Sitka Spruce

My Sitka Spruce got another wiring, the second time this year. I’ll not be wiring it in Spring again that’s for sure.



2019 before wiring

and after

and back in 2012 as a reference.

and before collection.

Sitka Spruce 2012 – 2019

I collected this spruce back in 2012.

After a few years to recover and a little tightening in I had this material to work with.

After a little cleaning out.

In 2016 after further chasing in some initial primary branch placement was made.

In 2017 it got it first basic styling.

This was it last week ready for its second styling.

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Time for work.

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Still a ways to go but I’m loving this species more and more. Deadwood needs refined and I may need welding gloves on the next time I wire it but I’m happy with the results so far. It’s a keen back budder. It’s due a repot so I’ll see what pot size I can reduce it into to.

Bonsai Mirai: The Elongating Trees

Is Elongators a word? Probably not, but I was tempted to use it. This is my final Mirai post covering all the elongating species on the benches and a few others that I need to fit in. Here’s the Spruce, Firs, Redwoods, Larch,  etc for your pleasure. Again I was impressed with the natives being used and how well they were conforming to bonsai techniques. Some great use of material using rock and wood stumps for planting as well.

I fell in love with Coastal Redwoods on this trip, the old growth ones, those on display at Lake Merritt and Pacific Bonsai Museum and of course these ones at Mirai. Time to put a little more effort into the one I have here at home.

Ryan, and team Mirai, thanks for the inspiration. It took me a few weeks to settle back with my own trees after my visit but now I plan to put this inspiration into use. See you all soon.

Next up, Pacific Bonsai Museum.

Sitka Spruce – Picea sitchensis

Just about recovered from the weekend of bonsai workshops, not just as a participant, but also a host, which has it added drawbacks but also benefits.

Great to hear the great feedback from club members, who are also friends, makes it all the more worthwhile. I didn’t get many photos on the day I worked with with Peter, a bit busy, but I do have some to share.

I opted to work on a Sitka Spruce collected a few years back. I have been clipping it back to induce back budding with pretty good success. I had left a few options for design but I wanted Peter’s direction as to the best course of action. This is the tree before.




As you can see it has a heavy base with a decent root spread, however the branches are still long and further back budding will be required. Peter sees this as being a chuhin sized tree as an end game. The only work needed on Saturday was to get the primary branches placed and open to the light. The foliage on the tree will ultimately all be replaced with new inner growth.

A rare photo of me in a workshop. Not sure who lifted my camera to take it but thank you 🙂


This is it after the branches had been placed. The two remaining branches are starting to back bud a few inches up which is just where I need growth, therefore these will be left for a year until there is enough growth there to chop back too. This can be seen below as can the back budding from last year on the branch to the left. A long term project but material worth the effort I think.


Last years back budding


Buds sitting ready to swellDSC_0145


I also got Peter to look through a few other trees for me with suggestions for their future. This was every bit as important as actually working on trees and has left me with some tasks to preform.

I had recently wired and styled the pine and juniper below to refine the images further. I asked Peter to tweak them to see what changes he made. Nothing major but it’s amazing the difference those few alterations can make. Again this is a great way to learn how to improve your own skills and of course, the tree.




Thank you Peter for a great weekend. You are probably the easiest house guest I’ve ever had, all you need is a comfy sofa and a bottle of red 😉


Sunday’s Two to One

Sunday saw another workshop session, this time a Two to One with two of the guys from the Leinster Bonsai Club. It was a busy day with a lot of trees examined and a lot of time spend looking at what makes a good bonsai.

When we got down to work this heavy-trunked raw material Hornbeam got some carving to remove dead stumps and some problem branches. What’s left will make the basic structure of a nice tree. The final trunk line at the apex will be reduced further next year. Left for new to allow buds to pop to see when the best chop point should be.

The material


Some major chop points to be worked.


More pruning wounds.


Some chopped roots also needing work.


Owen at work. Think this was his first time with a makita and he loved it 🙂



and the new front after removed of unwanted branches etc. Tree will be a little shorter, just below those top branches, however after the chop just below that pointed I opted to keep it a little taller to draw sap in the Spring. As more adventurous buds appear it will be reduced by about 3-4 inches.DSC_0933

Rear view of the chops after basic carving.


