This tree was tidied up for the Alabama club show in May, and left to grow until mid-August, when I trimmed it up again in preparation for the fall growth spurt.
Look at those strong runners. Left alone, they’ll keep running, and the interior growth will weaken. We want to push foliage back to the trunk, and always work to tighten up the design. Start with removing the running shoots, with scissors, like this.
The first tree in this photo essay is a whimsical juniper that used to be a needle juniper. Although my client enjoyed the needle juniper, it wasn’t doing very well where he lived and was getting weaker. I gave him a few options, and he decided we’d ‘change the clothes’ of the tree, so to speak, and make it happier. Essentially, we made it into something we could do bonsai work with, and not just eek along and ‘keep it going’, which isn’t really in the bonsai textbook of desired results.
Three years ago I grafted itoigawa scions on it. It was roughly styled about a year and a half ago, the whole tree created from the original four small veneer/cleft grafts. I have mixed feelings about itoigawa, to be honest, but for very small trees or those with some delicacy about them it does seem appropriate.
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I have been quite lucky that I have been able to visit a number of Japanese nurseries (SEE HERE). I love seeing the high quality trees and amazing level of finish and polish that these trees posses, but what I have also found very interesting during these visits is looking into the back of house areas where bonsai are in various stages of transformation.
Air layers, grafts and other techniques are all on display out the back of most nurseries. It not only gives you a look into these techniques but also gives you some ideas on what sort of material to apply these techniques to.
One such technique is approach grafting.
While I was studying at Taisho-en I was able to see this technique used to improve a range of stock. Shimpaku were given smaller foliage. Needle junipers were given shimpauk foliage. Roots were moved closer to the…
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It was a gamble trying to squeeze this shimpaku into a pot that was so much shallower than the previous two. However, it was a beautiful antique Chinese pot with a ton of patina. Were it 3/4″ shallower, it would be a perfect fit.
Notice how interior and weaker areas are yellow? What’s worse, is that the tree simply stalled out and wasn’t growing.
Time to intervene; I don’t want this to end with a loss. A deeper pot was prepared, and the shimpaku was slip-potted on May 1:
I bought this tree from Windybanks nursery for £185.
This is a picture taken of it on the 23rd Feb 2014
This is the tree before starting the shari and taking off some of the foliage on the 7th June 2014
This is the tree after the first bit of shari work and a few gins. I wanted to keep as many new shoots as possible and not go all the way up the tree with the shari just yet. I will finish the shari and the top half of the styling later this season or next.
The workshop I chose to participate in this past weekend was the Itoigawa juniper workshop with Ryan Neil. In this post I hope to point out some of the things I learned, guiding us through the process of styling just as we did in the workshop. So get your notebooks out, this is going to be a long one.
The first step of the styling process (assuming you’ve already chosen the tree) is to identify the following, in order of importance:
1. Find the best base for your tree. By this I mean view your tree from every side, the idea is to find stability. Trees that have an unstable appearance (generally caused by a very thin trunk entering the ground) create an unstable feeling in the viewer. In most cases you’ll want to pick the view where your tree looks the widest at the point where…
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