Monday, February 27, 2012

Dead Wood with Progetto Futuro

This weekend was again marked by the school Progetto Futuro. The theme for this school session was "dead wood", which is certainly the weak point of many bonsai. Dead wood for some reason is a design element for which I hear many times: "Well only the dead wood is not completed yet." Somehow, this element is getting less attention than other design element.

Whatever are the reasons for this, it does not matter, what matters is that this weekend I realized how complex, challenging and important the creation of "dead wood" is if we want to make really convincing quality bonsai.

The creation of dead wood is like most things in bonsai specific for each tree species, basically it adapts the natural characteristics of the tree and has to fit to the overall design of the tree. There are many different techniques, from handmade techniques with tools, to usage of grinding, drilling, and all kind of other machines. It is definitely a very wide area of techniques and specific tricks that speed up the image that would otherwise be achieved through nature in a longer period.

Enrico Savini

The school session was led by Enrico Savini and his assistant Tommaso Triossi. So knowledge was certainly not lacking, the will to learn was strong, the company has been excellent as always and the trees ware good. All conditions for a successful school session have been met and a great weekend is behind us.

Vid, Enrico and Modri

Team work

Tomaž working on his Juniperus

Tomaž with his Taxus

Blaž cleaning the live vain at his Juniperus


Nik working on his Taxus

Tommaso and Vid

Janez with his excellent Pinus Mugo

Matej completely concentrated

Enrico Savini

After two days of work I gained lots of new knowledge, new practical experience, I had a lot of fun and under the mentorship of both instructors we all created nice and several promising dead wood solutions on our trees.

Matejs great end result (unfortunately the wood was still wet while taking the photo)

Detail on Janezs Mugo

Niks Taxus after two days

Tomazs Taxus

I worked on a Pinus Mugo with lots of uninteresting, flat and long branches. After two days of work on the tree I’m very satisfied with the progress, but still over time the natural effects will add the final finishing touch. So the deadwood is again not completely finished. :)

The dead branches on my Mugo before the session
...after the session

..after the session

..after the session

..after the session

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carpinus Betulus - Two years after collection

In spring 2010 I collected this Carpinus Betulus from nature. The first year after collection he received all the care and lots of rest. Next to the appropriate position with a moderate amount of sun, good drainage substrate and a fertilization with organic fertilizers, I used for the first time Safe Bonsai Root Growth Stimulants, which seems to worked quite well.

Carpinus Betulus - 2010-03 - After collection

Due to the good condition of the tree in next spring, I decided to make two activities at simultaneously, the first styling and transplantation of the tree in the first pot. The styling at that stage was more or less only focused on the removal of thick branches and designing the big wounds that were caused by removal of branches. The branches that were on the tree at the beginning ware to big, without movement and proper narrowing, the angle of which they grew from the trunk has been improper. With one word, they were not appropriate, so I decided to develop them totally form scratch and just keep the trunk and the young branches, which were developed in the first year after collection.

After this procedure the Carpinus responded with good growth, which was strong but less intense than the previous year. I assume that this was mainly due to re-transplantation into another pot and the decrease of root mass. 

Since the tree showed enough power and good shape in autumn, I made the second styling a few days ago in the group workshop at TORA. At the second styling it was time to select the primary branches and positioning them. I worked on the branch selection, to some point during the last growing season. New branches or shoots, which were completely inappropriate placed ware immediately removed so the branches that were left on the tree, could get more energy and develop quicker.

Carpinus Betulus - 2012-02 before styling

Given the fact, that this is a pretty classic case of a formal upright design style, which by itself has no interesting design elements that may be a central design element, or a specific focus point which is interesting and you want to show it in the overall designing as a main element of interest, I believe it is very important that the design of such tree is idealized. 

At this moment and the current stage of my knowledge level, for me this means that the narrowing of the trunk is good, that the nebari is exposed to the best point of view, that the branches have just the right dynamic that they have adequate movement and narrowing and they have of course a good ramification and structure. Of course all that has to be well balanced with the overall picture of the tree.

Carpinus Betulus - 2012-02 after styling 

After the second design the tree is slowly showing a silhouette of the final design, but at that stage it needs some additional years of development. At the current stage I can make a brief analysis of individual elements of the tree, which I will use as guidelines for further development. 

The base for primary branches is set. Branches are currently too thin and in most cases too short. A lot of time is needed for new branch development. But such way of developing has some significant advantages. The branches can be developed exactly where we want them (with a bit of luck and without grafting). It is possible to develop them gradually, which means the possibility of designing the desired movement of the branches, you are also able to achieve the needed narrowing for each individual branch, which makes a good branch structure.

The pot made by Erin Bonsai is suitable and I believe the tree will stay in this pot, only the angle at which the tree is planted in the pot will be changed. The Nebari is also solid, but has to be better highlighted.

The top of the tree is currently too high. I left it longer for two reasons. The first reason is that while it is longer it will become stronger and thicker much faster. The second reason is that I will define the end height of the tree in accordance with the overall picture and the length and thickness of the branches, which also still in development. 
And somehow this will be my guidelines for future development. In a few years the tree can become a nice and convincing small tree.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Let the games begin - Season 2012 start

TORA - Studio for art and philosophy of bonsai opened its doors earlier than usual this year. Due to a new indoor space we could start to work already a few weeks ago, which is great. This season we also started to work collaboratively in a group and I personally like this approach very much. There are several reasons why, from the exchange of different point of views, different opinions and consultation on possible design possibilities, too exchange of knowledge and experience. Of course it’s more fun as well.

The first three workshops I've been working on a simple juniper from a nursery, which I bought for the practicing, the accumulation of experience and training wiring. The Juniper was a simple starter material which already in the start indicated the basic design direction – cascade style.

Juniperus chinensis - starting material

The trunk line indicated a pretty good chance to shape the desired style, but it was really straight and uninteresting, with no movement or rhythm. So the first step was important and the goal was to make the trunk line more dynamic, add some movement to the trunk and create a more interesting shape, which will be in compliance and will lead the observer true the tree from the top down with a nice rhythm.

Trunk line before the styling

Changed trunk line

After the base was created it was time for branch selection, wiring and styling the basic form of the crown.

After the first styling

When the initial styling was done, the whole team reviewed the design and through discussion we came to the conclusion that at this stage it is necessary to make some smaller corrections and one bigger correction, which at least in my opinion, makes a significant difference. Precisely these things are the added value of teamwork, different opinions, different views and ideas which brings us to better results.

After the additional corections

At this stage with this type of juniper it’s hard to create a very convincing crown, but the basis for the development is set. Now after some rest the juniper will gain new strength and then I will start to work on ramification and detailed crown definition, dead wood,...