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.

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.

Another Shore Pine

This was the latest on the tidy up list. It wasn’t quite ready for any wiring. Needed the strong areas thinned out and generally balanced out to aid health f lower branches. Ready for work after 2021 flush. The high root at the base was cut through half way to allow a staged removal. As with most of the Shore Pine I mange to collect, the bark is rather special.

Before
Other side
Thinned out

Hawthorn Adjustments

This hawthorn has been knocking around my garden for probably 15 years and can be seen here as part of a case study on air layering.

It had a major repot in 2019 and sulked in a big way all that year. 2020 has been a shitty year for most of us but this hawthorn made a come back. I decided that although I like my hawthorn to have a natural angular appearance and to not over wired, this tree needed adjustments. The branches had sprung a bit and a slight angle change at the repot meant things weren’t quite in place.

After adjustments
Brake detail
But of a spin
Slightly different angle which a like.
Moody Noir

Even after all this time the tree has plenty of ramification still to be added. And some branch fattening here and there. If I knew back then what I know now this tree would be further on and branches in better proportion. Bonsai is a journey that’s for sure.

Seedling Scots Pines

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.

Before tidy up
After
Second Pine before
After
3rd Pine before
And after

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.

Before wiring sadly no pic before branch selection.
After styling

Lodgepole First Styling

I’m trying to work my way through some raw stock here that since collecting has established a good rootball and now needs work or they will fast become green blobs.

This lodgepole Pine was collected beside Lough Corrib a few years back. a tall slender tree with subtle movement perhaps not as noticeable in the photo. It has gotten very strong and I wanted to put the tree to work back budding and create a first basic structure. Many would shorten the tree or perhaps bend it into a more dramatic if unnatural shape but I wanted to embrace the tall elegant pine image. Perhaps not making it an old image but that of a tree reaching maturity and starting to show the pressures of maintaining all those branches.

First job was a good clean out removing yellow needles and then balancing the foliage to the same level throughout the tree. I also removed any triple bud tips back down to two.

After needle thinning

And then to work. I’m sharing this time lapse more to show how I work. I have issues with my neck and shoulders so be comfortable when I work is important. This scissor lift table allows me to position the tree just right distance and height wise for me.

And the tree after work. The lower hanging branch was actually split slightly from the trunk to get a better angle. there’s a few branches too many at this point but I like to leave options on first styling to allow for future changes. The hanging branch for that matter may be removed or jinned in a future styling. Leaving options for the next owner is always a wise move. Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. Some will say it’s too tall or not dramatic enough. Not to worry there’s plenty of those twisted tree makers out there. I like to go with what the tree offers and what made me collect it in the first place. It’s only the first step on the road to becoming a bonsai.

Windswept Hawthorn

Had this Hawthorn for quite a few years now but 2020 saw it repotted at a more acute angle giving it more of a windswept feel.

A few reasons for doing it. 1. I love windswept Hawthorn in nature. I think they are one of the most “Irish” representative tree images and are a common sight along our coastline. 2. After several repots and root workings I’m just not able to deal with the heavy root running along the front of the tree right to left. Normally they chase back and allow for a more compact root system. This one is connected to one of the main feeder paths running up the tree and has yet to product any significant backrooting after 15 plus years. On this tree the more acute lean right to left has allowed me to drop that root deeper in the pot and hide its ugliness.

I still need to deal with the ever creeping moss running up the trunk, but while working the tree I noticed tiny little mushrooms popping out of the little ecosystem along the upper trunk line. I think laying it over has helped create it’s own little world on top.

Running along the top centre of the trunkline is the beginnings of a natural Shari. The tree is pretty much split into two main live veins with the dead patch in the middle. Instead of going in there and clearing it out, I’m just going to let it decay at it’s own rate for now and enjoy watching it change year to year.

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.

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.

Close Up

A few trees in close up from European Bonsai San 2019

One to One with Derek

A few snaps from today’s one to one with Derek in Dublin.