Sunday, October 24, 2010

Warren Hill workshop - and my project tree

Well the day finally came and went - looking forward to the next workshop.  I attended Warren Hill's bonsai workshop at Plant City Bonsai last Saturday the 16th.  Truly a learning event for an amateur as myself - being my first ever bonsai event - I feel spoiled!   Great bunch of students/bonsai artists were on hand attending and also many assistants helping Mr. Hill during the session that are friends of or work with Steve Cratty (Plant City owner).

The sessions were held in Plant City's greenhouse, so it was plenty warm for an early crisp Fall morning.  Here Warren Hill is talking to us about the art of Bonsai, answering questions, and then beginning a quick review of each person's project tree - helping give species types, care for each, potting soil and proper pot ideas for each individual and their tree.

Mr. Hill was a pleasure to listen to and learn from - I wish he'd had more time to speak about his Zen thoughts while working on Bonsai - it struck me that this plays greatly into his personal bonsai designs (mine as well) however that would be straying from the bonsai art itself - strictly speaking, so I understand why he seemed to cordon himself from going into that aspect deeper.   I may have to plan a trip to south Tennessee and his bonsai studio/classrooms one day..   Check out Master Warren Hill's webpage yourself for more info about his origins, and bonsai works and classes he offers.

Here is one student's forest creation of Trident Maple's that essentially Master Hill wired in and created himself - in-between the 2 sessions held that day while lunch was being served by Steve and Sandi.  This is going to be a keeper.  There was a lot of work involved that Libby took care of - de-leafing, de-potting and root cleaning - not to mention finding a big enough pot to get it in (Steve had to un-pot one of his own bonsai to present this beautiful pot for the forest use!).  This seemed to be the most powerful creation I saw that day.

So this is my project tree.  I purchased it from Plant City back in July as a late birthday present to myself - and got to learn it's habits for a few months before the bonsai class.   I cleaned it up some underneath and had it prepped for work.  It is a very thick and nicely aged Juniper - procumbens nana.  It's old enough that it has mostly old scaled growth, and not much 'immature' normal juniper needle growth on it.   Beautiful material!  It's not evident here, but this tree is easily 35+ years old already, with a girth the size of a modern plastic soda bottle through the main trunk.

This, is immediately after getting home from the class, and remembering to take another picture!!  I should have had my camera out more but there was so much going on and I got so involved in working on my tree and getting input from Master Hill and the other bonsai assistants (thank you Dave!) that I hardly thought about photos.

Here it is currently, I'm going to put lime sulphur on the jins today and in a few days take another final 'Fall' photo of the tree.  I absolutely love it, The tree has so much movement and grace, and this was it's first 'working' it had ever received really!

A few more photos from different sides.

There's still a lot to do with it - but for now after so much reduction, both branch and root, I thought this was a good stopping point.  A bonsai is not created overnight, but rather it's a continual work in progress.  Yes trees 'do' eventually reach their peak, where all you are doing is tending to removing new growth and maintaining, but that is many years away for me for this tree - or any that I own currently.  I have alot of 'fun time' ahead of me in Bonsai.

Next photos I take will have better pictures of the pot it is in, and some way of showing it's girth/over all size a bit better.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Good find - now what?

Found a species and a bush that I don't normally see here in the southeast, but I see and hear about all the time from West Coast bonsai'ers.   San Jose Juniper!   Take a look at what I started with and also where I am now - not sure where to take it from here (either way, alot of bigger branches will need to be bent).   I'm thinking I may take this to the Warren Hill bonsai class I'm attending later this month at Plant City Bonsai - to see what sort of ideas others could give me.

So you can see what I started with - pretty healthy tree - what you can't see until you move some branches, is the very nice trunk that it has.

Lots of possibilities to my eye - It needed a trimming bad, but I left enough branches for selection down the road.    Any insight from other bonsai artists would be appreciated.  There are alot of techniques I will need to use on this tree to get it where I'd like it that I really need to practice first before I apply to this one. (Raffa/wire bending of big branches, and some Jin carving here and there).  Really excited about this considering the age/girth/price I paid for the material.

Would love to hear your ideas about where to take it at this point.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Shohin Boxwood

Beautiful material from Plant City Bonsai that I picked up recently.  It's very small compared to what I normally play with, but I'm rather pleased with the instant 'bonsai' appeal this has created.  

As you can see with it sitting in the palm of my hand, roots and all after removing from it's starter pot - tiny!

I also picked this little pot up at Plant City, by a local artist I will have to track down her name.  I really admire her mame pots, I will be purchasing more of them my next visit for sure.    Here it is from one possible 'front' view.

