Monday, 26 August 2013

The 11 month wiring job

September 2012 I managed to acquire on of the pieces of material lurking in the UK that had made me go all starry eyed and a bit drooly - the tree in question was a japanese imported yew - Taxus cuspidatta. It was a weird scenario - when I first tried to buy it I was told it was sold already so it was with regret and a little envy that I put the tree to the back of my mind. Then 2 years later I see the tree while walking into the bonsai nursery originally selling looked twice the size in real life (don't they always).....and due to goodness knows what circumstances the tree was back for sale again !

An earlier blog post  covered getting the tree home and winching the lower branch up to make a twin trunk tree a possibility - then we left that post with the tree resting and recouping from the major work where the live vein was splintered from the dead wood as the flat back branch was pulled up. This, and a little first wiring took place in Sept 2012.

here is a recap of the tree untouched

Over the weeks following the major bend of the second trunk some wiring was done in the winter and in March 2013 the tree was still fine so it was re-potted to the new front angle with a lot of help and guidance from Peter Warren at one of the workshops we hold in Cornwall. To turn the tree to the new front a lot of root had to be removed from some areas so the tree would go back in the pot so it was kept shaded and misted for many weeks after. The everlasting cold spring finally broke, the sun came out and the older inner needles yellowed and dropped off  but we kept a close eye on the new soft bright green buds as these were the indicator as to what the roots were doing.

Through the summer the tree was fed a lot of imperial fertiliser pellets - an organic feed rather than chemical but with a major difference in that elements in the feed are instantly useable by the trees. By combining the feeding with hard pruning the tree has made new buds all over the branches that dropped the old needles so the remaining wiring was put on hold so the new buds were not knocked off.

That brings us up to date and August Bank Holiday seemed a good opportunity for some bonsai work - on the Sunday I did a club visit and talk for the Exeter Society on Juniper and other conifers so Monday seemed a perfect follow on to finish the initial styling on the yew. Due to the earlier cutting back the wiring was quick and easy to do and after 5 or so hours the first styling is complete - a mere 11 months after the first wire went on !

Now we enter phase II, the developing of the pads and foliage masses that will take another 2 or 3 years of pruning, budding and feeding to see the image that is planned. There are buds on virtually every bare branch now and next spring will see huge growth as the tree is settled and fully recovered from the repotting. Feeding will continue through September and during late October the pot protected from excess rain - this is critical with Taxus as waterlogged soil will freeze into an ice block causing root damage but dry soil does not damage the roots in low temperatures. The black pines get the same treatment too.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A few trees for sale

Once in a while I'll highlight a few of the trees we have available for sale here - won't be doing it every post as it makes the blog quite boring, just now and again. i use ebay as a marketing tool to spread the word but their fees are getting higher and higher, so by contacting me directly you will get the best deal. please ask for delivery costs. Thanks. just message or email me for more info 

  003: Itoigawa juniper (sold)

 004: Kishu juniper £250

 005: Black Pine £SOLD

 006: Black Pine SOLD

007: Red Pine SOLD

 008: Zelkova SOLD

 009: Zelkova £80.00

 010: Cork Bark Elm £80.00

 011: Satsuki Azalea £165.00

 012: Crab Apple SOLD

 013: Crab Apple SOLD

 014: Flowering Honeysuckle £29.50

015: Itoigawa Juniper SOLD

 016: Chinese Elm SOLD

 017: Trident on Rock SOLD

 018: Korean Hornbeam £125.00

 019: Juniper Rigida SOLD

 020: Trident Maple SOLD

 021: Pomegranite SOLD

 023: Pyracantha £1250.00

 024: Mixed Ibigawa £750.00

 025: Juniper £5000.00

 026: Acer seedlings £5.00

027: Native Hornbeam SOLD

 028: Zelkova SOLD

 029: Cascade Itoigawa SOLD

 030: Zelkova 

 031: Itoigawa cascade (2) £135.00

 032: Beech Raft (Derek Aspinal pot)
This is a 7 trunk root connected raft - Most native beech bonsai don't catch my eye but this one certainly did £950 with pot, £450 without

 Chinese Elms £5, £10, £20, £65 +p&p straight ones, curvy ones

 Hinoki Cypress - 8 different trees £100.00 each

These mature Hinoki are all about 2ft tall, well branched and not leggy. 3 or more for a group planting £85 each. I've bought these to replicate the Kimura valley planting,  I need to make the slabs but until then they are for sale.

Here is the inspiration - watch this space .....

Call, email or message for more pictures of individual trees, sizes etc.

 And the cryptic song - this one takes some beating for a blatant sales page !! for best enjoyment click play then scroll to the top to enjoy the trees while subliminally hearing about shopping every day.....................

