It’s Summer in Scotland and it’s hot

If you come from Scotland, anything over 20 degrees centigrade is considered too hot. We’re not built for hot weather, however the trees love it and respond by putting on lots of new growth, which has to be kept in check regularly with the pruning scissors. This is a task I enjoy at a leisurely pace as it lets me study the trees in close detail and plan my restyling work for the Autumn.

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Heres a view of my display area for larger trees for the benefit of those who only follow me on my WordPress blog (my Facebook followers will have seen this already in recent weeks) followed by a few detailed shots of some of the trees.

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A large kaho azalea in an amazing pot by Reihou of Tokoname. It really is a stunning tree with a beautifully developed nebari.

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pictures are of my 3 large Junipers which are putting on lots of new growth at the moment. They have all been trimmed back this week and all remaining wire removed in preparation for rewiring in the Autumn.

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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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2019

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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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Another Cotoneaster Air Layer

A few years ago, at one of the Bonsai Europa events I purchased this material from a Spanish trader. It was a field grown cotoneaster with a very thick trunk. A trunk would take decades to become this thick in the Scottish climate; I can only assume that they grow much quicker in the warm Spanish climate.The first 2 pictures show how it looked when I acquired it. They were clearly developed with air layering in mind.

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the first thing I had to do was to remove the moisture retaining organic soil and replace it with a more free draining mix of akadama and kiryudama.The next 3 pictures illustrate that process.

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I let it grow throughout 2018 to allow it time to get established in the new pot and in 2019 I prepareed to air layer the top off the tree.

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I separated the air layer in 2020 but I wasnt entirely happy with the root development on the upper part. It was a bit one sided so I planted it quite deep in the new pot and left  and gave it 2 growing seasons before I looked at the roots again. In 2 seasons it had filled this pot with a strong healthy root system.

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Both trees were repotted this year and while the branch development still has some way to go their future potential as nice bonsai is now apparent.

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A New Pot for a Tall Juniper

Today, I re-potted this tall Blaauws Juniper into a nice Ian Baillie drum pot.

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When I acquired this tree in 2016, it was in poor condition as the previous owner had died and the tree had been neglected for a few years. This is how it looked at that time.

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By September of 2018 it had recovered sufficiently to begin some work on it. This is how it looked after the fist styling

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The new look required a change of planting angle and a new pot. The re-pot was carried out today. This is how it looks at the moment. A few more seasons to develop the foliage and the deadwood and this will be a really nice tree.

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Scots Pine re-potted Today

Today I spent some time re-potting the Scots Pine that was rewired over the winter. It also required a slight change of angle. This is a reminder of how it looked before todays’ work.

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And this is how it looks at the moment in a new Chinese drum pot, which is more in proportion with the tree.

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Here it is again, almost complete and back out on its’ plinth.

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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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Thuja Occidentalis Summer Maintenance

I spent part of today thining and cleaning My Thuja Occidentalis bonsai.

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It grows very quickly during the summer months and soon becomes untidy. This is how it looked before I started this morning.

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and this is how it looks at the moment

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This is how it looked in 2004 when it was lifted from my garden. It originally had three trunks but I removed the 2 on the left and decided to work with the one on the right.

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