And here from another 'front' view.  From this direction it gives the impression of a much wider base, I think this is it.   I will let the tree get settled into the pot and recover from it's root trim, and probably let winter go by and spring begin before I start really working on it.  I want to keep it right at the height it's at, but just reduce and ramify the branch structure a bit more, and try to layer it to have more of a 'cloud' effect, not round but 'puffs' of leaf pads here and there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2 Angels and 1 little tree

With all new toys or gadgets, comes some testing and breaking in.   From a 2mp original iPhone camera to a 8mp htc incredible camera - I think my blog pics are going to look a 'little' better.  I can even make movies to throw on Youtube and link to.

Isabelle  (4 1/2), Maggie  (6 1/2), little Japanese Boxwood in the center.    (If I don't add the halves, they get upset!)  My little Angels!  My wife and I are very blessed - owed a karmic debt; what have you, they are the brightest little spirits in the world to me.

Which makes for a more interesting front view?  Currently in my mind it's the left photo - what do you think?

More cheesing girl photos.  :)

Have a safe Labor Day weekend everyone!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cascade Juniper #2

I've had this strong juniper bush since last year- began to work on reducing it then stopped abruptly early in the year.  Well I came back to it a few weeks ago, here are the pictures.

Beginning point

Really decent nursery tree, actually.  You could hardly see the black pot when I first bought it, what you see now is what I left on the tree, with about 6 months of fall, winter, and spring growth plumped back on.

Now time for some fun styling!

(Yes, better photo settings are in mind next time; white sheets, better lighting - this was all I could quickly put underneath the tree to allow it to stretch while I wired!)  This took a few hours of non-stop clipping, pinching, and wiring.   

The top, now has direction and a few options.  the far back branch will eventually be reduced, letting it grow wild a bit to thicken the main branch out some.

Most, of the cascading branch.  

The bottom portion of the cascading branch.

This was a fun and truly rewarding learning experience.  My 2nd cascade tree; time to let it grow back, begin pinching and begin ramification of the pads.  Continue to work the top, and thicken some of the top lower branches.

Cascade Juniper #1 revisited

Here is the earliest photo I can find that shows the tree already somewhat styled, and in it's first (and current) pot.  This is a really nice, solid North Korean clay pot that I found while on one of our yearly vacations at The Outer Banks in North Carolina.  

As you can see - not much direction yet.  To me though at the time it was great - my first cascade wiring at that.

Here it was before I styled it further: 

Now it's just an overgrown juniper in a pot!  Time to get to work..

Now, it looks like a tree with some potential..

Now it has a real cascading branch, albeit small - it's evident now.

Also has a real apex started, and a jin of a previously large branch that was just going nowhere.  It's yellow as I just applied the lime sulphur, I was anxious to get a photo and didn't even wait for it to dry and start to turn white.

2 Friends + 2 Trees, Part 2 of Juniper Bonsai Styling

So Aaron and I revisited our junipers that we worked on together last year, and decided it was time for a 'real' sculpting of these trees to prepare for placement into a pot sometime next year.    Their beginnings are better detailed here.

Aaron decided to put more motion into his tree and enhanced it's upwards motion and balance with wiring and pinching.  Here's where his tree began, and where it ended after our session:

As you can see, both lower branches were removed to help reveal it's strong trunk, with a nice jin worked into the left branch (lime sulphur applied.)  Aaron I think has given this tree many promising directions for it's next working.  At this point, I will begin pinching the new buds and begin it's ramification, something we did not attend to this past year after their initial styling.

My tree took a completely different turn as I realized my amateur thoughts last year of forming the tree into something it naturally would not hold without great work, was not the best approach for this tree.   For better or worse this tree is headed into a Bunjin future.

A few before and after photos:

Couple of options in my mind:  Take the top branch upwards and turn the lower into another jin, or, make the top a jin (leave a little green growth at center for now I think) and take the lower towards the trees center and really bend it into a new beginning.    This was really fun for me to do, I feel the tree felt better and found it's true shape buried in the odd 'decidious' shape I was trying to force on it.

Another fun evening with my best friend - next time we style these, they will also get worked into training pots I do believe.  Shohin size are for both, with mine potentially becoming a Bunjin.  (Are there shohin bunjins?)   :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Canadian Hemlock Bonsai takes form

I was in the midst of a bonsai creation flurry, and did not get a good 'before' shot of this plant - but if you've seen Canadian Hemlock at nurseries, then you know what this looked like.  Here's a pic when I realized I should be taking pictures - you can see the mound of growth I've already taken off at this point.

Looks rather lonely there in the pot!

I wired up the 2 main branches, and did a little more trimming.  This species interests me because of it's close resemblance to Yew trees, albiet this Canadian hemlock seems a bit daintier.  I have a good image in mind of where to take this one, but for now it has a shady spot and will get plenty of time for it to decide where to go.