Friday, 9 August 2013

Juniper creation pt1

The juniper has to be one of the most iconic and desirable bonsai species for many growers. It is incredible that juniper were not considered for bonsai until barely 100 years ago - there were many 1000's in the wilds but collectors of the time passed them by to find the popular trees that were in demand - Red, White and Black pines, yezo spruce, ancient prunus......... times have changed and how lucky it is they were propogated, styled, field grown and are available the world over for bonsai enthusiasts to work with.

I stock some wonderful little starter Itoigawa juniper trees - grown in Japan they are started from cuttings, the trunks are twisted then the trees are fattened in a field for a few years by letting branches grow long before pruning back. After a couple of cycles of growing and pruning the trees are potted up and leave Japan - some arriving in Cornwall ! it is an incredibly small world really when you think about it.

Every summer junipers will go through a shedding of old inner foliage - it yellows, browns and then drops off, leaving the tree interior a bit more open . This is just part of the cycle where a tree tries to grow bigger - I've observed this annual cycle on my own trees for 20 years now and have seen how some years lots drops, some years virtually none drops off and it is largely linked to how you work with the tree in previous years. Juniper foliage has an inbuilt time clock - it will fall off - if you have allowed a tree free growth a lot of new foliage will result - the time clock ticks and in a few years a lot of foliage will drop off - it is just a simple cycle. In refinement years we keep growth short and compact so the new foliage mass is less and you've guessed it right.......less will drop off in a future summer.

When you receive a young field grown tree like these (or in fact a neglected un-worked specimen) there will be a reasonable drop of old foliage in the first summer - so the biggest mistake and instant way to set the tree back is to prune back to inner foliage - the worst case scenario is to prune back all newer growth and what you leave decides to drop off a few months later ! You get better results working with the outer newest growth on your tree - just prune off the long 'water shoots' but only to the base where they emerged from new growth.

Here we go - lunch time today

We have a dense ball of greenery - inner yellow and brown shoots - all will need removing - is there even a bonsai in this material ???  when confronted with these trees it can be hard to know where to start - this shows by the fact only 2 have sold in this raw state and yet every single one has sold when i've styled them...all will be revealed ,

Characteristics - what is Itoigawa?
Itoigawa is actually a city where the collected junipers from the immeadiate region were bought and sold - it is not a different species but a different variety. Other locations had wild junipers growing with untidy long hanging foliage but these trees had great trunks the same, just poor foliage for refined bonsai creation. Other mountain valleys and other islands had varieties with tight but thicker foliage - sergentii, kishu etc all occurred in the wild. The visible outer appearance of Itoigawa is finer thinner foliage growing in tight forms and the characteristics are a tree that grows many inner new shoots of juvenile foliage making the inner tree into a dense birds nest of shoots

Here we have old and inner shoots - the tree is cluttered, dense and in need of a total cleaning out with scissors and tweezers

Now, is there a bonsai in there ? looking hopeful 

Oh yes, we have something good to work with

Assess the trunk line, main branches and then pick an angle that works - these multi angle work tables make it an easy job to find the best angle and to keep the tree set while you work - we have 3 sizes in stock, £45.00 - £50.00 + p&p for a really handy item

Now we have a cleaned up tree set at a good angle - it's easy to see the bonsai now. The lower branches on the right were not needed so a section of trunk below them can be stripped of a thin strip of bark to make a curving shari...why? will begin to make the live veins either side swell as they support the crown and it will give the eye a visual contrast, making the curving trunk stand out even clearer.

The initial wiring is very simple as it only needs to define the future foliage masses. The movement in the trunk is so good and the flow into the main branch was so smooth that I've kept the dropping branch as a semi cascade. In future years the new owner may keep it, extend it, shorten it or cut it off totally - When I style trees in stock these days it is a mistake to commit them to just one image as it limits the total number of customers who may like the tree - now I try to make the most of the best features and remove just the branches that are distracting.

The absolute essential key to juniper bonsai is to maintain as much new foliage mass as you can when styling the tree. The tree gains its strength from foliage - they can survive quite hard root pruning and will be absolutely fine is quite small pots with limited room for roots. There are old books and articles where the recommendation is that just about every shoot is reduced to a tiny tuft of green on the end - this may work in the high light level, high humidity long growing season of Japan and it makes wiring really easy and looks really neat......but this method really weakens junipers in the UK and probably elseware too. Above is our demo tree showing how the inner old and juvenile shoots are gone and showing how much foliage I like to leave on a first styling. The tree will remain strong and be happy when repotted into a training sized bonsai pot in the future.

Over the last hour we've taken the little ball of shoots and started it on the route to being a bonsai. the fine shoots are not wired and placed - why risk damaging them at such an early stage. Now we just scissor prune individual strong shoots back while the pads fill out with mature growth. I tend to remove inner needle foliage until the tree just sends out mature scale foliage shoots.

