Monday, 25 February 2013

A busy few months

the last couple of months have been hectic it seems. A few changes at the factory have taken up loads of time as new machines have been ordered and installed to do the jobs as staff moved on to other things. In amongst it all I had a tree accepted for the Noelanders show so it needed a bit of tidying up before being trusted to Peter Warren to take to the show, set up and bring it back. Its the first time I've done this and I must admit that having met Peter properly when he came down to cornwall to hold a few workshops at my place last year I had no reservations about handing the tree over.

Obviously Cornwall is the back of beyond so it required a bit more planning and this is where the bonsai community pulls together and before long we had a plan where I could drop my tree off in South Wales ready to be loaded up into the Noelanders van later in the week.

Cutting a long story short the blizzard that caught Devon and shut the roads left me on the one side and the show on the other...but the trees had arrived safely 24hrs before

here is the pre show photoshoot.


and a beautiful picture of my first noelanders entry, a special thanks to everyone involved in getting it sorted.

3 days later I was driving up to Willowbog for a few days I'd been looking forward to for over a year....2 days of workshops and a demo day with Ryan Neil. There was some weather on the way but nothing was keeping me away. Day one was a group talk about pines and work on the juniper I took up - a lovely yamadori japanese tree that had been grafted with itoigawa foliage that was still unstyled. There was such a flow of information and tips and the day was spent selecting the branches, removing and thinning out the foliage and wiring just about every other bit of the tree.

 Day two was a talk about juniper techniques then down to some tree styling - It was a perfect opportunity to get some help with my Hinoki as it was sat in the other room following the show so before long we had added a guy wire to the main branch and cranked it down quite a long way to improve the branch angle. Once you move the bottom branch all the others are out of place so the afternoon was spent working up the tree setting new branch angles and thinning out the dense arras of foliage. Now the tree has more light and air penetrating the crown and inner branches so the foliage with improve further. Dealing with the whorled foliage was easy too - i have mostly used fine wire to twist the upright foliage fans flat and just cut off the downward shoots - very time consuming but always looked ok. In the time i've spent with Ryan and Peter Warren one thing above all else comes across and that is to not complicate matters or to make hard work if there is an easier but still effective solution. My hinoki had plenty of floiage so all the upward whorls were cut off, all the downward ones were cut off too, and then all the little shoots that were in the crotches of the branches were removed.
At a guess 15-20%  of the foliage was removed but the tree looks better for it. The pruning of the upward whorls will continue whenever they are seen and before long the entire tree will have only flat fans of foliage with no wire. The tree now is getting a well deserved rest from the stress of being made show ready, taken to Belgiumand back then the aftershow maintainance work. The suggestion was to work on the foliage for 4 years and then show the tree again - which sounds like a plan to me.
This weekend was the Swindon show and i was lucky enough to have had a tree selected to display - a chinese elm I've had for 22 years.
The display was chinese Elm, Zelkova accompliment planting, Paul goff scroll and my xmas pressy stand - perfect height for this tree too.

The show was excelent - a real social day and the first main event on the UK calender. Great to catch up with so many friends and blog readers - nice to meet you all. Everyone is looking forward to the shohin show next month Nr Bristol too. That will start another few busy bonsai filled days and nights to see out March....the show is sunday at failand hall, Peter warren is then coming back with me to Cornwall to hold our second set of workshops on the Mon & Tue and finally he is giving a talk at out local club on the wednesday evening. There is one workshop place available for the tueday if anyone wants details just add a comment or message me.
One week later is the EBA event - the European Bonsai Association annual get together that is in France this year. On the Saturday is the European styling talent final and I'm practicing hard ready to represent Britain and Fobbs. We have a bit of a bonsai related project being set up at the moment and I managed to pick up 10 unstyled Itoigawa junipers with chunky and twisted trunks from
2.5cm thick to about 7cm thick so I've got some practice material. Just incase it isnt junipers I got about 15 pines - black, white and a red too to practice on....all have movement in the trunks and unstyled tops so their seems to be wire just about everywhere in the house and unit atm.
As they get finished they are sneaking onto the sales table at the club , ebay, or building up the stock benches ready for the new project. Here is a little juniper done while watching Corrie !
 coming soon Bonsai @ 16
A little bit of everything from a little starter pine to a specimen pomegranite


  1. Marcus,
    I enjoyed your blog tremendously. I am in Zambia, and the only person doing bonsai, trying to learn the hard way.
    I would like to ask You how do You stile the pads of junipers to make them layered? Do you bring the first secondary branches over on top of the next ones? I can not figure it out. And how do You style the pads of a tosho?

    1. Hi Neli S - thanks for the comment and encouragement.
      The old fashioned western way to style junipers was to heavily thin the branch of many small branchlets, clean out all the new shoots that form in the branch junctions and wire it all flat. Not only does this look rubbish and substantially weaken the tree but it then takes years to form a fuller pad - it also leads to the pom pom appearance of the pad.
      By angling the main branch downwards and bringing the tip up a fraction you then wire some of the secondaries that go up the main branch so they initially follow the angle of the main branch and then level out. This adds depth to a pad made from a single branch but it gets even better if you use several branches to make larger pads as you can use many more shoots and the finished result is instantly fuller. It is important to keep some new shoots from in the branch crotches to fill in the pad in future years.

      Tosho - needle juniper, i wire only hardened brown wood, never green shoots. i begin with main branch selection and wire them to the right place and angle. If there are woody secondary shoots they are fine wired and arranged to begin the 'under-structure' of the pad. In the spring/early summer you let the tree grow freely, then you cut off all but a few mm of the new growth. (unless you are growing an area to fit the design). after this scissor pruning new buds form all over the new pad and these are allowed to grow a bit before prunning back the strong ones. this makes more (smaller) buds form and these i usually leave for the rest of the year. Pads fill out very quickly and once they are thick and bushy you scissor prune the individual shoots to make a better shape and to let in light.

      cheers Marcus

  2. I'm not normally one to comment on blogs but I have to show appreciation for your hinoki cypress. I would love to know more about the development of this tree Marcus.

    1. Thanks Web D,
      it was a tree that had sat at my local nursery for about 15 years - originally grown from a cutting rather than a graft - most likely a japanese import rather than garden center material.

      I bought the tree 5 years ago now as a quite large unstyled piece of material - over three repotting sessions I got the roots reduced so they fit a better pot. I'll do a full post on it very soon with as many pictures as i can find

  3. Hi, may I ash where you bought the big black&white background for making photos?

    Regards, Nik

    1. hi Nik,
      the graduated background is not mine. it was part of the professional set up used to produce the Noelanders bonsai show book. if you check any good photographic supplies for graduated backdrops you'll find several colours and sizes


    2. Hi, thanks for your reply.
      I got a smaller one quite cheap, but all the bigger ones on web were not under 1000€!!! And I have spent a lot of time looking. But I'm sure that could not bee the right price... Anyway could you please give me any contact information of the guy whoose backgrount that was so maby he could give me some advice where to get it.
      Please send it to my email: so it wont be public.

      That would be very helpfull.