Shohin Pines, choosing the correct material   Leave a comment

A couple years ago I picked up several young pines from a grower in Lindsey, Ed Clark. Ed grows these pines with wire embedded in the trunk to add girth quickly and to add good movement. The technique is not for everyone and pine purists will say they look un-natural and man made. The truth is that as the years go by they look less and less man made and begin to take on a different look. I am OK with the look and will continue to work with these pines to see how I might develop them.

The pines at the nursery are fairly bushy due to letting the growth run and pruning only once a year. The trunks have been wrapped with wire and the wire is allowed to cut in producing lots of scar tissue and bulges and texture. A lot of the trunks at this age look a lot like the Michelin Man.








The tops tend to look pretty bushy and one can be assured that a yuears growth will really turn it into a bowling ball of green.




One years growth at my place.


I had purchased about 10 of the pines. Cursory cuts have been made and the foliage was allowed to grow all season.

After purchasing the material the first cuts are made. Wire is applied to set the shape and then it is allowed to grow and bud.


Today the pine looks like this one year later.


The group look like this.


This second group are one year further along in training.


Now that’s the method for growing and training pines being specifically grown for bonsai with lots of care and training along the way preserving branches and not allowing anything to get out of proportion. Lets look at some pines being grown for bonsai but with much less work done to them for the future as bonsai. These are good trees, but many of them should have been culled along the way. Many of them are taking up space and water and fertilizer is being wasted on material that does not have a bright future in the bonsai trade.

Lets look at this growers material as a whole.



Now we can zoom in and take a look at individual trees.

This pine has a good trunk movement. It has a nice curve and the curve is low and in scale with a tree 8 inches tall. This is a keeper.


This tree has a good nebari and lots of branches down low to work with. A strong pine when cut will bud profusely if it is healthy.


This is another good candidate with a nice wiggle in the trunk to help add some dynamics. Lots of branch choices and low branches keep the tree in scale and proportion.


Even though I did not get a good pic of the trunk, the tree has lots of branches and many are low enough to start a good shohin tree. Possibly a good formal upright tree here.


At first glance this tree may be looked over with the wye in the trunk and straight section off to the right. I would purchase this tree and cut off the trunk on the right maybe leaving a small jin stub. I would continue working the left side due to its compact growth and good trunk movement as well as a profusion of branches to work with.


Some trees that would be something to look past would be trees with little movement and few branches. This straight beanpole has nothing going for it.


This small pine while having lots of branches, there is little to work with as far as a trunk. It is straight and uninteresting, branching starts too high and the trunk has little taper. Pass one like this by. I have seen people buy trees like this when there is little material to choose from. Switch to a species with better choices in your locale and be happy a few years from now. Buying material like this is “not” a leaning experience and that line is a cop out for poor choices at the check stand.


Here is another poor choice. Again the enticement may be the larger trunk size. It seems larger than the others. That’s true but it come with little else. That first section of trunk is out of scale without taper for an 8 inch tree, and finding a tree in this material may take decades.


There is no taper and the wye in the trunk with a leader out the middle looks funny and cannot be corrected. Removing the central leader will leaves you with a slingshot and will probably not bud back very easily on the old wood.


Posted October 8, 2016 by California Bonsai Art in First Steps with No Bai De

One Tridents Brave Journey   3 comments


This trident maple was purchased from Ian Price of Lone Pine Gardens in 2010 for $400.00. I had not spent this much money for a trident before and frankly had bought much better for much less. This tree seemed to have something I found very interesting in the trunk line which I thought I could highlight and improve so I bought it. The trunk is about 3 inches across at the base and it has lots of flare under the soil to improve and expose in the future. At this point the tree is only about 15 inches tall.



After reaching home from the convention I set out to achieve my future plan. Some preliminary chops were set out and options for the line were studied.



In January of 2011 I noticed while uncovering the base of the tree that part of the roots were missing on one side of the trunk. The bark was removed and hormone applied and covered with cut paste.



