Winter preperations

How to prepare the bonsai for the winter season. Is there anything to do at all? Yes, there is. First and foremost bonsai needs to be stored away from frosty winds and sun, that may dry them out when the roots are trapped in a frozen soil, not being able to take up water. There are also further small jobs to do.

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Start of the winter time is a fine time to make minor adjustments of twigs at deciduous trees, now where the branch structure is easier to see with the leaves shredded. Remaining leaves should be removed by the use of a pair of tweezers or cut off with a sharp scissor without touching the new buds waiting for spring. There is no need for the leaves to overwinter at the branches, because the buds of the tree is already under protection in a greenhouse or other types of winter storage. Keeping leafs at the bonsai may cause harmful fungus stay at the tree, or holding pests that may harm the tree later.

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It is wise to remove mosses from the soil surface, so pests are not staying hidden and kept alive in a safe shelter under the moss. It also makes it far easier keeping a safe eye on watering needs during the dormant period.

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Shohin-bonsai India

Do they grow Shohin-bonsai in India? Oh, yes they do. I didn’t really knew what to expect as I travelled to India in November. I was there to teach bonsai but had no idea if Shohin-bonsai was part of the bonsai world in the warm region of Pune. It was a great pleasure to watch how this part of bonsai also was present, and even small Mame-bonsai is developed. In the tropic climate trees are grown from cuttings and seeds, and develops satisfying trunks with speed.

Små træer under bearbejdning.

Small pieces on the workshop.

Especially Chinese Junipers and Shimpaku is grown with very good results. The Chinese Juniper differs from Shimpaku by being lighter in needle colour and softer than the more compact Shimpaku variety from Japan. A tropic variation also was present, but the looser growth and longer needles are better suited for medium and large sized bonsai.

The heat in the tropical environment demands much watering for the smallest bonsai. Therefore they are arranged at tables with pebbles who keeps the humidity up for a longer time. Watering is partly with a sprinkler system and followed by hand watering afterwards, to secure thorough watering. The advantage of the sprinkling system is that the trees are cooled down and leafs kept from being burned by the sun. This does not keep a man with a watering can going through the trees to secure everything is healthy and water evenly.

 

Bonsai works in India

At my recent travel to India I did a lot of work during my stay. One of the tasks was to refine or totally restyle some already established bonsai. Also a few Shohin was made from raw material. Here I will show some of the trees I have done, with the kind assisting by my friends in India.

First tree is a local variety Juniper, closely related to the common Chinese juniper seen in Europe. This specie has lighter and a little longer growth. It is a clump/forest style tree, that needed to be initially styled.

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Juniper before styling.

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Juniper after styling. This is initial styling work. Therefore strong growth are left after cutting the tips back to semi-hard wood. Branches are positioned, and next step is to refine and change smaller branches when new grow is established. The tree is opened up at this stage, so new growth can develop when light reaches the inner branches. The strongest growth must be controlled and trimmed regularly to even the balance of growth.

Next tree to show is also a medium size bonsai pre-trained as a bonsai forest.

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Thinning was done as the first thing, to clean out unnecessary growth and prepare for wiring.

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After wiring the smaller branches, and re-positioning trunks at line and with lack of movement, a new pot was chosen better fitting the size and expression of the tree.
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Manoj Kumar helps with moving the tree to its new pot.

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The tree was moved to the left side of the new pot, because the movement of the tree is to the right. As it is clearly seen, that means that some roots have to be reduced in size to fit the pot.

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The assistants repotting the tree.

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A larger pot is selected as temporary second pot.

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Because it is not safe to remove a large portion of the roots at the same time, the tree is double potted. This means that we put the replaced tree in another larger pot, to give it time to renew the roots after transplanting. Then the redundant roots can be cut back in steps, without disturbing the rest of the root mass. A safe and healthy method to remove roots and add vigour to other parts at the same time. Later when the roots are safely removed at the left side (seen from the front), the large pot is removed.

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Arranging the double potting.
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Soil is filled in around the pot.

Another Juniper needed a fine tune. After removing overgrown branches the tree was wired, and repotted by gently moving it to a better pot without cutting any roots. A refinement of the deadwood was part of the restyling, enhancing the beauty and age of this medium size bonsai.

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After thinning out foliage and wiring essential branches to enhance the movement of the tree. Didn’t manage to do a before photo.

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Branches are refined and now need to grow and be trimmed to balance growth, and develop foliage pads. In the tropical climate this expected to happen in a short time. The deadwood was carved with powertools.

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Assistant placing the tree in a new pot. Roots are not pruned to secure the health of the tree.
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Now the tree is fixed in the new pot and at the same time tilted a little forwards to improve the movement.

Shimpaku juniper removed temporarily from its pot to be able to work on it. The tree was changed to a cascade style bonsai which needed some drastice pruning and changing the growth direction of the tree.

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Before work is started.

The lower part of the tree has been pruned and wired. The tree is also tilted to make the cascade style.

The lower part of the tree has been pruned and wired. The tree is also tilted to make the cascade style.

Seen from above the new branch structure is in place.
Seen from above the new branch structure is in place.

