Rocky Mountain Juniper: No Guts No Glory

(Ok… so I know I was supposed to put up part two of Bonsaication next… but have you ever been so gripped with inspiration you could not resist the impulse to create?? That’s where I found myself on the evening when I was supposed to be finishing the other story – vacations are almost as hectic when you return as from before you left – and I could not ignore the creative fire that had been lit. So I hope you’ll enjoy this as I leave you hanging on the other for a little bit longer. BUT the good thing is that you’ll find, when I get to that section – which is all about our collecting trip – that having read this will inspire your mind when you look at the trees we collected. Sometimes the obvious isn’t always the best, learn the skills to make trees do ballet and all the world suddenedly has infinite possibilities. Don’t close your mind to an idea just because it seems impossible.)

The other day Eric and I bartered with our friend Will Hiltz for several NICE antique pots in exchange for a raft planting Siberian Elm that Eric had. Being a very generous kind of guy, he threw in a RMJ he had collected several years ago. This tree originally had two crowns, but the one which had inspired it’s collection had died back, leaving a long trunk horizontal to the soil line.

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Part of the reason we entered into the barter was that when Will had seen the elm during a visit he had such a strong and clear vision for what he would do with it. I found myself feeling much the same thing when I saw this RMJ. I knew exactly what I would do with it. I asked Eric if I could have it… and he gave it to me, not having any strong feelings about it for himself. We often will negotiate trees between us… I recently found a gorgeous collected Korean Hornbeam, which I gave over to him, because he’d been seeking one for some time.

Anyway… I got home this evening and decided it was a great time to work on the juniper. Essentially my plan was to excavate the heavy deadwood to the live vein and move the limb over the center of the trunkline.

To accomplish this, I used the new Terrier bit we got from Dale to remove the wood…

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The heartwood was removed just to the point of being along the vascular tissue to the inner side of the vein. You want to be careful not to remove too much.

After the channel was excavated, a section of the deadwood in the main trunkline was also excavated so the moved branch would have a space to move into. Then the channel had several pieces of aluminum wire measured to fit and was fixed into place with some electrical tape.

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I then began the process of tight wrapping the limb with hay bail twine, which we often talk about but haven’t documented all that well. As the twine is being laid firmly against the limb, it’s being unwound so that it lays flat. Eric assisted me with the wrapping, as it’s always easier with two people than one… though it can certainly be done alone.

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Once the whole branch was covered tightly to close up the channel, a spine of heavier wire was laid against the outside of the limb, and the twine was laid against that back to the base of the limb. Heavy gauge wire was then applied to the branch, and the bend was very easily accomplished. The prep work took longer than any other aspect of this evenings work, but it’s essential to a successful bend of what would otherwise be an impossible move. De-lamination of wood is only prevented when great care is taken to evenly spread the force and tension over the whole length of the limb.

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The tree was slip potted into a container which would be able to be it’s home for the next few years, and was covered with sphagnum to help keep the soil evenly moist as we head into our drier season. The tree will be kept in mostly shade for the next few weeks… I’ll let you know how it does. I would have preferred not to have to move it, but the basket was shattering whenever you touched it.

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I’m very happy with the resulting image, and will work on foliage placement if it exhibits strong growth next year. To give a sense of how it was bent and twisted, I’ll leave you with this last photo for the moment… and will definitely get a better photo of it when I get a chance in general.

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Kindest regards,

Victrinia

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That moment when it all pays off

This last weekend we stopped by the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection to view an exhibit of several of our teachers trees. It is always very exciting to see them displayed in new and different setting. The trees of course were all wearing their very best and looking especially  glamorous. One of the trees on display was the tree I worked on in the previous post “Wire Wire Every Where” . I was so pleased to see how the tree finally looked in its new clothes that I was very surprised and delighted to have it pop out at me as I turned the corner of the display. I remember it being very much a moment of realizing that all the time and work put into that fantastic winter silhouette had finally payed off and there was that beautiful ancient tree I had imagined.

Below is a shot of the tree on display. The honor of having Daniel choose to display the tree is overwhelming and gratifying.

Larch Fest Continues — Patience Pays Off

A few years ago , three to be precise, I took a workshop with renowned Canadian collector David Easterbrook at the PNBCA convention in Vancouver, BC. He was working with some American Larch (larix larcinia) that he had collected in the wilds of Canada and I took the opportunity to acquire one of these special trees. Trees for the workshop were selected by way of raffle and as anyone who knows me knows I don’t generally do so well. [my wife on the other hand does great, go figure]

The tree I landed on wasn’t the largest trunked of the bunch and was more literati in its configuration. It seemed it was going to be a challenge to work with in creating a decent design, in other words it was right up my alley. For a moment I was a little concerned until I realized what was there. As the workshop began David walked around helping people to find the tree in the material, but I knew right away what I wanted to do. By the time he got to me I was well prepared to show him what I had found and after looking over the tree and turning it and looking from many angles David concluded I had indeed found the best image for the tree.

I didn’t work on the tree too much in the workshop. I had found its image and I was happy. I did perform a major bend using the bright orange bailing twine that is so iconic of work at Elandan. In the picture below you can see me and David discussing the bend I was going to perform, to tell the truth I don’t think he thought I could do it. The branch needed to be bent severely to bring the foliage at the end around to the front of the tree. While wrapping the tree and applying that large gauge wire required for the bend I continued to listen to David giving advice to the other workshop members. This advice turned out to be great and was well worth the workshop alone.


Larch at PNBCA workshop before any work began. photo by John Conn

I’ve taken my time with the larch and enjoyed keeping it healthy and lush. As we know from the seven stages of bonsai it is extremely important to work on healthy trees to get the most out of them each year. The first year with this tree was spent letting it grow strongly to set the few major movements that I added and to heal the large bend I made in the side branch. Being larch is extremely flexible and with the tree growing well that year it healed and had set by the next spring. It was then moved and potted into the pot you see it in the below pictures. After collecting the tree David had placed it in a large tub with pumice surrounding the original soil. Having let the tree grow strong for an additional year before potting it allowed me to remove almost all the original soil. It was potted into this pot not for show but as a suitable solution for the time being as it was the best size to allow the tree to grow freely for an additional year. The tree was potted into free draining bonsai soil and watered and fed well to encourage more growth. No additional design work was performed.  The tree grew marvelously and has filled the pot with roots. Last fall some carving work was done on the large deadwood section at the base (you can see it under David’s elbow in the above picture) more detailed work will continue.

A few days ago, as spring was getting all sprung, this guy started to leaf out. It comes out a little later than its Asian counter parts but that blue green foliage is so very much worth the wait. I took the next step in wiring this tree and placed some more of the large foliage areas while reducing some of the unneeded extensions as well. I’ve been back and forth on which side I like the best, but for now this is the front. I will be removing the left section of the tree sometime this year, it however is currently being left on to encourage a little more strength in the tree. This winter will see the fine wiring and next step to that final refined image.


Larch after three years of patient slow work. Left side will probably be removed.

As always comments, questions and discussion are always welcome and encouraged.

– Eric

Wire Wire Every Where

(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.