Spring is here at last

After last years long cold winter, which went on until May in the hills of southern Scotland, immediately followed by the hottest summer on record; far from ideal growing conditions for small trees in small pots. I’m pleased to

say that this year spring has returned when it should do, and even though it can still be very cold at night, most of my trees are beginning to awake from their winter sleep. The tougher species are all outside now in the display area and on the benches but most of the shohin trees are still inside the greenhouse.

1

Many of you will have noticed that I haven’t posted on the blog for a while. There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is that with advancing years I am not as able as I was to spend  long days outside, working on trees in the winter chill and yes I could do it inside but I have always preferred to work outside in natural light.

In the past few weeks, Gerry and I have resumed our regular meetings and much has been achieved in that time. Re-potting, re-styling older material and the first styling of new material, which I’ll be posting about in the coming days

43

As a taster of what is to come, here is a picture of Gerry’s big Kaho Azalea. It’s been in this cheap Chinese pot since he acquired it 5 years ago. This tree is almost show ready but it really needed a better quality pot.

8a

After years trying to find something suitable, we came across this lovely green oval by Reihou, quite recently. This is how the tree looks now in its new pot.

8

Here’s a reminder of how it looked when purchased, 5 years ago.

8b

Some New Material for the New Season

I paid a visit to my local bonsai supplier ( Wattston Bonsai) yesterday, to get an early look at the newly arrived stock from Japan. The new stock this year consists mainly of small and medium sized specimens of partly developed material,reflecting the current popularity of shohin and chuhin sized trees. The species represented are all ones that do well in our challenging climate and include seigen, deshojo and trident maple: prunus, callicarpa, pyracantha and rhododendron indicum; as well as the usual junipers and pines.

 

9

Lots of new tools and pots

8

An impressive selection of new Japanese pots by makers including Eimei, Bunzan, Shuho, Yamaaki, Bigei and many others

7

Here are a few trees that grabbed my attention

Shohin Trident Maple with nice movement and ramification

1

Deshojo maple shohin

2

Shohin Trident with an impressive nebari

3

Shohin white pine with a good nebari

4

Exposed root Callicarpa Japonica

5

Chuhin Rhododendron Indicum with a great trunk and great taper

6

2 nice glazed pots by Eimei

1011

Green glazed Yamaaki oval with a floral motif

13

 

 

Larch Winter Image

I will be taking this Larch along to the 4th Ayr Winter Image Show tomorrow. This is the first event of the year in the Scottish Bonsai calendar. It’s in a new venue this year, the Savoy Park Hotel, Racecourse Road, Ayr and the doors open at 11.00 am. If you like bonsai and live nearby this is one not to be missed.

49

I will be taking lots of pictures and they will appear on the blog sometime on Monday.

Here are a few pictures from last years show

19

13

11

6

1

 

Northern Ireland Bonsai Society 30th Anniversary Show

I crossed the Irish Sea at the weekend to visit the NIBS 30th anniversary show in Belfast Botanic Gardens. What a terrific event it was. The quality of the trees and the displays that were assembled for this celebratory event  were exceptional and all praise must be given to the organisers for the effort they put in. Here are some of my photographs to give you an impression of the show.

Opening ceremony carried out by a veteran founder member

30

Philip Donnelly being his inimitable self

20

A very well attended event

14

Visitors from across the sea, Gerry, Libby and Kim from Scotland and Mike Box from the north of England

1821

Best in Show and Best Deciduous went to this enormous European Beech, Fagus Sylvatica. A worthy winner with no wire on it at all

22

Best Evergreen went to this Scots Pine, Pinus Sylvestris belonging to Philip Donnelly.

2

Here is a gallery of some of the other trees, click on any image to see a larger one in gallery mode

 

Some Random Thoughts on Bonsai Design

One of the great advantages of keeping a photographic record of your trees is that it allows you to consider and plan their future development as well as recording their actual development. When a tree is outside on the benches, we may only study it closely 2 or 3 times a year but if we photograph it and place that photograph prominently on our computer desktop then we see it and think about it every time that we go online. I do this all the time with my own trees and those of my friends and I find that it helps me to see and understand the strengths and weaknesses in their current state of development.

Here is an example that I have been studying and admiring today. It is not my tree. It is a recent acquisition by my friend and fellow club member, Gordon.

24

When I look this picture I see a  little white pine with good potential in a lovely unglazed Japanese pot. Two things stand out for me at the moment.

The first is that the direction and movement in the tree is a little ambiguous. The lower trunk and the lower left character branch are suggesting a left facing movement, while the apex suggests a movement towards the right. Consider it this way. If you were displaying this tree in a show and planed to complete the display with a small accent plant, on which side would you place the accent ? At the moment you could place it at either side and it wouldn’t make much difference but if the trees’ movement and direction were more clearly defined, the position for the accent would be obvious and the overall image would be stronger for it.

Using photo editing software we can visualize both options without harming the tree, to help inform any choice we might make in the future.

The next picture shows the apex reduced to strengthen the movement to the left.

