Bonsai is a journey... not the destination!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blog Updates

Several updates have been carried out throughout the site, in order to provide a cleaner, fresher and uncluttered look:

Blog roll has been added to the main page;
"Book reviews" main page received a total face lift;
"Bonsai Related Articles" main page has been refreshed; and
Several articles have been updated

Not only did I think the Blog needed a new look for 2010 more important, this post sends all my 2009 posts to archive.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year in review

2009 was a good year amidst the poor economy. My bonsais were able to really flourish under my vigilance this year. In comparison 2008 was not a good year for my bonsais. Although I looked after them, working shift work was not conducive to good growth.

Spring started out with the re-potting of "Lazy". This tree is finally becoming something from its humble beginnings. One of my favourites and a prime example of a good feeding regimen. It has really filled out nicely during the vegetative season and will see some minor tweaking in the spring.

"Lazy" circa June 2009

May came along and I finally found a decent Picea Pungens "Montgomery" (Blue Spruce), which received an initial styling and was planted out in a screen sided container. I should have read up on spruces.Although the right time of the year in my neighbourhood, it was the wrong time to work on spruces. A valuable lesson learned. The tree suffered from severe die back, which constitutes a complete re-style. Spruces should be worked on in August I came to find out later. Depending on what can be salvaged, this tree may be planted out for 3-5 years.

After initial styling circa May 2009

This lilac was obtained the spring of 2007. Not knowing much about them I was cautious in the beginning. The are prolific growers and will give 2-3 flushes in a vegetative season. I prune them early spring prior to bud break and once again in June. The remainder of the growing season is just branch re-directing with either guy wires or hard wire. This tree has filled out nicely this year and internode length has been drastically reduced. This tree need new shoes come spring.

The tree after trimming for a second flush
circa June 2009

This Cotoneaster was finally removed from her training pot and potted up in this gorgeous cobalt blue pot. Being a var. Coral Beauty this pot fits her like a glove in all seasons. This tree was part of my soil experiment of 2006

Circa June '09.

"Duggy" was finally ready for a new shallower pot.
Photo circa July 2009

This Acer Palmetum "Bloodgood" was acquired in June '07. This was one of three maples that were acquired for a steal. All had suffered significant damage during the winter of 2006-07. We aren't sure what happened that winter as several enthusiasts, including nurseries loss trees. This particular one was destined for the landscape but somehow the top portion got broken off making it totally useless for the landscape.

Placed in a screen sided container to help the
formation of fine feeder roots. Circa June 2009.
Come spring this tree will see a drastic reduction
after first flush.

My sixth Hinoki Chamaecyparis Obtusa "Kosteri" acquired in 2007 and undergoing training and a feeding regimen in a growing box while working on a problematic root, was finally potted up.

Circa August 2009

Late summer I finally managed to get my hands on a Pinus Sylvestries "Globosa Veridis" (Dwarf Scots Pine). It was in the sale pile at the local nursery as one side was almost totally dead due to lack of light, outside of that the tree was extremely healthy. It was taken home all unnecessary and dead branches removed and left to recuperate. The tree has done well including some new buds.

Circa August 2009

Possible Futures

This one shows the first section of
trunkline similar to what I have,
just vision it with the second photo's top.

Rhododendrom Impenditum "Mauve" This is one that I nearly lost the winter of 2007. It is once again showing promise and should flower next spring. This variety lends itself well for bonsai with it's very small flowers and leaves. The tree is only 3-4 inches high.

Photo circa '09.

Juniperus Chinensis "Blaauw". The tree was acquired in May of 2006 as a lop sided bush. Under my aggressive feeding regimen it is coming along nicely but has a long way to go. My 2008 schedule was extremely hard on this tree.

