Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Best of British 2013

The biggest British bonsai show is on and the date is fast approaching


I'm extremely proud to have 3 trees selected for the main show and even more excited to be the demonstrator for the Friday. 

In the main demo area near the bonsai exhibition I'll be working for the full day on hopefully a piece of work that will appeal to the audience of mostly gardeners and general public. I managed to get a fantastic piece of Japanese rock with this years import shipment and this will be used to create a mixed planting 'scene' using some mature Itiogawa Junipers, Dwarf Birch, Satsuki Azalea, plus other fitting plants

Demo will be running from 10am until its finished - between 4pm and 6pm I guess

Hope to see a few friends and familiar faces there - this is the largest, most high profile British Bonsai Show that has ever been held so I'm very proud and happy to be part of it.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Cornwall Bonsai Society & the National Trust

This weekend my local club organised their annual show at the National Trust property Trelissick Gardens near Truro. This was actually the 10th consecutive year of the show and we set up as usual in the stable block (no horses in residence).

A very sunny weekend saw a constant stream of people coming in to see the trees and chat and it was brilliant that the bonsai display was free to see as we were on the car park side of the pay desk. Here are just a few of the many trees and accents - I think there were over 100 in total and something to interest everyone for sure

 Scotts Pine in the archway to greet the public as they came through the door.

A very nice Quince showing the new growth before a prune back later in the season

Variegated Serrisa broom style - about 5" high and beautifully delicate

A stand back view of one of the stable blocks 

                                                                     miniature Berberis in full bloom

Lovely little accent - if the right person reads the blog they can tell me the species via a comment

Large Hawthorn raft - it looks like 2 trees but they are most definitely connected

Zelkova - Japanese grey barked Elm, broom style

Mixed planting that has been together a few years now and has taken on a very natural appearance

Pencil in 2014 as a diary date as we are moving to the main house orangery so a few more of the big guns may come out to make an appearance !

Great weekend and really good to spend some time sharing the hobby with the public.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Masahiko Kimura comes to Cornwall.......or at least a tree from his nursery does

This little stunner was bought from the nursery of Mr Kimura last year and has now cleared QT in the UK and has become one of the high quality trees available from my Bonsai@16 outlet. Today we cleaned the bark with an electric toothbrush and clean water, trimmed back the extension growth in the stronger parts of the tree and moved the tree outside to a sheltered part of the garden to acclimatise it. The change in conditions a newly imported tree has to go through is an important and often ignored part of our bonsai hobby so sometimes a little effort and understanding is needed to help a tree settle in. The tree has lived all its life in the climate and latitude / longitude of Japan, then it spends several weeks in a container on a ship before being unloaded into a wintery United Kingdom. There they are tucked up nice and safe in tunnels until all the paperwork and inspections are complete then this one was moved from one of the coldest parts of our country to one of the mildest - no wonder a tree can be unsettled.

It depends on the species how they cope, and it depends on what work needs doing  - I am very cautious of major styling on newly imported trees and have reserved most of the bigger projects to trees that have been in the country for a few years at least- It is very common that newly arrived trees are in desperate need of repotting but i feel doing this the same year as import is unwise unless the tree is in risk of deteriorating.

I brushed off the moss and watered the tree until the water pooled so I could watch  and was pleased to see the water seep into the pot. Checking underneath there are roots visible in the drain holes so repotting in spring 1014 will be planned. Until then pruning will consist of taking extension growth back to 2 or 3 leaves depending on the direction wanted for the new shoot and if need be a defoliation of the outer tree to let light into the inner tree. This actual variety seems very user friendly - the leaves are very small and are tinged with a deep red colour - I think we will get good Autumn colour from this tree as it often follows on from nice spring colour. It will be interesting to see if the leaves stay small - I think they will as the Zelkovas with much bigger leaves are also a very pale green so are probably a different variety of the same species.

I have 3 smaller Zelkovas from Taisho - en here too - pics to follow, and a whole selection of other species too. Talking of Taisho en we have a very showable tree from there as well - pictures tomorrow though as it's dark now

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bank Holiday fun

Today was one of those brilliant days where I got to style one of our specimen stock trees for a customer and friend. I have been itching to wire this tree for a couple of months now but have been saving it and I'm really glad I did it that way round as the new custodian came down for the day to be part of the trees creation from high quality material into a very nice bonsai with a very promising future ahead.

It is a mature White pine, grafted to Black pine base and judging from the white pine bark flaking along the branches it will likely be a 50+ year old tree. (More about the best way to guestimate a pine bonsai age at the end.

Here is the tree we started with at 8am

And here is the tree after a first styling session - lots of care was taken as the tree is waking up so branches were raffia'd and all wiring stopped short of the needles and new shoots. Today was about placing the branches and starting the tree on its first stage - refinement and fine wiring to the tips is a thing to do in a couple of winters time

I'm over the moon with the work - we have the widest trunk base visible,  trunk movement going left flowing into the  longer branches on the left also. Then we move up the tree, start going back to the right and have shorter branches this side. The super powerfull trunk is framed beautifully by the foliage and as first stylings go I think we have a winner.

It was such a good day to see the tree forming from the mushroom mop we started with - styling time 6 hours and now the tree has moved on to a new owner but I do get visitation rights !

How to try and put an age to a white pine bonsai................

The trees are originally grafted - by researching and looking back through japanese bonsai history the earliest know records of a nursery mixing black and white pine seems to be 1928 - there are no mentions or records of this technique being done before this date. This gives us an oldest possible age for these types of trees of 85 years, but the chances of the first trees being exported are slim to none existent but we know for certain the 100 yr + age tags sometimes seen on these trees are using more than a bit of artistic licence !  Now we can add a few more facts into the mixing pot - the actual variety of white pine often used commercially for the top is selected to be very user friendly - it produces 'many buds' so the dense pads form quite easily and the tree makes some inner buds too, so the shoots can periodically be cut back to new inner growth. We can look at how the trees were initially shaped too - curves going up through the trunk and added movement indicate a tree designed to be a definite commercial bonsai and as there was a huge increase in interest following the second world war after westerners started encountering the captivating miniature Japanese trees many such trees were started in greater numbers and grown on in fields.

This gives us a realistic age bracket for all the large exported white pine bonsai of between 30 and 65 years  - the physical size of the tree means very little too - a 2ft one can easily be twice the age of a 3ft 6" one - so our final clue to best guess age is bark formation - the black pine flakes from a young age but the white pine seems to stay a smoother silver grey for much longer.The older the tree the more the white pine bark flakes and shows maturity that matches the lower trunk until the oldest trees have bark that virtually matches all over.

young trees have smoother silvery looking bark above the graft - (10- 20yr)
slightly older trees show the flaked bark starting to creep up the trunk but the upper tree and branches still appear smooth (20 - 35 yr)
As the upper trunk and primary branches get texture the tree is moving on through its 40's and a fully barked tree will be in its 50's - give or take a few years either way but you won't be far off using your eyes and observation to best guess a white pine age.