Saturday, November 29, 2014

Branch and trunk bending techniques

Next up, setting the structure on a yamadori Limber Pine.  The main trunk appears to have died a number of years ago before collecting.  Two branches then fought for supremacy until the one closer to the trunk (on the left) died after collecting.  This branch would have made an ideal leader since it was short and growing close to the old trunk line.  

We had a few issues with this new leader - it was growing too straight and the branching was too far from the trunk.  Since the most interesting features of the tree exist along the lower trunk line, this branch had to be compacted to bring the foliage closer to the lower trunk line.

A substantial portion of the branch was dead and required removal in order for the branch to become more pliable.  We used a large trunk splitter for this work.  Todd has his work face on...

A layer of raffia placed on the underside of the branch, against the live vein.  This layer was then secured with raffia circling around the branch.

Large gauge copper wire is applied along the branch and secured with raffia.

The prep work is complete and it's time to get our bend on!  A guy wire was used to secure the new position as we slowly began to maneuver the branch and is tightened as the branch is bent.  Wood pieces are cut on the fly for bracing the branch while bending. 

At this point, we're fairly satisfied with the results, but...

The final result...

The tree was placed in shade and under a misting system following the procedure to aid in recovery. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir

I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend of study with Todd Schlafer in Denver, CO.  Todd is the proprietor of First Branch Bonsai.  Most of the material Todd offers is yamadori from the region, including Ponderosa Pine, Limber Pine, Rocky Mountain Juniper and both Engleman and Colorado Blue Spruce.  Not only does Todd collect fine yamadori from the Rocky Mountains, but he is also a skilled bonsai artist.

Our first day was spent re-styling a Rocky Mountain Douglas Fir that I purchased from Todd in 2012.  He collected the tree outside of Denver and performed the initial design.  We first thinned the needles to create space for wiring, which is generally done in moderation on an annual basis in order to keep the tree strong and vigorous.  Any needles abnormal in length, growing on the top or bottom of the branches or isolated along the branch are removed.  Clusters of needles are maintained along the branch that will not interfere with wiring.

To encourage back budding on the tree, I did pinch the terminal bud in the spring on branches with multiple buds at the apex of the branch.  This proved to be very successful in generating back budding this year, even from areas with no needles.  This same concept can also be applied to Fir in the fall.  This coming spring, I will not pinch any buds to allow for uniform growth and foliage size.  I should note that this year I consistently fed the tree with an abundance of organic fertilizer cakes.  

Here is an example of the buds that form at the apex of a healthy branch...

The front of the tree did change slightly, so I’ll be transplanting this tree come spring.  I’m considering a rectangle (unglazed gray) that is slightly shallower and wider than the oval it’s currently planted in.  

Here is the tree in July of last year.  It was left to grow freely in the spring.

And a year later after styling...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Procumbens Juniper

The Japanese Garden Juniper (Juniperus procumbens) is a low-growing shrubby juniper native to southern Japan.  It is easily one of the most recognizable species for bonsai in the U.S., especially among beginners.  Due to their low growing habit, they must be staked in order to develop a significant height, which is primarily why so many are styled in a cascading form.

This specimen was originally purchased by Frank Kroeker in 2006, then styled and potted by
Marco Invernizzi in 2007.  One could assume that the jin at the apex was the top branch of the stake.  Here is a photo of the tree after Marco's work...

The tree was left to grow freely at Frank's nursery following Marco's work.  When I first spotted the tree and evaluated it in 2012, it was very healthy, but outgrown and most of the inner growth had become anemic.  The deadwood features of the tree were very attractive - the shari covering the entire span of the front trunk and the jin at the apex, which had become covered in foliage.  The bark was also peeling heavily and had never been removed.  Here are some photos of the tree shortly before I purchased it in the winter of 2013...


The tree required a repot in the spring of 2013.  The container was nice, but slightly large for the trunk size, so I made a switch to a smaller rectangle and adjusted the angle of the tree slightly.

 After cleaning the deadwood and performing some minor trimming...

After further evaluation, I noticed that the tree in general seemed to be moving away from the direction of its primary branch.  The first branch was also very heavy and low to the ground.  In August of 2013, the tree was taken to the Midwest Bonsai Society's Fall Show in Chicago to be further evaluated by Bjorn Bhorholm.  Bjorn agreed that the branch should be removed.  I removed the branch, leaving a jin, and began to thin the tree further. 

In the spring of 2014, yet another bonsai professional, Peter Tea, evaluated the tree.  Peter suggested removing the inner foliage that did not show any signs of new growth, despite the fact that it was still green.  This foliage was only zapping energy from the sections that were actively growing.  I thinned the foliage once again and fully wired the tree one month later.  Here are the results...