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.
The Euonymus after growing in an Anderson Flat for a few years. This photo was taken the day of styling, in February 2012.
The stalwart Howard Griesler of Chicago working with the flex-shaft grinder to bring down the large pruning cuts. (Howard is a foodie and loves our eclectic Portland restaurants...)
The redoubtable John Denny from Iowa working on the rootball. (John is a master brewer, and typically makes sage comments about the local micros).
Both gentlemen washing the rootball of some mucky old soil. I stood far away.
The prepared rootball drying a bit before potting.
Pot prepared... for this tree we used a simple mix of 50% akadama/50% pumice. This is not a perfect pot for the tree, but at least it fits. I'm sure there is a colorful glazed pot in its future, perhaps a dark blue or green.
- Right about this time Howard's glasses broke. This was our solution---toothpicks from the kitchen deftly wired into place. It is rare to find an opportunity to wire outside of bonsai! One must take them eagerly whenever they arise.
The final result. It needs a stupendous amount of development, but it's an unusual species for bonsai and I'm curious to see where it goes. Certainly it will give the Japanese maples a run for their money in the fall with its vermillion foliage.
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This Engelmann spruce was originally owned by a guy up in Seattle and I suspect it grew in a mica drum pot for a couple decades. Collected in the Cascades many years ago, it has nice flaky, mature bark and sports a healthy community of lichen up and down the main trunk.
It was growing wildly and moppish when I bought it in 2008, and was styled in 2009. When wiring spruce, be careful to spray the foliage with water first. Otherwise many healthy needles might simply drop off, which really weakens a tree. Ezo spruce is especially sensitive to agitated needles; hydrating them first makes them more durable.
I like the calm, peaceful feeling of spruce. (They smell nice too!) This one would look good in a tokonoma display, maybe with a water stone to suggest a serene high mountain lake. Or, for the ironically inclined, a small figurine of a panting, exhausted hiker, leaning on a stick…
The Engelmann before work, 2008.
An early shot of the styled tree, October 2009, 31" high.
After a two years of growth, August 2011. The plywood base is temporary... I'm considering leaving this without a pot at all, just a solid root ball with, eventually, a hidden support underneath. Something my Seasonal students will play a hand in...
View of mature bark, lichen, and nebari.
An evergreen penstemon serves as an on-board accent. This one is native to the Cascade Range where the Engelmann lives. Small purple flowers come in late spring.
Same day, different lighting. Interesting how the character of the tree changes with the lighting, yes? This photo is very close to the natural blue/green of the foliage.
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The client who owns this pine is a cribbage player, and after noodling trees during the day we retire to the kitchen table where he proceeds to lesson me in cribbage, usually with shocking losses. The styling of this pine dates from the very first visit to his house when we discovered our common interest in cribbage. I don’t remember who won more games that night. And I’ve never had the courage to keep track since.
He’s done very well maintaining this tree, and even in the low-sun area of the Puget Sound the tree is ramifying beautifully. With time and further ramification the needle length will shorten a bit.
The pine in its box, 2007. It was collected by John Muth several years prior to this photo.
After that first morning's work in 2007.
After a bit of prepping in August 2011. The 'tail' that juts from the right of the trunk is optionally removable. The pot is not right, it's a training pot and is a bit heavy. The nebari has yet to be fully exposed, which is fantastic. We're waiting expectantly to fit it into a shallower pot that just arrived. Spring, hasten!
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I feel a bit guilty about not showing more of the deciduous trees I’m working on, as they form about 45% of my collection. It is a sad default to be primarily blogging about the junipers and other conifers, but the reason is that conifers can sometimes be designed in a day, whereas the deciduous I have are either very young, or poorly balanced and very old—both of which need 10 or 15 years of work. This Winter Hazel is one of the poorly balanced older trees.
The Winter Hazel came into my yard last year, and is the oldest I’ve seen over here. In fact I’ve never seen an older one in Japan. Neither had Matt Reel when he visited my yard a few weeks ago. The problems of the tree were obvious. The larger trunks were to the outside of the base, and there was no center trunk. The center trunk had died, but, curiously, a shoot had developed right in the center of the old rotted hole. That shoot is now about 8 years old, but will take another 15 before it is the dominant trunk. A lot of foliage balancing by cutting leaves in half every year, and restraining some shoot areas and letting other areas run wild, is ahead in the reworking of this one. This photo is just after flowering, and the young leaves and shoots are just beginning to grow.
