A few days back I shared a few pines that had been left with me to wire and style and I said I had two left to go. When given the work to complete its human nature to jump in and grab the trees that excite you the most and leave the tricky ones to the end. Well these are the end ones.
This little Mugo Pine is an oversized pot was a challenge. Humble material with a lot of the branches coming from the same spot high up in the tree. How to make an interesting image and at the same time reduce the branches at the top to stop it becoming an unsightly swelling.
Above is the result. An angle change to add more trunk movement and to bring the apex over to the left to be harmonious with the character branch. A heavy apex branch at the back was removed and a few other weaker ones to start the reduction. This trees image will change massively when the pot is changed.
I keep telling my bonsai friends to practice. We don’t have an endless stream of trees to work nor are all those trees going to be high end. However taking a simple tree like this with a few issues and going through the design process can be beneficial. This took 30 minutes.
This second tree, a Scots Pine grown from seed by the owner, was also a tricky proposition. It’s always been leggy branch wise for as long as I remember it. It seems to cycle between periods of extreme growth with back budding and then shuts down. As its not in my care I can’t say for sure what the cause is. Perhaps as a seed grown tree it could just be genetic.
One of issues currently is drainage. When you see all of this crap on the surface you know that it’s way too wet for a pine to thrive. The mix was good but has broken down to the point where a repot in the spring is required.
Above shows the tree after being worked. Where I could safely chase back branches, I did. This tree left me with a few interesting dilemmas. I was styling the tree with a free hand from the owner but I wanted to give him a few options for his own tastes. The branch/second trunk bottom right adds character and yet has very poor structural branching. I have made the best of it but there’s actually a great tree there without it. It’s now his choice to keep or remove or even Jin and has no impact on the rest of the tree. There’s another bit of weirdness going on down there with the freaky little low branch at the bottom rear. I love leaving funky things on trees that make them different from the usual fare we see. I think a possible option on this tree is to Jin the bottom trunk but leave the freaky bottom back branch and swing it slightly to the right.
Anyway, a few options to discuss with the owner when he sees it in person. After 30+ years in his care I think it’s only right to let him have a say.
A friend has some Scots Pine that he started from seed over 30 years ago and have never been out of a pot of some sort in that time. They’ve have good years and bad during that period and this month I’ve been sorting them out and doing a little wiring for him.
I love the fact that these trees have been grown from seed by the owner and have stayed with him all these years. I have two more to complete work on which I’m looking forward to.
Here is a Mugo Pine that he also collected from his own garden last year getting a first styling.
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.
A week yesterday, where does the time go! I was taking part in a group Workshop in Belfast with Bjorn Bjorholm. I missed him the last time he visited due to a holiday but this time I grabbed a slot with Belfast Bonsai’s event.
My tree for the day was only a recent addition to my collection but a tree that I have a special connection to. It belonged to my best friend Stephen who was letting a few of his bigger trees go due to the fact that they were bigger than him. Sorry Stephen, I can’t resist 🙂 The tree was originally purchased as raw material from Willowbog Bonsai back in the late 90’s.
I helped Stephen with it’s first styling on 11th September 2001, a date that will forever stay in my memory and why I call the tree the 9/11 Scottie. I can remember standing wiring this tree with Stephen when my wife knocked the window and told us to come inside. We watched the horror unfold.
When Stephen told me he was selling it all these years later I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I have a few trees that have sentimental value to me because of who used to own them but this tree resonates for a different reason. I’ve dealt with a fair bit of stress in my life including Post Traumatic Stress and, for whatever reason, this tree seems to echo back to a time where those involved and survived no doubt have many of the same issues I have. This probably sounds stupid unless you’ve experienced something similar. Anyway, it’s my tree for my reasons and I suppose that’s all that really matters. It seemed fitting for an American Bonsai artist to carry out the work some 18 years later nearly to the day.
This is the tree back in 2001\2.
and a few other pics of it over the years.
and how it was prior to the workshop.
And this is a gallery of the workshop day with my tree.
The finished tree.
A massive thank you to Bjorn. It was pleasing to see that he was as enthusiastic about the tree and result as I was.
A new pot in the Spring more suited to the style and the tree will live on as a memory for me.
It was a pleasure to be invited by the Leinster Bonsai Club to deliver a study group session earlier this month. I popped down for the first of 6 sessions and was met by a group of motivated guys keen to push on their own learning and share knowledge with each other. Looking forward to the next session in December. Here’s a few photos from the session.
The session focused in on how to critique trees looking at the fundamentals of bonsai design and the species in focus on the day was Pinus. This club has a few big changes coming on the horizon, keep an eye out for more content from them soon. If you live in the Dublin area and want to get involved please get in touch with LBC
When I was over at Suruyama Towers the other week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Steve McKee who was visiting. Steve and I have a fair bit in common and it was good to get a walk around the trees and chat bonsai.
Steve picked up a nice Literati Scots Pine from Peter when he was there and I have been following what’s happened since on Steve’s Facebook page ” Steve’s Bonsai Garden”.
This is the Pine as bought.
Steve has since worked on the tree with Paul Finch and this is the result. More photos over on his FB page.
Steve has a fantastic collect of trees and and great garden layout.
Well worth a follow over on Facebook to see more of his trees and follow his exploits around some of the exhibition in the UK.