My Favourite Shohin Hawthorn

Everyone likes a good before and after sequence and this is one of my best. This post plots the journey of one of my shohin hawthorns from the proverbial stick in a pot to a prize winning bonsai in 6 years.

The original material was collected from my garden in 2008. I didnt do much to it, apart from water and feeding until 2012. It was then I decided to chop some of these trees back  to develop them as shohin trees. Shohin trees are those between about 5 and 9 inches.

The first picture shows the first chop in 2012. This had the effect of throwing out new buds further down the trunk

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2 years later in 2014, I was able to select the new buds I wanted to keep and chop the tree back again to a point just above the new leader and the bottom feature branch.I also did a little power tool carving around the chop mark to make it look more natural. You can see how it looked at this time in the next picture.

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One year on in 2015 and the branches are developing nicely. The next 3 pictures show how it looked in February and May of that year.

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In 2016 the tree was transplanted into its first ceramic pot. The next three picture were taken in 2016 and 2017 and show how the branches are begining to mature

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In the Spring of 2018, it was transplanted again into a stunning Ian Baillie pot and in May it was entered into the Scottish National Show as a key part of my shohin display. My display was awarded best shohin exhibit and best in show that year. 6 years from a stick in a pot to part of an award winning display. The next 2 pictures show how it looked at this time

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In the 4 years that have passed since the show, the branches have continued to mature and it is shaping up to be one of my favourite and best trees.The roots were trimmed back in the Spring of this year (2022) and the final picture shows how it looks at the moment

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A Big collected Scots Pine in Development

I collected this Scots Pine on land belonging to a friend in 2015. The original tree stood about 2 metres high and I cut it back while still in the ground about 2 years before I collected it. This had the effect of generating a lot of useful back buds lower in the trunk.When I lifted the tree from the ground most of roots were very long and thick and unuseable, there were very few  around the base of the trunk. When I got the tree home I planted it in the large pot you can see in the first picture. For the first year after collection it was touch and go whether it would survive or not. I kept it in partial shade and misted it regularly during hot weather. Slowly over many months it began to respond and I could see signs that it was begining to recover from its ordeal. The first 2 pictures show the tree from both sides in 2017 when the tree is growing well.

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The things that initially attracted me to this tree were the thick trunk, the good nebari, the amazing bark texture and the movement and taper low down on the trunk

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By 2019, its time to repot the tree into a good training pot and a plan is begining to emerge for its future styling. The height of the trunk has been reduced to a point where the taper in the trunk stops and where there is a strong branch to act as a new leader

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A bit of serious root work required to allow the tree to sit centrally in the new training pot

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This is how it looked when repotted and the new leader was wired into position

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A year later in the Spring of 2020 and this tree is ready for its first structural wiring. I took these before pictures but forgot to photograph the tree after it was wired. This was also the time when Covid was on the rise and we were all trying to get used to the concept of lockdown and wondering if we would still be alive at the end of the year..Basically, what I did was to secure some steel bars to the rim of the pot to hold guy wires which pulled the thick branches into position.

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The next 2 pictures were taken this week ( Summer 2022) with all the wire removed.Most of the branches have remained in the desired position. The tree will be rewired again later in the season. I am really pleased with the development of this tree in the time I have been working on it and I am convinced it will be a trully great tree in a few years as the ramification matures.

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Acer Palmatum Bonsai Development

This is a good example of what can be achieved in this hobby with time, patience and very little expenditure. It is an ungrafted acer palmatum with small leaves that I bought in 2012 for £1.00 in an end of season sale at my local Tesco supermarket. The first picture shows the tree in the Spring of 2013. All the old organic growing medium had been removed and it was repotted in a plastic training pot with a mixture of akadama and kiryu.

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In 2014, I put the tree into a large pot and fed it with High Nitrogen fertiliser for a couple of seasons. My purpose in doing this was to allow a sacrifice branch to develop low down on thw main trunk inorder to thicken the base of the tree

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In 2016, i put it into a small oval pot and started work of developing the branches

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In the following years I transfered the tree into a wooden box while the branches continue to develop

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In the Spring of this year 2022, I found a new pot by Erin Pottery which suits the tree very well.A project like this is all about the journey we share with the tree, where progress is measured in years and decades.

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Shohin Yew Progression

This little yew was imported into the UK in 2013 and I acquired it a year later in 2014. Growth in that year was very poor and I was concerned that there was a problem with the roots or the soil

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In 2015 I took it out of the pot shown in the previous picture to discover that much of the original root system had died. I immediately re-potted it into a good soil mix and slowly introduced the fertiliser to bring it back to health. The next picture shows the tree at the time of the re-pot.

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A year later in April 2016, when the next picture was taken, it still hadn’t put on much new growth but there were new buds forming. For the first 2 years that I owned this tree, I thought the side shown in the first 2 pictures would be the front of the tree, but after 2 years of studying it, I eventually opted for the other side as shown in the next picture.

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3 months later in July of 2016 it had an explosion of new strong growth It was now ready for a first styling.

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The tree was pruned and wired and a jin and shari were created

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Over the 3 years that have elapsed since the first styling, I have continued to develop the ramification. I have also done additional work of the shari, jin and live veins. I wasn’t entirely happy with the planting angle in the pot. The top of the tree was leaning away from the viewing position at the front and the dramatic jin was not showing its’ best side. At re-potting time this year I was able to correct these faults. This is how the tree looks at the moment.

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Scots Pine 2nd Wiring

I acquired this medium sized Pinus Sylvestris in 2016 from a friend. I was attracted by the taper and movement in the trunk and I felt that given time I could make a nice bonsai from this material. The first picture shows the tree soon after I brought it home, having re-potted it into a good free draining soil mix and removed a few leggy lower branches that didn’t form part of my plan for the trees’ future.

