Tuesday, 26 February 2013

An interesting few days.

I have been looking at some of the statistics behind my blog over the weekend and it makes for interesting reading.
One surprising statistic for me has been, that there are a few professional bonsai guys who read my blog which I find interesting indeed.
The most worrying statistic however is that in general the most visited pages on my blog to date, are those that contain the most images. Now I assume that I have both men and women reading my blog so I am guessing most of the men visiting my blog also read, and I use the word 'read' in the broadest sense, those glossy magazines off the top shelf in the plain wrapper from the news agents. You know the ones, all photo's no written content. And I am guessing then, that the women read all of my posts and not not just those with pictures. You guys just love looking at the pictures, it is so much easier than using your brains to read. Ah Bless! But then does that make my blog Bonsai Porn??  It makes you think.
Someone who reads my blog pointed out to me recently that in one of my posts I used the comment "as thick as a mans leg" or "as thick as a mans arm". I would like to point out, it is just my way of trying to paint a picture for you all, I do not have a fetish for male anatomy.
Anyway enough of the frivolity.

So what has happened over the last few days.
Well in brief, since my last post I have had some One to One workshops here in my studio. I had some trees arrive from Spain which are fantastic. I attended the Swindon Winter image show on Sunday and while I was there I delivered some copper wire. I sold a few bronzes from the new designs, and I parted with the huge Prunus mahaleb that I posted on "A rather lazy day" on 3rd February. All one way traffic you might think. But I did come away with a great English Elm stand from John Brocklehurst and two Doug Mudd tables.
I have two school nights here now this week and I am just waiting for the yamadori trees to arrive from the Pyrenees, hopefully tomorrow (please) , and that will be a nice way to round off this month.

So as usual the Swindon Winter image show held at Stratton Community Centre, Grange Drive, Stratton St Margaret, Swindon on Sunday was a great success visually, although the numbers of visitors were down. Was it the cold as someone hinted, I don't think so. The weather certainly did not affect the Noelander's Trophy which experienced polar conditions. But nevertheless Swindon was a bit quieter this year, although the sales rooms and the bacon butty counter were always busy.
One of the things that makes this show so successful is the fact that it is a Winter show and so we get to see deciduous trees as they are best seen, naked without any leaves. But it also helps that among the Swindon BS membership, you have talented growers like Terry Adams and Reg Boulton who from day one, have been able to assure that there have been quality deciduous trees in the exhibition. And it is this that has established the shows reputation. Of course they are not the only ones exhibiting high quality deciduous trees nowadays, as anyone who has seen some of the shows of the last few years will attest. But nonetheless, it's reputation was undoubtedly enhanced by the quality of the deciduous trees at the beginning.
It is a great place to catch up with old friends and of course make new ones and the isle of chairs down the centre of the main room is a great place to kick back and take it all in.

