This post is looking at progress that has been made this year on trees I have been developing during my weekly sessions with Gerry.
The first is a Blaauws Juniper That was given to me as raw material by Philip Donnelly of Belfast Bonsai in 2015. It had a lot of thick branches that grew off the main trunk at awkward angles. The first job in 2016 was to cut it back to a simple outline retaining the one branch that was suitably positioned for the future development of a bonsai. This is how it looked at that time.
Since this initial work I have been feeding the tree with high nitrogen fertiliser to promote strong growth in the foliage and I have also begun to create some jins from the branches that were removed and a shari on the main trunk. This work was done in stages over the past 12 months as the pictures will show.
In the future, I intend to reduce the apex by about half and I hope to develop the tree as a semi-cascade.
The next tree is Gerry’s large hawthorn. It has good movement and taper in the trunk but at the start of this year it had very few branches and we hadn’t decided which side would be the front. We decided to plant it in a large box to push out lots of new growth. This is how it looked at the start of the season.
This is how it looks at the moment after a full seasons growth in the box. The first picture shows what will probably be the new front
The third tree today is a literati pine which was wired for the first time in August 2015. This proved to be a mistake as the weather following the initial styling was very hot and the tree suffered losing several branches. This is how it looked at that time.
It was rewired today having had 2 years to recover and the front is now at the opposite side
This was the original tree in 2011
I collected this hawthorn from farmland about 17 years ago. Its been in a pot all of that time but never produced any flowers. In recent years, its been subjected to a lot of work, a number of re-pots and several transformations to get it down to the size it is now.
About 6 years ago, before it was chopped back to its current height, I took a hardwood cutting from this tree and placed it in a pot to root. It rooted quickly and was placed in the pot you see in the next picture about 5 years ago. I have done very little to it since. It is pot bound and has never been re-potted. It is rarely fertilised and gets no winter protection in my greenhouse. The following picture was taken this week and shows the result of this neglect.
If there is a lesson I can learn from this that will encourage my other shohin hawthorns to flower, it is this. I will delay any future re-potting to ensure the roots are truly filling the pot to their maximum extent. I will reduce fertilising to the minimum necessary to maintain the health of the tree and I will only provide winter protection if freezing conditions become unusually prolonged and there is a danger of loosing the tree.
The early season work on my small trees usually involves cleaning the moss and grime from the trunk, refining jins and sharis and re-potting if necessary.
The first up today is a shohin hawthorn that was re-potted last year. I wanted to do a little refining on the V cut to give it a more natural appearance.
This is how it looks after a pressure wash and a little work with the Dremel.
The other side before the work
And after. I’m not sure which side of this tree is my preferred front. Both sides have potential I think.
This is a new tool I acquired recently for cleaning my trees. Its called a textile cleaning gun. It is a very powerful tool and does a great job on the trunk and deadwood. You have to exercise extreme care in its use as it has the capacity to strip the bark from tender species. Fortunately it has an excellent pressure control switch.
This tree needed a slight change of front so it was re-potted today
This one was just cleaned up and pruned in readiness for the coming growing season.
I dug this tree from my garden in 2008 and planted it in a 12 inch pot to recover. It stayed in that pot until 2012, when it was chopped back and placed in the bonsai pot you can see in the first picture.
By the early Spring of 2015 the trunk has been chopped back further and the roots are now housed in a smaller round pot. At this stage, I still wasn’t happy with the tree and had no vision for its future development.
Later that month, with an idea beginning to emerge I chopped the tree back once again. The following picture was taken later in the year when new buds had emerged and extended
2015 after pruning and wiring the new growth. At this stage I thought this side could be the front.
This is how it looks at the moment. I’ve done a little carving on the original V cut to make it look more natural. I’ve also shortened the thicker roots, planted it in a new pot and reversed the viewing angle. I like how this tree is developing now and look forward to seeing the ramification develop in the coming years
When I met up with Gerry this week we decided to re-pot 2 recently acquired pieces of raw material into large wooden boxes, to speed up their development.
The first is a fairly large hawthorn with lovely movement in the trunk and nice aging bark but it lacks ramification. The pot that its currently housed in is ideal for a finished tree but a little small for a tree in development. The visible roots also need some work; that large root moving off to the right will have to be removed at some stage.
When the tree was removed from the pot, we could see that it had not been in there very long as the soil was not full of fine roots. The tree was potted up into the large wooden box you can see in the next picture without any further work for the present. It will remain here for the next few years, while the lower branches and roots continue to develop.
The second tree is a scots pine. When acquired, it came in a plastic washing up basin and the soil had a high proportion of soggy organic material in it. I do not like to see trees planted in wash basins because they are flat bottomed and when they are placed on the ground, this can inhibit drainage.
Our first priority was to remove it from the basin and get it into a better draining soil mix of akadama, kiryu and pumice.
This is how it looks at the moment. The plan for the immediate future is to fertilise this tree regularly to encourage back budding and reduce the length of the lower branches
With the recent warmer weather, the buds on some of my hawthorns are beginning to swell which is a sure indicator that it’s time to re-pot those that were missed last year.
The first is an air layer that was severed from the parent tree 2 seasons ago. At the time, it didn’t have many roots so it was planted deep in a clay training pot to strengthen it up. The first picture is a reminder of how the roots looked before planting in the clay pot.
With the tree out of the pot, you can see that there are a lot more roots now and the tree is ready to be placed in its’ first bonsai pot.
I have chosen a nice cream oval by Walsall Ceramics for this one. I love the quality of this range of pots; plenty of holes for drainage and the securing wires.
I’ve used a 50/50 mix of pumice and akadama to pot these trees. The nebari on this one is buried in the soil for now to make the tree more stable on the pot. It will be raised above the soil when the roots have developed further. This is how it looks at the moment.
This is how it looked in 2012
I am developing this second tree from a contorted root. It hasn’t put on much new growth in the past 12 month and I suspect it is because the tree has become pot bound.
With the tree out of the pot and the roots trimmed ready for re-planting.
This new pot by Eimei is a little larger than the previous one so I should see a lot more growth on this tree in the coming year
This is how the second tree looked in 2012
I have a small hawthorn, which was airlayered from the old roots 2 seasons ago. It has been in a training pot since it was separated and is now ready to be planted into its’ first ceramic shohin pot.
This is the tree,
And here are the pots I am considering at the moment. The first is by Eimei at the Yozan kiln. It has an unusual greenish glaze colour that could work well with a hawthorn.
the next one is a painted pot by Mizuno Shikao at the Tosui kiln. Both pots are about 7 inches (17cm) wide and will be suitable for further root development.
The tree will be transplanted in a few weeks time, when the weather warms up. I may even have a few more options after my trip to the Noelander’s Trophy next weekend