Friday, 12 December 2014

The Crenata Chronicles III

Continuing our work with the Japanese White barked Beech bonsai it is time to do some basic early winter prep work

As we want to see the structure of the tree, assess the ramification and do some work all the brown leaves are removed. Now we can see just how dirty the trunk has become over the Autumn. Dirt, fertiliser residues and green algae make it all look a mess

As we can see the tree is in serious need of a good clean - -  and at the top of the picture is a small side branch coming across the trunk . . .it should be cut off  but we'll se if it can be moved first.

Trunk cleaning is down to some water and vinegar and some plastic bristled brushes. Start at the top, work down and then wash the whole tree with hard spray from a hosepipe.

All scrubbed, now the branch.........

The old stub is removed, hollowed and the edges cleaned up with a sharp knife

Two 3.0 mm copper wires are placed in the curve, temporarily held with wire while they are wrapped with raffia and plastic tape. This is a backbone for the branch we hope to move and being coper wire it will actually hold the bend in place

Twin copper 2mm wires are put on for added protection to the outside of the bendand the branch that was crossing the trunk now goes the right way ! 

All exposed bits of the cut are sealed and I quickly worked up the tree adding a few guy wires and wiring a few branches that were starting to creep up at the tips

Finished tree - repotting planned for spring, I want to boost the vigor as the next stage is to massively increase the number of shoots and to thicken some new branches that are just thin new shoots coming out of the trunk. This tree has a stunning nebari - it would have been airlayered in japan over 30 years ago to be this mature.

Tree wired in copper - its all i use on every tree - Because we produce all our own annealed wire fresh in small batches it is lovely and soft to put on, and because we do it in half kilo rolls you dont get stuck with old rolls of hard wire - (it stiffens up over time and not many people use up full kilos very fast). The copper is so much thinner to do the same job as aluminium so the tree looks better, the job looks neater and as we dont really have any price difference there is no reason to use an inferior wire. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Pot resurection

We've been looking for a pot for the large Japanese yew I have here for a year or two now as the tree is getting close to ready for it. This particular pot is a Dereck Aspinall pot that has had a fairly hard life with a previous owner but it was the ideal size, colour and shape for the tree so I decided to buy it a few months ago.

Most damage was to the feet where all the edges are chipped off - this comes from sliding the pots around on the benches, tables or in your vehicle and is a commonly seen form of damage. I see it a lot on European pots and less so on Japanese pots so I suspect the clay used or the techniques in manufacture may have something to do with it, but that is a bit of guess work based on observations.

First thing was to clean the pot well and assess all the damage


There are several chips in the rim too, both inside and out - the pot certainly has had an active previous life but I'd had a good look at it a few months before deciding to get it so none were surprises. 

First job after washing and drying was to rough up the edges with a file, then apply an exterior 2 part epoxy filler

I left this for 24hrs in the warm and the next day began gently sanding with very fine wet and dry sand paper. Following the sanding I mixed a colour match from my paints, and gave the areas 2 coats, followed by an ink wash to blend it and finally a sealing coat. The entire pot was oiled and left to dry for a week in the warm. I'm very pleased with the results and will certainly plant the taxus cuspidata in the spring.

And here we have a lovely UK made pot back in its prime
Dereck Aspinall  - Soft Rectangle - unglazed, 23" x 16" x 5"

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Ramification Pt 1

Autumn is nearly here and the leaves are starting to drop on many trees, letting us see clearly how the summer growth effected or improved the ramification of our deciduous bonsai.

I enjoy experimenting a bit with bonsai methods and I find quite a lot that many recommendations in books are not that specific, at best are generalised and often don't work that well in our climate. The first year I had the Zelcova broom I followed the book method - cutting extending growth back to a few leaves, total defoliation of the outer half of the canopy in early summer and then pruning back the new shoots to a few leaves. This was an incredibly labour intensive way to look after the tree - the defoliating alone took nearly 7 hrs in total and the results were perfectly ok, the inner leaves stayed green etc.

This year I wanted to do what felt right, so I decided to treat the pruning differently.

First cut was made as the new shoots are opening and extending while they still were soft and red. This cut was back to one or at most 2 leaves over the whole outer canopy. In effect this stopped all extension growth.

The pruned shoots changed from red to woody, the remaining leaved continued to grow a bit and they hardened off. Now I cut all these leaves in half just like a beech or palmatum so lots of light could penetrate past the outer canopy and reach the inner tree. This gave a huge advantage as the terminal buds have stayed dormant - (defoliating makes them open and the tree outline gets bigger). Over the rest of the year I've just cut any strong shoots that extend past the outline and thats it.

The picture shows the tree from underneath - all the leaves inside the tree are perfectly green and it is amazing to see the whole tree is full of living inner shoots - quite funny when another bonsai 'expert' was overheard at a show saying this tree would have no ramification under the dense outer canopy of leaves ! haha.

