Archive for the ‘pine tree’ Tag

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.





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.








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.





This was some of the people from the afternoon session.




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.




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



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.



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.



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.






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.


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







These are just some odd tridents hanging out on benches.









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.







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


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.



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


Here’s a big block of procumbens with wire.

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.














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.





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.

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.


















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.


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



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


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.



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


Maple Trunk Chopping   10 comments

Probably the most utilized technique in bonsai is the trunk chop. It is no secret that chopping down a larger tree into a smaller tree will allow for a larger trunk quicker while allowing for the formation of taper into the regrown trunk extension. Sounds easy enough, but a good chop will be unnoticed in future years while a poor chop will be seen straight away. It is an easy thing to do so it is a technique that allows for practise to make one better.

This article will focus on the acer species, but can be utilized for many hardwood deciduous species also. Maple trees respond well to the chop with tridents being the best for the job. Their ability to bounce back quick, stretch and allow bark to flow, and cane extension to build fast makes them the best to get ones feet wet with. It is not uncommon to take a pencil size whip to 1.5 inches in a year or two.

I have many high-end bonsai books, many on classical shohin and Kokufu books. While looking thru the pictures of these trees the predominate shape seems to be a classical pine tree styled maple tree. What is a pine tree styled maple?


All drawings by the author

This shape is the classical Japanese Moyogi style more often refered too as informal upright. The large fat trunk sweeps up back and forth to a point while the branches collect at the outsides of the trunk bends. Large basel flare adds power and the tree is very compact and stout. A very masculine tree. Here are some images of the Classical Moyogi.


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Bonsai Tonight

The defining factor in this shape is that all the branches tend to be horizontal which is counter to the way maples actually grow. Maple branches tend to grow upright and reach for the sky, more like the apex in the last tree. Many times the outline of the canopy will be pointed, like a young pine tree. The first two examples show this. The third tree has a more rounded canopy which helps soften the image and makes the tree seem more mature.

The other style is more aften asscociated with how a maple tree actually grows. It too is an informal upright but much less classical and can be of very abstract design. It may be a more slant style or classical in trunk shape but will have more upright growing branches, more akin to how maples grow. The most often seen maple image done in this style is the clump form. This form incorporates many trunks from a central point at the base.


In this image we see a curving trunk with great taper, but the branches are not horizontal, they grow much more upright than those trees above. How might some trees look when styled like this in the bonsai pot?


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Bonsai Tonight


Photo by Peter Tea

The clump form is more predominate in the pictures, but the canopy can be seen as free and growing upright as it would in nature. The fourth picture shows a broom style maple which is also an often asscociated form for this tree.

So how might a tree be chopped to accomodate either of these forms? For the Moyogi style the chop is very easily done and makes a nice tree fairly fast. The reason for this is that the tree we’re starting with is much larger than for the other form. 4 to 8 years old material can be used with older material making a much larger tree. The stock is grown for a few years at an angle. This is important, because the tree will exit the soil at an angle, and the root base needs to get oriented to look stable as the years go by.


The tree is beheaded at a suitable branch. Keep in mind that this branch should be on the same side as the lean of the tree. This will become the first branch down the road. Even if this branch is not in exactly the correct place it should be utilized to keep the trunk alive by pulling nutrition to that area. A suitable branch can be grafted easily into place when it becomes necessary. When the chop buds, it is important to choose the new leader correctly. Allow all buds to grow a couple months and select the best placed one growing in the opposite direction. This will make the first direction change. Allow this leader to grow strong all year. Keep any lower secondaries that emerge but above that first six or so inches one can keep branches off the leader allowing the leader to just elongate and build wood. Be aware that at some time the trunk will need to be chopped again for another directional change so working to have a suitable branch to chop to is paramount.


The drawings to not reflect branches left at the chops for clarity. Grafting is also a suitable method for gaining a branch where it is needed. If possible, time chops to be done each year if the tree has grown to a suitable girth to blend in with trunk below previous chop. If still under sized hold off the next chop untill it has been reached the correct size, other wise the trunk will not blend well.


When the time is right that next chop can be made hopefully to a good branch to help with keeping the trunk healthy. At this time branching should be going along well and secondaries and tertiary branching may even be developing on that first branch. Don’t forget to build in back branching to help with depth of field, keeping in mind that these can be accomplished easily with thread or approach grafts. I prefer approach grafts simply because they take fast and seem to build girth faster. Thread grafts are better in appearance since they exit the trunk in the middle and do not come off the trunk at a funny angle. Approach grafts also can make some callous build up also.


The other Moyogi style is much more loose, and more feminine in feel. It is softer and has a lighter feel because of the upright nature of the branching. This style takes much more time to build. This is because there in no way to get the movement into the trunk when the stock is older. In the above style the beginning material is pretty much bone straight. This tree needs to have the movement grown into it from an early age.


Starting with liner material, wire a sapling and give it some movement. It can much more exaggerated since a lot of it will come out as it grows. This would be a good time to grow it on a plate in the ground helping to build a good flaring buttress early since all one can do is watch it grow. Keep branching to a minimum and allow all the growth to go straight up. Also keep in mind this tree will probably be in a box or the ground for at least 5 years, just to gain the neccessary girth for the initial chop. Water and fertilize heavily.


Allow one branch on the lean side to develop keeping in mind where it is in relation to the first chop. This is where we will chop to. Leave all the growth on the tree thru winter and make the chop in spring just as the buds break. The chop should be made a couple inches above the first branch. Seal well. This long stub that is left is to keep the area from drying out. Allow branching to grow above the first branch unhindered all year.



The next year after the trunk has gained good girth the tree is chopped back much closer to the first branch so we can make a directional change. The trunk should be made to move back over itself to get the weight of the tree back over to root mass. This shoot will grow for up to 3 to 5 years so as to even out the scar and make the trunk seemless. Branching should be chosen to fufill the canopy now.


Over the next few years, secondary and tertiary branching can be built using the hedging method to build twigs. The chop lines below show where chops will have been made during the tapering phase and subsequent choosing of branches along the way. One should not confuse this with chopping if the trunk is that well developed.



This is by no means the straight dope on making maple bonsai. The second method could contain secondary trunks and Mother Daughter configurations to help add dynamisym to the imagery. This is intended to be a starting point with the ending being limited only by your own imagination.



Posted October 12, 2014 by California Bonsai Art in Trident Techniques

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Taper, exagerated or not?   Leave a comment

I am very ford of trident maples. I have finally found a plant that grows well in my climate and handles nearly anything I throw at it. I have found that the trunks of these trees can be manipulated to feature any form in bonsai. They seem though, to only be seen in two forms.

1. Informal Upright with highly exagerated trunk taper and pine tree look


2. Broom Form with little trunk taper and lightly tapered branches to the top.

While I love both these forms it seems that most of the tridents I see look of the informal upright with exagerated taper in the trunk. Many times the trunks I purchase have no branches but the trunk is so well developed it seems ashame to start over with the expendature of money made on what has been taken home.


A nice example of an informal upright with massive taper and pine tree look.


A nice example of a finely tapered broom form tree.

It is this style, the broom form, in which I intend to focus some effort this year. I have many informal uprights from which to play with but this form is lacking on my benches and I wish to try my hand at growing out some of this form. I have a detailed progression to start soon and it will all take place here at the bonsai bunker.

What if……

I owned it I might take the top down a bit and flatten it out. I do not think it takes anything away from the drama of the tree and somehow make it seem more convicing as a maple bonsai.


Posted December 22, 2012 by California Bonsai Art in Uncategorized

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