The progression of my studio is apparent in this photo... mudding and taping is done, paint to follow...
The base. It looks more impressive in person. Bad photography!
New main trunk, and secondary trunk, growing out of old rotted hole.
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This juniper has been growing in my backyard for a year. It’s a client tree, another of the great native yamadori that was collected by Randy Knight of Oregon Bonsai.
Junipers don’t like to be repotted very early, they do better when repotted in late spring when it’s warmer. So this tree, which is in a box, needed a prop of a wooden block that could support it for a few months, at which time it would be potted in a bonsai container. I also cut the box with a circular saw and leveled the soil surface at the new inclination so watering would be easier.
It’s a fun tree, dynamic, and I liked the tensions between the jin to the left and the foliage to the right. I get into arguments with people about which way the foliage should go when there is jin or shari present in a forceful way. The jin or shari, in the presumed environment of the tree, are a great hint: Where the storms are coming from, prevailing winds, etc. If a jin is pointing in one direction, the living part of tree should be styled in the other direction. I see even professionals doing very strange things with jin, as an indicator of wind direction. Only several trees ‘flag’ in the wind, spruce being one of them. Juniper is not one of them. Go into the mountains and the dead limbs are facing the environment. Check out the Monterey cypresses; same story.
To critique my own work , I think the apex should be about three inches to the left. That would bring it closer to the base and more stable. Something for the next reworking…
(I’ve noticed an acute lack of dissension on this blog… the folks who are thinking, ‘You’re a flake, Hagedorn, and don’t know what you’re doing,’ are not writing. Please write your real thoughts!)
After bending the large branches
Reworking the wooden box
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The first post I made of the Japan trip suggested I would EVENTUALLY post more photos and tie up some loose ends. One of them was of this black pine that took me a long day of wiring with a shifted apex (there is an iron rod up in that foliage that you can’t see very well). The second shot shows it propped up at it’s new inclination in the display greenhouse.
Black pine at the original front, before restyling. Among the problems from this front are lack of good bark, poor movement, and a large wound probably from a removed root. This tree was more than a yard high, something shy of four feet I think.
Black pine after styling, tipped up on it's post, from the new front, about 100 degrees to the left.
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Well, I finally got back there… and I brought quite a few photos back with me. So over the next couple of days I’ll run several posts about the week and a half spent at my teacher’s studio: the people, the nursery, the trees I worked on, even the monkeys.
Suzuki's main display greenhouse, showing the range of styles and species that he works with.
In the first week of my apprenticeship in 2003 there was a record-breaking snowfall. I remember shoveling for over five hours. Two years later it was repeated. Then five years went by---about the time I've been back in the States---and now, on the first day of my visit, they had the biggest snowfall in five years. Suzuki was calling me the 'snowman' by the end of my visit.
I love this photo for the inaccuracies it suggests. Suzuki-san is on the left, and is not quite as big as he appears, but he's closer to the camera. Larger than life indeed! Mika-san, his manager, is to the right of him. Matt Reel is the next inconsistency, as he's actually 6' 3" and usually towers over me. He's crouching, like that famous tiger. I'm on Matt's right. On the far right is Yusuke, the newest apprentice, who is making an impression of being serious, when he's mostly playful. It's a great shot after a group dinner.
This massive black pine (it's almost as high as the wall!) was one of the trees Suzuki gave me to work on. There was a huge change made with it... and I'll include other photos of this tree in a separate post. And I'll post some photos of two trees I worked on that were for the Kokufu show. And some other client's trees. I think I worked on about 12 or 13 trees in 9 days, lost track.
Once again, I went to the snow monkey hot springs, about an hour from Suzuki's studio. There were many more monkeys than the first trip in 2004, maybe because it was so darn cold more of them were at the hot springs. Taking the suggestion, I went to a human hot spring after that, and assumed a similar blissful demeanor.
Stay tuned for more posts! Lots of before and after bonsai photos, and more photos about each of the above topics.
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Some years ago this juniper was imported from Japan. It was weak for quite some time and only this year displayed enough energy to make styling an option. The long shoots were cut back once already this year, so I could actually have styled it a bit earlier.
Before the work. Pot is a Yamaki, but it's not the final one, being too big and the wrong shape.
After cleaning the bark and shari, and styling. The front was shifted a bit to the left for better trunk movement, and then the whole tree was tilted to the right. It will be planted at this angle at the next repotting. The pot for this bunjin could be a simple round with an outflared lip, or perhaps a 'moko' form.
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