I had no idea how to title this one. Just as I had no idea, really, what exactly I was doing with my March Seasonal students the day we put this thing together. Which must instill a lot of confidence in my students. Seasonal veterans are familiar with me taking a left turn sometimes. But this time I was more than a bit uncertain about their reaction when I started our morning with, ‘I’ve this idea, but not the faintest clue how we’re going to do it.’ So with that, we did… it. Whatever ‘it’ is, I hope the photos will describe better than I-
Archive for the ‘Before and after’ Category
I had a comment on another juniper post this month that the finished tree looked like a pronghorn antelope… which was pretty apt I thought, and yet that name could well go for this one, too. It’s a Rocky Mountain juniper collected a few years ago by Randy Knight and purchased from Ryan Neil, and my apprentice Konnor and I styled it a couple weeks ago here in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Although I assisted in choosing the inclination, front, and setting the branches, most of the work including the wiring was done by Konnor. Much fun and some late evenings later, we ended up with this styling. Please let us know what you think!
This tree is special for two reasons. The first is because my friend Troy Cardoza collected it. I like having trees that link me to other people. And it’s also special because it’s quite small for its age, with some great sinuous lines.
Troy collected this Rocky Mountain juniper early last year, and it grew so well both last year and this year that I thought we’d just style it before it becomes a complete mop of foliage. It was potted in pumice and only fertilized with moderate amounts of organic pellets. Lovely raw tree. I completely enjoyed the styling session. Had a couple friends drop in while I was working on it and threw a camera at them, so there is some documentation that this transformation was not done in a disembodied sort of way. There was a person in the background somewhere…
I have a nice pot for this tree and will offer updates on its progress in the future. At the moment it is sitting in a greenhouse under shade cloth. The big bends that were needed are stressful on the tree and when it is given protection from wind and strong sun there are usually no problems. You will notice that I left many long growing tips on it, which will help it recover from the bending, and also many of the branches are a bit short and need lengthening.
One of the things that make this a rare tree to work with is that only minor carving was needed, essentially just shortening some long, thin jins. And the rest of the deadwood is completely natural on this moderately sized—truly ‘bonsai sized’—tree, at 24″ high.
Since a few of you seemed interested in the work going on at a client’s place with these two well-known trees, I thought an update on them might be fun. We start with the first cryptomeria photo from 1 1/2 years ago:
And now the Foemina juniper. Here’s a progression of photos showing how that one has changed in the last two years:
Yes, that is the correct headline… bonsai on plastic. I wasn’t too sure of it myself.
In the late summer of 2010 I collected this Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, with my friend Anton Nijhuis in Canada, and potted it in a strange box that was sort of cantilevered up because the tree had been prostrate, growing through the mosses on bedrock. Digging through the moss uncovered a rather curious twin-trunk base that seemed like it would have to be styled in an unorthodox way, so naturally I wanted it. A year and a half later the box was full of roots, and the time seemed right to complete this weird idea of mine.
I’ve always wondered about alternatives to stone and prefab slabs. They tend to crack or break just when a show is just being set up; their timing is truly impeccable. Also, a bit ironic given that I used to be a potter, I’ve been drawn to the idea of making nearly invisible platforms, in place of a ceramic container. In other words, something supporting the tree that is really not an element in its presentation. So the idea of an inconspicuous, impervious, strong support had me pondering for a while.
Like many of my creative endeavors, I quiz everyone I know. ‘So, I have this idea… how would you do this if you wanted to do that?’ And you end up with a collage of ideas that you edit and orchestrate into a complete vision, sort of like an orchestra conductor or movie director must do I suppose. With an assortment of weird tools, bolts and ideas the March Seasonal students and I spent more than a day cobbling the thing together, and it was great fun—- Thanks Roger, Gary, John and Konnor!
