A few weeks ago, I finally committed and styled a larch that I collected almost two years ago in March 2015. It was very strange, ugly and an easy piece to collect so I decided to give him a better life at the balcony. The alternative was a gooey and thick clay hell for soil, being stomped on by animals and agricultural machines alike and being outgrown by mere tall grasses that surrounded him, every year, poor fella.
He was very happy in and at his new home and without skipping a beat, he grew notably well. Strong new foliage appeared and towards the end of the second growing season, he was on par with talented gymnasts as he pushed himself out of the container with his own roots!
There was still one problem though, how the hell is one supposed to style something this aggressive? And, what could we do with something this ugly?
For the two years I have cared for this guy, I really had no idea what I could do with it as there seemed to be too many options available. This is usually, as bonsai artists, the sort of problem we want but as you grow closer to your trees and form a bond, cutting everything off sometimes can be difficult. Once it’s gone, it’s over and waiting years to grow something back is, a waste!
The tree now goes against several rules or traditions and before I styled this, I had to completely let go and just trust my intuition. I ended up having a great styling experience from not worrying about how others will view this tree and I am satisfied with how it turned out. I have a pot ready to go as soon as the buds push a little more. As we speak the temperatures have drastically plummeted here and so my anxiety over the weekend was relived. Imagine the feeling when you enter your cold frame to find some of your trees starting to wake up and not having a pot ready! This upcoming weekend the weather will change again and so I may be re-potting quite soon.
By no means is this really finished or the final look as with any bonsai. I do feel that as I continue to grow and nurture this tree my eye will catch something that may have appeared fine with me today but will seem stupid in a couple years. We’ll see.
Wishing you a warmer day than mine.
I will be teaming up with a local nursery this spring in Komin, Brno area. The place is called Carex and they have some decent conifer material along with a very friendly staff. I highly recommend visiting them and asking them if they can deliver the type of material you seek. Most of it has gone by the way side and most people wouldn’t consider putting in their garden landscape anymore even if you paid them. I was intrigued by this tree and I decided to take it up as a challenge and eventually create a high alpine Rocky Mountain tree.
Good sized trunk with more of it hidden under this “soil” which it must have been living in for many years. It has great bark and the trunk size is not bad either.
Here’s the tree after some branch selection and a reduction in height. I hope to improve the health and get some back-budding. After this Pungens regains some vigor I will cutoff even more but I don’t want to risk killing or severely weakening the tree.
In the spring I will take apart the rootball and place it into a fresh substrate mixture which should help bump this tree back in the right direction.
Here are some badass examples that have really inspired me and I would like to evoke a similar feeling in the final design.
I saw this tree several years ago and find it a really fantastic example of a high elevation tree, Andy did a great job here.
Todd Schlafer, a Colorado local, has worked with Mirai and I find his work very inspirational as well. I really enjoy what he has been doing with Pungens Spruce especially and he as also mentioned that this is his favorite species. Check out his work at firstbranchbonsai.com or his instagram page.
I bought this tree from Nik Rozman back in October at the Kromeriz exhibit for a good price and I finally got around to moving it forward. I made some first steps but I was still unsure of how exactly I should move forward and therefore I brought it to my teacher Pavel Slovak.
He showed me a few new and very handy tips on how to bend branches even easier. He also chided me for how I tried to bend the main branch and we have plans to address this branch again during the growing period. He agreed with my front but added a slightly different angle variation. After wiring the main structural branches my homework was to finish the individual pads and the final design.
I have too many trees that move to the left and as much I tried to consider this position, this view was not selected due to the tree moving away. the movement wasn’t as interesting from this side either.
A little bit of a trim and the first maneuver, some heavy bending. The main branch will have to be addressed again.
Thinned out to this year’s needles.
Between Christmas and New Year’s I tackled this tree in a period of two days. Never have I wired a tree this large and for so long as it took me about 11 hours total and my body was definitely complaining after. Who knew keeping your arms up and spine bent in a strange position could be such a workout?