Alberta Spruce reveals itself

I got this little tree, for $1 in the discards at a nursery.  It was half brown, and looked like it had no future other than the compost pile..  But I took it in feeling bad for it sitting there all alone.   After a year of reviving it back to good health with new growth popping everywhere, I thought it time to turn this 'mini christmas tree' into the beginnings of a Bonsai.  This is a Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

As you can see alot of wild growth, and if you notice, it's apex branches are..  well non-existant!  This is the part of the tree that 'had' died (it's crown).  

Again I haven't wired yet, I want to 'see' what it's going to do after such a reduction.  You can see the top of the trunk has been jinned back to the line of bark still living.  The side branches will be reduced more in the future hopefully after new growth appears.

European Boxwood Shohin Bonsai on the way

This little guy is going to be styled in the classic 'broom' style.  As you can see it's already naturally close.  Still needs wiring, but as usual I want to see what branches survive the brutal initial cut-back before I get into wiring.  Also I will better be able to determine the stronger branches, and what to keep or not keep.

Initial Picture before any work done.  Strong little tree!

Much reduction and defoilation so that I could better see what I was working with.  Boxwoods rebound quickly, so this little tree should blossom back quickly with a little shade, water, and attention!

Little Laceleaf Maple trees for my Girls

Last year I'd put 2 tiny Privet into small pots for my 2 little girls - unfortunately their trees were among my losses from our vicious winter (and my poor 1st attempt at winterizing my trees).  So, I replaced them with a few saplings from a large number of seedlings I planted last year.  I thought these to be 'lace leaf' maple trees, but I'm now not too sure; The bark on mature trees peels like paper bark, revealing rich oranges and browns beneath.  The leaves closely resemble a Trident Maple.  I will work on the correct species.  The seeds were collected from a local park with lace leaf trees that were loaded with ripe seeds in season last Autumn.

I'm using seashell material on 2 of the pots.   We recently were on a family beach trip to The Outer Banks in North Carolina.  While there, I thought that this light airy shell material might do well for soil for some bonsai! This is shell material gathered with the tides; any beach you can goto, if you dig a few inches down you reach this 'shell' layer that is crumpled, and quite fine.  We'll see how they do compared to a more 'regular' pea stone w/ bark mixture (The shell plants also have some organic material mixed in underneath the top shell cover).

Juniper Shohin Bonsai in the works

Another nursery Juniper found it's way home a few weeks ago.  I'm really getting into the Junipers - I'm 2000 miles away from infamous California species, I'll have to see what grows naturally in the Appalachians here and try to piece together a yamadori trip  (I've spotted some nice Junipers on top of Stone Mountain, so there must be a few species that could be found in these parts or a little further north in the App. Mtns. I'd imagine).

Pretty standard Nursery plant!  Albiet it was extremely healthy and putting out a good amount of 'adult' needles.  Luckily I thought to grab a picture before I removed too much.

Closer look at the trunk after some more branches are removed.  When I purchased the nursery plant I looked deep in the heart of the tree to see what was there, and saw a decently beginning upright trunk.  Almost all my Junipers I have are trained as Cascade (follows the plants normal growing characteristics), this one will be different.

I didn't work on this tree for 2 weeks after I got close to the trunk; I had surgery, and it took awhile before I was able to sit upright for any length of time and tackle a tree.  So when I got back to it, you can see I lost a lower branch that got Jinned instead, and some trims on top had turned brown already.  Either the jinned branch, or the one opposite from it will be eventually removed, I'm thinking the left branch to give the tree some balance.  (It looks like all the branches are from the left side, some balance and hopeful new growth will provide places for the tree to go).

Future work will involve working the green growth pads some (pinching, wiring), just letting it get used to having so much removed already, before I decide what else to do.

Beast of an Azalea

Earlier in the year I showed a quick picture of 2 rather large azalea's that used to be in my front yard landscaping - that got pulled out to make room for some more delicate plant material in the front of the house.  This is an update on 1 Azalea (The other is still sitting in a large garden pot), how it's progressing and what it looks like.  Still not too sure of the species, but not one generally used for bonsai because it has large leaves (For Azaleas).  Because the tree/bush itself is large, having larger leaves may work out ok in it's final presentation - years from now, once good ramification has occurred and the leaves reduce somewhat in size.

Here it is again, back in early May a few weeks after coming out of the ground, being hacked from a 6ft bush back to what you see, and already putting out a good amount of new growth on old wood.

In a large resin bonsai training pot from BonsaiMonk 3 weeks ago.

This past weekend, showing tremendous amount of new shoots on old wood and some newer branches I'm holding on to for now.   For having removed so much of the rootball I'm encouraged by it's rebound.  A shady spot and plenty of water through these hot months should have it's vigor recover fully.  Some light liquid oraganic fertilizer is being applied every other day (misted on).
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