Archive for the ‘First Steps with No Bai De’ Category

Shohin Pines, choosing the correct material   2 comments

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

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


Repotting the elm cuttings   6 comments

Last year this time I made cutting from a elm tree that I repotted. The cuttings were mostly set up to be cascade and semi cascade neagari style trees. Neagari style means stilted roots.

New Picture (3a)

This is the  elms after a season in a basket. Good growth about three feet.


The cuttings were originally selected to be in the neagari style from the get go. Root sections were chosen for the shape and not so much for the size of the trunk. These will all be shohin size trees so size was not much of an issue.


Once it is out of the basket I set to work looking each cutting over to make sure it has good strong roots in which to support the tree in the future. They also must come from the end of the root in such a way as to be compact to form the long claw that will make the base of the tree.


This cutting will require a piece of wire around the roots pulling them down into a longer thinnish shape. This cutting has not had any of the roots trimmed yet and is full of feeder roots. All of the feeders from nearly half of the root system will be cut away leaving only the thick strong “stilt” root




This cutting has a nice bend right at the intersection of roots versus stem. This shape will make a nice semi cascade neagari style tree.


I use my hand to pull all the roots into a long cylinder and affix a wire to hold the shape.


The wired roots look like this. I need the roots to keep this shape while they grow next year. The following year I can seperate them and make them look more artistic if needed, but right now I am just building foundations.


Each tree was planted into a cut down water bottle to keep the feeder roots into some soil as they continue growing down. Each tree was cut back to a apex leader and a cascading leader. Branch building will start now while I work on the bases.


These are the only two non-cascading trees and these will be trained as broom style trees at the same time.



First Steps with No Bai De ~ Backyard updates   2 comments

These are a few projects that carried over from last year that started as new projects.

These are the shohin pines I started this year from Ed Clark stock. I started the move forward at the Ted Matson workshop at Ed’s in March. This is what they look like since the cut back.

At the workshop


DSC_00820082 (2)




At the Workshop





The elm cuttings as planted



Today and after pruning.










This small trident at the beginning of the season with a layer mark at the bottom of the trunk. the tree was ground layered there and prepared for growing roots.







The spahgnum moss used to keep the roots cool just below the soil.



Some pictures around the tree. I have pretty even rootage around the tree, but I also have even spaced holes with no roots around the tree. I can see where roots are starting to emerge so that is good, and I can also see many roots that have grown straight down from the cut edge of the bark and are not easily seen. I had placed a wire around the top of the cut to help direct rootage outwards. It worked mostly.




I added more akadama to the collar and added an extra thickness of new moss around the trunk. The roots seem to emerge where the moss has pressure around the trunk. (Note to self) next time use a tie wrap to attach a ball of moss to trunk with pressure.




First Steps with No Bai De ~ Elm roots   Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago during repotting I showed a method for planting out elm roots for making new plants. It is simply a method of propagation that is popular with elms because the roots are very aggressive and they will grow on after removal no matter how large they are.

Just to refresh out memory lets look the process again then an update. This victim was hacked to death to allow it to be potted down. Even though the tree is small the roots were huge. It was in a huge can with open mix and it just grew large and obese.


The roots are cut off using a large Japanese clever. The root sections are thrown into a bucket of water.



After the repotting of the victim, I can attend to the bucket of roots. I just did a few, but I could have made over a hundred trees from this bucket. The roots can be cut into 1 inch long pieces and as long as you know which end was down, it will grow roots. It is fun to plant some upside down and they will grow all crooked trying to right itself, which it will do by mid summer.


I used some of the larger roots since I wanted to work on some larger trunked sumo elm shohin. I have not seen any sumo elm trees and since they grow like tridents I will utilize my trunk fattening techniques to obtain a few of those.


Root sections like this are fun because they can be utilized for future exposed root style trees and cascades. That is what this will be later down the road, an exposed root literati cascade.



All the trees are planted in a large colander.


The update as of today. The cambium ring which is in the ring dividing the darker ring from the lighter core. Now it is easy to see where the buds come from. They begin to expand and will turn purple, making a purple ring between the light and the dark. It is here that the small pin prick green buds will form. It will be a huge green ring in another week.



In fact, this one shows some green buds already. You guys in the frigid east that have not started repotting yet, this is a good technique to try this year and grow some larger material for shohin in about 5 to 6 years. Keep the green side up.




Posted March 4, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in First Steps with No Bai De

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First Steps introducing No Bai De ~ Acer Palmatums   6 comments


I have had to add a fourth employee at the Bunker to keep up with all the material flowing in. Justin Case and Curt and Rod just can’t seem to curb the practical jokes so I had to lay down the law and bring in someone to keep the guys working.

No Bai De comes  from Indonesia and getting him into the USA was a piece of cake. With the relaxed amnesty all he needed was a box cutter and a North Korean passport, small layover in Singapore on Asia Airlines, they are waaay cheap to fly right now, and he was here. I tried the straw matt and a bowl of rice a day but he was way smarter than that. He damanded two bowls of rice…… which I said yes.

For No Bai De’s first project I had him work over five large maples I brought in. These have lots of branches and long ungainly shoots that have grown large and need to be worked over to be on the road as bonsai. I consider this part of the process of “first steps” and this should be what everyone shoots for when either purchasing material or working the material over when they get home. I had No Bai De work and guide Justin Case and Curt and Rod thru the process and see how they would all work together with No Bai De  in charge.

I gave them my camera and had No Bai De take progression shots of the work. This is what they came up with in one day.After returning from Ed Clarks place I back into the complex and open the truck. It is full of brush and some trunks. Making something from this will take all day.


The boys get the four maples into the back of the bunker and look them over. They are pretty large and Justin comments that these “look no different than most of the other crap I bring back to the Bunker”.  Rod comments that he needs a break and has to roll his free spins on Candy Crush cause he lost them yesterday. Good thing they work cheap. All of these maples were given a preliminary cut back by about 50 percent just to get them on the table and turn table for photo’s. The trees averaged about 5 feet tall and all the bases are 3.5 inches or greater.


The trees will be shown with a few shots before No Bai De and the boys worked them over and then after.

Victim No 1

With the exception on one of these all the material is in a clump form which is something I like in maples. I think they should be graceful and No Bai De agrees with this as he has seen alot of maples in Japan.





Now  the tree has been taken back to secondaries in an effort to build taper in the new branches that grow from these heavier stubs.



Victim No 2





After the cut back. Lots of the small stuff has been left just to insure sap movement.








Victim No 3DSC_00690011





Some of the stubs are left long intentionally just to make sure sap is drawn out to the end of the branch. After bud break lots of the stubs on all these trees will be cut back. For now this is safe.





Victim No 4

This bad boy was chosen just because he had the good start to a traditional moyogi style maple that everyone is tired of.





The tree finished out at 3.5 inches at the ground and twelve inches tall as it is.




Here are some inspirational photo’s of clump style maples in this graceful shape. I should be so lucky if these goof balls can achieve this.

c5Walter Pall

c7Bonsai Tonight


KaedeBonsai Tonight


c9Bonsai Tonight


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