Saturday, 21 April 2012

Booty-ful but prickly

This is the story of the actual tree that inspired me to enter and love the hobby of bonsai. For a totally unknown reason one day 20 odd years ago I went to visit the Japanese Garden and bonsai center at St Mawgan, near Newquay, Cornwall. I came away with a little £5 tree as you do ! and the desire to return again to study the trees. There was a row of the owners trees there - the 'inspirational ones' that make you go out and buy a little one - every nursery has them. Most of this row of trees had come from one collection that had been sold a few years prior - all Japanese imports - a deshojo, a trident, a taxus cuspidata, a kiyohime and a Juniper rigida. They were totally inspiring, especially as I was new to the hobby and good trees were thin on the ground back then too. The tree had been in the UK 25 years at this stage so was certainly acclimatised and was probably not going to die

As the years moved on (18 more years) the tree was hanging in there but always out of my price bracket - the bugger kept getting more expensive !! To be fair the tree was not getting the exact methods and techniques needed to refine it so it had the more natural appearance of thin weeping growth which was very sparse due to the tree sitting under shade netting. Circumstances changed a bit and I also could see tree material like this becoming very hard to get in the future so I saved up for a year to buy the tree. As it was basically mine but not paid for I started feeding the tree and turning it every couple of weeks. Late summer 2009 and a row of new buds popped all along the old bare branches so the tree was paid for and put in the car.

The tree was too weak and too sparse to do anything with really so I fed hard and pinched strong terminal buds for a year, repotting it the following spring into my prefered open texture soil mix. We then moved house so tree work went on hold for another season but the tree was getting much stronger and putting on lots of new growth.

 Year 3 - June 2011- this is 100 times more foliage than it had!!         And more improvement by Sept

Over wintered and its spring 2012

Completely by chance I was corresponding with Peter Tea of Aichi-En about pots and their rims! when I sent him a couple of pictures of this tree for a few hints. He passed on some great advice and said to consider the back as the new front  - so it is time to expose the trees booty

Tucked away at the back of this tree was a lovely section of natural very aged deadwoodand this is the trees area of beauty and interest so the tree was turned, tilted and strapped to my turntable.
There is a dragon or a wild boar in the wood too

reading between the lines Peters advice was to understand and work with the differences between Needle Juniper and shimpaku rather than to confuse or mix the styles -so with the needle juniper use the sharp spiky deadwood, make the pads quite sharp and rigid looking too, make the needles, pads and deadwood complement. With the shimpaku juniper the scale foliage is soft, the pads are styled rounded and cloud-like and the flowing lines of the deadwood and live veins work as soft curves. He sent me two pictures of trees from this years Kokufuten exibition to show the differences in styling and they are the most perfect way to see the different way to style the two varieties so I will share them here for everyone to see.

Here we have a world class needle juniper and I studied it and found a similarity I could use with my tree - above is a twin trunk design and my tree had a long bottom branch that was due to be drastically shortened. I decided to take a chance and try to raise the angled down branch into a new upright trunk as this would give lots of foliage to make the right side of the tree from. I wrapped the lower branch with raffia and attached a fence wire strainer with doubled up 2.5mm copper wire, gradually tightening the strainer and slowly winching up the branch. I was very suprised but over a few hours it is up and the only main crack is 'safe' as its gone length wise with the sap flow rather than across it.
This one change has transformed the potential outcome for my tree as the number of potential branches on the right side has more than doubled, and the new 'branches' all have foliage close to the new trunk too, a great bonus. Now I am shortening the long straggly branches and starting the basics of the new pads - but no fine wiring to the tips of every shoot yet -just pointing the tree in the right direction

Halfway through the work and the rough idea is coming through now

April 23rd and the initial wiringand placing of the branches is done - the strainer has been taken off now it has done its job and been replaced with a copper tension wire - much neater ! I'll let the tree recover from the wiring and concentrate on pinching and shaping the individual pads from now on.


Quite a transformation and the tree has a new front and style for the first time in the 45 years it has been in England. Lots of refining and pinching to do from now on .
A few more tweaks to the pads and lots of little hanging shoots were cut off and here we have the styled tree

                                  2 weeks later and the tree is repotted at the correct angle

you havent seen Peters Blog check it out - its a great read .....Peter Tea Blog

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