100 Days in Lockdown

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.

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.

Bjorn Workshop and the 9/11 Scots Pine

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.

 

Perth Bonsai Tour – CJ Leo

After visiting John on my first stop, John and Nigel took me over to CJ’s home to see a superb collection of bonsai crammed into his garden. CJ has been creating bonsai for a long time and this showed in the hundreds of trees he was working on. I was most impressed by his use of native Australian species. I suspect that many of his trees will feature in 2021, and rightly so. Great detail in the images he’s created and nice to see plenty of shohin.

In such a full garden it’s hard to get a good clean shot of the trees. The strong sunshine also blows out any details. A pity I couldn’t do justice to CJ’s trees. He also grows the best blueberries I ever tasted. Is there no end to his talents? 🙂

CJ thank you for your great welcome and a nice lunch to boot.

Crataegus Bonsai

After Crater Lake it would be hard to find anything in nature as inspiring on the rest of the trip. Therefore I switched to Bonsai for inspiration for the rest of the short time we had left :-). Leaving Klamath Falls we moved North West over the high desert and down into Portland. A chunk of this was done in the rain so we missed some mountain views along the way. It can’t always be perfect 🙂

My next stop was Michael Hagedorn’s place, Crataegus Bonsai. You should know who I’m talking about if you follow this blog. I reblog a lot of Michaels posts as they are always so informative and well timed for seasonal work. Michael also posts kusamono which as you know is also a major passion of mine. This was one spot I was really looking forward too. I had been emailing with Michael to plan my visit and although he had a class on, he was still keen for me to come.

The weather improved the closer we got and on arrival the sun was shining. We were met by Andrew Robson, Michael’s apprentice and shortly there after by Michael who was just finishing lunch with his students. One thing that stands out at every bonsai establishment I visited was the warm welcome, and here was no different. A very relaxed atmosphere and happy faces. This looks like a great environment to study. The Pacific Northwest is truly blessed with bonsai opportunities. Michael got the students to work and between times spent some time walking the garden with me. Andrew was also very helpful but I was pleased to be left to my own devices for a while and just study the trees.

And then a truly magical thing happened! My long suffering wife, who has had to deal with my addiction for 24 years, having hordes of people visit my house, catering for these visitors, etc etc. made a statement. ‘I get it’. Just three words, but I was floored. She explained that after Crater Lake and the amazing trees there, showing all the age and character that you could imagine, and then coming into a garden were the bonsai looked just like that, she got why I do this mad thing called bonsai. She swore me to secrecy and straight after I told Michael all about 🙂 I’ll get a stern look for posting this here too, but hey, live dangerously. So, if you have a spouse who doesn’t get it, take them to Crater Lake and then a tour of the bonsai spots in the Pacific Northwest. Real bucket list stuff.

I loved the variation in species at Crataegus and am fast falling in love with many of the American ones. Nice also to see Japanese Black Pines being developed from humble beginnings. I had a ball looking at the accents as well and Michael and I had a good chat about what plant types are used both there and back home. You’ll see from the photos that I didn’t miss many.

A massive thank you to Michael and Andrew for adding us to an already busy day.

The galleries just keep getting bigger! Apologies if there are any doubles but some are with the camera and some with the phone which causes me grief now I’m home. From here I moved on to Mirai, a little place in St Helens, you may have heard of it! I will be breaking it down into a few different post as the amount of photos I took was total greed!

 

Video

Graham Potter Demo Video

I watched this video this morning, a lazy start to the day.  🙂 It was uploaded onto Youtube by Ian Wright, cheers Ian, and shows a Graham Potter demo at a recent club event in England.

We are used to seeing Graham’s own excellent 10 minute videos but this is a little different and nice to see or hear another side. It’s roughly an hour long although you can skip over from 45 to 53 minutes if you don’t want to watch Graham placing branches. I really enjoyed listening to Graham’s view on preparing yamadori before work and his ethos around this. He makes great sense. The man can talk, but I can relate to that  😛

Collecting…

I got out collecting again a few weeks ago with Phil. We managed to get back on to our old Hawthorn site. As my shoulder and neck are not really up to the task any more, I had Jeff my spade buddy along to help. It was Jeff’s first time collecting and after wind hail and even snow, it might be his last 🙂

Part of the site

Jeff perched on the edge

Dayglo Phil

Hawthorn

Up in the heights

I see him

That one can stay where it is!

Jeff playing hide and seek, he’s very good at it.

The weather moved in. Grim 😦

Hard to light up 🙂

Some of the booty

Just before I dropped my phone in the muck!

Too big but beautiful, and the trees not bad either.

I got some smaller Blackthorn as well as Hawthorn. At the end of the day I had some potted up and black bagged. Giving this a go to see what the results are like.

That was 2 weeks ago, I opened a bag today and the budding is going well.

A big thank you to Jeff for doing the heavy lifting for me. I haven’t heard from him since! Only joking.

 

Some Day’s Are Made For Collecting

Managed to get out with Phil collecting yesterday and amazingly the sun came out!

To be honest the day was more about getting permissions to collect in place and preparing some trees for collection in a few years time, but it was a successful day all the same with a few new additions to the garden. We have a rather special Hawthorn site that we haven’t used for a few years. The owner has since passed away and we were seeking permission from the new owner. After calling and speaking to his wife we were hopeful of getting back on the site. I was then left a voice mail saying we couldn’t collect. We were gutted! 😦 Then today out of the blue, he rang back to say yes, collect away!!! 😀 I think in all my years collecting I’ve only been turned down once and that was a tree from a garden. I was really gutted to think we’d never get back on this special site. Being able to take your time collecting, being selective and legal is the only way to go.

In case you are wondering, these snaps are not the site 😉

Chuhin Yew – Time for a Change

I’ve had this little Yew since 2002 when I bought it as raw material. That said, it was in this pot even then. I love the pot, Ian Baillie only makes good ones but after all this time I felt either the tree had outgrown the pot or I just needed a change.

This is it in the old pot.

And this is it’s new home for the next few years. A nice Japanese pot I picked up with a bit of age about it.. It’s perhaps a little big but the tree could do with a few years of freer root growth as I will now spend a little more time on improving the overall image of the tree.

This was it back in 2003 as raw yamadori material. It’s come a long way but probably has as far to go again!