Friday, December 23, 2011

All is Calm.....

To all Bonsai Folks, Throughout the World...

May your burdens be lifted, if just for One Magical Night, when He is Born....

Merry & Happy Christmas....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Progressions: Korean Hornbeam #1

Here is a chunky Korean Hornbeam, purchased at Bonsai West in summer of 2005. The tree had several faults, which can be seen in the first few shots.

There is a large root at the left side which was chopped when the tree was collected. There is also a hole through the cross-over branches on the lower right, which was considered a 'fault'.
Both items contributed to the original low cost of this material.

The tree was left to grow for a year, then discussed at the Colin Lewis HoYoku school in Shady Side Maryland.

A nice European pot had been purchased in the previous September while visiting the Ginko Festival in Ghent Belgium. The Hornbeam seemed like it was ready for a better pot, so it was fitted to its' new home.

Here it is, in July of 2K6, at a private Bonsai Show in Shady Side Maryland. The tree had settled in nicely, and was healthy, but needed ramification, and styling of the foliage pads.

In the Fall of 2K7, the tree was critiqued by Peter Adams while on a visit to Natures Way.
Peter put together some good sketches, showing how the foliage pads could be set up, and what the tree might look like in the future.

He suggested a nice design for a simple blue pot, which would go well with the tree, and make a much better composition.

Hornbeams put on a wonderful show in the Fall, and this tree certainly delivered. Here it is in full Fall color in 2K7.

The pot was commissioned through Bryan Albright, and was received in Winter of 2K8.

The Hornbeam had filled out a bit over the growing season, so it was exhibited at the Philly Flower Show in Spring of 2K9. Work had started on the 'faults', and the large root at the back left had been removed. The area where it was cut was carved so it resembled an old rotted root area.

In April of 2K9, it was fitted to the new Albright pot. Peter Adams was spot on! The composition was quite striking!

Of course, the branch structure still had a long way to go, and major ramification was still needed.

The tree made it to Natures Way Open House in the Spring of 2K9. Here it is in wonderful Spring leaf.

It still has a way to go to fill in the foliage pads and increase ramification, and the styling Peter Adams suggested must continue.

Here is the tree in the Fall of 2K9,

and in the Fall of 2K11. You can easily see the branch growth and increase in ramification.

The tree is maturing into the style set for it, and will continue to mature and ramify. There is probably another 5-8 years of work needed to get it to the point where the tree is as twiggy as it needs to be, but it will certainly be fun traveling that road.

The additional benefit of all that twigginess (for which Korean Hornbeams are noted) is the additional reduction in leaf size.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Progressions: Rocky Mountain Juniper #1

'Morning all! Fall is here in a big way. Outside taking shots of the brilliant colors on Maples, Burning Bush, and Blueberries.

So here is a multi-trunk Rocky Mountain Juniper. This tree was purchased at Natures Way at the Spring Walter Pall Woodstock workshop in 2009.
The tree seemed to be a challenge to most folks there, but the multiple trunks, loads of embedded deadwood, and the possibility for a real knockout tree intrigued me.

In Spring of 2K10 the tree was potted up in a plain deep pot from Ron Lang, to help with root mass growth.
The initial styling was performed. A lower branch that did not contribute to the style was removed.

In Spring of 2K10 the tree was potted up in a plain deep pot from Ron Lang, to help with root mass growth.
The initial styling was performed. A lower branch that did not contribute to the style was removed.

In 2K10 at the Fall Peter Adams workshop we discussed the possibility of jinning the tallest trunk, as it seemed cumbersome, and styling the crown on this trunk so that it had good visual balance with the rest of the tree just didn't work.
The jinning was carried out, and the result was quite good. The overall visual mass of the foliage was greatly reduced, and the tree started to take on that characteristic "wild" look that so many RMJs have. This also allowed the deadwood throughout the tree to become more obvious.

Peter also sketched up a nice matching pot that he thought would better set off the tree. This pot would replace the heavier darker pot in which the tree was initially potted. The pot was commissioned with my friend Glynn Harris from Erin Pottery.

Here is the tree, repotted in the Erin pot. I believe the combination of lighter colors and smaller pot mass give the tree a feeling of wild lightness. It also looks more "open" visually.

The tree was completely wired with #22 over the summer, so this will stay on for several years, and the tree will be allowed to grow. It will over-winter on the ground in a wind-break. It will be watered as necessary, and inspected weekly.

The tree needs to be potted a bit deeper in this pot, so with a larger root mass to support it, this may be done in the Spring of 2K12.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Progressions: Alpine Fir #1

I am continuing a series on Progressions, to show the value of keeping good visual records of the trees we style.

Here is a nice twin-trunk Alpine Fir (Abies Lasiocarpa), which was purchased from a friend (thanks Ian Burke!) in 2008. I had seen the tree in 2006 at a HoYoKu session in Shady Side Maryland, where Ian had brought the tree there for additional bonsai work.

The tree had a lot of potential, and needed a complete overhaul in planting angle and styling. Additional years would be required to build out the foliage pads and ramify them to more substantial visual masses.

