Start a bonsai forest

The trident maples in the garden at Shibui Bonsai produce huge quantities of seed each year. This results in lots of seedlings growing in the garden beds. We usually leave a few hundred to grow on for use as bonsai.

You can germinate your own seedlings under controlled conditions but I find it far easier to let nature do that for me and I just harvest the seedlings I need from our garden beds.

Today I used some to put a trident group together. It will take a few year for this group to develop into show quality bonsai but groups are one of the quickest ways to get good results from immature material. Continue reading

Bonsai Week

I was fortunate to get a place with Tony Tickel at this year’s Bonsai week workshops. Thanks to the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia for making these bonsai activities possible. I think everyone who attended took home a lot of new information and ideas.

I finally decided to take an old black pine. I’ve had a couple of these trees since they were small seedlings but because I did not understand pine maintenance techniques properly they both gradually grew long, bare branches with foliage only at the tips. The trunks are thick and have mature bark which is highly desirable in pines. This one also has a large, spreading root mass so I thought it was worth taking some time and effort to try to resurrect it for bonsai.

I have spent the last 7 years forcing the foliage closer to the trunk to make the trees more compact. Pruning stimulated a few back buds on bare wood which were then nurtured until strong enough to remove the longer branches. I also resorted to grafting and inarching to get growth on other branches that had refused to bud.

Here is the tree before the workshop.

Black pine before

You can see that there was plenty of branches and foliage to choose from. The tree was well fed and healthy to cope with a major restyle.

black pine nebari

 

 

 

 

After checking several options we decided to try to keep the current front because the nebari on this side is far better than the other side.

 

 

 

 

After

There were several options for trunk lines and we have used a fairly standard informal upright trunk line with some jin and shari.

 

The first branch had a really nice shape but was far too heavy for the remainder of the tree so it was removed leaving a short jin.

The apex of the tree leaned too far forward and was an awkward shape so it was also jinned. Because the old main trunk was so strong it had thickened the trunk in that area giving a slight reverse taper to the new trunk so a small area of shari surrounds the jin to reduce the visual weight and maintain better visual taper.

 

After the worshop

Spring should see this pine grow strongly. I’ll begin my pine maintenance schedule with this one now to try to maintain density and promote inner buds – Early summer candle pruning and needle plucking followed by autumn thinning and more needle plucking should produce more even energy distribution and promote shorter growth and smaller needles.

 

Autumn pine work

The new shoots on Black pines have matured so it is time to thin out all the new shoots that have grown since decandling.

It is important to know that this is part of the technique used to REFINE MATURE pines. Younger, developing pines should be allowed to grow freely to gain strength and size and cut back hard every couple of years. Decandling is used to ramify the branches on trees that are closer to being mature bonsai. Continue reading

More from Pavel Slovak masterclass

As is usual at a bonsai workshop I came away with a few new ideas and techniques.

Pavel is noted for working with and, in particular, bending larger collected conifers. During the workshop he mentioned that bends are easier if you twist the branch while bending. Twisting as you bend allows the fibres in the wood to bend further without breaking.

He also mentioned that he often wraps electrical tape over the wire and raffia when making extreme bends. This serves to keep the moisture in a branch if it cracks while bending which he feels aids in healing the cracks and breaks.

Something I had not experienced before was removing ALL old needles from a pine in order to wire and shape the material. I have always attempted to retain as many old needles as possible hoping that some will produce new buds to help ramify the branching. It is certainly much easier to wire the branches without the older needles.

If anyone else has something from the recent NBPCA bonsai week feel free to let me know and I can add it here.

Twisted trunks

The first junipers I put into the grow beds were just allowed to grow freely. The result was stiff, straight branches that provided little inspiration, or opportunity, to create the sort of dynamic ‘wild’ junipers we see in Japanese literature.

About the same time Joe, nichigobonsai was talking about his experiences working in a Japanese bonsai nursery where they wired and bent large numbers of small junipers to start another batch of shohin twisted junipers. His comments showed me that junipers need to be treated differently to the other species I grow in order to produce inspirational bonsai stock. Continue reading

Triple trunk trident

This trident maple featured in this post was grown from 3 separate seedlings. They were planted close and held together until the separate trunks grafted themselves into a single trunk at the base. Multi trunk bonsai are not particularly common because every extra trunk adds complexity and the possibility of faults that would make the whole tree unattractive.Triple trun trident Continue reading