This year I felt the quality of the conifers was not so high overall, that is excluding the shohin displays which had some lovely conifers in the compositions. There were one or two good trees but the deciduous trees dominated for quality and in numbers present. This is unusual, as usually you struggle to get a good balance of deciduous trees for a show. Usually conifers dominate in numbers.
There were some very good individual trees there like Simon Temblett's Willow, Mark and Ritta Coopers Trident on rock etc and there were some nice trees on the society stands. As usual the Wirral boys put on a good collective display and again proved what a small group of dedicated bonsai lovers can achieve. (I mean bonsai growers who love bonsai, I was not inferring any secret dalliance's here).
As is often the case in large exhibitions, there were a few questionable trees. By that I mean trees which were being exhibited too soon, and a friend of mine from down south referred to one tree as a 'nice piece of material', harsh, but I think summed up neatly. There were several trees that had very little ramification and this was made even more obvious due to the quality in the ramification of many of the trees in the exhibition. One tree had a dirty pot, there is no excuse for algae, and no attention to the top dressing and there was a pine that looked like it had been styled that morning. A couple of junipers looked like material trees with their 'clipped poodle' foliage.
Now before you all say here he goes; Please don't think that from these comments I am trying to put down the trees or the show, because I can find many more glaring faults than this in the first BEST OF BRITISH BONSAI exhibition believe me. No on the contrary, I feel it is a great show and I always try to support it.
But what I am trying to point out is that the selectors of the trees could maybe tighten up the standard of the trees they select. Likewise the exhibitors could take a little more time before putting their trees forward. This would then immediately lift the show to a new level which would be good for everyone and especially good for bonsai. Raising standards is always to be encouraged. I have spoken before about the premature exhibiting of trees, but let's look at it another way, can you imagine Mark and Ritta Cooper ever putting on a display of shohin bonsai, that included a pine that looked styled that morning, deciduous trees with no ramification, pom pom junipers and dirty pots! NO!
Now do you see where I am coming from. It is the attention to detail or bonsai foreplay as I like to think of it, that makes the difference. (What a great adjective).
Maybe less trees but of a higher standard is the way forward for this show. I think that the organisers at are a critical point now where they may be thinking do we go bigger and move to a new venue. I would say to them stay small but be selective. Oh and get rid of those sodium lights  They play havoc with the photography and render green foliage a hideous colour. However I would encourage anyone interested in bonsai to attend the Swindon show at least once, if only to see the quality of some of the deciduous trees.
Among the many good deciduous trees there were some old favourites there like Reg Boulton's Korean Hornbeam, the Coopers super Trident Maple, a very good selection from Terry Adams etc. But there were some very good Chinese Elms present that I would hope got a lot of attention. It is amazing how flippant some people are about Chinese Elms, they have this 'bought at B&Q ' label attached to them and they are not taken seriously enough. Please lets not let snobbery into bonsai, we already have enough trouble with politics and egos thanks very much. I can't recall the names of the owners of all the good Chinese Elms but certainly the one of Marcus Watts was a very nice tree and I believe he has worked on it for over twenty years, but there were several other good Elms present. All you need to do as an observer at an exhibition is ask yourself is it a good tree, and that is all. Don't mentally add, 'shame it's only a Chinese Elm, or a Privet etc. Either it's good or it is not irrespective of the species.
There were two trees that I found really pleasing. One was a Hinoki Cypress raft belonging to Bill Gordon of the Wirral Mafia, sorry I mean club. The other was an Ilex crenata covered in berries which I believe was John Brocklehursts, but please correct me if I am wrong.
I had seen the Hinoki of Bills when judging the Wirral show last year and I commented then on how I like the tree very much. It has that something that all good trees should have, 'individuality'. I had mentioned to Bill at the time that there was a slight disparity in the texture of the foliage. By that I meant some pads were thick and strong and others though healthy looking, were sparse and for exhibition this always need correcting. And I also pointed out a few areas to fine tune with regards to branch lines. Well Bill did a great job on the tree and it looked fabulous on the Wirral Club stand.
John Brocklehurst's Ilex looked vibrant, it is almost Trident Maple like in the power of the trunk, particularly the nebari, and yet it looked also feminine with it's delicate branches adorned with lots of exquisite berries. It was nice to see this species displayed so well. It is not an easy species by any means to grow well and I look forward to seeing this tree in ten years time.

Unfortunately I did not take my camera with me on the day and although I did resort to taking a picture or two on my iPhone, due to the sodium lighting in the main room they came out horribly yellow and not fit to publish here. Sorry folks. Letter to self, 'Try harder'.

I took the opportunity of meeting up with people to deliver some copper wire that had been ordered. I only wish I had thought to take extra with me as I am sure I could have have sold another 20 kilo's. But that's me all over. However the new bronzes I took with me were very well received and I sold quite a few pieces at the show and also took some orders. I must say that suiseki and also bronze sculptures or Ten Kei / Ten Pei as they are known in bonsai now give a lot of pleasure in my life.

Unfortunately for me, I did not have time to visit all of the traders as I was on a very tight time frame. I had a nice chat with Adrian Long who makes innovative bonsai work stands and despite the fact that Dave Sampson was on the neighbouring stand, we merely exchanged hello's and 'that's a nice suiseki'.
I usually have a long chat with Paul Goff and his lovely lady Vivienne, but again it was a quick 'Hello' as we whizzed by each other. There was no time for me to look closely at Pauls scrolls and I will need to catch up with him at some other event.
Even the 'Boss' Dan Barton only got a few minutes of my time but it is always good to catch up with the old bugger. And we usually carry on from where we left off last time. Which is usually with some very childish joke because as a lot of you may be aware Dan is 70+ going on 13.

I did have a nice chat with John Pitt who had some fabulous new pots on his stand. John not only has not pots and nice glazes but every now and then he will do something a bit different. Which as an artist I appreciate. It is always good to push yourself and not sit back being complacent and think you have arrived. You always need to push yourself, and John took the time to show me one of his new ideas, which had come out really nice. I know I have said it before but we are so blessed in the UK with great potters.
Sharing Johns stand was John Brocklehurst (Bespoke stands) who I have mentioned before in a post. There were some lovely display stands for sale and two in particular that spoke to me. Unfortunately one of the stands was already sold, however I did manage to buy the other and John took an order from me to make me a stand like the one already sold.
And so guys, here's the moment you have all been waiting for, the pictures!

This stand is made from English Elm. All the finish to the outer edge has been carved by John.
I have several of these now from John and I love them. John is a great addition to the bonsai traders we have in the UK and I wish him well.

And another image.

