Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Considering the beauty of the trunk.

Before I get going with something new, I would like to take you back to my post of  July 7th, "July set to be a scorcher" where I posted a picture of a juniper I was just putting the finishing touches to.
Remember this one below.

Someone emailed me to ask why the deadwood on this juniper is the colour it is. Well the simple answer is, that is how I want it to look.  Or close to it anyway, because the look I want takes time.

But actually I think the question really meant was, A; Why is the deadwood not brilliant Dulux gloss white. or B; Why is the deadwood not grey i.e. painted with soot or ink or whatever.
So the longer answer is this. I do not subscribe to brilliant white deadwood simply because it is OTT, and not subtle. Just as I do not subscribe to juniper or taxus live veins that have been oiled or boot polished and rendered plastic. Or spraying foliage with leaf shine. If you want your foliage to look healthy, why not have a healthy tree rather than infer your tree looks healthy.  
Somewhere out there on the 'tinterweb' there is an interview with Masashiko Kimura where he makes a few observations on some of the artificiality of some displayed trees.

Anyway I digress. As this is a juniper and the image is of a high mountain tree then painting it with soot or sumi ink or whatever is also not logical. As anyone who has ever been at high altitude collecting trees will verify, as you are so much nearer to the sun, often several kilometres/miles nearer. Things burn pretty quick. So if you did what I did the first time I was in the Alps, running round like a loony looking for trees with no shirt on, then within 15 - 20 minutes you get badly burned and can't sleep on your back for days. So trees growing at these very high altitudes in the mountains, also get burned and bleached by the sun. However depending on the tree species the wood is grey white/silver white. So neither gloss paint white or sooty.
So you are looking to find a balance between the wood not looking plastic or attacked by sooty aphid. And for guys from the UK please don't think Mount Snowden or Ben Nevis are mountains, they are just speed bumps to slow cars down when compared to 'real' mountains.

It is difficult to find the right balance between too white and too dark and I would prefer the deadwood here right, a few shades darker than it is now. However it is best achieved simply by letting the deadwood weather for a long time and using diluted lime sulphur applications again and again over time, and I emphasise over time, rather than using other techniques. Let the diluted applications build up in the wood so you achieve a natural patina. It is always better I find to learn the correct technique rather than to look for an alternative before you have mastered the former. Of course if you are in a rush and need a quick fix solution, there is always  McDonalds fast fix Bonsai and you can get the brush and ink out. But try taking the time sometime to use the slow method. Remember the hare and the tortoise!
Of course if your tree is a tree growing in the lowlands like a yew within a beech or oak wood, then the deadwood maybe darker due to different humidity, algae (which gets fried at altitude) and of course from shade from the sun. But then our tree is telling a different story now.

A pointer on applying lime sulphur. Go over the deadwood that you plan on lime sulphuring with water first. This will help the lime sulphur which is crystaline in make up, to penetrate the wood better. Rather than float on the top. Do not spray the tree. Instead paint the deadwood. Yes it is a slow way. But it ensures that when you apply the lime sulphur it stays on the deadwood (unless you are clumsy) and does not bridge the live veins. If you spray the tree, the lime sulphur will follow the water. So wet live veins = lime sulphured live veins. Which we don't want DO WE?
Finally do not wait for the wood to be green with algae before you apply lime sulphur, do it routinely throughout the year so that it builds up in the wood.
On Sunday while hosting the Stourbridge Bonsai Society here. One of the points I made about selecting/buying a mature tree was to buy the trunk. Let the trunk be THE thing about the tree that attracts you. It does not matter if there is not a lot of foliage on the tree, we can grow that on or if need be graft it on. If branches are not in the right place again we can grow some on, graft some on or bend the branches with wire to where we want it. But the trunk is fairly static with most species within our life times. I also said just look around my nursery and you will notice the diversity of the trunk lines or forms. I do not have a nursery full of  trees all with trunks styled in a lazy 'S' shape.
Which got me thinking. Do we ever stop and take the time to marvel at the trunks of our trees. After all the trunk is 'the core around which we arange our branches in space'.
And so I thought I would share with you a few photo's I took very quickly with the camera to celebrate the trunk and what it brings to our bonsai.

The beauty and elegance of amazing deadwood.

The sinuous movement of deadwood and live vein intertwined.

Insane movement, mature bark quality and deadwood created by Mother Nature in this Mugo Pine.

Plate upon plate of mature bark that can only be the work of Old Father Time. Something that as bonsai artists or growers we cannot duplicate.

The twisting spiralling trunk of this Pomegranate Punica granatum var. Nejikan.

The contorted trunk of this Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris shows the conditions that it has endured growing high up in the Pyrenees.

 This sinuous and contorted Sabina Juniper shows no straight lines in it's movement. Again a product of the environmental influences in the mountains.

And finally the amazing trunk form, deadwood and ancient bark of this Mugo Pine.

I could have gone on with more images but I did not want to be showing image after image and make it boring. I hoped I have given you a taster so that it might make you think to go outside and look at your own trees and appreciate their unique forms. Whether it be the delicate bark of the Mountain Maple or the craggy bark of the pine. Or the inter play of deadwood and live veins of a juniper.
When you think of what the pioneers of UK bonsai had to work with in the late 1950's early 60's, we have come such a long long way and are so lucky for the position we are in today.

And finally. This Himalayan Giant Lilly Cardiocrinum giganteum has finally flowered after nearly 7 years in my courtyard. It stands about five feet tall and the flowers that it has produced have the most amazing scent. It is so intense that on these warm days with us having all the doors and windows open, the scent passes through the house.

But after waiting so many years for it to flower, unfortunately the flowers last only days before the petals fall and the flowers are finished. After flowering the plant dies, how sad. It has fullfilled it's purpose.
And it does put into perspective how lucky we are that our trees live so long, and how they can be enjoyed for generations rather than days!
It makes you think!

Steve Tolley Bonsai;        Reaching beyond the edge......... of  end!

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