I have a workshop coming up next month at the nursery of Ed Clark, grower of extraordinary bonsai material. The workshop will be hosted by Ed and his wife Linda and will include the instruction of marauding bonsai teacher Ted Matson. Ted has been instrumental at organizing shohin workshops and the study of shohin in general in the state of California. I have a good cross-section of shohin plants in my growing collection of shohin, but do not possess a good example of a pine bonsai. In fact I do not have a good example of a pine bonsai in any size.
Pine trees in general for those not well versed in the management of the species tend to find the species a challenge. Once the correct techniques are acquired the species become as easy as working with an elm or maple. Like any bonsai species the “correct techniques” have gone thru many revisions and this post is not going to deal with the ins and outs of the species as there many with far more experience with the species that have written volumes on the subject. This blog entry is more of a shit sheet of the things that will happen to one tree over an initial period of months with semi annual entries to keep up with its production.
The tree has the attributes to be what I call a top shelf specimen. What is a top shelf specimen. In the display of shohin bonsai, many times the display of trees will be contained in a “Box Stand”. A box stand is a stand with shelves arranged with in a box about 3 feet square. The shelves are arranged with of course the top of the box containing the top shelf, and then room for two trees in mid section and room for two trees on the bottom shelf of the box stand. The top of the box is reserved for a pine or masculine juniper bonsai. As one works their way down the shelves in the box, the mid levels are reserved for hornbeam, elms and maples bonsai and the bottom shelves may contain trees like flowering quince or fruiting trees like persimmon. In this photo the box stand is displayed with a companion piece of a tall stand and separate accent.
This is a close up of the pine on the top shelf of this display. This is the kind of pine I wish to produce.
There are many way to achieve a pine like this.
- One could purchase a pine such as this for hundreds of dollars and have a tree ready for display and work towards keeping it in a refined condition.
- One could purchase a piece of material that is ready to have the canopy produced with the trunk being worked to such a condition.
- One could purchase a rough piece of material and start a chopping process to “work it down” over a number of years.
- One could start with smaller one gallon materials and grow then out in the ground using careful techniques to achieve success.
- One could start with seed and control the process from start to finish.
At my age I thought it would be best to start with the second method and purchase a plant that has been purpose grown for a shohin pine, grown for taper, grown with many options for branching, in peak health and ready to start working with.
Ed Clark has taken the lead with producing a well-developed niche in the bonsai world by producing material with superb attributes in the making of small bonsai with many amazing details not seen much in the USA. The amount of time devoted to keeping literally hundreds if not thousands of these small gems in this condition is staggering. During one of my outings to Ed’s nursery I found this pine and tagged it for future pick up for the upcoming seminar. I felt this pine in particular has the correct proportions, superb taper, future apex in place, and branch choices necessary for the production of the bonsai I wish to create.
The pine I chose stands about 20 inches tall in its pond basket. The tree was started in a one gallon, moved to pond basket, grown in basket placed in a 25 gallon nursery container full of soil and grown there for two years. This particular tree was removed from the large growing container in the fall.
Here is a closeup of the tree showing the taper and growing angle of the tree. There are many options for branching also.
The trunk is just shy of two inches across at the soil level. I have not dug down to see if there is flare or not. I will check that over the next couple days.
Of course the part of the tree I wish to utilize will be in the first seven inches of the tree as it is currently. There is a good leader to cut to , while removing the whole sacrofice portion of the top of the tree and focusing energy into the bottom portion of the tree building the branches. I would like to see the tree top out at the full limit of the catagory, 20cm or around 8 inches. The pictures at the soil line are a little misleading due to the bottom 1/4 inch of the trunk being wet. The part diving into the soil is not well seen and I will get a better picture as I move forward with the project.