of common sense. There is no one size fits all method, scheme or single product that does everything. What is suitable for John A in his garden with his soil is not suitable for John B in his (There are a lot of Johns in bonsai if you didn’t realise). Regular clients should now be used to my seemingly random instructions of fertilise this half strength after the leaves harden and then stop for the summer and then full strength in the autumn but give seaweed extract on regular intervals. Despite this seeming incredibly complex, it is actually just the application of a few basic ideas.

As you can imagine from the April fools parody, I am a firm believer in keeping it simple. All successful bonsai nurseries do and I aspire to be successful. I use only three products on a regular basis and there is no need for anything else. The comment yesterday about using only organic was a very valid point. (Biogold, maxicrop seaweed extract and another similar seaweed extract with extra iron in it if things look yellow)

The importance of micro organisms and bacteria cannot be stated enough. Without them your bonsai is growing in a sterile environment, and using some of the modern substrate mixes we do in bonsai, this is especially true. How can we encourage an eco system in the soil that creates a healthy root system and subsequently a healthy tree? Steer clear of cheap chemical fertilisers…or for that matter expensive chemical fertilisers. There is plenty of information about the benefits of organic over chemical out there and so I need not go into too much depth.

In terms of fertilising more is definitely not better, especially not if using anything chemical. Balance is key. I was reading some stuff and I came across this incredibly obvious law, but until I read it, it didnt occur to me…Leibig’s Law of the minimum

Yield is proportional to the amount of the most limiting nutrient, whichever nutrient it may be.

 

This means that if the soils is deficient in Magnesium, then it doesn’t matter how much Iron you pump into the soil, the growth is limited to the Magnesium deficiency.

Like I said, it was so outstandingly obvious after the fact but it changed my thinking. That is why we read books I guess. There is a lot of in depth science that is interesting if you like that sort of thing. But if, like 99% of the Japanese bonsai masters it doesn’t matter as long as it works, the follow some simple guidelines and success is more likely.

  1. Use a good quality solid organic fertiliser. Ideally solid cakes or pellets are best, powder tends to create an hard crust on the surface very quickly.
  2. Supplement with a good quality seaweed extract to provide micro nutrients
  3. Apply according to requirements and only when average air temperature is between 12 and 34 degrees Celcius.

The difficulty is in finding 1 and 2 and then figuring out 3. Even in Japan there is great difficulty in finding a good fertiliser. I spent a good hour talking with Akiyama-san recently about how modern abura-kasu (oil seed cakes) were useless because they squeeze all the nutrients out during the pressing and so the stuff that remains is ineffective as fertiliser. Even the gold standard of bonsai fertiliser, Bio Gold, can be patchy depending on when it was made and how much it got mixed up. One of the problems with organic fertilisers is the uneven distribution of nutrients.

Seaweed extract is used not to promote growth and increase extension, but consider it the bonsai equivalent of taking a vitamin supplement. Strength, resistance to disease and improved colour are all benefits. Everyone who uses it claims that the colour and the health of their trees improves.

Number 3…apply according to requirements. As long as the pH of the water and soil is fairly neutral and balanced organic fertiliser is applied then nutrient deficiency will not be a problem. Only once the pH starts to move towards one end or the other then nutrient deficiency starts to happen. The uptake of nutrients depends on pH as shown here...and here in technicolour…

Iron deficiency in plants is often not caused by an absence of iron in the soil, but a pH that inhibits uptake of iron…so it doesnt matter how much iron you add to the soil, like me at a cheese board, it won’t be able to eat it. Reduce the pH and it will solve the problem.

So following on the line of thought…how does the pH of soil get out of whack? Excessive chemical fertilisers and water impurity. Some European growers have such hard water that they need to resort to using reverse osmosis to lower the pH.

So getting back to the requirements…ask yourself the question…what do I want the tree to do? Do I actually want my tree to grow? For some bonsai, the answer is “No, I don’t actually want my tree to extend or thicken.”…for others it is “Yes, I want the trunk thickness to triple in a year”. How to achieve these objectives is not just simply down to how much fertiliser is applied as remember more is not always better. Allowing unchecked growth assisted by fertiliser is the way. For builidng delicate ramification, pinching out the terminal shoots assisted by a complete lack of fertiliser is the way forward. Pushing growth with one hand and stoping it with the other is the way round and round in circles.

Work out the balance between : What does the tree need to stay healthy and balanced all over versus What do I want to the tree to do

Why is the temperature so important? Lower than 12 degrees and the bacteria that breaks down the fertiliser into easily absorbed compounds are yet to become active. Above 34 and bacterial activity will cause the soil temperature will rise to dangerous levels, killing both the roots and also the bacteria in the soil

I appear to have taken a very simple concept and made it incredibly complicated. maybe I should have just left it as an April Fool…That’ll learn me.

Sort of a reblog …

….. from Mr Warrens latest thoughts and reflections at Kokufu 2014.

Good read as usual, cheers Trev 🙂 Click on the photo below to view/read.

 

Weekend Rewind Part 5

I suppose Monday isn’t technically the weekend, but Peter was still with me that morning and was kind enough to look at a few tree.

Sadly I was that intent on listening and learning I didn’t photograph everything but I did get a few.

This Hawthorn was discussed on the blog last year and Peter told me to wait until he was back over to get a look at it.

I laughed when I saw this photo as it makes Peter look a touch indecisive but I can assure you the opposite was true.

We played about with a few optioned on how much to shorten the branch by using cloth to cover up.

Checking for Chuhin 🙂

And about the only photo with me in it after a whole weekend! Peter lifted my camera for the snip.

After pruning unnecessary branches and shortening of the cascade.

A few other trees were looked at and talked through which I found very beneficial and then it was time to head for the airport. Thanks again Peter.