This tree i recently acquired had quite long primary branches, and if I tried to build ramification (branching structure) without first pruning them, the tree would become even wider and taller, which would be disproportional to the trunk width. The tree therefore was pruned back quite hard, so the ramification building process can start. In addition, unwanted branches which offer nothing to the final design were removed. The tree was then wired and styled. Although the movement of the tree was to the right, the main branch was to the left, so this was removed and the bottom left branch wired down to become the defining branch.
The trunk has interest and movement but now had a few new wounds from branch removal, and some old scars where the heartwood had started rotting (and a scar where the wind blew my poly-tunnel bench over).
The rotten deadwood was first removed with a 'bonsai nibbler' bit in a Makita die grinder, and branch some stubs and wounds were also hollowed out.
A large deadwood area above the now lowest branches was rotten to quite a depth. This area also happened to be an area of the trunk which displayed inverse taper. By hollowing it out, and opening some delicate 'windows' to the sides, the inverse taper becomes less evident to the eye, as it now has less 'visual weight'.
Smaller holes were made with a smaller router bit on a Dremmel grinder, such as those towards the top of the tree. The rough carvings were then singed to remove fluffy bits of wood, then a rotary wire brush bit in a Dremmel was used to add the finer detail. The inside of the uros (hollows) were then painted with black paint to add depth to the work.
The tree's great movement is more evident, with the main defining branch setting the flow of direction of the tree. From the front view, the subtle indications of rotten hollows further adds to the intrigue and maturity of the tree. The height of the tree will be reduced further either in mid-summer, or next autumn/winter.
I acquired this JWP this year, in order to learn about growing habits of different pines, and how best to develop them. Although a good sized trunk, and a healthy tree with ample foliage, this tree has no definition and was potted in Akadama. The tree had obviously not been re-potted for a few years as the Akadama had broken down into a thick, mushy impermeable block. Water merely runs around the outside of the solid medium/root mass block, not penetrating the root ball, which must also be starved of oxygen and nutrients! For trees such a pines and junipers, that can't be bare-rooted as often as others (especially older trees), due to their more dependent relationship to mycorrhizal fungi etc., a medium which retains its form and composition for longer than Akadama would therefore be advised.
The tree more or less had 'bar branches' to the lower branches, which I wasn't keen on. It was decided at a workshop with Harry to remove the weaker of the two down to a jin, and to use the other as the main defining branch. With this in mind, the rest of the trees primary and secondary branches were wired and positioned, and a new apex was chosen, and twisted round and down and over the tree base / center of gravity. Initial styling, some pruning and wiring was done at the workshop, but we didn't have time to wire each individual tuft.
When I got the tree home, I finished wiring the individual needle tufts, and turned them upwards.
The Apex still needs to be lowered further and all foliage pads will be pruned to increase density and ramification. The jin will be worked on more once it has dried out fully.
In spring, the tree will be root pruned and re-potted into a new pot, which will be unglazed, and be slightly shallower (2.5" as per the trunk girth), and slightly narrower (c.8" as per 2/3rds of the tree's height/width).
The old broken down soil around the rootball needs removing, but this will unlikely be done in one go as caution should be exercised when bare-rooting such pines. Some people bare-root in 2 halves; over 2 seasons, and others merely remove the old unwanted soil carefully over 2 or 3 potting seasons. I will decide how to go once I have examined the rootball in spring.
Azalea 'Hekisui' styling
This tree has some beautiful features, and some aspects that could be improved. The tree has a great trunk girth and taper, and little nebari (surface roof flair). The lower two branches however are surplus to requirement and hide the trunk, making the bonsai look more like a bush than a tree. Originally, these branches would not have been part of the design of the tree, but were grown as 'sacrificial' branches, in order to thicken the trunk. As they have now served their purpose, they can be removed.
This however will leave an ugly scar for a few years at least if cut flush to the trunk (or slightly concave to encourage callousing flatter to the trunk). To overcome this problem, the branches were cut off, leaving approximately an inch of stump, which was hollowed from behind, leaving the viewer with a cleaner image when viewed from the front.
The tree's trunk leans to the right, however the movement of the tree flows to the left. Although the main defining branch is not in this case the lowest branch (as is usually the case), it is thicker, longer, and is defines the direction of flow or movement of the tree.
Shortening the tree slightly has been discussed, but in any case, the apex is to be styled and grown toward the direction of movement of the tree - and over the apex. Bringing the apex over the base of the tree, or 'center of gravity' creates a balanced image to the tree.
A. Palmatum Deshojo 'shiche-go-san'
This tree has different shaped leaves and stunning colour changes, however the branch structure and winter silhouette do require some improvement.
The main defining branch, to the bottom left was wrapped in raffia, wired, and bent to a lower position. A turn-buckle and wire guy wire were used to gently move the branch even lower, and hold its position there. Other branches were pruned, wired and positioned, with the seond lowest branch to the left also being lowered, aided by a guy wire.
The tree's image would be improved if the leaves were reduced in size, but Deshojo are less hardy than green leaved palmatums (so I read; although my local nursery fully defoliate deshojos annually with great success!), so I will begin by doing partial defoliation this year, starting after the spring leaves harden off (a month after opening?!), by removing all larger leaves, and perhaps removing one leaf from each pair.
The nebari also needs work, but this year im concentrating on starting to build better ramification to the branch structure, with good taper, and try and reduce the leaf size.
Hawthorne prune & repot
Although not the ideal time of year to repot, this Hawthorne really needed more than just a prune! Due to the waterlogged soil, I slipped the tree out of its pot and inspected the roots. Inside some circulating roots, the root ball was not enormous, but the tree was in organic soil - mud basically, and the lack of drainage, together with the huge pot it was in, persuaded me to remove some of the mud and roots, and to re-pot the tree into a smaller pot with a more free draining soil mix.
The tree was also cleaned with a toothbrush and water.
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I will post some pictures and descriptions of how my trees are developing, and any new projects I'm starting.
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Jose Antonio Guerao