Chops were made and now I was committed to the plan. The chops were sealed and left to bud.


This poor Charlie Brown tree ( as my wife calls them ) is taken back to bare bones. It was pretty tough to cut off all that ramification which was probably 10 or more years old.



Approach grafts were added after the grow out year. I wasn’t satisfied with how the tree was budding and decided that grafting would speed things up by a few years.



By the winter of the following year a good branch structure was developing. A long growing season and lots of fertilizer and water helps things grow faster. Pruning along the way is a must and keeping up is a weekly chore.


The tree in leaf is looking nice now. The tree is developing some character and the wounds are healing and better bark is developing. The trunk is now a full 1/4 inch larger across than when I started and that is pretty good in a sawed down 5 gallon nursery can.


The wound I made for some ground layer roots just bridged over and no roots. The scar can be seen albeit faintly.



The Fall of 2013 is showing a much improved canopy of branches and ramification. Still need lots of work on the apex area.



The Spring view is shaping up. The tree has now gone thru two seasons of hedging for shape.



March of 2015 and the structure of the tree is really well defined now. Cleaning and detailing scars is ongoing and a slow process in a small pot with continual pruning.


By June of 2015 the tree is really nice now and the canopy is well defined and tight.



The 2016 season of repotting will put the tree into its first bonsai pot. It has been 6 years of growing and refining to get to this point. This inexpensive white training pot will suffice until 2018 when it will go into its final show pot. Some of the flare can now be seen and there is more to come. The nebari is better lower and that too will show better later. The scar from the layer attempt is on the very lower right edge of the tree and the bark shows much more red. It is completely healed over and is of no cause for concern.


I selected this tree for an entry into the newly formed reemergence of the local Kazari Competition from the now gone Clark Center for Japanese Art.


This accent composition would accompany the entry.


This Japanese scroll would also accompany the display.



Some pictures from the Kazari. This tree has already experienced a lot in its short life under my hand. It will be interesting to see what 6 more years might bring.














Posted May 5, 2016 by California Bonsai Art in Styling Trees

From bagged tree to show pot   5 comments


This trident maple started life as a bare root tree in a shopping bag at a Fresno Bonsai Society swap meet. The Grower is Ed Clark.Very tough to see any trunk line in this bagged tree, but I saw a decent line and thought I could improve it.


The tree was pruned back very hard and planted in a cut down pond basket. Some wire was used to preserve what branches I did keep.


The tree went on to be used for a demo in what I called livin in “realville”. The shorter story can be read elsewhere on this blog. The contention was that sooner or later every person working with bonsai has to make decisions on which pieces of material to keep and which to find a suitable home for. Hopefully make a few bucks to cover your trouble. The premise was which of the two was the better one to waste ones time on. I kept the one on the right and sold off the other.


I decided to make a virtual of the future of the tree. This was all going on with the 2010 purchase and repotting in 2011.


During that repotting combing of the roots and checking out the deep undercut that was in the lower trunk.


It grew well, but the hot summers of the Central valley drought took its toll on the leaves and strength of the tree.


Here is a good shot of the undercut portion of the trunk. For the tree to look like anything this would have to be addressed and soon!


During the growing phase I kept it pruned back hard on the top and tried to keep the growth in the lower portion of the tree. Very hard to do on a trident.





During the winter of 2012 I decided it was time to address the undercutting.


I used some cutting that had rooted from the previous year, and wood thread graft them thru the trunk.





I also approach grafted four branches on the upper trunk.





All the grafts took. There is one in the center of the trunk which looks like a curving branch.


The tree grew well and the treatment was the same, cutting back the top to allow the bottom to grow and strengthen.


The lower right branch is one of the grafts.



Two years ago I decided the tree was too tall for shohin. Using the stick I made for size limits, we can see the tree is about 1.5 inches too tall.


All along the process this has been my front view of the tree. It received some massive squirrel damage in 2012 and I did not like the look of the trunk after the damage.


A close up view of my stick.