Photo circa Sep 2009. This was the first
major styling since acquisition

What did I learn in 2009. That Bonsai truely prosper from daily interaction and care.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Santa has come and gone but the treasures he leaves behind will unfold many memories for years to come. Santa left behind Robert Steven's new book Mission of Transformation. Having previously read his first book many times over, I awaited his second book which so much anticipation it was almost like being a 4 year old again, awaiting Christmas morning.

Robert's first book moved me in such a way that I wanted the second. This is not just another bonsai book. It doesn't cover the normal how to etc... His second book is very much an addendum to his first publishing. Leafing through the book Christmas morning while enjoying a good cup of Java, I stumbled upon page 163, I had a double take! Pictured on the page was a Chamaecyparis Obtusa belonging to Peter Evans.

There were 3 photos on the page: the first was the tree has photographed by Peter; the second was Robert's rendition of the tree with a slight clockwise rotation; and the third was the tree planted out in a different pot.

The tree as photographed by Peter

Robert's photograph with the new
viewing angle

Robert's vision for Peter's tree

So one might ask what is with the title for this particular entry? Well, as I turned to page 163 it was like deja vue or something, because...

I had acquired a Chamaecyparis Obtusa Kosteri in June of 2007, brought it home, bare rooted it, planted it out in a grow box, gave it an initial styling and commence feeding and refining it. I had a vision for it's future and never thought much more of it.

The tree fresh from the nursery prior
to initial styling circa June '07

The tree after it's initial styling
circa June '07

The tree finally got it's first pot this
summer circa August 2009

Deja Vue!

A side by side in scale comparison

The similarity between the two trees is absolutely phenomenal, and at a glance, one would have a double take just as I on Christmas morning. A little background...

Peter and I live 11,000 miles apart. I find it totally amazing that two individuals, unknown to each other, separated by an ocean would come up with similar visions. What is further astonishing, is the similar characteristics of our individual trees. They are nearly the same height, trunk size, lean etc... Peter's tree was originally posted at the Knowledge of Bonsai forum in August 2007 seeking advice in the Robert Steven "Styling Advice" section (where the photos originate from).

My tree is far from reaching where it needs to be. It's journey is told here . As described therein I am working on a problematic root that still needs several more seasons in order to be further refined and corrected, at which time the pot depth will be reduced. Also seen in the photo (rebar) I am inducing some movement in a rather boring straight section of the upper trunk.

Artists are first and foremost individuals and although it might prove flattering to someone to have their worked mimicked, I believe that most thrive on developing their own creations, for personal satisfaction if nothing else, and that is the route I intend to take.

The side by side photograph demonstrates the design potential of the tree. Although both trees are similar, they cannot be duplicated. However, using Peter's tree as a template, and applying Robert's vision and introducing Robert's design principles, I believe I know have the necessary tools to develop the full potential of this Hinoki.

The foliage and branching on this tree is much fuller than Peter's. Furthermore, this cultivar is a Kosteri. Kosteri's foliage is much coarser than the regular Obtusa. It has a tendency to grow in a more vertical fashion in comparison with other cultivars. It will also be interesting to see over the next couple of years of applying Robert's design principles how full this tree will remain. I can already envision loosing the top tuft of foliage at some point in the future.

To many, working with Hinokis is a nightmare, to me a mere challenge. If nothing else it has taught me an important bonsai virtue, patience. Because of the root work, the tree will pretty much be left alone during the next vegetative season where, the tree will be abundantly fed and nurtured. I will spend the next season contemplating it's future.

Over the years working with this species, I have come to find out the frailty of the branch-lets. Although I am terribly careful when handling my Hinokis, my inept handling does materialize with die back after the tree has been manipulated. The juncture of branch and branch-lets is extremely delicate and any mishandling of such provides unfavourable results, not readily apparent when styling, rather they materialize many months later. It is incumbent that my timing be judicial between reducing the problematic root and developing the tree, as Hinokis do not back bud.