Proof of the pudding - I've never had a deciduous tree reach Oct with this many perfectly healthy leaves on it from virtually the trunk to the outside.

Feeding has been our Bonsai boost pellets - 2 baskets at a time but only 3 times all year....and our fish emulsion about 12-15 times after pruning. No feed was put on before the leaves were cut in half.

This pic shows how we've kept the whole tree open and airy all year - this has let loads of light in 

Tree was repotted to a better front this year too

And the music..............

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Doing our bit

Following being nominated by fellow bonsai friend Jim from Scotland here is my challenge

We were away from home so had to improvise quickly at the inlaws ! While having fun it is also important to remember this is to raise awareness and money for charities close to your heart

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The wonderful bonsai merry-go-round

Bonsai is never static - the trees evolve, the people on the scene change - some give up, some change direction and newcomers are always finding the hobby. Our collections will often reflect this too - maturing, evolving, improving hopefully and usually increasing in size ! pun intended

Obviously we have the small but growing (oh stop it, your killing me) bonsai sales side to our business and this is now very much entwined into my personal tree collection. It was 27yrs ago I bought a £5.99 chinese elm - then a month later a £35 elm, then a slightly bigger elm............that was it, hooked...many changes, houses, wives, friends, experiences....all different - but that 3rd elm is still here ......
This was the tree back then - another house, another life - blimey a bottle of 0:10:10, not my   kind of approach these days - chemical fertilisers that are also unbalanced, no thanks. The grey mica pot still here too - a pot that has established many trees since

Human nature (mine anyway) is to push hard, aim to improve and to grab an opportunity when you can even if it means some sacrifices - bonsai is a great hobby to fit this ethos as there is always a desirable tree out there, a better example of a tree you may have or sometimes material that has to be secured if at all possible. Luckily we also have our personal tree collection as currency so upgrading is often easier as the tree you may have at home will be someone elses bonsai of desire - they then make a few sacrifices to get it and the merry-go-round turns another bit.

Last week the chance to buy a substantial tree arose - it has pedigree and has been seen and photographed / filmed by visitors to Masahiko Kimuras garden over quite a few years - A slanting planting of Hinoki cypress - here is a pic of my friend with the tree in the background

So now the challenging bit - buying it !

We are all now probably fed up with 'Sales'. the word means nothing on the high street or in the super stores as they run one into another and the sale price is the full price anyway. But the only way to move closer to the object of desire was to offer some good trees up for sale to a few people who would really appreciate them, at a price that was very fair and good enough to ensure they didn't dither about - I said "you snooze you lose" last week to one friend - and the guys who stayed very on the ball have achieved a few of there own objects of desire

To get even halfway close to the goal I put up for sale some of my nice trees and used the method I find works - i offered more nice trees up than I wanted to sell, let fate decide which ones went and which ones stayed. It took about 8 days until i called halt as the right trees were going to new owners - some will be maintained as they are, some will continue to be changed and refined but most important all will be appreciated

It was bye bye and onto pastures new for:

The Hinoki.......

A lovely firethorn from Taisho-en Nursery

Top quality maple

My Elm - the tree from 27 yrs ago

Uk history tree - The Kiyohime clump from Dan bartons bonsai book

A simply beautiful trident forest

Admittedly there is a bit of space here now - but it means more time to devote to the trees that are left here - and we still have 60-70 trees in the shop sales stock to look after and 16 personal trees that are all on the path to becoming or remaining of showable standard. 
The survivors of the sale were the junipers and pines, I'm not unhappy about that as one was in a very unique and never to be found again pot and the big red & black pines would be quite hard to replace  - plus we have the 12 trees that were not included - they mostly show how my bonsai tastes are changing now - unusual species like bittersweet, more elegant styles reflected in the literati and deciduous trees, and the irreplaceable yamadori trees.

Objects of desire deserve sacrifice - 

The Kimura Hinoki rock planting looks secured to stay in the UK for a while longer - although it is a tree that will sell one day to someone who desires it - it has been bought to remain on the open market and not to be shut away and lost for ever - the nice thing is we can share it at a few carefully chosen bonsai events in coming years - who knows - we may do a flower show or two ! just for a change of scenery once in a while

Monday, 4 August 2014

the pots my trees live in

Slowly we are getting some nice pots to complement the trees as they mature and warrant them.
Some have actually come with the trees, some have come with different trees in them and others I have traded for trees, just one in the selection was actually bought up till now

Old green glazed Tokoname pot housing a pyracantha 

greens and golds in this beautiful pot holding a satsuki in training

Delicate pot for a delicate tree - Zelkova broom

a special pot made and inscribed by one of greatest unglazed pot makers ever.  The inscription is to pay homage to the ascension to the throne of the new emperor of Japan. Yamadori  juniper with grafted itoigawa foliage

Antique chinese - late 1800's or very early 1900's. Yamadori white pine in residence