These great little trees are £65 +p&p (£70) unstyled, £80 +p&p (£85) styled in the plastic pots and once potted the price depends on the cost of the pot used.

I fell asleep typing this one so only one song will do !!
great to wire to as well ...............

Thursday, 8 August 2013

take your medicine and don't make a fuss............

funny old game isn't it? - I think everyone has a bonsai wish list - be it a species we would love, a style of tree or even a specific individual tree that floats our boat.

Going back to my first bonsai year - 1990 - I was captivated by a needle juniper (J. Rigida) that sat at a commercial nursery near home - it was an interesting tree having been in the UK over 20 years and had been sold to the nursery to fund an engine for a power boat ! Back then I had 3 chinese elms and the usual pile of tortured garden center conifers to practice on so this Rigida was my inspiration but out of my price bracket. Jump forward 10 years - it was still there, still alive, not improving at all but the nursery is one that has a habit of sneaking the price tags up every few years on the existing stock so it was certainly going up with inflation, keeping it out of reach.................5 years later it's still there, still alive etc etc but I decided to do something drastic -  I looked at an old endowment policy that had 7 years to run - they wanted another 7 grand or so in payments and it was forecast to grow by a further 6k !. Easy sum to do - cash it in and be £1000 better off as part of the bargain.

Mandy and I were about to start living together so Ikea and the new landlord got a chunk but with canny shopping skills a bit remained so I visited the juniper to really look properly and see if the object of desire was actually good enough to buy - it was alive top to bottom but only had a handfull of weeping weak shoots on every branch. I started visiting the nursery and feeding the tree as they go unfed here, also turning it every few weeks to let the back see some light. 6-8 weeks into the care plan a complete row of new buds popped open along the main branch so I bought it there and then before the price went up ! It took 4 full years of growing foliage before the tree could be styled and finally 12 months ago the tree was wired, repositioned and repotted. One year on and the tree is coming along well. I dont have the day one picture, they were lost, so my first picture is yr2 - foliage volume doubled since purchase

I love this species - hungry, thirsty and vigourous - and this tree is slowly becoming the bonsai I envisaged 20 years ago.

The above tree was a specific bonsai on my list, the next was a species - I have wanted a prunus mume, Japanese Apricot for a long time - but really the wish list was a little more detailed - black cracked bark, red flowers...........jump back 12 years and it was an easy tree to find and buy as they were freely imported - regulations changed, import was banned and many owners had their trees die off - it is a tree that will attract no end of problems so needs spraying without holding back - moulds, mildews, leaf curl, gals, you name it they will get it !! 

Out of the blue a bonsai trade occurred - I'd put some nice trees onto our ebay shop  Bonsai@16 and after a few emails with a fellow bonsai enthusiast we ended up arranging a swap of an excellent Japanese acer for his prunus mume. In the end a couple of trees went to London in the car and a couple came back to Cornwall - with a quick visit to a wholesaler in the area as well the car was wedged with 8 large hinoki cypress, my new prunus, a chunky Yew, more akadama and goodness knows what else - tools, wound sealer and chinese elms were filling most gaps I remember !

The apricot had leaves on the ends of long branches as old trees tend to be - they seem to refuse to make back buds on old barked wood so always get bigger until grafted back inside again to continue for another 2 decades. The tree had several fruits too ! but i removed most as some thin branch tips had bunches of 2 or 3 fruits that would certainly weaken the shoot or even break it with the weight.

The fruits are used in chinese medicine to cure bronchitis, mouth and throat problems etc and once you eat one you can tell its medicine ! After sharing the first fruit with Mandy ;-) I've read they also soak the fruits in alcohol for several years to make plum this sounds delicious and needs to go on my xmas list haha, they dry and salt them, pickle them and make sour plum juice too - I can't actually find any reference to eating them raw though. 

The tree has red heartwood - showing it is part of the  japanese hibai family, and this red heartwood is also an indication to the flower colour.

A quick application of my bark cleanser is needed .....this will kill off the algae encouraged by the tree loving moisture

I plan to let next years foliage shoots grow freely to make a supply of grafting scions, then we will graft new shoots back on the long branches to see if we can build a great branch structure onto a aged trunk that has great movement and fantastic bark texture. 

In early spring i'll repot into a 75% akadama mix to keep moist, reposition to the new front and I think a wish list tree should have a proper pot so the crackle glaze Gordon Duffett rectangle I've had waiting for a nice tree will be used. Its an inch or so bigger than the Mo pot the tree is in so will be perfect to leave the tree settled over the next few years of growing and grafting. 

It will be interesting to see if the local bees are flying around in Dec or January and are attracted by my sweet smelling prunus blooms so we get fruits again next year.......

now the was a close thing, you nearly got 'spoonful of sugar' from Mary Poppins
but I don't want to lose readers !! so try THIS, pure UK quality.