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

6f

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.

6e

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.

6d

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.

6c

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.

6

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.

6a6b

Acer Shiraswanum air layer goes into its first bonsai pot

I started this air layer in 2015 to try and improve the nebari on this acer shiraswanum that had been growing in my garden for a number of years. The first picture shows the old root base and the position of the layer further up the trunk.

40a

I severed the layer in April 2016 and placed the tree in a large plastic pot for 2 years to let the new roots develop. I removed the tree from the pot this morning to find that it had filled the container with fine roots in just 2 seasons.

40

39

It took quite a lot of effort to comb out and shorten the new roots and to cut back the remains of the stump beneath the roots. This is how it looked after this work was completed.

38a

Here it is now in its now in its new pot.It’s now ready to begin the long journey that will transform it into a bonsai.

37

38

 

My 2 from 1 Cotoneasters

I did some work on 2 of my shohin cotoneasters today. Regular readers will remember that both these trees are being developed from the single piece of material shown in the next picture, which was collected from my garden in 2011.

7c

The first tree, which was created from the left half of the raw material in the picture above has grown strong in the intervening years but I’ve never been entirely happy with it.

1a

It has too many branches, reverse taper in the trunk and a poor transition through to the apex. Today I have decided to change that.. In the next picture, I have removed the lower left branch, thinned the others and done a little carving to remove some of the problem areas and improve the movement through to the apex.

1b

In the next picture the primary branches have been wired and bent into postion and the tree is tilted to the new planting angle.

3a

This how it looks at the moment after working the roots and repositioning it in its pot.

4

The trunk line is visible now and the movement through to the apex is improved. The reverse taper is still visible but better than it was.. The problem I have with this tree is that both sides of the trunk have significant areas of deadwood and I have to exercise extreme care not to severe the live veins. I will return to this at a later time when the tree has had time to recover.

The second tree is being developed from the right hand side of the raw material in the first picture. This is how it looked in 2014. It had taken 3 years to get it to this stage as it didn’t have many roots at the start.

7a

By 2015 it was looking much stronger.

7d

This is how it looks today after a trim and a re-wire

7

 

Raw Material for the Future

During Gerry’s visit last week, we potted  some of our raw material into wooden boxes to help with their development. I worked on trident maples that I acquired as a mini forest planting a few years ago. I am growing them in large shallow boxes to develop the nebari and it seems to be working well.

9

I plan to make a shohin tree from this one, so I may begin chopping it back this week

10

The nebari on this one is beginning to look nice but I would like to see it grow much bigger. This one was potted up into a wider box.

11

Gerry wanted to pot a nice juniper prostrate that he brought back from Noelander’s.

1

It was in a peaty soil, which had to be removed.

8

This how it looks at the moment in its new box with a slight change in the planting angle.

4

Its an interesting tree with future possibilities from several angles of view.

567

 

Re-Potting for Development

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.

16

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.

33

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.

15

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.

14a

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

14

 

Some Recently Acquired Raw Material

Here are some examples of raw material that I have acquired in the past year to create bonsai from in the future.

Pinus Sylvestris, collected last year with mature bark, a thick trunk and good movement and taper at the base. Height above the pot is about 55cm at the moment

343536

Great future potential here I think but it will need a few years more growth before it will be ready for a first styling.

Another thin trunk Pinus Sylvestris, acquired recently from a friend, which should make a nice literati in the not too distant future. About 50cm tall.

37

2 purple flowering examples of Rhododendron Indicum, collected by division from a large shrub in my garden, this year. I may air layer parts from these trees to increase my stock further

3233

The journey never ends.

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

Itoigawa Juniper First Wiring

Today at my midweek get together with Gerry we carried out the first wiring of a juniper that has featured in a few posts over the summer as we took a relatively inexpensive piece of imported raw material through the initial stages of the design process.

Here is a little photographic summary of the work carried out in the past few meetings.

28

Front of the tree at the start of the work.

r4

Creation of some jins and shari.

r2

Foliage thinned a little more and the deadwood lime sulphured.

11

This is how it looks at the moment.

12

It needs to be left for a year to settle and to allow the foliage time to fill in the gaps. The deadwood will also need further refining at the next styling.

Pyracantha Stump Project Update

I discussed this Pyracantha stump at some length in an earlier post, which can be found here. It’s a longer term project that was started from the most unpromising material. This is a reminder of how it looked after last years work.

p7

and this is how it is looking one year on from the previous picture.

27

My plan at the moment is to train this tree in the clump style.

Back to Basics, Working with Raw Material

Now that most of the early season re-potting is over, it leaves me with a little more time to study the collected material which lives at the back of my garden, to carry out some basic maintenance on it and to seek out the potential hidden within it.

The 2 pieces that I am looking at today were collected from my garden last year and featured in a blog post at that time.

The first is a Lonicera Nitida. As the first picture shows, it didn’t have many roots, when collected so it was planted deep in a large plastic pot to grow more.

summer3

summer2

One year on, we can see that it has put on a considerable amount of top growth

52

When it was removed from the pot and the old compost based soil washed off, you can see that it has a much stronger root system this year. It can now be further developed in a training pot with a good free draining bonsai soil mix.

51

53

This is another possible future planting angle, which shows more of the trunks’ twists and turns. The inverse taper at the point where the foliage emerges can be carved out later.

54

The second tree is a procumbent juniper. This is a reminder of how it looked last year, when it was removed from the garden

summer4

summer1

One year later, it is looking strong and healthy but it hasn’t put on much new growth. I won’t attempt to re-pot this one at the moment but I’ll wait another year to allow more root development

48

When viewed at this angle, the tree might have some future potential as a literati

49

A little branch selection and wiring to help it on its’ way.

50