Robert has been a large influence on my bonsai journey. Doing bonsai in near total isolation is not an easy feat. However, Robert's creative artistic visions are easily imparted in his books. Armed with this creative knoweledge, I believe I can someday make Robert proud of this specimen.

Disclaimer: Permission has been sought from Peter Evans for personal use of his photographs.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Winter is upon us

Well father winter's ugly head is just around the corner. I do not despise winter, au contraire I enjoy it as another season. The downfall of the onset of winter is that we must put our trees to bed and await for spring to once again enjoy our passion.

My deciduous trees and some conifers is non frost-proof pots are bedded in my cold frame. They do weel in here and have in the past. Come spring one must be vigilant of outside temperature and the height of the sun. To do otherwise results in the trees in the back being scorched.

This has happened in the past. Last year was a first where I caught them just as bud break and placed them in my greenhouse for protection. The greenhouse filters 65% of the sun on top of the harmful UV rays. The trees didn't seem to miss a beat, as a matter of fact I was a little worried with regards to acclimatising them for the outdoors. Likely my bench is semi shaded and the trees did well.

All my conifers, trees that are too large for the cold frame and trees under development are placed in the greenhouse. Last year the greenhouse was used as a partial storage area. With the addition of shelves this is no longer possible, besides a greenhouse is for plants/trees not lawn furniture, that is what sheds are for.

This new set up will make watering a breeze in comparison with last year.

The floor of the greenhouse, trees in development.

The back of the greenhouse. Yes there is a dead branch on the Mugo Pine. It was the result of the tree loosing an important root. There was nothing to do with this problematic root so it was removed. I fretted a greater loss of foliage than what is apparent. Hopefully the lost willbe limited to this only branch. A re-design is possible with only this lost, but more could indicate a design problem. I took a gamble, so far so good. I got my fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A rainy day

Today it's raining so I decided it would be a good time to take some pictures. My Blauuw's Juniper was updated.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer summation

Well summer has been good to me. I have accomplished many things this season in comparison with last summer.

Only 3 acquisitions this year. A Hinoki a Blue Spruce and a Scots Pine. I find myself acquiring less and less each year, and focus my energy on present stock.

A tabulation of this vegetative season as seen the purchase of Hinoki V, another Gracilis that was quite a find. Even in it's early stages it is going to be a credible bonsai in a few years.

My Kosteri has finally received its first pot. The foliage on this one is proven to be quite a challenge. Now that I have it in a proper bonsai pot, growth should stabilize, and I should be able to tame it. It is been developed as a slanting tree and the branches are finally coming into the proper plane. Although the trunk had some movement, it still very much appeared too straight, that is why you can still see the bending appendage attached in the photos.

The Mhugo that was acquired in '07 has also received it's first pot and styling this summer. This tree is not seen on the site. It is not ready to be seen publicly. I am following some expert advice with regards to August re-pottings of Mhugo versus traditional spring. I don't remember the details only that the success rates are greater in August, especially when serious root work needs to be carried out. This tree is now recovering in a semi-shaded location. So far there seems to be no indication of problems, but time will tell and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

The Blue Spruce was acquired in early spring and an initial styling was carried out. I come to find out Picea is another species that prefer to be potted and worked on in August. Some serious die back has occured in one area, that is going to require an almost complete re-style.

My Acer was dug up and placed in a screen sided container. I am glad this was carried out this summer. The tree is coming along nicely but the roots require attention. The tree when acquired late in '07 was planted out and the roots were no thouroughly examined. The roots were growing on 3 different planes. One plane has been reduced this summer with the remainder in subsequent re-pottings.

The Dwarf Rhodie that suffered winter damage in '07 has recovered and we should se it bloom next spring.

Several Cotoneasters are finally coming in to their own as well as my burning bush. The Lilac is in it's 3rd season and after comprehending its intricacies should prosper in upcoming years.

August is also the month where I start my fall feeding regime.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Supersize me

An addendum to my fertiliser article "Would you like fries with that"