Also, take a look at what Jonas is doing with another hemlock at:
This tree was originally collected by Kevin Yates from a park in Eugene. Apparently it had been kept stunted by the nutria that lived in a pond nearby. When Kevin saw this post he recognized his tree and corrected me on several points on its origin- Thanks!
Euonymus is a popular genus for bonsai. The burning bush, Euonymus alata, is not a commonly used species, however, and I was excited to give it a whirl. This photo essay was taken in the creation of this bonsai during the Winter Seasonal of 2012, in February.
No matter how assured you are, changing the design of a famous tree is done with a deep intake of breath. One takes precautions. Like boarding up windows and doors, in premonition of a rowdy gang of tree maniacs in green cloaks with picks and axes and rolls of wire for who knows what horrible use, in the street outside your house. And you imagine thinking, as you stand quietly looking out at growing chaos and red torch fire, with chants like ‘Let’s redesign HIM!’, that a bonsai-free life in Acapulco sounds nice. But at this point it’s too late. The deed is done. My only advantage is that few of you know where I live…
Many of you may remember this Foemina juniper from old photos of California bonsai shows, or even last year’s Bonsai Statements magazine. It has a thirty-year history as a bonsai, created in California by the eminent Shig Miya from an air layer. Mr. Miya grafted the only branch at the top of the tree.
Deciding on this aesthetic shift for Mr. Miya’s tree was derived from a simple conversation about its possibilities with my client, who had purchased the tree several years ago. We were both eager to try a new form. My client is very interested in preserving old bonsai created in the States, but he also likes adding new twists to old things. I think bonsai develop an indefinable flavor when they’ve been worked on by multiple artists.
I am not a proponent of keeping bonsai as they are, indefinitely, in perpetuity, as a form or creative idea that was locked into place by the first artist. Bonsai are BONSAI precisely because many people, hopefully, lend their artistic stamp to it, and the bonsai change and morph over the decades. This is what makes a bonsai different from a novel or a painting. I know this is an issue of some contention particularly in public bonsai collections, where, understandably, there is an effort to retain bonsai looking like they did when donated. This presents great difficulties, however. It seems to me that if a bonsai were, to use an extreme example, to lose an important branch, then to have it remain locked in its old form even though visual balance has been lost would be to allow it to devolve into bad bonsai. And bonsai change without asking for our approval, too.
I think the only rule is to be continually seeking to find balance within the tree, within the design. And everyone’s sense of balance will be, naturally, a bit different.
Not something we see every day in the United States… a meter-high seedling white pine. Meaning, a white pine on it’s own roots, not grafted onto black pine. Originally imported from Brussell’s Bonsai, this pine has been gaining strength and balance every year. I think I first styled it in 2008.
One of it’s few defects is a strong root on the right. I’ll have to discuss this with my client, but I may split it and lower it, at the same time raising the entire tree by half an inch next time it’s repotted. That way I hope to expose some of the other nebari roots and make them all at about the same level. Did that make any sense? Splitting the root will make two roots…and easier to lower.
Anyhow, here’s the tree as it looks this fall:
This was a demo tree at a convention a few years ago. My client has been keeping it healthy and it’s been budding back quite well, and we decided it was ready for a rewiring.
I’ve been surprised how well Ponderosa develops here in the Northwest. When I first moved here in 2006 I assumed there would not be enough sun to really get the budding and shorter needle growth on these pines, but having worked on a few now over a few years I have another opinion. This one will need only another three years or so of growth before it feels settled into this new styling.
Spruce bonsai have been ‘in the news’ this past year or two. I’ve posted one spruce already this fall… and I thought, why not continue the trend? So here’s another one. Some of you might remember this four-trunk Ezo spruce clump from an earlier post. It was styled in 2009 and left rather leggy as we can’t always cut to where we’d like the first time around. The recent rewiring allowed me to take the branches back to about where the profile should be.
Spruce is a very popular tree for bonsai in Japan. The vigor and tenacity as a potted tree is equaled by few genera, and the serene, quiet feeling of it is greatly appreciated over the water.