Here is a close up of the carved edge. A lot of skill and patience needed here I think you will agree.
It nice that I can use my blog to promote 'true' home grown talent. And I would not hesitate to recommend Johns work. He's not a bad chap either!

And for all you picture lovers here is a close up of the underside.

 While at the show I had arranged to collect a stand from Doug Mudd that I had reserved the last time I was up at the Wirral Club in September 2012. In the very first blog I ever posted I mentioned that I had bought a stand from Doug but also that Doug had shown me a table in the back of his car that I fell in love with. I mentioned that it's patina was almost antique. Well Doug had made the box for it and so I was eager to get my new table. Unfortunately, due to my being photographically challenged when it comes to cameras, the photo's do not do it justice Sorry Doug. But anyway here it is;

I have caught too much light here, which detracts from Dougs master piece.
This is a great stand that deserves a good tree.
I hope that Doug can reproduce this finish on a regular basis.

And here is a close up.

This picture of one of the legs is to highlight the detail Doug has put into this table. It is not fussy or over the top. It is a nice subtle piece of detail that enhances the table.
This photo actually shows the patina better than in the above photo.

Well with my new 'antique' table in it's new carrying box I was ready to hit the road and return to the 'ranch'. However before I new it, Doug had mugged me again before I had time to leave. I am beginning to think that Doug was a 'grifter' before he took up making tables. Well he got me again, slap bang in the middle of his stand, purposely posed so as to catch my eye and my wallet was a fabulous looking table. According to Doug, and I quote; " it is the best table I have ever made". Now this came as a bit of a shock as the table I had just bought fitted that same description, oh and thinking about it, so did the one before that. But Doug, like any good fisherman on seeing me enter the room had thrown out plenty of ground bait, a hand full of casters and then dropped in the loaded swim feeder. Guess who took the bait? But joking aside the table is a credit to Doug. So for all the men, here come the pictures.

The front view of the table.

Here is a close up of the cross rail and the feet.

Close up detail of the corners.

This is a close up of the 'clamp' joint that Doug used to stop the top frame of the table from opening up. It works to clamp across the mitred corners of the table frame as the top section is floating.

I think from these pictures it is evident why I buy stands from the 'Dougster'.

So that's my blog for today. Time for me to put on the hot water urn in the studio and get the fire lit ready for tonight's 'school'.
Hopefully in my next post I can report on my new yamadori from the Pyrenees and show you some of the new Sabina Junipers which I have not photographed yet. Until then................

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Frosty nights and mornings

I hope the latest spate of frosty nights and mornings has not interfered too much with your re potting attempts. From the way my stocks of Akadama and pumice etc have gone down, I guess you are all busy at the moment.
As someone who re pots a lot of trees every year, both for myself, clients and students. I still get quite surprised by the lack of knowledge surrounding the correct procedure of re potting bonsai and also material trees including yamadori. Some people think think re potting is simply replenishing the potting medium and cutting roots off. If only it was so simple.

Here is a classic example of what you should see when you come to re pot your tree. In this case, it's a Trident Maple Acer buergerianum, which was re potted only 2 years ago.
This picture also illustrates what you should be aiming to achieve with the root systems of your trees after re potting.
I have seen instances with other trees that were also as vigorous as the tree in this image. That when planted in pots with an internal over hanging lip/rim that restricted the expansion of the root ball, simply split the pot. This scenario often happens when people do not listen to their trees. Rather, they rely on some text in a book or magazine which tells them to repot their tree every 5 years or 7 years etc. Instead of being guided by the requirements of each individual tree. But it does illustrate a trees power even if it is only small.

In this next image on the right, you can see all the fibrous roots. It is these capillaries that do all the work. You will notice that there are no big heave roots visible in either picture. They are merely for stability. In a pot environment they are redundant as we tie our trees into the pot to give stability until the root ball has re established enough to hold the tree securely. It is the thin little guys that you have to grow when you have a tree in a pot. These are the ones that your tree needs for healthy growth. Ideally we want over time, to fill the pot with these roots like we can see in the first picture at the top.

So what is it that gives us these capillary roots we desire.
There is a clue in this picture below.

This is a tree I received recently. Notice it is planted in what can only be described as 'building site rubble'. Compare that to the mix that is in my hand. Any ideas yet?
If you think that trees should be planted in a fine mix to generate fine roots then give yourself a pat on the back. Using big particles like you see in the pot here, will not generate a plethora of fine roots. Yes you may have some fine roots but not in the numbers to grow a bonsai at it's full potential, but you will also get big coarse roots
The only time you should use larger particles is for drainage, this is especially so in cascade pots.

