Archive for the ‘Spotlight on Artists’ Category

Ted Matson at Round Valley Nursery   Leave a comment

It’s been 9 months since Teds first workshop at Ed Clark,s Round Valley Nursery. This was a follow up to the work done in March, and since most were pines, this late Fall workshop was great for working Fall maintenance.

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Saturday morning class had about 12 students.

 

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This year I sat in one of the green houses and just wired trees. Lots of trees to wire. Take my pick and just wire.

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And some afters.

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Some views of material. Some chojubai coming along.DSC_00400040

 

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Posted December 12, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

R I P Harry Hirao   3 comments

Harry Hirao, aka, The Goat, Mr California Juniper

 

It is with great sadness to announce the passing of Harry Hirao. I have known this man a long time and his contributions to bonsai will be missed.

On March 12, 1917, Bonsai Master Harry Hirao was born. At the age of 6, Harry left his hometown of Lafayette, Colorado with his parents, to live in Japan with his grandparents because they were getting old. At age 16, Harry came back to the U.S. to live with his relatives on the farm.

Harry married Chiyoko Alyce Yamamoto on September 27, 1941. They lived a simple life as farmers growing vegetables on their farm and raised four beautiful children, two boys and two girls.  

Harry and his family left Colorado for California on March of 1957. With the help of relatives, they started a landscape gardening business. Several years later, Harry heard of an old friend, John Naka, teaching bonsai. Harry joined the class in the early 60’s and was a devoted student for 15 years before becoming a bonsai teacher himself.  

With his long time friend, Larry Ragle, they formed Kofu Bonsai Kai in 1977. Harry was fortunate enough to be able to obtain permission to dig California Junipers on a property in Tehachapi for Bonsai. To this day, many of his students and friends are able to acquire California Junipers from this site. Harry’s favorite plant for bonsai is the California Juniper and is also an avid collector of Suiseki.

Harry Hirao and Larry Ragle, Co-founders of Kofu Kai

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A perfect day for Harry is in the mountains of Tehachapi California searching for just the right juniper to dig. The day would start like this.

 

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Harry would go on to style many trees for GSBF. Large trees dug by his long time friend Ray Thieme here in Fresno.

This tree donated by Ray sits in front of GSBF Collection North. Harry styled this tree with friends in Fresno at GSBF Convention Fresno, 2003.

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Here are a couple shots of Harry and the tree. In the wide shot with Harry on the ladder being steadied by Kaz Mori, Mas Imazumi stands off to the side. Mas would die a few months later. Yours truly with the tree, much thinner.

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During the GSBF convention Modesto in 2008, Harry and friends would style this monster California juniper for the entrance of GSBF Collection South, again donated by Ray Thieme. During the repotting from grow box to bonsai pot, the tree died.

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l to r, Sam Adina, Ray Thieme, Charles Nelson, Harry Hirao, and Peter Macasieb.

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Harry has a tree it seems at every convention. Here are some of his trees over the years

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Harry’s love of collecting stones, Suiseki, is also legendary. His daughters graduated from Humboldt University and his trips there to visit always included some camping and collecting on the Eel River. This is Harry’s permanent collection at the GSBF Collection South

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This stone on display at a GSBF Convention is cold black and from the Kern River in Bakersfield.

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Harry loves the Convention experience. This is his time and it makes him feel good to walk around and just people watch and talk with those that appreciate bonsai. Here Harry relaxes with my wife.

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Harry would pace the aisles just watching the bonsai scene unfold. Anyone who has attended a GSBF convention will appreciate this view of Harry, it is one that I have followed numerous times on my way to the vendor room, exhibit room or a workshop.

Harry, you will be missed, say “Hi” to your ole friend John for me.

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Posted July 24, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

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Serendipity !!   2 comments

The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines serendipity as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a satisfactory or beneficial way, understanding the chance as any event that takes place in the absence of any obvious project (randomly or accidentally), which is not relevant to any present need, or in which the cause is unknown.

….and so it was that I might be sitting in my truck early to today’s Ted Matson workshop. It occurs to me while I peer out my windshield in the fog of morning and only a few sips of coffee that what I see before me are large trident maple trees. Not just average tree but trees growing in a college parking lot to shade cars. In this picture the Botanical lab of the college is in the background and my truck is parked in the foreground. In front of that is a trident maple tree.

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Now the tree on its own is no big deal. I am sure there may be many places in our fair town that have trident maples in the landscape. It used to be a fairly common landscape tree. What is a big deal is the fact that I am always on the lookout for fresh seed. These trees have seeds up the wahzoo. I was barly able to contain myself at the sight of all the seed hanging from these trees. Guess where I will be come September?

