Saturday, 27 April 2013

Diamond in the rough ?

Where did the month go? We've had a couple of really good Saturday bonsai drop in days at the shop and worked on a larch forest creation, a large Itiogawa juniper first styling and various repotting excercises. Week three was spent with the South Devon bonsai society doing a club workshop which was attended by 9 members with trees plus observers. The variety of species was excellent and a very full day was spent working with the members and their pines, junipers, maples, spruce and cedars. There was lots of tweaking, refining and thinning plus a common theme running through many trees was addressing the balance of energy. Strong dominance (on most trees in the apex) was making so many trees top heavy and making the all important lower branches weak in comparison. An easy way to show a quick comparison was to hold your hand under a branch and see how much was visible....lower branches show lots of skin while top areas you could rarely see and hand at all.

The large raw material juniper has had some attention....I was attracted to the tree as a project to produce a large showable tree from a piece of material that had been sat at the wholesaler for years and must have been considered and rejected by countless bonsai dealers. Japanese import trees don't sit around like this unless there are some challenges involved - usually the obvious trees are snapped up very quickly while its the hard ones that just sit there for years on end. I try to hunt out the tricky ones - the price is better, the finished trees can be unique if all goes to plan and it is so satisfying to get a tree to show standard that others have dismissed.

This was the tree as bought back to the unit

Total height above soil 110cm. 
The trunk is more than a meter long and has a straight parallel lower section then a few nice subtle curves in the upper bit - but it has nothing mind blowing even though it would make a traditional 1980's tree of a few large foliage pads, a round top and a triangular over all intantly reminded me of the large Peter Adams juniper he documented in many early books.

What did I see? I saw a potential compact bonsai with far more sever bends in the trunk so the tree becomes  shortened without cutting the top off. The curves would not only bring the foliage down but they would add drama and a sense that the tree had been out in the wild ( I now know these are actually field grown material that receive some rough styling in the ground to make a few jins and to form some defined live veins by hacking off sections of the trunk and primary branches - a type of simulated yamadori)

I probably studied the tree for an hour of so visualizing what bits would move to where with the bends in place and it looked like a potential goer so I saved the tree until Peter Warren came down and we repotted it on the Monday as it was in desperate need, then I talked through what I was hoping for. It needed some hardcore bonsai techniques I'd never done before so Peter gave me a shopping list and off I went in search of two 28-30mm thick rebars a meter long, 1.5 - 2mm stainless steel wire and some shackles. To stop the tree moving we secured everything to a pallet and built up a framework of 4x2 timber to support the rebar - now we had a very solid base to work from and could add a quadrupled 2mm steel wire to the upper trunk and to a standard tourniquet tensioner. 

Tightening it up moved the tree top a few cm and all was left overnight. Next day I measured the tip of a jin to the pot rim - 60cm and wound the tensioner right in over the course of the day. By 5pm the jin gap was 50cm. A second stainless wire had to go on to keep the tension so the tourniquet could be unwound, the main wire tightened up and the process started again. The tree was left like this all weekend and monday I carried on tightening until the gap was 45cm - now I could hear a few pops and cracks so stopped for a while - it was funny that over the next two hours you'd hear little pop noises coming from the tree. Tuesday & Wednesday the tree was misted well and Thursday I tightened some more until the jin to pot gap was 42cm. This was tied off with a stainess wire to the pallet and a second rebar added at a different angle to the upper trunk and this time I ground out an area of the upper trunk that had a thick section of deadwood.

This shows perfectly the tree secured to the pallet, the rebar secured to the frame and the two opposing tension wires running through garden hosepipe for protection. Bend one is tied off ( but is tensioned another 2cm over the next few weeks) , bend two is well on the way too. Now the tree is 82cm above the soil from the original 110cm. 

Next dilema is the branch on the right - I don't want it there, dont really want a random jin poking out away from the rest of the tree so decided to cure two problem areas in one go. By cutting down with a jig saw towards the roots the live vein and branch was seperated from the trunk......Then I rotated it, moved it upwards and inwards and popped a small screw through to hold it in we have sorted the parallel line of the lower trunk and added depth, interest and made a lot more of the original jin visible.

While the dremel was out the solid flat main trunk was hollowed here and there and textured a bit to add interest. I know there will be 4 or 5 years work at least to get the tree to Noelanders level so there is no point wasting hours on fine carving tiny details and detailed texture as the next 5 winters will put all the cracks in place naturally - and they will be far better and convincing than anyone could produce with tools.

Here is the tree today

79cm tall, nothing at all yet pruned off as the foliage is the engine that gives a juniper its strength so all is kept to boost the trees' inner strength ready for the wiring and styling this winter. It's amazing how the 5 blobs of greenery in picture one that were disjointed from each other have now come into one very useable foliage mass just by compacting the trunk in two spots and guy wiring the crown towards us. There is so much foliage in the right place that the first styling will create a very respectable tree by the end of the day I feel - certainly it will make a relatively large show worthy specimen in time as the first styling will layer long shoots over each other to make pads and time will fill them out so the original shoots can be cut off.

I love junipers ;-)

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