Antique chinese cochin ware - mid 1800's would be fair estimate of production - 130 -160 years old
holds an oriental bittersweet

amazing delicate large oval - perfect lines, no warping - deshojo lives in this 1" of soil

Waiting for am acer........

lovely old pot from Anne swintons book - been used at Noelanders and will home a very nice juniper in spring

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chunky scotty

Waiting for a pallet to arrive I fancied doing a bit of creative bonsai work this morning so took a tree from the raw material bench down the end of the garden to work on

 This nice chunky tree was planned to be a semi cascade but after weeding and cleaning up the soil surface a perfect trunk base and root flare was exposed so to change the potting angle would have ruined this feature of the tree. Giving the tree a few minutes study I decided to compact the upper trunk and make an informal upright with a very classic branch structure. This choice makes the trunk base seem really big and ticks my favourite bonsai make the smallest convincing tree you can from the material in front go you.

There was no need to hurry today so every bit needed in the final design was wired in copper, the point of the main bend was raffia'd and taped to protect the cambium and to stop any major splitting before a 2mm copper guy wire was attached to a screw in the lower trunk and the tree compacted down to the desired position.

probably 2 1/2 to 3 hours went into the tree and the finished result for a first styling from semi raw material was really pleasing. This one will be uploaded to our various online sales areas as it was a nice simple and stress free styling (for the tree ! ;-))

Scots Pine, nice bark forming, great movement and lovely compact image
Decided to put it on Auction rather than Buy it Now so anyone interested my grab a nice tree at a nice price

you got wires ! lol

admittedly I wouldn't recommend wiring a tree to 'wires' by Athlete unless you want to be very depressed - watch it before wiring and then the job seems far more bearable and enjoyable.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

buds bursting out everywhere

Back in June the Black and Red pine were de-candled as covered in this earlier blog post.

The new buds started to form at the points where the original shoots were cut off about 3 weeks later, and now, after another 3 weeks have passed these buds are extending and new back buds are forming old older parts of the branches.

Black pine - 3 new terminal buds - one will be removed

Black pine again - 5 buds here - 3 are terminal buds and two have formed on the side of one of them. Tree health and an excellent fertiliser regime lead to good results like this. This tree has sat here for 3 years before it was strong enough to be candle cut due to poor soil and very weak roots when we got the tree - I also made a small mistake by fully styling the tree soon after getting it before the poor root system had been investigated - always learn from experience ! 

this branch section is the junction between wood 3 & 4 years old showing a nice strong back bud. it will probably sit dormant until next year before developing into a small candle. 

another new backbud on 4 to 5 year old wood - finally the tree can be developed now

Red pine this time - its a bud fest ! easy to see why they are called red pine too ! Incredible tree health - the colour is good, the needles are good. This tree will be styled this winter once the new needle clusters are fully hardened off.

Twin buds on a red pine terminal - uncut we only had one candle so the branch could only get longer - now we have 2 shoots so the branch can be ramified properly. Where I have 3 or more buds the two best placed ones will be selected as keepers and the others plucked off with tweezers. 

Fertiliser observations: 

Yesterday all the baskets of fertiliser were replenished - we exclusively use our bonsai boost pellets as our organic dry feed and it took 2.5kg to do the lot - that means there are 125 baskets in use as it takes 20 grams per basket. Little things like knowing this help with planning when you are stocking up on consumables - buy the right amount, don't run out but don't waste money sitting on stuff from one year to the next. 

You hear that fertilisers can burn roots........maybe some do but look at the picture above .......there is incredible root mass right under the basket ! if they're hungry you have to feed them

Plan on feeding solids  every 6 - 8 weeks from early spring until early Autumn. We boost this with dilute weekly feeds of liquids and tonics - fish emulsion is our trump card and we are now trialling using it alongside a seaweed and an algae based product - results are so promising these extras will be added to the product range soon. As you can see I don't have an endless list of fertiliser products as we want to sell what we use here - simple concise information and products makes bonsai health easy. 

Here is a fruit crop plumping up nicely and a new burst of inner foliage shoots too - oriental bittersweet that I think will need guarding from the birds later in the year if we are to see the stunning display of brightly coloured seeds. This is a potential Noelanders accent tree once repotted if I can keep enough berries intact - I may experiment with a fridge with this little tree in the same way plants are controlled for major exhibitions like Chelsea flower show 

white pine, yamadori juniper, deshojo, zelkova, juniper, black pine, mixed accent.....a lot of variety in one corner of the bench

Feed me !!

 & choose life ;-)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

MBA - the 2nd Magical bonsai accents show 2014

Yesterday was the 2nd show highlighting all the bits and pieces that can go alongside our usual bonsai trees and displays. The accents and accompaniments can be linked to a theme, made into a display in their own right or just used as stand alone pieces. A show is about pictures thought rather than words so here we go:

Great show, really good social catch up with friends - looking forward to the next one, I already have a few ideas !