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.