Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Beauty of a little history...

This is the ongoing story of a quite unusual tree -  A UK native tree with a documented and pictured  history going back to 1998 that has been worked on by two of Britains early bonsai professionals. The tree is a Scotts Pine, either Bouvonensis or Watterii, that started as a garden center landscape plant belonging to Mr Len Gilbert. The first pictures show the tree undergoing the first styling at a workshop with Craig Cousins back in 98/99.

2 years later there are sketches and a print done by Peter Adams so at a guess he saw the tree, or a photo of it at least, and this lead to a workshop with Peter Adams in 2003. After this workshop the design we see today is quite clear.

Now the portfolio jumps to 2008 when we see the tree planted on a fibreglass slab made by Len, still the trees owner. Just looking back from the huge red pot in '98 to the drum in 2003 to the great shallow slab shows how in 10 years the roots were reduced so much without setting the tree back.

These days virtually the only way to find unique material that has maturity and the established growth to form a refined bonsai is on the rare occassions that a collection is put up for sale. It almost starts a chain reaction that keeps trees and material moving to new owners who want to add their mark to projects started by this case I was making some space on the benches and had 7 trees ready to sell - several of them have gone to pastures new and I was on the hunt for a single replacement. I'd seen the pictures of this tree and the rest of the collection for sale on the Willowbog Web Shop and just like all pictures the trees look so much better in real life....this is certainly one of my shopping benchmarks  - if it looks good in a pic it is excelent for real, and that goes for all the trees - the cascade cedar really should be snapped up quickly as its the best one available for sale in the UK at present - I'd say there probably isn't another mature one of this size at any UK bonsai nursery for sale today

I didn't actually go to Willowbog to buy the tree but for a nice social day tacking onto the end of a Saturday workshop while enjoying the extensive selection of trees on site. During the day the pine was displayed in the classroom and it was only after the event while chatting to Peter I started to appreciate the tree for what it was - a unique chance to get a mature native tree. It's funny too - one attendant was very interested in the tree and I was sat there saying "buy it, decide now, shake hands and buy it, or it will be gone when you finally decide to get it :-)" . ...While I was at the Saturday workshop 4 trees had sold online so I left it on Sunday incase the other buyer had decided to get the tree but Monday morning I sent a message through to the nursery that I'd have the pine if it hadn't sold the day before.
This was an exciting driver over as I didn't have a clue if the tree was mine or not....until arriving !

Now we are right up to date and can carry on the trees' history in Cornwall. First job with any newcomer to my garden is to spray it - I'd spotted a pine saw moth lavae and a few other bugs and beasties so made that a priority. If a tree comes home to be totally restyled I tend to just leave it on the bench for 6 months or more, letting it catch my eye from many angles until the new style is spotted, but with this one I like the totally natural overall style and just want to refine it further. With this in mind a look over the tree showed all the needles in place going back 3 years and all of this years candles in the process of opening. Being one of the 'witches broom' varieties there were inner buds everywhere, but they remain dormant due to the auxins produced from the terminal shoots so the very strong shoots in the top were decandled just like a black pine and all other new shoots had the candle shortened so the tip was removed leaving a few pairs of new needles in place.

Here is a section of branch with the outer candle centers pruned, just leaving a ring of new needles

Now the auxin production is upset while the tree forms new buds on all the cuts so the inner weak shoots and back buds will get a growth spurt. The tree is very settled, has not been repotted and was growing strongly all over so perfectly safe to carry on with the thing to sort out was some light and space on the inner twigs as the new buds that will be forced to develop from the candle work need somewhere to form and room to grow, otherwise the initial effects of the candle pruning will be wasted

This picture below shows the overall density of the variety with all the needles in place, and this is after 3/4 of the new candle is removed.

And a few hours ! later the old needles have been clipped off - leaving more on the weaker areas and less on stronger upper and outer shoots. I clipped all the needles rather than pulled - I think there is less chance of damaging the shoot and more buds are produced.

Next stage was to remove some old wire and decide what to do with all the algae encrusting the trunk. It was easy to see the far northern location the tree had come from was much wetter than here - I've never had such lush moss on a tree.....ever !! The tree had been very dense for a while and in a moist location so the trunk and branches were thick in powdery green algae. The bark on these does get flaky but often in thin paper like sheets


This section of trunk was only partially covered in algae where bark flakes had naturrally dropped off, but the branches were thickly covered and I do plan to wire them all so out came the electric toothbrush and another hour was spent cleaning. The final stage was to use the brass brush along the tops of the branches and scrub them quite firmly - this makes even more new buds pop on the branch tops, right where you want them.

So far its sprayed, cleaned, candle pruned, needle thinned & dewired. Even with over 50% of the needles removed the tree is still very dense - this keeps the tree looking nice while work continues rather than a black pine that looks like a plucked chicken at times

Next all the branches will be wired and the pads defined a bit more. The last time I had one of these within 3 years the needles were really small so the plan is to make tiny needles, then gradually split the initially larger pads into layers of 2, 3 or 4 - this will take the image from a medium sized tree to a much larger one. Funny enough I've just loaded the Peter Adams sketches and it shows the foliage in many layers so we'll have to see if we can move in the direction that was seen 12 years ago.

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