23

And the next picture shows the bottom left character branch reduced, reinforcing the movement to the right. I personally prefer this one.

21a

The other issue that is very apparent is the relative proportion of the tree and the pot. While the pot is very nice, it is definitely too big for this tree. Using the photo editing software again, we can alter the scale of the pot to bring it more into balance with the scale of the tree.

22

 

Final Preparations for the National Show

It’s been a busy week collecting moss and carrying out the final preparation of my trees for the Scottish National Bonsai Show tomorrow. Fortunately the weather has been kind and we are enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures at the moment.

12

Here are some pictures I took this morning of the trees and accents I will be taking with me.

Chuhin Japanese Larch

13

Shohin trident maple in a pot by Eimei

14

Shohin Deshojo maple in a yellow Shibakatsu pot

15

Cotoneaster in a pot by Eimei

16

Zelkova Serrata in a pot by Ikkou Watanabe

17

Hinoki Cyprus in a pot by Hokido

18

2 Pinus Parviflora in Bigei pots

1920

Sedum Spathufolium Capa Blanca in a pot by Junsun Yamamoto

21b

Saxifrage in a Suteki accent pot by Simon Haddon

22

Larches in Development

Its still far too cold and wet here, for working outside.

15

So I’ve brought a few larches in development indoors to continue working on their progress. The first 2 have featured in an earlier post, which can be accessed by clicking on the following link Reworking Some Larches. There you will find some  pictures of the trees in their earlier form.

The first one was chopped back to 2 branches in March 2015 and the branch on the right was wired upward to form a new upper trunk and apex. In the first picture, the wire has been removed and the new apex is supporting itself. It’s still a little straight and will be wired again to create more movement. The lower branch has grown with great vigour in the past year. There is a risk that the secondary branches will thicken too quickly if left untouched. This branch will be pruned heavily to restore an overall balance in the whole composition

9

This is how it looks at the moment after some pruning, branch selection and rewiring.

10

This second tree was started a year earlier than the last one. Its growth, this year, has been less vigorous than the previous tree but it does continue to move forward

11

Here is how it looks today after rewiring. I think next year, I will prune off the top 3 inches of the apex, which hopefully will give the tree a more mature look.

12

I don’t think I have ever photographed the next tree before. It too was started in March last year from a piece of raw material that was collected several years before. The lower trunk is very straight, lacks taper and has no perceptible nebari. All the interesting movement and taper is in the central third of the tree.

13

This is how it looks at the moment. The top has been cut back and the central section rewired. The tree will  be air layered this year at the point where the red line intersects the trunk in the next picture. This should hopefully create a more pleasing image in the future

14

Bonsai Get Together (First of the Year)

Today was the first time this year that Gerry and I were able to get together to work on our trees.

8

The garden is still very cold and white from the snowfall we had at the weekend, so all work today was carried out in my kitchen.

4

Gerry brought this larch, which was styled for the first time in March of last year

2

3

This is how it looks after a second wiring today. I’m particularly pleased with the way this tree is shaping up considering it was started less than a year ago from the most unpromising material.

5

6

This is a reminder of how it looked in March last year

g1

He also brought along this new acquisition to show it off. It’s a shohin Amelanchier , which is a species I know nothing about. It has a fantastic trunk and it will be interesting to observe how it develops in the coming years.

1

A New Year Begins

 

 

As I sit here at my laptop, reflecting on what was for us here in Scotland, one of the most challenging growing seasons in my experience. A season, which began with a bitterly cold Spring, followed by a Summer with very little sunshine; saved only by some good weather in the autumn, I thought I would share again some of the photographs which are my personal favourites and mark the highlights in my bonsai year.

Without a doubt my favourite tree this year is my Lions Head Maple which just goes from strength to strength with each passing season. It looked particularly good in Autumn this year.

57

This cotoneaster has been another favourite of mine, more so because it was collected from my garden for free. It was planted in this red glazed pot by Eimei in the Summer to show off the berries and had its first outing to Bonsai Europa in October.

49

This hobby is as much about the people you do it with as it is about the trees and my life would be a lot duller without my good friend Gerry and the members of The Lanarkshire Bonsai Club who feature regularly on these pages.

12

7

The next photograph was taken in late May and it was the first occasion that all my trees were outside at the same time.

6

My highlight of the Summer was our winning club display at the Scottish Bonsai Show. It’s always a joy to see trees that you have cared for displayed at their best.

1

My 2 favourite junipers were both re-potted this year.

The first is a Blauws Juniper, which is almost complete. It will need a fine wiring and a good display table this year

Blauws Juniper After (2015)

The second is an Itoigawa Juniper. It is coming along well but the foliage needs more refinement and it will have to be re-planted into a slightly smaller show pot.

9

A few more that are beginning to come into their own, that may venture out to the show bench this year.

Zelcova

10

Potentilla

6

Japanese Larch

larch3

Cork Barked Elm

2

Finally, I would like to thank all of the people who take the time to look and comment on my posts, It’s you guys that make the effort worthwhile.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW BONSAI YEAR