A word of warning here. Be careful of some of the cheap Chinese pots (any design) that can have the bottom of the pot raised up like a souffle. Or conversely sagging, which can lead to standing water in the pot, either around the periphery or in the middle dependant on the position of drainage or tying in holes. It is even more important to have a drainage course if your pot is like this to avoid root rot. And I would recommend pumice or similar for drainage. As a bonsai professional I get through a lot of cheap pots when establishing yamadori and I see these misshapen pots a lot.

You might think that a tree a metre tall would have roots bigger than a tree 12 centimetres tall. But you would be wrong, capillary roots are capillary roots. I am talking here of trees of the same species. Of course there are some species with finer capillary roots than others and vise versa. But you still need a small particle mix to generate small roots. 2-5 ml particle size is the maximum I ever use. Obviously with shohin I use the smaller particles so as to be able to have as much root as possible in a small container.
I am sure many of you will have heard of the guy who can get 7 different sizes of Akadama from one bag. !!
With yamadori or any trees collected with long roots, that only have capillary roots at the tips. It becomes your mission to develop as many capillaries close to the buttress of the tree as possible. We want to have the fine feeder roots starting as close to the trunk as possible and filling the pot. If the feeder roots start a long way from the nebari on long roots we will never have the best root mass to pot area that we could. Over time we want to reduce the length and size of the big roots that provide stability for roots that do the work for the tree. I once spent 8 years compacting the roots on a Common Juniper Juniperus communis, that arrived in a box the shape of a coffin. Eventually it was potted into a square pot that was 25% of it's original length. Of course there are short cuts, like grafting on new roots closer to the trunk, however the horticultural challenge to move the roots by growing is more difficult and a good skill to master. This is made so much easier by having the right particle size for your mix.
Of coarse the actual mix is important too. If you ask two people what is the best mix you will get ten different answers. There is not any single mix that fits all. But there are some NO NO's. I am sure everyone recognises that the UK is generally a wetter place than it is drier. So from that, without the help of Poirot, Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes it is easy to deduce that anything in our mix that hangs onto water is not good. So please please no more John Innes!! It is like blotting paper. And remember, it is easier to add water than take it out. FACT!

Just a few tips.
Beware of using collected organic components like leaf mould or needle litter for your mixes even if they have been recommended by your guru. This is one of the quickest ways to introduce disease into your pot.
AKADAMA, KIRYUZUNA, PUMICE, KYODAMA, KANUMA, MOLER etc etc. You are probably all familiar with these names. And there were many others I could have included. They are all well used and tested mediums that combined in different ratios give us the mix we use for potting our trees. One of the good things about using these inert products for your potting mix is that they contain no pre added unseen fertiliser, no water, no disease. You are starting off with a level playing field. Therefore what ever goes into the pot be it fertiliser, water, etc is what you add.

When raking out roots be careful when using root rakes or root hooks which can be very damaging if not used carefully. Remember Captain Hook did not always have an eye missing!
Sometimes when I am working on teasing out roots I will use two chop sticks in one hand held with a light grip. If I hit anything that has a bit of resistance the chopsticks will flex out of my grip. If you go bull at a gate with a root hook and meet resistance, the hook always wins leading to roots being ripped out. What I guess I am trying to say here is your trees are living things. Treat them gently but more importantly treat them with respect.

When you tie in your trees do not use copper wire. It will make your trees sick and weak over time. Use aluminium or steal but not copper. Junipers in particular go a bit sad from this.
When you have tied in your tree if you resort to twisting the wire UNDERNEATH the pot, then you have not tied it in properly in the first place. Learn the correct technique.

With almost all deciduous trees we want a nice flared nebari. This only comes from lateral expansion of the root ball which flutes the trunk base as it flares out. By putting trees in overly deep pots or pots which restrict lateral extension in the roots we are slowing down greatly the chances of developing a good nebari.

Try using some of the modern products that encourage root regeneration after potting/collecting. Use Vitamin B1 for stressed trees! All living things benefit from B1.

Often when trees arrive from Japan, they are pot bound. Very difficult to water and lacking vigour. Because I cannot repot the tree in June/July after quarantine finishes I use enzymes which break down all the dead root in the pot turning them to valuable sugars that can feed the tree. This in turn opens up the rootball so that I can water and supplement the tree until it is the correct time to repot for that tree. The use of this modern product not only helps the tree but it buys me valuable time.

I have not gone into great detail into how I re pot, if you want that then you need to come to me. I am just trying to stimulate a little bit of thought in those who just go through the motions never thinking about what they are doing or why they are doing it. And not thinking about the tree. And if you ever do a workshop with me or see me do a demo you will know that the tree comes first!

And finally, is Spring on the way?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

My last post for a few days

This will be my last post for a few days as I am going to be decidedly busy. However if you pop back, I am sure I will be posting topics of interest for you.

