This morning (Sunday) I've been at 'The Bonsai Shed' with Andrew Barber, hiding from the rain!
After a good cup of coffee, we got to work, him carving, repotting & styling a large Chinese Elm belonging to a client of his, and me carving a wisteria I recently acquired, which had two prominent chop stubs. One was near the top of the trunk, and the other from a lower branch. Some of this deadwood had started rotting, and woodlice had gotten behind the bark.
Trees displaying their autumn coats; Japanese White Beech, Japanese Larch, and a Field Maple
On Friday, I started the morning with an hour's drive to another teaching session with Harry Harrington. We went over pruning and maintenance of deciduous trees, which once again i found extremely useful and informative. Thanks again Harry!
After returning home a few hours later, I picked up the rental van, loaded it up with some trees & headed up to Bury, Manchester, for BURRS 2014! This superb weekend, arranged and run by renowned bonsai artist, Tony Tickle, featured 6 of Europe's top artists; Will Baddeley, Pavel Slovak, Terry Foster, Rob Atkinson, John Armitage, and Tony (order as per the pic below).
Everyone was very friendly and helpful, which was reassuring, as i felt a few fathoms out of my depth when I arrived! The other participants, many of whom are great artists in their own right, were also more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with me, for which I am most grateful!
I have to thank Andrew Barber of 'The Bonsai Shed' for sorting me out with this great yamadori (collected from wild) Scots Pine, which had been collected in Wales 2 or 3 years prior (I really should pay attention!).
Andy also was kind enough to lean me a plethora of carving bits and the round rotating table pictured below. It was so useful! Thanks again!
Terry was fantastic with this and a couple of my other trees. He drew sketches of the final image of the tree, and after I pruned branches (under Terry's guidance) & plucked needles (to just the tips), Terry and I wired the tree, then I stood back in awe as Terry transformed it into this beautiful literati style tree, whilst comprehensively explaining every step of the process, as well as giving some future development tips.
I learned more this weekend than I could write about; and hope to be fortunate enough to meet everyone again in the future. A big thank you to Tony for an inspiring weekend, and to his wife for the delicious hearty food! Also to the artists, especially Terry, and all the other participants, especially Ian, who was very helpful & spotted that my pine had 'needle cast'! Fortunately for me, he had come across this and written a blog about it a few years earlier, so was able to give me an effective solution to be rid of it! Cheers Ian!
Monday morning I visited Harry Harrington again for another training day, and I took this Morus Nigra / Black Mulberry tree to learn about the carving and treatment of deadwood on deciduous trees. The tree had a lot of obvious man made chop marks / stumps, and many stumps of suckers at the base of the trunk. This gave the it a youthful and unnatural look.
After examining the position of the stumps and any existing callousing, together with the general movement of the tree, Harry decided on the pattern of carving that would be carried out, to make the most of the trees current features, whilst turning the ugly parts into natural looking uros (hollows / holes). He was conscious not to over-do the carving, so as to end up with holes all over!
After removing some calloused edges with a knife, some uros were carved out and joining up in a manner complimentary to the movement of the tree. Various Dremmel and Makita bits were used, then the tree, once finished was painted in the hollows with a black water based paint, to exaggerate this feature.
The tree was then pruned, wired and styled for future branch structure development. Overall a fantastic day!
I have been attending a course at Ma-Ke Bonsai this year, which has covered all the basics of bonsai maintenance, care and styling. Mark is very welcoming and his fun classes have helped me gain a better understanding of the horticultural aspects of bonsai.
During this class, we discussed coniferous trees and evergreens and practiced some pruning of larch and junipers, which i found very informative.
I also took this opportunity to clean up and repot another Common Juniper, which had been in a windswept style in a long, shallow pot. It is questionable whether a tree on flat ground would have foliage so low to the ground, and Mark and I agreed the tree would more suit a 'mountain style' pot with cloud/mountain feet. Now the lowest branches reach over a cliff face, or possibly over a river bank, and are free from the ground and hungry herbivores!
After attempting to join the large Jin (deadwood branch stub) to two smaller ones lower down the trunk, thereby creating a shari, I realised that unlike with perhaps Juniper or Potentilla, Scots Pines do not have definitive 'live' and 'dead' veins, and i had merely removed the bark (and some cambium) from the live trunk! A mistake i wont be making again!
I took this tree along to the Saturday workshop with Clive (the next morning) to repot it and ask his advise, and we re-examined the tree's options and decided to restyle the already wired tree into an informal upright style. This way, not only did i gain the extra experience of redesigning a tree, we were also able to hide my faux pas to the rear of the tree! :)
As can be seen in nature with many evergreens, lower branches are positioned radiating from the trunk in a downward direction, due their extra length and weight, and mid and upper branches are set horizontally, or growing up to fill any spaces.
The pot chosen is a simple relatively feminine unglazed drum pot, and the tree was positioned slightly off centre (to the right and to the rear), with the initial movement and primary branch extending to the left to create a balanced effect.
This common juniper has a beautiful aged trunk, and good ramification to the branches, but i felt it was unevenly balanced; with its centre of gravity being far from the trunk base, it seemed to want to fall over?!
I took this tree along to a workshop day in Worcester Park with Clive McIntyre of 'The Bonsai Centre' to be pruned and repotted. I was advised that Clive is great with JBPs (pines), but i picked up a lot of great tips for maples, and junipers as well as pines! I look forward to more of Clive's workshops.
The tree was lightly pruned to balance the vigour in the tree, and allow light and air into congested areas. The trunk was then carefully cleaned of moss and dirt with a toothbrush and a steel brush.
After considering various options for the tree, it was decided to incline the tree, placing the apex and centre of gravity directly over the base of the tree. By doing so, an image is created whereby the tree is growing towards the light, (to the left in the 1st picture below) with the primary branch and apex being the dominant light gatherers, and the branch to the rear reaching up over the shadow below to reach some sunlight.
The tree was repotted it into this crescent pot from 'China Mist Bonsai Pottery' to frame the tree in a suggested rock side, and to compliment the branch structure. Keto soil, a sticky, thick soil from Japan (substitutes available!) was used in a 'wall' at the sides to prevent soil erosion. I look forward to developing this tree in this new style and pot.
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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