I’m not to pleased with how this looks in the picture but I am with the look in-person. I am excited to throw this into it’s next pot and watch it develop as this really needs to fill out in many areas. I also look forward to improving the main branch as it’s angle to the trunk line is too obtuse and needs to be brought even lower.
I apologize for not posting anything lately as it’s been quite a busy period in the daily life and almost no action in regards to trees for a couple of months. In the past few weeks however, I managed to visit Pavel Slovak for some more schooling and advice, acquired a new project and styled a couple trees. I’ll be posting about those activities sometime soon.
But firstly, I had a big upgrade for this winter. I ditched the old flappy PVC greenhouse I had last year in favor of an actual green house with a steel frame, Velcro windows for actual air circulation when it gets hot and a zip-up door on both sides. I can actually stand in this one compared to last year’s model. Upgrade!
When I unpacked this greenhouse, there were no instructions. Just approximately 9 types of poles that just had numbers on them and an angry, confused and desperate me. After stomping around the terrace for about an hour like an irrational 5 year old, I managed to calm down and reverse engineer the correct pieces of the puzzle/greenhouse from an online picture of the structure. I also contacted the eShop and they provided the instructions a week later. Next year will be easier :).
Stay tuned and have a good one.
I bought this tree a couple weeks ago at the Kromeriz exhibition because I wanted a tree that could become an interesting looking literati for a relatively low yamadori price. Also, just to challenge myself and see what I could come up with from more or less boring or very average material. Again, I would like to hopefully motivate people that decent trees can be created from material that will keep your wallet happy.
Here is the tree as bought.
The nebari is actually not too bad once I’ll be able to cut back the long root that moves all the way to the end of the training pot. However, since it is planted not completely center and this long root was left, it may take a couple re-poting sessions (maybe 4 years) to get the root mass back to the trunk.
The following day, I jumped on this tree and styled it as well as created some deadwood and treated it with dyed lime-sulfur.
While I was wiring the crown I took a step back and realized that I probably won’t ever like this design and that actually a very compact literati could be made. Perhaps I made a mistake in making the deadwood and not incorporating the removal of the lower branches into the design. I made a photo edit showing my future vision of what this tree could be and I might actually bring this design into reality fairly soon.
Maybe I’ll do it in the spring, but the first step is having a look at the rootball at that time and deciding what to do from there.
I wanted to update you with a tree that I’ve had since I started all over with Bonsai, here in the Czech Republic. It’s a species that I don’t recommend for beginners and nor does the rest of the Bonsai community. The cheap price and their natural tree-like appearance at nurseries make them obvious and appealing choices for starters. However, Spruce do not like to be rushed and usually one picks them up, brings them home, cuts the life out of them and shapes their upright branches into straight branches or even rainbow shaped arches. They usually end up dying after such abuse and poor care or die back and just look awful. How many have you seen at Bonsai exhibits? I have actually only seen two.
Harry Harrington has a great and informative website called bonsai4me.com. I recommend having a look there for guidance if you’re a beginner but even if you are an expert I believe you can find a lot of inspiration and perhaps, even new information there.
But, I am getting a bit off point, here’s a link that’s directly related to caring for and getting results from the infamous Dwarf Alberta Spruce: http://bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATPiceaPruningstylingandwiring.htm
Here are my results so far.
First re-pot from the nursery container in the fall of 2012, and has been styled for about a year. I was really inspired by one of Walter Pall’s Spruce and I also wanted to create a high-alpine style tree. Bottom branches are left to help with growth and also fatten up the base if possible. This was Spring 2013
I let the tree grow freely this 2014 season with as much growth as possible.
First wiring came off, late summer 2014. You can see that I let the wire bite in somewhat, this is bad on some trees but for most conifers and especially Spruce, you should let the wire bite a little, otherwise your styling work will be pointless. As you can see the branches swung right back up again.