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Just this clump alone on the end of a small branch probably has 500 seeds!

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A few minutes later, club members begin to arrive. The gate is unlocked and everyone begins loading in their trees. Ted Matson begins his workshop with a juniper from David Soho. This thing was a monster and Ted had him prune almost everything off of the thing except a trunk line that ran out rather horizontal finishing with a rather semi cascade Bunjin. It will need a few years to fill in but I think it was the right decision for the tree.

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David pruning off the old branches. You could almost hear a small moan from David every time the concave pruners made a kerchunk noise!

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Steve DaSilva brought this twisted pomagranite to work on. Ted explained that this tree suffers from many years of growing without cutting back. Many of the branches are 1/2 inch in diameter and bone straight. All of the branching was cut back nearly in half.

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Now this tree is looking more like a tree. Nice work.

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Ray Thieme, future subject for an artist spotlight, brought this huge shimpaku juniper. Ray purchased it via Glenn VanWinkle who aquired it from Mas Iishi. It is kishu grafted on to prostrata understock.

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After some instruction and comments from Ted, Ray begins the work. Lots of cutting….

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…and sawing…

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Ray ran out of time and will do more of the cleaning and begin wire at home. So far the tree cut out quite well. The trunk is a full 2 inches across.

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Ted Matson Workshop at the Round Valley Nursery   Leave a comment

Ed Clark, owner of the nursery arranged for a Ted Matson workshop back in March. Due to stand commitments, shows, vacations, Easter and Mothers Day, most of my weekends have been taken up by something. It is now time to show a little of what went on over that weekend. Ted is always a good teacher. His expertise in a number of plant materials, his love of shohin, and the material provided by Ed were a match made in heaven. The workshop consisted of a two day affair with each day broken into separate morning and afternoon sessions. Each day was a repeat of the morning or afternoon before.

Ted started out by telling us the many attributes of the way Ed was growing the material here. Ted was also savvy of those that think this material is too twisted and has too much movement. Ted explained that these trees over the next couple of years are going to mellow out and become fine bonsai due to pruning and growth on top of growth. Ted explained that having seen material grow for bonsai all over the United states that this material is different because care has been taken to keep the movement up while the plant is growing. Ed doesn’t just stop and allow the tree to twist and turn and then allow it to grow pole straight the next year. There are growers in Southern California mentioned by name that have allowed this to ruin what would have been good material.

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Ted used some trees from the nursery and also brought some material he had bought earlier and worked on it some and then used for demonstration.

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Lunch was provided in the workshop and Lind Clark did a great job with a buffet style lunch. We killed an hour and then hit it again in the afternoon.

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This was some of the people from the afternoon session.

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I worked on two pines during the workshop. One I had bought specifically for the workshop and the other a tree I purchased during the lunch break for the second session.

 

Here is the tree I purchased earlier and worked on in the morning.

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This is what it looked like after the first pruning and some wire. Pretty scary.

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This is what it looks like tonight. I am very happy with its growth, and it looks like there is going to be a good tree in here.

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The second tree was purchased right at the nursery for the workshop. I had brought three others to work on but for some reason this one caught my eye. Ted had said something about these trees that made me pause a little. He said instead of looking for the best ones to work on, sometimes it makes more sense to look for those with the most faults. These are the trees that have character and feeling. So I picked out one that had some faults and will see what I can do with it.

 

This small tree had some reverse taper and lots of wire in the trunk. It had a rather gnarly shape and looked like it could be a good tree later on.

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The tree was pruned and wired.

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This is how the tree looks tonight. It is growing strong and like all Ed’s trees the needles stay firm and short. Lots of choices for an apex and the branches have lots of shoots. I am happy with this one as well.

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Spotlight on Artists ~ Glenn VanWinkle   Leave a comment

Glenn VanWinkle

AKA: Ripsgreentree, Itchy, Sleeping Beauty and Santa

0010001It is pretty common knwledge that California per capita probably has the largest population of bonsai practioners in the USA. Among all those practising the art are those that grow material for the art. Glenn VanWinkle is one of those people. I came to know Glenn in 1993. He had come by the Fresno Bonsai Society for a meeting. Glenn has been doing bonsai for many years. I have never nailed it down to the year but I think it was around 1983 or thereabouts. Glenn has a keen fascination with growing material. While he also enjoys the finished product, his first love is the growing of the plants. Once they get a canopy on them he loses a lot of interest in the plants and turns his attention back to the source, growing.