Well eventually my trees turned up yesterday, or rather some did and some didn't. Who would have guessed it Huh? I got four new trees delivered yes a staggering four new trees. So first their late, then not all of them turn up. Could it get any worse? Of course it could, we are talking about me after all, it can only get worse. So four trees turn up but guess what, they are not on a pallet! No, they arrive in the back of a truck lashed to the sides. It seems that they guy who attempted the first delivery; remember him. He got chased by the lion dog apparently. He reported that his truck was too big to get down my drive. (My recommendation for him is to watch a few episodes of ICE ROAD TRUCKERS!).
So he went back to the delivery companies depot and decided they needed to be put on a smaller vehicle. Only now the guy who drives the small truck says the pallet is too tall for the small truck! (You could not write this could you).
So guess what, some bright spark decides to break the pallet down and deliver the trees individually.
It gets worse, yes really, bare with me! When they break down the pallet there are two trees on the pallet and two trees stacked on top of the two trees on the pallet! Not the companies fault but the guy with the recent lobotomy who sent them. It gets worse, stick with me. The two trees on top of the two trees are on their side, and so all the soil, medium, potting compost, call it what you like has come out of the pots. So I have two squashed trees and two bare rooted trees. Really I could not make this up, it's like 'Carry on Bonsai' but without Sid James and co. Shit at least then I might be laughing............I think!
So I get this rather sheepish guy get out of a van asking 'Is this Shades Farm?' Now I am not sure if he was nervous due to the legend of the lion dog or wary of the owner of said dog who was going to chew his ears off as soon as he opened the back of the van to reveal all.!
Then to add insult to injury, he asked me to pay him first....OOPS! Red rag to a bull! So I explained to him how things work in Steve's world !      "£$%^%$£&&*****+_&^%$£" young man!

So do you think I could find a positive from all this. After all I lecture my daughters even now about 'Cup half full not half empty'. Well go on guess!
Yes I did, I am not the Tollster for nothing. By putting two trees on their sides resulting in the subsequent loss of soil, obviously the roots had been exposed. Or had they? Shit, what roots? The tree had no roots. So as I lifted the first tree off the van I got my camera out to record this discovery. By doing the unthinkable and here I mean putting the trees on their sides, I was now aware that the tree had no roots. Had it arrived as it should have, I would have been non the wiser (Cup half full).
I would have been happily tending to a tree with no roots and believing the details of when it was apparently collected. It's amazing how things unfold and sometimes for the good as in this case. Although it's little consolation for what has transpired. But I have to try to put a positive spin on this to keep myself sane and to stop myself turning into Paul Kersey. For the non film enthusiasts among you, Paul Kersey is Charles Bronson's character in the film 'Death Wish'.
A vigilante who goes out killing the bad guys who get away with doing bad things.
And you all think this bonsai lark is easy, I know. Buy some trees, bend em, take the money. Yes I have heard it all before. You have no idea how hard I work to make it look easy (laughing). So what next in the 'Carry on Bonsai' saga. Watch this space!

Anyway on a more positive note, because one or two of you were moaning about me not telling you about the new project other than it was a deciduous tree. I thought I would post a picture. I was going to anyway, but I had to keep you waiting. It's bit like a singer taking a curtain call. You go off stage, the curtain comes down and you keep the audience waiting, and waiting and a bit more, and then you go back out and do the encore. Then they appreciate it.
So here is the deciduous encore!

As Rolf Harris would say, "Can you guess what it is yet".
It's an Eleagnus, sorry about the pot. It is what the tree came in and it is temporary, honest. It can stay in that pot now until I am ready to exhibit it, which is a long way off. The main thing now is to get a good fibrous root system established and then I can see about developing the branch structure.
I have plenty of time to consider what pot style and colour I want for the tree. And even when I have the pot in my possession I will not be re potting the tree. It will not benefit being re potted again. It only needs the new pot for exhibition, and nothing more. The way to think of the final pot for a tree is like putting the tree in it's Sunday best. And it only needs that when it is ready for exhibition and nothing more. Sat in my nursery, it could be in a plastic bucket or a box it does not matter as long as it is growing well. To re pot simply to see it in a new pot is purely to satisfy ego. People are too quick to re pot trees in the UK and also people re pot far too often. You can only develop a good fibrous root system with time. Re potting a tree too often is not conducive to establishing a network of fibrous root. There are no quick fixes to successful bonsai growing, and anyway I do not subscribe to any of the McDonald's Bonsai 'Fast Track' ideas that abound. The slow way, is the faster way in the end. Think about it.
Back soon.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

When things don't go according to plan!

Monday 4th February. 2013.
Well I thought the day had started off well. I was back from the gym at 8.50 am and I sat with my bowl of cereal watching a noisy pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers displaying and occasionally coming right up to the kitchen window, so oblivious were they to everything around them. The sun although watery, was shining and it felt great.