A layer was the only option left to fix the trunk. This would not only get the tree down to the correct size, but would also improve the undercut side of the trunk which had failed with the thread grafts.


The black line was drawn on the trunk and the incisions were made. At the top of the cut I added a large piece of wire around the cut to insure the roots growing outward from the trunk.


After a few weeks, sprouts were coming from the trunk. The wire can just be seen in the photo.


After about 75 days the entire root process stopped. I uncovered the trunk and found that the tissue had bridged and was growing just fine stopping the rootage from growing. I took a sharp knife and cut away all the  live wood and allowed it to sit for a couple days open to the air. Then re-buried it.


I allowed free reign now since the roots were growing well. It grew all summer of 2015.


Pruning continued during the appropriate times to not lose the size of branches within the canopy.




Winter of 2016 and time to cut it off the stump and pot it into a new bonsai pot.



I layered in winter of 2014 and allowed it to grow all of 2015. In spring of 2016 this is the root ball I had growing in the colander for one year.


The tree had been growing on an inverted terra cotta water dish to keep the root pad shallow.


Here is what I kept after pruning back the root pad and spreading it out. Good radial root spread with roots all the way around.


Potted in a light blue Yamaki lotus shaped Shohin pot.


Tonight the first pruning was done. All the branches were cut back to a pair.





Shohin Trident Maple   1 comment

This small trident maple is from Muranaka Bonsai Nursery. It is in a rather weird “C” shape. Part of that is no doubt due to canting in the pot when dug from the field. The roots shows the previous soil line and though the root is exposed it offeres a nice counter balance to the C shape trunk. A small rounded canopy will be worked on this summer thru selective pruning.


Shohin Cork Bark Elm   3 comments

This small elm is from Muranaka Bonsai Nursery. The trunk is formed using the embedded wire method of obtaining larger trunked small specimens faster. The corking is well formed and the taper is really nice. A small bunjin type canopy with a verticle drop branch is the future.DSC_00080001

Some first wire and cut back. The large leaves have been cut in half by folding.

Beth: The trunk is made by wrapping a small wire around a matchstick size whip and bending into a shape before planting in the ground. As the tree grows the wire cuts into the bark and eventually becomes embedded into the trunk as it has in this tree. The photo shows where the wire wraps are. If you compare that photo with the first it is easy to see where the wire is.

DSC_00780001 red


Working on the Elm Root Cuttings.   1 comment

Elms were allowed to grow out and then they received the first wire this week. All I have done so far is prune out the leaders for taper and chosen which branches will be retained and grown on. A group for an upright part of the crown and then the cascadeing part which will be kept rather short.








Posted April 21, 2016 by California Bonsai Art in Styling Trees

Curt and Rod Presents – Blues Monday   Leave a comment

Mean Town Blues

Johnny Winter

John Dawson Winter III (February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014), known as Johnny Winter, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Best known for his high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and 1970s, Winter also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. After his time with Waters, Winter recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Johnny Winter was born in Beaumont, Texas, on February 23, 1944. Winter, with younger brother Edgar (born 1946), was nurtured at an early age by their parents in musical pursuits. Johnny and his brother, both of whom were born with albinism, began performing at an early age. When he was ten years old, the brothers appeared on a local children’s show, singing Everly Brothers songs, with Johnny playing ukelele.

His recording career began at the age of fifteen, when his band Johnny and the Jammers released “School Day Blues” on a Houston record label. During this same period, he was able to see performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. In the early days, Winter would sometimes sit in with Roy Head and the Traits when they performed in the Beaumont area, and in 1967, Winter recorded a single with the Traits: “Tramp” backed with “Parchman Farm” (Universal Records 30496). In 1968, he released his first album The Progressive Blues Experiment, on Austin’s Sonobeat Records.

Editors note: One of the finest guitar players of the last century. Johnnies guitar work on this song alone is a masterpiece of single guitar execution. The sound from his one guitar is not possible from multi guitars in many multi guitar bands.


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