While engaged in the growing of plants, Glenn sought out the best soils possible for growing plants. While his ideas of soil mixes has changed thru the years the mix has always been friable with larger particles and plenty of air. This is what is needed to grow plants healthy. If plants are not healthy then plants don’t sell. During his search for suitable components for soil akadama was of course a good choice. Akadama was scarse back then even in Caifornia and expensive. Lava has always been in good supply as well as decomposed granite and pumice. Glenn came upon hard pan as a soil component around 1993. He crushed the stuff with a wood stump and a single jack sledge hammer. Talk about back breaking work. He saved up his money and bought a small crusher. It would hold about a 1/4 cubic foot of material. It was gear driven and the hard pan is well…HARD and it would break the gears what seemed weekly. The gears were not cheap and Glenn would be down for weeks at a time till he had enough money to buy more gears.

Glenn now has his hard pan broken into 1 inch chunks by a huge batch plant for grinding stone. He then breaks the small chunks in his smaller crusher and then sifts it in his new custom built sifter which can sift tons or more a day.

Lets take a look at what Glenn is growing. Glenn is a lot like me in thinking that it makes sense to grow what thrives here. Glenn has alot of elm, maple, juniper, pine and cali dama.

A couple overview shots.

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Lots of elm trees. They grow good here, as well as lots of other places.

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He has some real large Seiju/corkbark elms also.

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While not overloaded on maples, he does have them. Last year he grew about a thousand tridents from seed put them inbundles of tyen trees and sold them in small plastic pots.

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Glenn’s real passion is pine and juniper. He has lots of both. Here he has flats of m pines growing in pond baskets.

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There are pines all over the place here.

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A representative shohin sized pine.

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Kishu shimpaku all over the place. I walk thru here and trip all over the place with cans all over the ground.

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Here is a big one just waiting to be styled.

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Pines and junipers in the back of the property.

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The one with the white trunk is a Ca. juniper

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Here is a large Ca. juniper having a trunk layered off.

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There are a few large procumbens around.

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Did you ever see a dwarf nandina with a base like this? I havn’t.

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Posted February 14, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Artists

Spotlight on Artists – Steve DaSilva   4 comments

 

 

 

Steve started his bonsai journey in 1984. The same year I started.   Steve watched the “Karate Kid” and was inspired about bonsai, as were thousands, by that movie. I must say that I found the movie a great motivator for me as well. Steve’s first tree was purchased from the Barnyard in Carmel California, a business still there today. I shopped that place as well and filled in many of my first back issues of Bonsai Today there. Steves first tree was a crabapple. He still has the bones. It was pretty small when he purchased it but it did die and he never threw it out.

Steve with some pinch pots he made.

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Steve and his (dead) first bonsai.

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Steve joined a bonsai club in Vacaville California, Soon after a friend suggested he join the Napa Valley Club. Here he would work with Mas Imazumi, well known throughout California. Steve would move to Fresno in 1990 and soon found the Fresno Bonsai Society. In 1993 while taking aesthetic pruning at a course at Merrit College, Steve would meet long time friend Dennis Makashima. Steve would retake the course later along with Bill Castellon and Randall Lee. Steve would become President of the Fresno Bonsai Society in 1998 and keep with the job till 2004. He would later become President for a second time in 2011 and 2012.

 

In 2006 Steve had a new house built in the country on some acreage. It is here that he would plant his first seedlings into the ground to build trees for the future. Over the years Steve would add additional plots to the growing amount of space devoted to bonsai.

This phase one started in 2007. This is an overview of the plot. It is about 20 by 25 feet and contains tridents, crab apples, twisted pomegranates, black pines and corkbark elms.

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The row of lighter colored plants next to the fence are twisted poms about three inches across.

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These are some of the pines

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Still lots of fat tridents in the ground. One of the things that is kinda weird when looking at a field is that nothing is in pots so there is no spacial comparison that can be made as to how large something is. For instance this trident is about 5 inches across at the soil and about 10 inches tall.

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This is one of the smaller pines in the above photo. It seems so small when seen with the larger pines. The trunk on this one is about 2.5 inches across and about 24 inches tall.

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Here is one that has been sawed off at the ground. It is about 5 inches tall and three inches across at the soil.

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This is the close up.

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Here is the big cork bark elm I dug up.

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Phase two started in 2010

Lots of pines out here. These are really starting to shape up. I have my eye on one. Need to talk to steve about that…

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Here are some recent Itoigawa juniper cuttings.

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Chinese quince

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More tall four inch base tridents. I have two of these I am working on.

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Phase three started in 2013.

More pines, crabapple, tridents

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Phase three trident

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This is where Glenn makes all the cali-dama. The crusher and sifter is on Steves property. Glenn collects the hardpan and has it trucked to a batch plant, where it is broken into 1 inch chunks.