The first step was to figure out what the style should be. I like to put up sketches of various ideas, then pick the one which makes the most impact.

This idea seemed to make the most of what the tree had to offer, so was adopted as the style. The lowest branch on the right would need to be shortened and jinned, to emphasize the apex.
The Mother-Daughter style also required compacting of the Daughter trunk, so it actually looked like a smaller tree being sheltered by the Mother trunk.

Fine wiring was added to position all branches, and the old roots farthest from both trunks (which had dried out in the original container in which the tree was planted) were worked to remove dead bark and expose the beautiful deadwood beneath.

Next step was to decide on a pot appropriate for the tree.

I wanted to put it into a container which mirrored the harsh conditions in which the tree grew naturally, which is above 300 meters in the US Western mountains.

A slab of some sort would be a good start.

While browsing through many bonsai potter websites, I came to that of Ron Lang, who lives about 1 hour west of Natures Way Nursery, outside of Harrisburg Pa. On his site, Ron had a stack of slabs of various sizes showing under the Styles tab. This image immediately reminded me of upthrust slabs of rock, where a Fir might grow.

I called Ron with this idea, and he was very excited about the possibility, so invited me to his studio to bring up the tree and to put a pot design together.

We worked for some time, and came up with a model. Ron and his wife took measurements of the tree, and worked out the dimensions and flow of the simulated rock outcrop.

Ron put on his creative potters' cap, and came up with a marvelous pot which looks very much like a rocky outcrop.

The Fir was repotted into the slab the following spring, and the combination is quite dramatic.

Here is the tree freshly potted in its' new home.

The additional work to shorten the lower right branch and compact the foliage was carried out.
Some cleanup on the foliage was performed, and deadwood on the leftmost dead root was treated.

In the Fall of 2009, Bill Valavanis was invited to do a workshop at Pennsylvania Bonsai. I brought the Fir so he could see it. He immediately asked to have it in the 2010 US National Bonsai Exhibition!

This was a wonderful experience both for the Fir and for me. The Exhibition was judged by three Bonsai masters: David Easterbrook, Ferrand Block (of Bonsai Focus) , and Kunio Kobiashi (probably one of the top 2 or 3 Japanese masters).

Hovering in the aisle adjacent to the Fir, I overheard many comments. One viewer wondered at how closely the rock slabs had been fitted. This person could not believe that these slabs were in fact a pot!

After the Exhibition, we spent several days in a private session with Kobiashi-san, where he had additional very constructive comments on future work for the Fir.

The Fir has continued to mature and grow healthier, and has had some minor adjustments made to the foliage masses to increase ramification, which was recommended by Kobiashi-san.

Here it is in the Spring of 2011.

The tree is one of my favorites, so is very definitely a "keeper"!

I hope you also enjoy it!

Progressions: Rocky Mountain Juniper #3

Good Morning all! Grab your coffee....

I am starting a series of posts to show several things:
- The need to keep good visual records of trees as they are styled and refined, in their life as bonsai;
- Illustrate how raw material can be taken to a very refined stage in a relatively short time (we Westerners can't stand to wait...we all just want it NOW!!! LOL!).

So here is a start, showing an old Rocky Mountain Juniper (J. Scopolorum), purchased at Natures Way Nursery in 2009. The tree was collected by Randy Knight in late 2006, so has been in pumice in a grow-box, recovering from collection. As can be seen the tree is quite healthy.

It has some beautiful deadwood which the live vein wraps around.
Here is the other side.

The tree was repotted in early 2010, at a South Jersey Bonsai workshop, and styling was started. The foliage on the long branch was substantially reduced, so the visual weight was shifted to the central part of the tree.

The end of this same branch was bark-stripped and turned into jins. A small amount of foliage was left, for now. It may be reduced or eliminated later.

In May 2011, Ryan Neil had a workshop at Natures Way Nursery, which this tree attended. Ryan likes working on old Junipers, as they proliferate in the area where he lives.

Ryan had some good suggestions on some changes to the planting angle, which will be implemented in Spring 2K12.

I had been thinking of lowering the central foliage into the area formed by the central trunk and large jin...Ryan agreed, so after adding some protective raffia, the foliage was lowered.

Applied additional fine wiring to position the finer branches.

So the tree will now over-winter, and final planting angle adjustments will be made in the Spring.

The tree will be kept in a sunny area, on the ground, and out of desiccating winter winds. I will follow my normal winter routine, to assure there is sufficient moisture in the root area, and that no hungry pests are trying to taste RMJ cambium.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

BSSJ: First Club Bonsai Show on 1 October 2K11

BSSJ had it's first club Bonsai Show on Saturday 1 October 2K11. The weather cooperated, the temperature was moderate, and we had a nice turnout of both trees and curious folks.

I was pleased to see the attention visitors gave to the trees, and overheard many wonderful remarks about how wonderful (and in some cases CUTE) the trees were.

Many folks watched the demonstrations and asked some very insightful questions.

Overall I judged the Show to be a success!

Managed to get shots of all trees when the sun was with us in the morning, and other candid shots thru the day.

Thanks to all club members who volunteered their time and efforts in putting together this show...Well Done!