On the button and as if by command my old mate George Bradley rolled down the drive at exactly 10.00am. If as the saying goes, 'Punctuality is the courtesy of kings' then George is the king of kings for punctuality that's for sure. It's funny how that saying has stuck with me from my school days all these years. I regularly had to write it 500 times as a punishment for being late to my Economics class. "Give me 500 lines Tolley". I smile when people comment at how fast I right. When you had as many lines to write as a punishment for being late in school as I did, you soon learnt how to lean on the pen, my Bic biro was more like a Porsche 911.
Well as usual George came, drank all my coffee and then left after the obligatory 2 hours of chat. It was only after he had left that I realised I had been mugged again. He left with an ancient Olive, a rather nice large Japanese suiseki from my private collection and a bronze of two cock Pheasants display fighting. Oh and half a dozen fresh eggs off the girls in the orchard. I should clarify that and say the 'girls' are my free range chickens and not a group of bonsai groupies I have have hidden away in a shed in the orchard.
However George did leave me with a new tree that I am very pleased with, which will be a nice project for the future. It used to be a nice mature specimen in Georges garden up until the winter of 2010, but that winter it was decimated like a lot of trees were in the UK, and I estimate only about 20% of the tree is alive now if that.
So with the image I now have in my mind to resurrect the tree, there is going to be a lot of carving and sand blasting done to make sense of the vast areas that are now dead and of course I will need a few years to put on the volume of growth on the branches that I need for the design. Growing the volume and the length of branches that I require will be a long process, but I think it will then be a unique tree. And guess what, it's not a conifer! So I bet your all asking, what species is it?
Well if I am honest I want to keep this one under wraps.
So can you all keep a secret?
So can I !

I should say at this point that George did a great job in pulling the tree around, good horticultural knowledge is priceless.
Originally the tree was a big informal upright (MOYOGI), and very classical in form and style. There is no way that if the tree was in its original condition and style pre 2010, that you would decide to restyle the tree the way that it will be now. However the winter damage has forced my hand and I am determined to to make it something special again, both for the sake of the tree and for George for letting me have it.

Well true to form, my delivery of trees did not arrive, Shock! Horror!
Am I surprised, of course not, you can always rely on good old British business to let you down. The only consistent thing about pallet delivery companies is their inconsistency! I am sure you remember my hassle with my shipment of trees from Spain only a few months ago. Well according to the delivery report logged by the driver they had tried to deliver at 7.45 am, which was while I was at the gym. However my Mother was here and she did not see any lorry attempt a delivery. The report also said that the driver was met by a dog the size of a lion and so he decided to retreat. He may have heard a dog that sounded like a lion, but that is completely different to what he said. What a load of crap! Anyone who has seen Muran, the lion of this tale, would know;
A. He is toooooo big to have wondering around when there is no one with him.
B. If the driver had met him on the drive, he definitely would not have retreated to his vehicle. Most people are glued to the spot! If you run your not going anywhere!
So me being me I thought it was an opportunity for a bit of sport! So I asked the transport manager at the depot if the driver was a young guy or an old guy. He was a little puzzled by my question and replied "an old guy." "That's a shame" I said, "if he had been young it would have been worth training him up for the Olympics in Rio. Because if he can outrun my dog he will walk the 100 metres".

Here's my little lad playing 73 kgs of controlled power.
A couple stopped me while we were walking in the forest recently and asked me what breed Muran was. I said to the couple that I was surprised they did not recognise the breed as the Queen had so many. The husband replied the Queen has Corgis, I said yes that's right. But he's not a Corgi is he he said. I said he is but he's on the steroids these days. The couple laughed. I then gave them the true facts.

But anyway I digress. So anyway there was to be no delivery of new yamadori today. So back outside into the studio to do some more dewiring. Hopefully the trees will be here on Tuesday as promised (laughs sarcastically to self).

Tuesday 5th February 2013. (Finishing yesterdays blog this morning)

Well the day went down hill from there. First I slipped on the slimy cobbles in the courtyard and like any good bonsaist I thought 'save the tree'! And duly twisted my back which I had sort of pencilled in for pulling, when unloading the pallets of trees. But even without moving the heavy pallets I managed to do it, you just have to laugh.
As the day wore on my extremities were getting colder and colder, well most of them anyway! My head was aching, my neck was getting stiff ( I said my neck), my eyes ached and I had started to tremble like you do when freezing cold. But I was not cold, only SOME of my extremities. I got progressively worse and my legs were aching and I did not know where to put them for the best. By the evening, to quote Kathy I was 'looking a bit grey'. You can't beat a wife's concern can you. She could not have been too worried because she asked me for two autographs for two guys at work, WILL and TESTAMENT which I obligingly signed despite feeling like death warmed up. I was surprised that two of her co workers would know who I was in the bonsai world!

