Buxus Sempervirens

This is a species I have always found difficulty with. Until recently, I had nowhere in my garden that provided shade for the whole day and buxus sempervirens has a tendency to scorch in strong sunlight when grown in a pot. While I was occupied with the day job, this was a recurring problem. The result being that although I have had this tree for 9 years. It hasn’t really shown much progress in that time.

In the past few years I have had a slightly more successful experience with a shohin buxus  sempervirens grown entirely in the shade. Charged by this success, I have decided to have another go with this kifu sized tree

The first picture shows the tree as it was in 2005, shortly after it was collected from my garden


The next picture shows the poor state of development by 2011. I was never able to get the apical branch to fill out.


This year I decided to remove the old apex altogether, thin the remaining branches including some very thick ones at the back and start again. This is the tree after initial pruning.


Rewired and removed from the old training pot


A new look and a new pot for the future (June 2014)



New Pot for my Collection

This is a new shohin pot that I acquired recently, by Scottish potter Ian Baillie. I love the green glaze on this one. I just have to find a tree to fit it, now.

As well as applying his IB stamp, Ian also inscribes his signature into the base of his pots, which I think is a nice feature.


Shohin White Pine #2

This is a little white pine grafted onto black pine rootstock that I acquired at a show in 2011 for the princely sum of £12.00. I wish I could get more at that price now.


In 2012, I removed a branch that was growing from the inside of a curve, applied some wire  and planted it in this little Chinese pot


In 2014, the first left branch has extended quite a bit and is beginning to provide a counterbalance at the left hand side of the image. It is very much a work in progress but that work is already rewarding me with much pleasure and satisfaction


Pyracantha Stump Project

This Pyracantha was dug from a hedge in my front garden about five years ago and roughly planted in the borders of my back garden, where it was left to its own devices for another 2 years. In 2011, I cut it back and removed it from the border into the plastic pot you can see in picture 1. It is my intention to use this tree for the development of my own skills. In its present form it doesn’t have much merit as a bonsai tree so I can afford to be a little more bold and experimental than I might be with a more expensive piece of raw material.

In the summer of 2012, it was chopped back again (see picture 2)  and left to grow until the spring of this year.


This is how it looked in April 2014


In the next picture it is obvious that the big chop of 2012 was done in 2 stages as the stump looks a little shorter that it does in picture 2


With the stump removed from the pot you can see that there is  a significant part of the trunk which was covered by the soil. I am not sure at the moment whether I will use this additional trunk length in the future or attempt to cut it back from the bottom


The tree was replanted into a deep bonsai pot with a good free draining soil mix of coarse akadama and kiryu (April 2014).


Buy June of 2014, there are signs of new strong growth so I decided to carry out some initial carving with the Makita and Dremmel.  It might seem a little soon after the re-pot to be attempting this, but this tree, which has been roughly ripped from the ground twice in the recent past has proved to a very tough survivor and I am reasonably confident that this can be done now, without any major detrimental effect on the vigour of the tree.


When the sapwood had dried sufficiently, I gave it a few coats of a wood preserver with an added pigment. It will be kept in full shade for the next month or so during this current spell of hot weather, and fertilizer will be introduced slowly as new growth develops. I am quite pleased with the result so far and I look forward to working on this stump in the future with renewed interest. I will report back on the progress of this stump later in the year.

Clutched from the Edge of the Abyss

The recent history of this shohin white pine includes a remarkable survival story. Acquired in the spring of 2012 it was planted into the pot you see in the first picture in May of the same year. The weather in 2012 was unseasonally cold until the end of May.

On the 31st of May my wife and I decided to take a short 4 day break in London. At precisely this moment, the weather changed for the better, in fact the temperatures over the next four days were record breaking throughout the UK. My son was in charge of the watering over this period and while he did a reasonable job in the circumstances, this tree was missed.

This is how it looked on our return. ( This picture was taken a few weeks after the event)


All the needles had dried up and fell off and the new candles were a very sickly brown colour. I was gutted. In what seemed like a futile attempt to revive it, I wrapped the rootball in sphagnum moss and replanted it in this larger pot. I kept it in the shade and misted regularly and remarkably it began to respond


The recovery process took the best part of 18 months to take effect. By the spring of 2014 (picture 4)the tree was again looking healthy and I decided it was time to take it out of the larger pot

white pine1

The final picture was taken today (June 2014) and shows the tree in its new pot with all the new needles about to open.


A visit from my friend Gerry

My friend Gerry paid me a visit the other day and he brought a few trees along to get some advice on how to take them forward. Gerry is a newcomer to bonsai and like all of us, when we start this journey he is struggling to visualize the future image within the material.
This is a prunus, kojo no mai that he purchased from a garden centre in the spring, he has removed some of the lower branches and potted it into a training pot as seen in the first picture.

I think, when we are new to the hobby, and we are assessing the future potential in a piece of raw material, we have an inherent desire to try and use as much of that material as possible in the final image. This usually results in skinny trees with leggy branches. Gerry’s tree has a nice twin trunk which should be the main feature of his future bonsai. To put over the concept of the relative proportion between trunk thickness and finished tree outline I showed him one that I started last year. This tree is about the same age as Gerry’s but I have gone for a more compact image than the one Gerry had in mind.


After some discussion we cut it back a little. Gerry will wire the branches into position and it will be planted in a smaller pot next year


He also brought along a couple of nice twisted junipers. As we are moving into the optimum period (IMHO) for re-potting these, I suggested that he should source some suitable pots and get them in without delay


It’s difficult to see in this picture but this little tree has amazing movement and taper and will make a terrific shohin in the future



Will I Wont I

It seems like a terrible thing to do. to rob my little azalea of all its beautiful flowers but I have decided that the time is now. It has been flowering continuously for several weeks now and the earliest blossoms are beginning to fade


Well, here goes


Sadly that’s it for the moment, I will start feeding it right away with a view to improving the ramification and I will report back on it later in the year

Summer Routine Part 3

Throughout the summer, when I’m styling or pruning a tree I take lots of cuttings from offcuts, which would otherwise be discarded. When established they require little attention other than regular feeding and watering and in time they will reward you with some useful, and hard to find, material for free.

Here are some itoigawa juniper cuttings I have been potting up recently




This is the parent tree


And here are some Blauws Juniper cuttings taken a year earlier. I hope to use these in a rock landscape composition that I am planning.



This is the parent tree. This is also my current workshop tree. It has undergone some major alterations since this picture was taken and will feature in its own post in the near future


And finally, life isn’t all about work, sometimes you just have to lift up your head and enjoy the view. This laburnum tree in the centre of the picture started life 20 years ago as a 2 inch high collected seedling. This is the first year it has flowered when it should and what a show.