From this point on, I couldn’t find any pictures of the 2nd re-potting to something that resembles a stone from Mr. Jiri Svacina who is a great pot-maker and lives just outside of Brno in the village, Zastavka u Brna. This re-pot happened in spring of 2015 and the tree was wired again in September with the bottom branches still attached. You can tell how much I loved this poor tree.
Jumping forward to Spring 2017. Here is the 3rd re-pot, which I did so that I could lower the tree a little more and move the feeder roots closer to the trunk. You can see that at this time I also eliminated the bottom branches as I did not think they were adding so much and I wanted to finally get a better image out of this tree. I also gave the tree a bad wiring job in September of 2016, this was just to get the branches to hold their position. Wire was removed at this time so that it could recover from the re-potting process as best as possible.
Here is the little Dwarf today. I am very pleased with how it’s progressing. Do you see mountains in the background?
Bonsai should look good from all angles, I tried to make that happen here. I also hope that this tree will keep improving and that it may motivate you to take a second look at boring nursery material.
Have a good one!
Time is flying by and I have not had time to post the last re-pot I did two weeks ago. I learned from Mr. Slovak that the best period to majorly disturb the roots of pines is right after the summer dormancy or right when the trees switch from pushing growth to the tips of next year’s candles to vascular repair. I mentioned the other details in this post- https://bonsaibrno.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/summer-pine-re-potting/#more-1129
I found time to do this two weeks back and thankfully, the weather was quite moderate that whole week and I am sure the trees enjoyed this to quickly repair any damage I caused during the root work.
I have been using, pumice, lava, terramol and pieces of cut up bark to introduce an organic element into the mix I use. I have been sifting everything before adding it to the pots this year; buy most of this stuff here at Bon Equip: http://www.bonequip.cz/betaquip/eshop/2-1-Substraty
First tree up for work is the Scots pine I bought from Mr. Slovak last year. The bark on this guy is not bad given that it could be around 20 years old.
I removed about 20 percent of the roots that were wrapping around the container and I removed about 70-80 of the old soil. It was extremely root-bound and I took about an hour to get everything loosened up. I have also begun adding sphagnum moss on the surface of all the trees I re-pot, this should help with keeping the substrate moist, provide a great area for new feeder roots to grow and create a more pH neutral balance overall.
Next was the Japanese white pine I bought for a steal last year. I believe that because of the cold spring we had and that I wasn’t around that month to provide better protection, The tree lost a good deal of the branches I wanted to keep in the design. This poor guy will have to have a complete restyling perhaps in two years once it’s growing strongly again. The room for roots to grow now should help in eventually bringing this tree back into a good image again.
Here you can see all the branches that decided to give up and also, I removed some of the ugly crossing roots. I believe that this tree did not see a re-pot in maybe 6 years.
I think I could use the branch to create a Jin in the future but I have time to think about the next design anyway. Now the tree looks like more like a mushroom than a bonsai but at least it can now grow its roots out into fresh modern substrate
The rootball here was similar to the Scots pine, it was absolutely packed and so this operation was very essential this year.
I also created a new area for the trees because of some of the high winds we have had this year. This should keep any of the more unstable candidates from toppling over.
Thanks for reading.
Howdy, I forgot to take before pictures but I gave my sabina that I bought as a 5 dollar bushy thing about 5 years ago a hair cut. I let it grow freely from the styling I gave it almost a year ago and I’d say about 40% came off.
More or less a sequence of the last 4 years. I don’t really have much experience with Junipers and for the life of me, couldn’t come up with a design concept but I learned a bit after working with this material.
A bigger photo of where I decided to leave it when I finished styling it last September and below is what it looks like now. I feel that I am beginning to get a better understanding of where, how and what to style/wire on a juniper after this haircut.
Still a long way to go, Sabina’s don’t make nice little pom poms like Shimpaku do so ramification will take some more time. I can’t decide if the year difference is actually an improvement or not, but I do know that this tree needs a re-pot in the spring.
Since I was feeling creative that day, I also made a C table for our small couch/TV area out of reclaimed Larch :).
Have a good one!
This hosta flowered finally last week.