Hopefully today will be better. The ground is covered in frost, the sun is out, my new trees are coming..............I think!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A rather lazy day!

Well today has been quite an easy day today for me and why not it's Sunday.
Well the morning started off OK, no rain as yet and it was quite mild. It's still very muddy under foot though, but hopefully if we don't get anymore rain the land should start to drain and therefore dry a little.
I put pieces of 3"x2" timber under many of the trees to tip the pots to drain excess water away this morning. Not all my trees are in the poly tunnels and not all have their wellies and water proof leggings on either. So invariably some get excess water, and at this time of year that's no good for the trees over a sustained period. I can't wait to get the new big poly tunnel put up as soon as the weather warms up. A few friends have offered to help me erect one right now, but as anyone who has ever erected a poly tunnel before knows, you need the warm weather to erect one to be able to stretch the poly skin tight. Then as the temperature drops it goes even tighter like a drum. Plus at my age erections and cold weather are a bad combo!

After checking around the nursery I took advantage of the dry weather to get some photo's taken of the new trees (that are left) so that I can get my website updated. There are lots of trees on the website now that are either sold or reserved and I have around 25-30 new trees that should be on there. Plus I have the new bronzes to add to the Ten Pei page on my site. Unfortunately I do not make any changes on the website myself, it is done for me by a very nice lady. I am PC illiterate that's for sure. This blog is challenge enough, and I can only compare it to an electronic Rubik's Cube.
Because I do not do the work on my website this means that I cannot update it as fast as I would like and invariably trees come in and get sold and never see the website. And then there are trees that get sold and are still on the 'TREES FOR SALE' page. On top of wanting to get the site updated with all the new images I have taken, I still have new trees to photograph that are arriving soon. The shipping company called me Friday to say they would be delivering another shipment of yamadori to me on Monday. So it will mean more photography on Monday weather permitting, as long as my back holds out after unloading and as long as my old 'mucka' George doesn't keep me drinking coffee all morning. So you can see I really need to get the site updated.

Here are a few images taken today of the trees that have to be added to my site.
This first one is a Mediterranean Cypress Cupressus sempervirens.

They are found in the Eastern Mediterranean region and are are a wonderful species for bonsai.
They have nice dark green scale type foliage which tightens up very well under bonsai cultivation. Heavy branches can be difficult to move, but they set in place quickly so in this respect think 'Itoigawa'. As a bonus they have wonderful red flaky bark which can give a different feel or image to what you would associate with a juniper for instance. Think Hinoki Cypress but heavier flaking of the bark.
Of course it can be removed to give a smoother boot polish red look if you wish. But I am hoping more people will take advantage of the species' individual characteristics rather than render it a juniper clone.
As it is a fairly new species to the UK I expect people to be wary and therefore slow in trying the Cupressus, but it is a forgiving and tough species and I think that once one or two are seen exhibited, then they will catch on. It just needs a few people with passion and vision to try them. It may be that I have to style one or two myself to show people what they are capable of.

The next tree is a Prunus mahaleb, Mahaleb or St. Lucie Cherry.
This one is a beast. It is as thick as a mans thigh. You can see the pot of Japanese cut paste in the photo which gives you some idea of size.
This is the preferred viewing side.

This is the reverse side.

From this side you can see the base better. It is a shame that the top of the tree goes away from the viewer here.
I think with some sympathetic carving, this tree will be awesome. And the wood is very hard on  this species and it is used for making pipes and furniture. Because it has hard wood due to it's slow growth habit, it carves beautifully with a machine like a Makita or similar. In that respect it is like Olive or Hawthorn.
It is not often you see fruiting tree bonsai that are so powerful in the trunk.
Of course as it is a cherry tree you will be treated to fruit on this tree, but it also has clusters of beautiful white flowers.

The next image is of a Quercus suber or Cork Bark Oak.

As you know I have a lot of nice Portuguese Oaks Quercus faginea at the moment. (Again not on the website yet). So this suber will give a bit of variety. Again a very heavy trunk specimen here. It's not as in your face as the Prunus mahaleb above, but it is very powerful with super bark quality. There are some really nice specimens of these coming through as bonsai from Spain and Italy now, which will undoubtedly be masterpieces in the future once they have matured.

The final image for now is of a Scots Pine.

This rather tall Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, is just one of a nice batch that I had from Scandinavia.
I really like it's natural 'tree' silhouette which for me is a refreshing change from a lot of the Scots Pines that I get which are contorted and very 'bonsai' like, but not necessarily tree like. For me there is room for both, but sometimes you can have more of one type for so long that you appreciate the other type when it comes along.