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The second picture shows the tree in 2017 immediately after the first styling.

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The next picture was taken in 2018 and you can see that it has filled out well in that time.

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At the end of 2018, I thinned the needles to allow more light into the middle of the tree and to facilitate re-wiring in the new year.

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A few weeks ago I re-wired the tree for the second time. I think it is shaping up well. At the next re-pot, which should take place in the next few weeks, the front will be moved by a few degrees to show more of the movement in the trunk. the next picture shows how it looks at the moment.

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Starting a Shohin Common Juniper from Scratch

In April 2013, an old friend in my village who heard I had a passion for small trees gave me this tiny common juniper seedling, which he had collected while walking in the hills. It was bare rooted, when he gave it to me and I wasn’t sure that it would survive but I potted it into a 4 inch pot in a mixture of akadama and moler clay and watered it every day

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To my surprise, not only did it survive but it thrived and by 2016 it was beginning to look like a solid little tree. The next picture shows how it looked at that time in a 6 inch clay pot.

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In the spring of 2016, the root system had filled the pot in the previous picture, so it was potted up again into a larger one.

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It continued to grow strongly and by 2018 it was ready for some work. With a plan begining to form in my head I cut back the lower branches and wired some movement into the main trunk. The next picture shows how it looked after this work.

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A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to put the plan into action and start this little tree off on the road to becoming a future shohin bonsai. The foliage and bark was striped from the upper part of the trunk and the newly formed deadwood was wired to hold it in its final position until the wood dries out.

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The remaining foliage was thined and wired and a few weeks later the roots were cut back to fit it into a suitable shohin sized pot. This is how the tree looks at the moment. It will need a lot of care and attention in the coming weeks to ensure the remaining roots don’t dry out.

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Tall Juniper First Styling

This is a  Blaauws Juniper that I acquired locally from the family of an enthusiast who  had passed away. It was in poor health when I acquired it, having been neglected for several years previously. The following picture shows how it looked when I brought it home in February 2016. A lot of the foliage had died back and what remained had become quite extended, pale and thin. It was re-potted immediately and a feeding programme commenced to try and return the tree to full health. That was two and a half years ago.

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The next picture shows how the tree looked at the start of the day. The thin extended branches have been pruned off and the new growth is closer to the trunk line, much healthier and stronger.

The tree is now about 60 cm. tall. It has a long slender trunk line, slowly tapering towards the apex with slight movement to the right. The lower right hand side of the trunk is quite straight and there is a considerable distance between the base of the trunk and the first right hand branch.The nebari is uneven with 1 large, thick root extending to the left; the other radial roots are quite insignificant by comparison.

A relatively thin tree like this will never look its’ best with a full heavy canopy of foliage. Minimalism is what is required here, to make the most of the material.

 

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I have decided that this tree will be developed in the literati style; a style characterised by thin trunks and sparse foliage. Junipers are also enhanced by dramatic areas of deadwood. So the first task was to remove and jin all the branches that would not be critical to the perceived design. Many of the jinned branches were the connected by a shari running the length of the trunk. The following picture demonstrates the start of this stage.

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After thinning out the foliage, the remaining branches were wired and bent into position. The next picture shows how the tree looks at the moment. Its quite possible,when I next work on the tree that more branches will be removed to simplify the design even further, but I will leave that decision for another day.

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The next major job will be to re-pot and correct the planting angle next year. The next picture is a photo montage showing the tree rehoused in a nice Ian Baillie pot, which I am saving for this purpose.

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2 Years Development in a Blaauws Juniper

This is an update on a tree I acquired from good friend Philip Donnelly of Belfast Bonsai. He gave me the tree as a gift at Bonsai Europa 2015 but it was the Summer of 2016 before I could do any work on it.

The tree was full of thick branches, which were at awkward angles to the main trunk; excellent material for jins but no good for foliage pads. All of these were removed in 2016 when the tree was re-potted, leaving 1 single branch, which would provide all the future foliage.. The first picture was taken just after this work was completed.

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Jins and a shari were added in 2 stages over the following 12 months.

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Over the same period the tree was fed regularly with high nitrogen fertiliser to promote strong growth in the one branch that was retained to form the upper trunk after the chop back of 2016.

Like most trees, the crown tends to grow with more vigour than the other parts, so this area had to be thinned to allow the light to get down to the lower branches. You can see this in the next picture, which was taken this morning before foliage thining and wiring commenced.

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This is how it looks at moment after thinning and wiring the branches into position. It will be a few more years before the foliage pads have filled out and fully developed but for now, it’s easier to visualise where I intend to take this tree in the future

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Taxus Baccata from raw material to first styling.

This post shows the progression of a taxus that was purchased as raw material in the autumn of 2016 by my friend Gerry. The first picture was taken round about the time he acquired it. The most interesting part of this tree was in the lower trunk and the low hanging first branch with movement to the right. The upper trunk was quite thick and had no taper, so I suggested that we cut it back to a lower branch and thin out the foliage so that we could see what we were working with.

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This is how it looked at the start of 2017. We decided to leave it like that for the time being and began to feed the tree regularly to encourage back budding.

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The next picture shows how it looked earlier this week, 14 months after the previous picture was taken. As you can see, it has filled out well and is now ready for branch selection and the first full wiring.

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The first task to be tackled was the carving of the stump left after last years’ trunk chop.

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Gerry, getting on with wiring the lower branches

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I finished off the top of the tree and placed the wired branches

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This is how it looks at the moment. Next year we will work on the jins and shari and maybe plant the tree into a smaller pot

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