Positioned in a temporary pot after initial styling. Now new growth has to improve the tree with time.

Positioned in a temporary pot after initial styling. Now new growth has to improve the tree with time.

And another one. Also a tree going in the cascade fashion. Because it simply invited to. This also is initial first work on a future bonsai. Dont mistake this work as finished trees, because there is no such thing when we work on trees that are drastically styled and changed. It will always be the first step in a series before we reach a mature and well developed bonsai over time.

The first work sets the direction, and the future work refines and improves.

Before work.
Before work.
After work. The beauty of this tree lies in the dramatically twisting trunk. this is the main feature, and the rest of the tree has to underline this. Therefore I followed the movement of the trunk and enhanced it by making a cascade style bonsai.
After work. The beauty of this tree lies in the dramatically twisting trunk. this is the main feature, and the rest of the tree has to underline this. Therefore I followed the movement of the trunk and enhanced it by making a cascade style bonsai. Also deadwood work was done to slim the trunk visually and improve age.

Finishing with a few other trees among the bonsai I worked on during my stay.

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An upright bonsai changed to raft style. Will be repotted.

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Another cascade initial work that needs development.

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Finishing with the start of a Shohin Juniper.

The large landscape

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At my recent trip to India, I was at the bonsai workshop space of the group Bonsai Namaste. At a wall, you find an amazing large landscape build with sandstone, which took one of the supporters Manoj Kumar 8 months to complete. The landscape has miniature waterfalls build in with real running water, and a system that makes it rain and at the same time watering the landscape. A stunning work of art, convincing and aesthetically pleasing to view.

 

Bonsai in India

Bonsai in India is not so well-known internationally. Not yet anyway, but it might change. I have just returned from a great trip doing private demonstration and workshops in Pune. That is about 160 km south-east of Mumbai in the Maharashtra district.

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There is a long tradition for bonsai in India, but for some reason this has not reached out internationally like Japan and China. The three behind my invitation is Prajakta Kale, Kamini Johari and Sucheta Avadhani. They run the bonsai project Bonsai Namaste, that can be translated to Welcome Bonsai. In 2018 a very big bonsai event is planned, bringing in bonsai artists from Japan, Europe, US i.e. including  my self. That event will be followed closely here and on Facebook of course. It will be great I am convinced, attracting people internationally.

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This trip was a mix of bonsai demonstrations, a workshop and consulting about the international event taking place February 2018. The material for bonsai in southern India naturally is tropical trees. Ficus in different variations. Junipers, J. chinensis and Shimpaku plus a local variety I didn’t know of before meeting it there. Also tropical raintrees and species I was unfamiliar with. Not a big issue, because it is mostly about aesthetics and pruning techniques fairly easy to adapt to other specimens. Where I came short in knowledge of specimens, their more than 25 years experience made up for it.

 

I worked on several trees every day, mainly midd sized. In the gallery below impressions from day one, at the country side garden of Sucheta Avadhani, just outside Pune. Within the next weeks a part of the collection will be moved to a common place where they all can work together. More reports to come shortly.

The fifth of five bonsai

The fifth of five bonsai is chosen without shaking on my hands. In this small fun series were I have chosen the five bonsai species among my favourites, the choice is Pine. it also i one of the most difficult trees to succeed as bonsai I find. There is numerous techniques to control the tree that one has to know, and at all the varieties there are different things to do. You just can´t do the same on all pine varieties.

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Pines, Pinus, are very elegant trees as bonsai, that have a majestic powerful expression with the aged old bark and gentle green needles. Therefore it is among the king of trees in the bonsai world, and often chosen among favourites at bonsai exhibitions too. In the small tree world of shohin enthusiasts it often is a pine tree that is selected as main tree in a composition. There are several good pine specimens for bonsai. Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, is common in northern Europe. Pinus mugo, the mountain pine, is broadly recognised and used in middle and southern Europe. From the east comes valuable trees like the Japanese Black pine, P. thunbergii and Japanese White pine, P. parviflora and others.

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The challenge with pines are the control of growth. Different slow growing techniques are used to develop the fine clouds of needles that frames the aged trunk. The needle length is also determined by accurate control of watering and feeding. The soil in general have to be very free draining. The more air in the soil, the better. All of this have to be adapted to local climate. There is a huge difference in conditions, if you live in the warm parts of southern Europe or here in the slightly chillier part of northern Europe were I have my feeds walking.

There probably are no other tree that present an aged bark with so much beauty as the pine. The bark holds the spirit of the tree. All the different growing techniques are fare to complicated to tell in just one post, and the meaning with this post is to inspire. Therefore I will salute the pine bonsai with a small gallery of pines seen in Japan. Enjoy.

 

The leaves leave

 

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Frosts are hurrying up the leaves to fall. The beauty of late autumn shows, and with some early freezing nights also the leaf drop is forced to speed up. It is not necessary to pull the trees of their place on the outdoor garden benches now, because it will be warmer the coming days. The trees also benefits of a few freezing nights, killing some possible predators hiding underneath the bark and top soil.