All the Scots in this batch have very good bark quality and I will be keeping at least one for myself to develop. But don't ask me which one just yet as I am torn between 3 trees. The one pictured here, a nice triple trunk and a'kabudachi' style one which is wonderful.
Unlike the Scots Pines that I get from the Pyrenees, these pines from Scandinavia have very flexible branches which will be a blessing I am sure to one or two people who I know have struggled with branch bending when styling some of the much older Pyrenean pines.
I find it fascinating to see how a species can vary in appearance so much from one country to another, and the Scots Pine is no exception showing amazing regional variation across it's range which starts in Ireland, across to Scotland the east across Europe to Siberia. For me it is the 'king' of all pines. The reason being it has all the best qualities of all the other species favoured in bonsai all in one species.
It has a good needle quality which can be brought down in size easily. The needles are a nice deep green colour and are not prone to twisting as they leave the sheath as many Mugo's do. The needles are not course like Black Pine or wispy like many of the types of White Pine are. (I must admit to loving the vibrant green needles of the Red Pine though).
The branches are not as flexible as the Mugo Pine but they are certainly more flexible than the Red Pine Pinus densiflora. It can have bark quality to equal any other pine species be it European yamadori or Japanese import. They back bud easily and are programable if you know how. They are tougher than the Japanese Pines and they grow well in the UK which can only be a bonus.
However I still like White Pine and Black and Red Pines and there will always be room for some in my garden. But if I could only keep one pine species it would be the Scots Pine!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Nature gives the early signs that things are on the move.

It is amazing how nature gives the early signs that things are on the move. Spring is getting nearer and there are little tell tale signs that Mother Nature provides.

Could it be the pair of Buzzards displaying over the house this morning in the sun. Their roller coaster plummeting out of the sky as if on a fairground big dipper, to alight in the wood behind the house, a sure sign they are displaying and have chosen a place to nest this year.

Or is it the incessant chattering and chasing of a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers with their noisy territorial courtship displays that heralds they are setting up their breeding territory close to the house that tells me Spring is on the way.

Or is it  something less obvious like the change in feeding habits of the resident Bullfinches who the last two mornings have been in the hedge outside my bedroom window, daintily nipping off the swollen buds of the Prunus which they are drawn to at this time of year. As the buds start to move, their swelling is a sign to Bullfinches to dine. Because at this time the buds are at their most nutritious, and these nutritious buds in tern set the Bullfinches up ready for their breeding season as feeding on the buds loads them them with valuable nutrients which brings the males in to breeding condition and helps build up the hen for laying and of course days of inactivity when incubating.
So of these three wonders of nature, it is the Bullfinches being drawn to the swollen buds of the Prunus that signals to me that trees are beginning to move, which as a nature lover and bonsai grower is a great indicator, and a hint for me to have a closer look at my own trees. Isn't nature great!

It was nice for me to see my Sensei, Hotsumi Terakawa in Bonsai Focus styling a nice piece of collected Japanese Yew Taxus cuspidata. It was a detailed article and a nice result as I would expect.
It prompted me to look at the diary that I kept while I was at Hotsumi's nursery. It was amazing to read my daily writings from 1998. I wonder if I will look back over my blog in the years ahead.

Here are a few snippets from my diary of 1998.
31st. August .1998.
Styled a little White Pine today. Got Terakawa San to check my work. Conversation went like this.
Hotsumi. Is it finished.
Me. Yes.
Hotsumi. Are you sure.
Me. Yes I am sure.
Hotsumi. Are you really sure.
Me. Yes I am positive.
Hotsumi. Really.
Me. Yes really.
Hotsumi. OK do it again.

5th. September 1998.
7.30 am. Tweezers in one hand and plastic bucket in the other, I am ready set about my morning ritual and cleaning up under the display area outside. It's pissing down so I am going to get a good soaking over the next two hours! 

6th. September. 1998.
4.30 am. Well I have just finished the Mugo Pine. I think I deserve a cup of tea and then off to bed. Milk looks a bit cheesy so it looks like it will have to be a hot chocolate.
1.00pm. Terakawa San inspected the Mugo Pine this morning after I had done my rounds with the tweezers. He asked "Is it finished?". "Yes" I say. "Are you sure?", "Yes I am sure".
After scrutinising my work and the tree itself I at last get praise!   "OK".
Yes praise is a two letter word! OK.

This was an interesting entry.
12th. September. 1998.
After 4 days I have finally finished the big juniper after hours and hours of detailed wiring. On this tree I have gone from loving wiring, to hating wiring to re discovering a love for wiring. I have learnt that you have to switch off any thoughts of wanting to get the tree finished. You have to enjoy the wiring and take the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the tree putting all thoughts of finishing aside. You have to enjoy it for what it is, a necessary part of bonsai. NO, it is bonsai! This tree has taught me a valuable lesson. There is no rush, there is no tomorrow, enjoy today enjoy the now.