Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yamadori Korean Hornbeam II

I was fortunate enough to find this stock in 2006 at a nursery in Seattle. The Korean Hornbeam is one of the finest deciduous species for bonsai and their collection in the Korean mountain ranges is now banned. I don’t have the details on exactly why, but can only assume they were becoming too sparse. The tag on this one noted Pusan, as the area of collection, which is on the southeastern coast of Korea, overlooking the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

The secondary branching on this species naturally zig-zags to create an affect that is often emulated by wire training-just one of its many great traits (see this post). The tree was badly overpotted when purchased (not to mention that unsightly blue-glaze), so I special ordered this tall, Tokoname container for it. The height of the container is similar to the trunk girth and the width is just right. The collected ones can be so gnarly/masculine that an unglazed container suits them just fine.

Just like it’s little brother, Yamadori Korean Hornbeam I, as noted in previous posts, the apex region needs further refinement. With this one, it has really been more about creating the best taper I can without growing a new apex branch from the large wound. I’ve got a spot picked out in the backyard and a pedestal built for display next year.

I’m currently mapping out the new backyard for bonsai benches and stands. I plan to document this on my blog as this project progresses. This book by George Buehler has been a great resource thus far.

2006 (after first trim/wiring)

and today...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yamadori Korean Hornbeam I - Part III

Just finished working on this over the weekend.  The apex branch spent all of last year wrapped in rafia and large wire.  I managed to get some considerable movement from this and the two small branches in that region are keepers.


This is my first and only Chinese Quince I’ve ever grown. This tree was originally trained using the clip and grow method from a cutting by Luigi Trapani. I believe the cutting was taken from Bill Pfeiffer’s parent tree, growing in his landscape. It has a very small leaf, making it ideal for bonsai. No large trunk on this slant, but nice subtle movement in the trunkline. This was the tree’s first growing season in the Midwest and it grew like a weed. I was trimming constantly just to keep the branch diameter in scale. When the weather cooled in early fall, there was another flush of growth, some of which is yet to die off even after freezing temperatures. The bark also peeled exorbitantly this summer shedding its skin from the root base all the way up to the apex. I believe some of this can be attributed to transplanting in spring and a consistent dose of fertilizer during the growing season. Wiring this tree was a cinch since the branches are extremely flexible. I decided to incorporate some jin-I thought the deadwood provided a nice variation in color, especially when paired with the bark. It will be a fun one to pick a container for eventually, but the branches held by the guy wire will need to sit for at least one growing season.

Before and after photos…

My bonsai assistant, Cali

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This Rough Bark Japanese maple is easy on the eyes and is a fine example of a twin trunk. I can’t take credit for the design - I’ve only refined it the last three years. It was one of Suthin Sukosolvisit’s creations. I particularly enjoy this tree during dormancy, when its truly exposed for what it is. Since the Arakawa has a regular-sized Acer palmatum leaf, it’s not easily reduced and Japanese maple have not typically responded well to defoliation for me, regardless of the environmental conditions. So, I won’t be ready to display this tree during the growing season until I’m able to moderate the leaf size.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Do the Turn and Drop

The best time of the year has arrived – Leaf Drop. Time to settle down and get styling my deciduous bonsai. I picked up this fine material for around $50 at the St. Louis Shohin Convention this past spring from David Kreutz, an Azalea specialist who operates the Satsuki Bonsai-en nursery. It was unusual to see such dramatic taper and shari in a Japanese Hornbeam. The leaf size may be a concern down the road, as I thought it likely would have reduced some already since it’s rather root bound, but I have no idea what kind of sun exposure it had when it came out of dormancy this past spring. I couldn’t resist making a mini out of this one, however, so we’ll if nature counteracts my need for scale. One of the best characteristics of this Carpinus is the seed pods it produces, but I doubt I’ll ever see them on this tuffy since it has been reduced so much. I’m sticking with the dead wood theme as I’ve attempted to carve out any cuts I make. I'll work on the large top portion at another time, as I'm using it for a wire anchor. Outside of maybe the delicate Japanese maple and a few other species, I’m becoming a firm believer in creating jin and shari on deciduous whenever it’s artistically appropriate.

Before and after...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October Snow

Woke up this morning to a few inches of snow! Pictured here is a Korean Hornbeam and Shimpaku Juniper.  This was one of the earliest snowfalls on record for the city of Lincoln.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Japanese Ambience

The intertwining of nature, art and Japanese culture was showcased at Lauritzen Gardens this weekend in Omaha. Their Autumn/Japanese Ambience Festival was a joy to be a part of. The Omaha Botanical Gardens are currently trying to raise enough funds for the second phase of their Japanese Garden. At the site of the Japanese garden, there was taiko drumming, sake tasting, calligraphy and origami. I was a partaker in the sake tasting and was pleasantly surprised by the expertise of the pourer. The bees were swarming us trying to get a taste of the sweet rice wine as we discussed the different subtleties of the sake. The surroundings this weekend were inspirational.

The gardens were kind enough to let myself and Kim Williams display our trees. I brought a Koto Hime Japanese maple, Shimpaku juniper and a Japanese Flowering Apricot. Kim brought a nice Ginkgo and a blue-needled Chamaecyparis. I believe our display generated some interest and I plan to contact all of those who left their information with me in hopes of meeting.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Unstrung Harp

In the most recent issue of Bonsai Today (or whatever it's called these days), I came across a quote that struck me.

"To bring out the best in a tree often requires strength and resolution on the part of the artist."

Such as my dismantling of this Koto Hime Japanese Maple.

This tree has been with me for a number of years. At first glance, it's somewhat pleasing aesthetically, but over time it just no longer held my eye. The second branch was growing backward and too large at this point in the tree's life to reposition, even with a bender or covered in raffia. Much too brittle.

I feel that it must eventually be shortened and styled as a formal upright to have a future artistically. I hate to apply a label to any style, but this trunk is as straight as they come. The apex always appeared as a separate tree to me, so be it.

I used the pot method for this layer, which I try to incorporate whenever possible. It's more reliable and allows for pot-simulated root growth. I used a basic double-screened mix, along with some sphagnum moss at the base of the pot and around the future base, and a sprinkling of the white stuff.

This shorty has some serious wiggle. I'm considering either creating a two-tree from it or just eventually carving out the childish portion. My plan is to also layer the other two branches and completely start from scratch, or just use this as a mother tree for ongoing propagation.

I was searching for creativity in a world I deemed dull and laid it on the line, for what it's worth. It's just a tree, after all.