Photos can be clicked on for a larger view.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Carving to hide defects

The subject for this post is a Japanese Needle Juniper that belongs to a student. I'm working on this tree in exchange for some mechanical work on my truck. I love bartering!
Anyhow to the tree-he won this tree in a raffle in a northern California bonsai convention. As you can see it's not really an exciting piece of material. The trunk has very little movement, and some reverse taper just about in the middle. The branches are not in the best position and the foliage is way out on the ends of the branches.  There is quite a bit of shari on the trunk which we will make use of and enhance. What you see now is actually an improvement-the tree was cut back pretty hard about 6 months ago so promote some back buds.

The primary branches were wrapped with raffia and wired when the tree was first acquired. First thing to do is to  give the foliage a good trim and remove the raffia and wire.

Now that I can see things the next step will be to pick a front. I cut most of the top of the can away and left a couple of handles. This makes it easier to see the base of the tree and to move it around.
 There is almost no nebari to speak of so I've tentatively chosen this front because of the view of the shari's, movement of the trunk and branch placement.

I'm keeping the little branch down low with the hope that it will eventually thicken that part of the trunk. One can always hope!

The reverse taper is  very evident in the above picture. We're going to try to eliminate it and create a little taper throughout the trunk by carving with a variety of power carving tools. Mostly I'll use a die grinder with a variety of bits.
First I'll use one of the big coarse wheels for fast removal of a lot of wood and to get the basic shape of the trunk.

 The reverse taper is much less but still there. Need to do a some more shaping but it's a start. I'll also start to add character to the shari by making various cuts into the trunk of different sizes, shapes and depths. This adds to the illusion of age and strength to the tree.

Using several bits I've greatly reduced the reverse taper, added  a little taper overall and gave the shari's some depth and character. Tilting the tree a little to the right will just about make the reverse taper disappear.

Here's a small detail that adds  life and realism to the shari. The first photo below shows where a branch used to be. Using a couple of small cutter bits I was able to create the illusion of two smaller branches as well as create shadows and depth.

The carving is done for now. I'm going to let the wood dry and harden and after a year or so will do some more detailed carving to remove the tool marks and to enhance the natural aging of the wood. The last thing I'll do today is to use some guy wires to pull the primary branches into a better position. This fall the branches can be wired and placed into better positions.
Thanks for reading my blog. As always I look forward to comments and suggestions.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thinking outside the box with an old San Jose Juniper

Today we're going to talk about an unusual San Jose Juniper. I received this tree in October of 2010. It's age and unusual shape called to me so I had to buy it.
It was an old skinny San Jose in a long drawn out C shape with  the only foliage at the end of the tree.  There are two life lines on either side of a shari that runs most of the length of the tree.  There's also a break in the shari. Here is what it looked like when I got it.
Here's a detail of the shari and the break. Notice the checking and cracking in the shari -this really shows the age.

It was in terrible soil so I decided to reduce the foliage some and to repot it. It didn't
have a good root system so I did not want to put it in too big a pot for fear of root problems. Sometimes if there is too much soil volume the roots cannot use as much water as the soil will hold which can lead to root rot. So I planted it in this round pot.
Not really a good choice but it was handy. The tree had to be kept tied down to the shelf while it was in this pot because it was unbalanced and wanted to fall over.
In spring of 2011 I decided to select branches and wire them into position for the first time. By setting the pot inside a nursery can I was able to change the plant's position and not have it fall over.
After this I pretty much let it sit for two years. I lightly pruned it and fed it but that was about it. I wasn't really satisfied with the way it was looking and felt there was a better tree in there - I just couldn't find it yet.

This spring my teacher Kenji Miyata was at the nursery and saw the tree. He said we should bend it and make it more compact. Bend it?!!! There was 20+ year old deadwood running most of the length of the trunk! My reaction was that it was impossible without breaking the tree in half. He said bring it to the next class and we'd do it.
In early March I took it to Kenji's class to work on.  Note the length of the trunk and the distance of the foliage from the trunk.

The first step was to wrap the trunk tightly and thoroughly with raffia. It
is important to be sure there are no gaps in the raffia. Each wrap should overlap the last.
After the raffia I laid a piece of large gauge 5mm aluminum wire. I used a couple of little raffia ties to hold it in place.

 Then I did the same with another 5mm wire.

Two more pieces of wire were tied to the trunk so that the whole tree was in a wire box. All the wires were tied to the trunk tightly with wire.

Then again I wrapped the entire trunk with another layer of raffia, being sure that it was tight and that there were no gaps. On top of this I wired the trunk with two pieces of 6mm wire. The initial bend was made, then an anchor wire was placed so the crown could be pulled in towards the trunk.

Then using anchoring wires and a turnbuckle we started moving the crown up as well as in.
Here is how much we were able to bend it! The bending was done slowly, feeling and listening carefully for any breaks. We didn't feel or hear any cracking at all, much to my surprise. We were able to get quite a bit of movement in the trunk.

After this the tree needed a rest. Within a month there were plenty of signs of new growth, the tree hardly seemed to skip a beat. I decided to put it in a more appropriate pot for the style of the tree. The roots had grown well since the last repotting.
 In the beginning of April I transplanted it into a cascade pot. This won't be its final pot but it'll do for the next couple of years while the foliage develops.

Again the tree hardly seems to have skipped a beat. There are plenty of new strong growing shoots. In the next few weeks I'll wire all the branches into position.
   I hope that this post was informative and helps you to try something a little outside the box. As always I look forward to any comments or suggestions for future topics.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bare naked trees 2013

I love this time of year, deciduous tree transplanting (here in L.A. anyhow), football playoffs,75 degree days ( at least today, a week ago the low was 26) and the Baikoen Bonsai Kenkyukai annual Winter Silhouette Show. This year marks the 49th annual show.
This is the only show of its kind in the U.S.-every tree is displayed in its bare form.
I'll apologize in advance about the quality of some of the shots, the lighting in the show hall is terrible. So without further ado here is a selection of the trees.

Contorted Catlin Elm

 Shohin display
  Chinese Elm
 Red Birch
 Suiseiki and Chinese Elm

 Shohin Display
 Trident Maple
 Crepe Myrtle
Trident Maple 
 Scrub Oak
 Korean Hornbeam
 Liquidambar Orientalis
Catlin Elm 
 Sejiu Elm
 Flowering Plum
 Chinese Elm
 Japanese Hornbeam
 Crepe Myrtle
Chinese Elm 
 Trident Maple
 Princess Persimmon
 Chinese Elm
 Trident Maple
 Chinese Elm

Congratulation to Baikoen for another amazing exhibition. I can't wait to see the 50th anniversary show.
Thanks to all for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed seeing these bare naked trees. As always all comments or suggestions for future blogs are welcome.