To make a visually pleasing bonsai is a matter of balance in all things. The pot to the tree, the base to the trunk, the trunk to the main branches, and the main branches to the tertiary branches. To make a great bonsai, to our mind, requires the tree to also tell you a dramatic story of survival against the most hostile elements. Even when in our care, those elements still come into play… how to use those elements to support your work is something I will take time to write about as we go along. Today I want to write about sunlight… maybe because it’s February and we actually had two full days of it. Crazy!!
We all know that as a general rule sunlight is vital to the health and growth of your trees… but it is also plays an important role in reducing leaf size and promoting ramification of branches on your trees. If you keep your trees in a lot of shade, you’ll find that the leaf size is much larger than trees getting the same care would have in the sun. Think of the role of leaves as solar collectors, when they get lots of light, there isn’t need for the tree to expend energy on making the leaves bigger to have larger collectors. You’ll also notice that leaves in full sun tend to have a waxy feel over the leaves of trees which are in the shade. This coating helps protect the leaves from burning when being exposed to so much UV light. If you have a tree which has been kept in the shade for a long time, be sure to transition it slowly to full light so that it can build up that protection. Sudden radical exposures to sun can crisp up your foliage in as little as a day, especially if not watered properly for conditions.
What you should know about our yard… it’s primarily a full southern exposure at the top of a hill with very little tree cover. I should grow hay… not trees… seriously, it’s that bright. But even with this much sun, we’ve worked out how to use the shade cast from the garage to make a good space for shohin sized bonsai and recently potted trees which need protection from prolonged exposure to the sun. Make a note of how sunlight moves across your space… and unless you live on the equator… through the seasons. It’ll help you a lot in managing exposure for your trees.
Last year, Eric and I bought a truckload (literally) of azaleas from the estate of a local bonsai gentleman… his backyard was the most shaded out enviornment I’ve ever seen – as in jungle darkness in broad daylight… and consequently the trees he grew tended to be leggy and sparse with very tender leaves. So they spent all of last summer and this winter in the relative complete shade of the front of our garage, and will be moved into a brighter area this spring before being moved in with the rest of our trees in the backyard. With thin barked species like azalea, another thing you have to be mindful of is to not sun scald the trunks. A sun scald is where the bark of the tree has died due to a previously shaded area of the tree’s trunk suddendly getting too much sun. Think of it as a 3rd degree burn. The trunk of the Alaskan Yellow Cedar that Eric showed in a previous post was a case of sun scald that happened post collecting. But what could have been a disaster was turned into part of the story of surviving hostile enviornments.
There isn’t any doubt that full sunlight can create a harsh enviornment, but when approached with thought and care, it will make your trees healthier and help get that smaller foliage we all love and admire.
(This is a re-post of an article from Dec, 2011. I brought it here for you to enjoy.)
Recently I worked on a large Korean Hornbeam of Daniel Robinson’s (my teacher) at Elandan Gardens, this is the story of that tree, through a few images. For those of you familiar with Elandan you will have doubtlessly seen this tree in the collection where it has lived for a great many years. I fell in love with this tree (actually all the hornbeams) from the minute I set foot in the garden. They are such a spectacular species and this tree is certainly no exception. Much of the deadwood had weathered and changed over the years and excavating what was left behind was a wonderful distraction between hours of focusing intently on little tiny branches.
This tree took me about 16+ hours to wire over the course of about 3 days. I gave it a break for a few days during the work week and finished it just before heading to bed on Monday.
This was a tremendous amount of fun as always. I never tire from the transformations, of a twig, a branch then a tree. It makes me fall in love with bonsai all over again. I hope this helps show how important it is to do detailed wiring. This is the only way to get those amazing ancient crowns.
I hope you enjoy … please feel free to comment as always …
With the last bit of fall color:
After removing the leaves:
After many tedious hours of fine wiring:
I am currently working another large hornbeam from the collection and hope to have it completed soon. I will post a more detailed progression of it’s change in the coming weeks.
So when I am not playing with trees… frankly, I’m photographing them. So here’s some photos for you to enjoy. 🙂 These are a selection of trees from our 2010 regional convention that our club hosted. This first one is a Bougainvillea that Daniel gave to Eric and I as an engagement present. It was a raw stump when he gave it to us…
This last one took home the prize for best of show…
(This story is a re-post of a thread from several years ago . I believe it is still relevant and hope you all find some value in it.)
Since my friend grouper52 suggested that I post some pictures of the AYC (Alaskan Yellow Cedar – Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) I have been working on I decided I would take him up on that.
I got my wife to take some pictures of its current state. These are such wonderful trees to work with. They are extremely flexible and can be wired very easily. Long branches can be shortened and gnarled to create the ancient image of a tortured tree.
This particular tree is still in the process of being created so many of the jins haven’t been carved and some of the branches need to be removed. Foliage needs to be reduced and developed as well to support the image. I thought however you might enjoy to see a before picture and a few afters of its current state. The carved sections are best viewed from above but due to the angle we had the tree setting the best views of it aren’t entirely represented here. Some of the sections need more attention/ smoothing to reduce some of the burrs etc. Detail work may be done at a later date to complete the design of the deadwood. I also have plans to create another deadwood section higher in the tree to continue this ancient look. For those that may be wondering I did not kill most of this area instead it died back from sunscald and thus presented this great opportunity. Which of course turn out to a wonderful silver lining, giving this tree an undeniable focal point.
I hope you all enjoy.
We have come to realize that it might be nice for us to have a place to call our own. A little corner of the internet so to speak. Where we can tell the story of our lives in bonsai.
“Otaku” being a Japanese slang word for nerd or geek seemed appropriate as we both find ourselves to be quite geeky especially when it comes to bonsai. Having already dedicated ourselves to the art for some time we thought it only polite to share our joy and appreciation with everyone else.
We look forward to sharing many interesting stories with you all as we continue to walk the journey of our lives in bonsai.