Air Layered Shohin Hawthorn

The new seasons buds are beginning to swell on this shohin hawthorn, which I pruned and partially wired today.


It started life as a shohin bonsai in 2011, when it was chopped back from a taller tree. The next picture was taken in the summer of 2011 shortly after this work had begun.


In 2012 it was transplanted into a plastic training pot. It was then I realised that it had quite an unattractive root base.


In the summer 2013, I decided to air layer it to try and improve the nebari.


Although the top of the layer had calloused well, new roots were slow to form. In the spring of 2015, I removed the split pot to see what was there. The roots that had formed were quite disappointing and mainly on one side of the trunk. I decided to cut it off anyway and planted it deep in a clay training pot.


It has been in this pot for almost a year now and although growth at the start of 2015 was slow and weak, by the end of the season it was looking much stronger. I will leave it for another season in the clay pot to stimulate more root growth and transfer it next season into a flat pot to develop the nebari.





2 Shohin Winter Images

Here are 2 trees that I worked on today. The first is a cotoneaster microphyllus which produced a fantastic crop of berries this year. The old leaves and the remaining berries were removed as well as all the wire that was applied last year. The secondary branches were pruned and its now ready for the new season. This is the first time it has been free of wire since I started training this tree


The second tree is my shishigashira maple. This tree is very slow growing in our climate and never needs more than a light pruning to prepare it for the new season. The branches are very brittle so I never apply wire to this tree, it’s always clip and grow.


Here are the 2 trees at their peak in the last year





Major Re-Styling of a Japanese Larch

I bought this large larch bonsai a number of years ago. At the time and for several years after, it was the most expensive tree I had purchased. I was attracted by the its’ height, the movement in the trunk and the mature canopy of branches. After acquiring it, I embarked on an intensive period of study into the elements of good bonsai design. It wasn’t long before I began to see many faults in this tree that I hadn’t noticed before.

There is a slight nebari at the base of the trunk with some thick surface roots radiating outward on the top of the soil. This is one of the best features of the tree but when  viewed beneath such a tall trunk it looks insignificant. While the trunk has movement, it has a very poor taper; the central section is quite straight and bears the healed over scar of a previous owners attempt at carving. The branches, particularly on the apex, have become very thick and inflexible. This is a common problem with larches; you have to keep renewing the branches throughout the trees’ life to maintain their delicate proportion, Failure to do this will eventually result in a tree that has a winter image resembling a tightly pruned garden shrub. When I became aware of these faults, they were all that I saw when I looked at the tree. Something had to be done.


Last year I took the drastic action of chopping the top off this tree to start it again


During the summer I carried out some basic carving to take the stump back to the lowest branch



The single remaining branch was allowed to grow freely throughout the year and by the end of the season there was a lot of new growth to work with,


Today I finally found the time to complete the first styling in its new form. This is how it looks at the moment.


Now I think I have something I can live with and enjoy for some years to come.

A New Home For Old Trees

I attended a local garage sale at the weekend because I had noticed that they were selling off some bonsai pots and tools. When I arrived I was surprised at the number of pots they had in their garage. I also noticed some bonsai trees sitting on a wall in the garden. I enquired about them and discovered that they formed part of the collection of the co-owner of the property, who had died a few years previously. The trees were clearly good quality specimens that had suffered in recent times due to a lack of maintenance. I asked if they would consider selling them to me, which they agreed to do.

Here are a few pictures of the trees as they arrived in my garden.

A Chinese Juniper 70 cm tall, its suffered considerable dieback in the foliage but I am hopeful I can revive it.


A cascading Scots Pine, 40cm above the pot rim. It too has suffered considerable die back but these are tough trees and I’m confident I can restore its vigour.


A large Japanese beech over a metre tall with a terrific nebari in a Derek Aspinall pot with a width of 80cm. Again it has suffered the loss of a few branches but nothing that can’t be replaced. If anyone recognises this tree I would be interested to find out more about its history.)



I’m really looking forward to working on these trees and seeing how they develop in the future

Here is a picture of the pots I acquired


Lanarkshire Bonsai Club Meeting 07/02/2016

Our second club meeting of the year was held yesterday at Wattston Bonsai. The weather was foul outside so our numbers were fewer this month. There was a lot of seasonal chat and some even managed to get some work done on their trees.

Dougie and Gerry in conversation with a new member whose name I haven’t got to grips with yet.


Some trees are beginning to emerge from the pollytunnels and finding their way to the outside bench


This corner was full of people until I pulled my camera out of the bag


This is Gerry’s latest acquisition, a nice chuhin white pine


Club member Gordon’s pyracantha


Here are 2 that Dougie was prepping for the webshop. A shohin white pine and a seka hinoki.



A new tree for our new member, white pine, pinus parviflora.


Callicarpa Japonica Winter Update

I have had this impressive old Callicarpa for 2 years now. I acquired it because I really love the berry colour on this species. When you look through the Japanese books that cover this species, you see some amazing examples, which are just covered in tightly packed fruits. So far, the 2 crops that I have had on my tree have been underwhelming to say the least. It was heavily root pruned at the beginning of last year and that along with the cold Spring and Summer we experienced may explain the low numbers of flowers and fruits. However few they are, they are still a welcome sight at this time of year. I plan to prune and wire this tree in the next few weeks to prepare it for the coming season and I’m still looking for the right pot to complement and complete the image