Monday, 16 June 2014

Honoured and in awe - when a tree finds you

Special Trees find you, not the other way round. ...... I went on a bonsai@16 mini one day road trip yesterday to collect some spanish Yamadori that my friend Peter had selected but more of that later....... Poking up among the sabinas I spotted the unmistakable green foliage colour of a white pine on its own roots and on having a peek I was greeted by a truly ancient tree, silvered flaking bark, cracked natural deadwood and amazing elegance - this was it ! the white pine I wanted as my 'keeper'.

The tree was one of several supplied directly by Seji Morimae of S Cube Bonsai in Tokyo for an exhibition in the UK back in 2007. It is true white pine yamadori and is in the region of 200 years old, the wood is solid, the branches are like stone and the balance of fresh new needles emerging from the weathered tree is just about the most perfect way to sum up true bonsai ......

Age doesn't always manage to balance with elegance but this one does it with ease - I guess thats why S Cube has a reputation for sourcing and supplying some incredibly high quality trees.

Once the needles harden in their sheaths the tree can be wired and the pads formed - so I have a few months to just wait and appreciate the tree as it is - the sign that white pine are ready to be worked is the brown sheaths falling off the new needle clusters - then the needles have hardened in their bases and are not so fragile they damage or fall out

Pot was interesting - for half an hour I was considering putting the tree in a round shallow rustic one, but it very quickly faded as I started to look at the tree in its pot - this is the one - it was the one 9 years ago when it was repotted in Japan and nothing has changed

I've had white pines on their own roots over the last 15-16 years and all are still looking great with their current owners  - good soil components and protection from prolonged wet weather in Autumn, winter and spring are the main considerations - and letting the tree weather properly in winter is essential - best way to weaken one is to put it in a greenhouse for the winter, they need to have a winter dormancy. xxx (Season care and observations I've made over the years relates of course to my home climate, zone 8, Atlantic coast of Cornwall UK )xxx

It is funny how we mature along with our trees and tastes - for years I was totally into big chunky trunked bonsai - the bigger and heavier the better !! I think a time comes where you start to appreciate other qualities in bonsai and so trees that grow slowly, take time to ramify, require special care and techniques etc begin to really shine through - I still have a few chunky ones of course, a good one has its merits and if it is unique or very unusual like the Japanese Yamadori taxus from Hokkaido, the crepe myrtle in our stock etc so much the better.....but a truly unique bonsai tree with special qualities or a story / history will always do it for me over a tree grown in a fixed style that can be commercially produced in large numbers.  

Bonsai as a hobby is a path - we go from one tree, to ending up with dozens or even hundreds, then for many people large ones give them the buzz, then some people enter a stage of aiming for refined quality, others get a little slack round the middle, a bit lazy with the wiring  and they claim to love naturalism ! lol, and then the path ends at shohin !!!!! hahaha  - hope we all can nod but also smile at the bonsai path

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