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Then he runs it through his smaller crusher to take it down to soil size particles.

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Then he sifts it in his recently purchased sifter. It is bagged or put into shipping containers to be sent all over the USA. He also crushes lava in the small crusher.

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Steve has a pretty large and impressive collection of bonsai at his house.

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Steve is surrounded by grapes. He lives in the raisin capital of the world so grapes around the property is a no brainer. The grapes are over a hundred years old. The study group we belong to will be taking cuttings off these grapes soon for some shohin size trees.

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Red tail hawk looking over the vineyard…

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Steve has a blog, which is a little dated currently, but he can be found on face book as a regular. Steve teaches workshops at the bi-annual Shohin seminar in Santa Nella and will be there next Feb., he also does aesthetic black pine pruning and keeps busy all summer as well as running the aesthetic pine pruning at Shinzen Gardens in Fresno. Steve is on the Board of Directors of the Shinzen Garden and has been instrumental in helping move the Clark Collection of Bonsai from Hanford to Fresno California where it will be housed in a permanent collection in the Japanese Garden portion of the park. If I’m not mistaken, it should be just beyond the trees in the background.

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One of the pines his group maintain.

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Steve also working at Fresno City College, organized two exhibits of bonsai paired with art as well as a winter silhouette exhibit. Both recieved great reviews.

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Ed Clark….redux   4 comments

This is the follow up to my post about Ed Clark. While I have several trees from the man he lives a good hour and a half away so I have never taken the time to go see what he has. That was my first mistake.

The nursery is tucked right up next to the foot hills and the canopy of trees and shade structures and hoop houses, of which I seen about five or more with several acres under shade cloth. I was amazed when I started to look around. I could hear a radio blasting country music so I followed the sound. I found Ed there in the midst of several benches of pines busy pulling needles, cutting candles and cleaning weeds out of pots. He was also potting up some material into larger containers. I had mentioned that Ed did not have a lot left from the old days, but I did see quite a few older maples in large containers and he had these cool tridents over some really black limestone type rock. Very cool to see these.

Second mistake, I did not have my camera. I took all these pictures with my Iphone, and while some are really good, some are so so, and some are kinda blurry. I think we can get an idea of the scope and breadth of the place from these photo’s. Keep in mind that back in his commercial nursery days he had no benches. Older now and he said he did not want to bend over if he could help it. he built all the benches you see in the photo’s. Ed told me he spent $5,000.00 just on bench material.

On to the photo’s.

I have tried to break this up into logical blocks of the same kinds of trees, although I walked thro so many hoop houses with benches full of hundreds of pots of trees in age groups. I try to start with the young ones first and move to the larger of the species. Don’t worry too much, it’s all tree porn. Ed Clark showing me around on a drizzly day.

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These are some of those tridents on the black rock that are over 30 years old.

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These are just some odd tridents hanging out on benches.

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These are twisted pomegranate. Ed has hundreds of these all started from cuttings. Many of them have had the wire thing done to them also to try to introduce some movement.

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All the previous photos have been the pomegranates. This bench with those on the right are full of movement also.

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This is some of the material from many years ago. There are large maples in here and many of them are very difficult to find cultivars.

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I wanna go back for this one. I told Ed to save this for me and I will dig it out when down next. Kashima Maple

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Here’s a big block of procumbens with wire.

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I will let the Itoigawa speak for itself. Ed says he has just reached the point where he has enough material to keep the wire going on the trees and adding movement. wire on the pines is easy peasy, Ed says the junipers are more tricky because they break so easy.

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By far Ed has mostly pines that have received the wire. He has house after house full of pines. I would easily estimate there well over a thousand or more trees here.

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In this next photo one can see the small trees on the right that do not have many needles. These are banshosho dwarf pines that have been grafted onto mikawa understock.

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Lets just look at some of these trunks. I was mesmerized and my arms were shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. Blurry yes, but still worth it.

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Here are a couple of shots of young pines with the wire embedded at the beginning of the process. It seems that there are not that many twists and turns, but as it grows and swells it must find new paths to grow which adds all the character.

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Larger pines in baskets. These have been taken from round containers and placed in pond baskets. Here they will bulk up and gain girth for larger shohin type pines.

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My hand for comparison. These trunks are fully 1 1/2+ inches across and about 6 inches tall.

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Pines in long cups for stones. The roots on these are growing length in an effort to merge them to stones in the future.

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Large pines growing out. These pines are in baskets and then buried in these 25 gallon large nursery containers. This provides a controlled setting but gets as much growth as being in the ground.

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My hope is that I can convince Ed for me to style this tree.

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