It was great to be accepted into the ‘lenders’ masterclass at the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection at Canberra last week.
Pavel Slovak was the guest master for 2016. He is noted for his experience with collected conifers so I took along an old, overgrown Japanese Black Pine. This was one of my earliest pines and because I did not know how to manage it properly it has developed long, bare branches with needles and shoots just near the ends. What it does have though, is a solid trunk and great nebari. I have tried several times to graft shoots near the base of the long branches but the thick bark has foiled most attempts so far. I figured that this pine would be quite like a lot of collected pines and if Pavel couldn’t make something out of it then probably no-one could.
When Pavel examined the pine he immediately picked the tight, twisted curve in the lowest branch as a positive feature and said we need to use that as the key to the tree.
So – clean the old needles, wrap and wire the second branch, remove most of 2 thicker back branches (create new jins) and wire all other branches.
Instead of bending the second branch down as would be normal, Pavel has bent it upward parallel to the trunk then abruptly downward which add more of the ‘wild’ feel to the tree and brings the shoots at the tips closer to the trunk.
Here’s the final result. It is a bit sparse after having all the old needles removed but I like the new structure and I’m confident it will fill out with a couple of years of proper pine maintenance.
It looks like I have just missed the front of this tree in the photo because the rising line of the second branch is obscured behind the fall. The tree needs to be rotated a little to the right to show the new branch line at its best.
This workshop has opened my eyes further to looking outside the box when designing difficult material. Many thanks to Leigh and the NBPCA for hosting these workshops and demonstrations with Pavel.