Seeing the Caledonia Scots Pines up in Scotland was both emotional and inspirational for me. Refreshed after the short break in Scotland I as keen to get on with work in the nursery and also to start styling up some stock trees we have for sale. That is, in between workshops and everything else.
So I selected a few trees in the nursery to style and it just so happened that a few of them were Scots Pines. Must be something subliminal going on!
First however I selected an established Sabina Juniper to style. This one had been collected nearly 5 years and had been in the nursery over a year. As you can see in the image below, it has a short powerful trunk with not much foliage to work with.
As is often the case with yamadori material, the collectors often cut off a lot of branches on collection, which can leave short heavy branches close to the trunk to work with.
Here you can see the Juniper before work started. It has a lot of natural deadwood already and interesting movement. The first job was to trace the live vein/veins and identify what is alive and what is dead. Often people will style a juniper and then look for the live vein last. This can often lead to the front of the tree having no visible live vein. So my advice is always identify what is dead and alive before selecting your front!
Here is the juniper in the nursery after the first styling. If you look closely you will see that there is only one live vein feeding all of the foliage.
Just after styling the Sabina Juniper, an old friend came to visit. I had sold this tree to Grahame Potter a few years ago and he had styled it. You may have seen the video on YouTube. Some of you who regularly look at my site or have visited the nursery may recognise this big old Shimpaku. When Warren Radford had told me that he had bought the tree from Grahame, I was really pleased for him, and when he opened the doors of his van to reveal the tree, I was happy to see the tree again.
Once the tree was out of the van and in the studio I could assess it better. Warren who had only recently acquired the tree, was a little worried about the condition of the foliage. But I assured him that over time we could get it tight again. As you can see in the photos the foliage is loose and pendulous. In bonsai, many people are infatuated with deadwood, but for me it is always about handling the foliage. And how you relate it to the form of the trunk. This juniper would be no different. Warren had recently lost his father Bryan, and he had bought this juniper in memory of him. And I felt a pressure to make sure that Warren would be pleased with the result. On the flip side, because the tree had originally been mine and now it had come back, I was looking forward to working with the tree.
Making a start on the juniper. I have addressed the foliage here and applied raffia to an important branch lower left. In the back ground, there is a Scots Pine waiting to be styled.
Here is the Shimpaku after the first restyle. I am really looking forward to seeing this old juniper progress and hopefully be seen at some of the major UK & European shows. I think Warren is planning a new Gordon Duffet pot for the tree. The tree is in safe hands and the only way for now is onwards and upwards.
And here is the happy owner. Nice one Bry!
After completing the styling of the two junipers, I turned my attention to some of the Scots Pines in the nursery. I had been itching to style some Scots after seeing the Caledonia pines while in Scotland. This Spanish Scots Pine had great bark quality and really strong foliage. It was not going to be too easy a tree to style. The trunk split into two trunks about half way up and both trunks were substantial. To give the tree some character in a creative way would mean bending one or both of the trunks.
I think I have said somewhere before, that I think that the Spanish Scots Pines are the best for bonsai. Genetically they have all the qualities that you would want in a pine bonsai. I would love to say that British Scots Pines are the best but I think it is not the case. Recently I was at the funeral of a friend and Marco Invernizzi attended. During a chat he said he also thought the Spanish Scots were the best for bonsai. They are from a separate population and have evolved slightly differently to our own. How can this be. And well you might ask. So I will ask you a question. Is Juniperus chinensis Itoigawa the same as Juniperus chinensis Kishu? Or to my bird loving friends is the British Peregrine Falcon the same as the Peregrine from Canada or Africa. The answer is they are very similar but over time as isolated populations they have developed slightly different characteristics.
Here is the tree back in the nursery after the first styling. I opted to use only one trunk and to float the foliage around the core of the tree. I folded the remaining trunk about 160 degrees down and over the main part of the trunk. I think this keeps all the important parts of the tree ‘in the frame’. Then I simply arranged the branches around the centre of the design, the trunk. It was not a particularly difficult bend as the trunk was only about 1.5 inches in diameter in old money! So I prepped it for bending and started to move it slowly. I then stopped and then I did some work elsewhere on the tree and then back to a bit more bending and so on until the branch was in place. I used only a guy wire to move the branch, preferring not to rely on heavy wire to bend.
I did wire the trunk but only as a support. The guy wire was attached to this wire so that pressure was distributed through the branch. Rather than use a guy wire wrapped around the branch and padded. I also used a small block of wood as a fulcrum in several places to control where the bending took place.
Next up was this big busy Scots. This tree, like many yamadori trees, had obvious problems within it, which so many people visiting the nursery commented on as though the tree was rubbish. And it is the acute right angle in the trunk that is the most obvious problem visually. However I would like to say here that although it is ok to acknowledge problems within a material tree, the important thing then, is to see beyond the faults and find the beauty within. And remember, there are no perfect trees! What I am trying to say is, see beyond the faults. Any beginner can find faults in a tree. Try to find how to make the tree succeed. To simply look for faults is negative and negates creativity. Find where the tree works and go with that. So I deliberately chose this tree as an example to all those who came in the nursery and said ” I would buy it if only…….”.
Here is the tree after the first styling back on the bench. At this time the branches are placed to set a good ‘skeleton’ and to facilitate air and light entry to help with bud production over the next few years. Remember we are after mass bud production to give denser more detailed foliage pads. At this time, foliage is quite sparse, but it will be a completely different tree in two to three years. The Scots Pine is programable and very easy to get to produce buds. The main thing for now is to set the structure of the tree for the future and then to think of bud generation next year. Next up was this little unassuming Scots Pine. I think the ‘Before & After are self Explanatory.
And after. The linear lines have been pulled in and given elegant curves. A sweet little tree for the future.
And finally yet another old friend came to visit. You may remember it from my blog “An apprentice’s work is never done’ Part 1. This big old Mugo Pine we christened ‘The Scorpion’.
This photo was taken before the tree was sand blasted and repotted into a new pot and with a different planting angle.
And here is today’s work.
The essence of this tree is and always has been the deadwood. I would love for the live vein to be more visible from the front. (It is only at the base and hidden behind the descending Jin before emerging about a third way up from the top). No actually I take that back, I would love the live vein to be wrapped around the deadwood spiralling its way around the trunk to the top. But unfortunately Mother Nature who created this piece did not oblige, which is really unthoughtful of her. So we had to make do with this and try to arrange the foliage to compliment her work. I hope I succeeded in getting something worthwhile out of this old pine. Faults and all.
RIP Sian Lim