Owen also brought this little Blue Spruce, picked up for 10 euros and bought for practice. He got some wiring practice out of it at any rate.


As the tree fills out a few more branches will be removed.


Another tree worked on was this beast stump of Berberis stump, a two man lift.  Some adjustments were made to the deadwood and then the young branches were placed at the right angles and movement added. This has to be done at this stage before they harden further,berberis are brittle when they thicken. We were only concerned with the first few inches, after that the tips were pointed upwards to give vigour.

Before work.


We opted for a twink trunk image but to make it convincing we had to removed a significant portion of the second trunk to make it look thinner that the main trunk line.DSC_0914


Some block carving carried out  on the sencond trunk. No point doing any refinement at this stage of the trees journey.


It was a busy day but the guys seemed to enjoy it as can be seen on Owen’s blog HERE.

Yamadori Sitka Spruce

This Spruce was collected back in March 2012, full story here.



During the week I decided to give it a clear out of the dead branches and remove a few unnecessary ones. I have chased back the foliage a bit too to encourage some back budding.



After a lot of turning around and a little thought I opted to remove  the branch on the right and do a little shari.




It will now be left alone until next year to allow it to recover and back bud.  I see two options with it and a lot of raffia in it’s future 🙂

Two and a Half Men

Yesterday we were supposed to be four but we ended up as three, well two and a half as Ben is the baby/new boy in the group 🙂 Stephen was coming late and was last seen throwing his satnav from the car window and returning home 😛

We ploughed on without the baker and managed to get the ‘all important’ permission from the land owner. Not easy to track down as everyone who seemed to own the land was either dead, moved, or was a millionaire recluse!! After a chat with the owner about, cattle, pigs, money grabbing sisters and how to tell the difference between spruce and fir, we managed to make a start in the first of two fields.

I got off to a flyer by ripping my hand on barbed wire fencing! The Hawthorn we were after were hard to collect. Rocky ground and deep roots meant that many were not worth the effort. We did however collect 7 before lunch. We had to stop as Ben’s stomach was making noises that were scaring the local wildlife!

After lunch we moved to the other field which proved to be better. There is even scope for a return visit for further collecting. At this point we knew Stephen had given up and buggered off back south to Belfast. We wanted to make a return visit to our old Spruce site to see what we had missed. When we got there, we found 3 spruce worth the effort, 2 of which are rather special, for us any way. We had great success with these last year only losing 1 of the 5 collected and it was rather short of viable roots. These three root wise are looking good. Part of the site had been bulldozed and if we hadn’t lifted the ones last year, they would have been destroyed. Lucky break!

Anyway, here’s the day in photos. Might even do a trip video for a laugh 🙂 Potting up tomorrow.

Sorry Spruce

After our collecting trip back in February we came back with some rather nice Spruce. Most came with good rootballs and are still thriving well into there second flush of growth this year.

This one was always going to be touch and go as it had very little root. It went to Phil’s poly tunnel were it spent some time on his heat bed in an attempt to stimulate enough growth to survive. Sadly it didn’t make it. What a pity, it would have made a tasty tree.

Hardening Off

I decided yesterday to do a little shuffling of trees that had been collected in the Spring. Well, when I say me, I mean my two sons working under my direction.

Most where still in poly tunnels and I wanted to get them out to harden off a bit. The foliage as you can see here shows that most have responded well after collecting. There was a mixture of Scots Pine, Spruce and Larch.

I’m running rather low on space!! Had to add a few temporary benches to facilitate them.

All squeezed in! With trees visiting on holiday care it’s a tight fit!

Mouldy Old Spruce

Stephen and I took a closer look at the Spruce we collected back in February. They have been in a poly tunnel all this time and have been way in the back were it was hard to check. With me being rather indisposed of late, it’s been hard to keep a close eye on what was happening. All looked good from the front, but when we got a closer look, we found that one of the Spruce had a patch of bad mildew due to poor air circulation and high humidity.

Stephen hoses out some old needles that had gathered in the dense foliage, this hadn’t helped with the mildew either.

The other side of the tree is still covered with lush growth.

It had been in the back corner.

Stephen slipped along the side and opened up all the air vents to allow for better circulation. That keg is really starting to get in the way!!

What was good to see was new roots emerging on all the Spruce. They are in pure Sphagnum moss.

We’ve just got the second budding and also signs of good back budding as well.