Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn) Survival Part 3

Since writing my previous blog posts on collecting and establishing P. spinosa I have had a number of emails asking for more information. Hopefully +Tony Tickle  will publish the technique in full soon as currently I am still experimenting and perfecting my method. I can however add a little more information from my findings.

I have added an extra couple of elements to the method that Tony described to me and believe that they may have been beneficial to my results.

The importance of mycorrhiza fungi in establishing healthy root systems is well publicised and so I have been using Vitax Q4 Plus to kick start the mycorrhizae in all my yamadori collected this season.

Before covering my Prunus with black trash bags, I watered them with Maxicrop Seaweed Extract. The benefits of seaweed extract upon trees are many. Seaweed is said to aid root growth, encourage healthy mycorrhizae and boost chlorophyll levels (Which the trees will be short of after their spell in the dark).

Friends who are also experimenting with the black-bag-technique have all reported problems with mould occurring whilst the trees are bagged. I have not experienced issues with mould and believe that this may be down to the me using seaweed. As the trees dry out, I mist again with seaweed.

Maxicrop Plant Growth Stimulant and Vitax 'Q4+'
Since the photos I posted earlier this month a healthy colour has returned to the leaves and some strong areas of growth can be seen.

Seaweed extract helps to boost the tree's chlorophyll levels and bring back a healthy green colour to the leaves.

Twin trunk showing strong back-budding.
With a few of my Prunus, I have used slightly different, experimental techniques. The tree below was kept in the dark, but was not as warm or humid as the above trees. At first it appeared to have died until a single bud appeared a couple of weeks ago. I immediately moved the tree to a warm, humid and dark environment (misted with seaweed extract) and within a week, a one inch shoot had appeared and another two buds were popping!

I have another tree which has recently been moved back into a black bag because since removing it, the leaves have been showing some signs of shrivel. From similar results in friends' trees, I believe this to occur when the bags are removed too early.

Fingers crossed for this one!

As mentioned earlier, I am still experimenting with the information given to me by Tony Tickle and Simon Jones, so more experimentation with varying temperatures, humidity levels and timespans spent within the bags would really be needed alongside control specimens before I could offer any firm advice. Tony is the one with the experience in this field so Tony, please publish the method soon! (I hope I haven't misquoted you or given too much away!)

Friday, 25 April 2014

Monday, 21 April 2014

Exhibit in the Imperial Palace, Croatia

The following was originally posted on the Internet Bonsai Club forum by Walter Pall. I am a big fan of Walter's work and his philosophy on bonsai art and design. In this post he talks a little about how he views bonsai as an art form and about the importance of Naturalistic Bonsai, breaking away from Japanese idealistic views and 'rules'.

This break from Japanese tradition and the idea of creating what Walter refers to as "living tree sculptures" from yamadori material is something which I aspire to in my own work. Walter has kindly granted me permission to repost the article here.

From April 12 to April 20 an important bonsai exhibit took place in the Diocletian's palace in Split, Croatia. It was presented as art exhibit in a place where objects of art are shown on a regular basis. Many hundred thousand visitors see the palace over the year and tens of thousand will see the bonsai exhibit over the Easter holidays. The article aims at well educated folks who have no or only rudimentary knowledge of bonsai but are well versed in arts.

Exhibition of living tree sculptures in Split 2014

Is bonsai art?

The art of living tree sculptures is called bonsai in general. It is remarkable that bonsai is accepted as being an art form here in Split. In many places around the world this is not so. It has to do with how bonsai in general is presented and practiced. The truth is that by and large bonsai is practiced as craft for the production of commercial products. Most such products resemble stereotypes which the market wants. And then for some it is questionable whether a living thing can be art at all. Bonsai is living tree sculptures changing all the time and this cannot be art for some. In people's mind bonsai is connected with garden, with garden centers and horticulture much more than with art. Even in Japan most would consider bonsai NOT an art form.
Well, if you ask me, bonsai is widely practiced as craft but it can well be art. For me personally a tree is art if it is man made and speaks to me loud and clearly. The trees in this exhibit definitely speak loud to me.

What is bonsai and where does it come from?

A general definition says the 'bonsai'' is a little tree in a pot. But this is probably not sufficient as a definition. The tree must have some quality to qualify as bonsai. Most would say that the tree must look like a bonsai  to be a bonsai.  But a famous saying in bonsai is "don't make your little tree look like a bonsai, rather make your bonsai look like a tree". One could also say that what looks like a stereotype may well be a bonsai but not art. My definition is: 'a bonsai is a little tree in a container that makes move my heart, that touches me. The more it touches me the more it is art'. The overwhelming majority of bonsai enthusiasts in the world think that the aim is  for a bonsai to be beautiful. Whoever is somehow in arts knows that beauty has little to do with art, often it is frowned upon. We are not that far in the art of bonsai but I think a bonsai can be very ugly as long as it speaks to me strongly. Most commercial bonsai are beautiful, but sterile. They are made to please the masses with stereotype tricks to make trees 'nice'. It is called kitsch. I dare to say that the majority of bonsai in the world are kitsch according to this definition.

Most people think that bonsai is a Japanese art form. Well, it comes from China as most things Japanese. The Chinese had and have mostly a poetic view about bonsai. It should look like a wild old tree, sometimes anthropomorphic, sometimes even grotesque. The Japanese have an idealistic view in general, bonsai for them must look ideal and conform to rules. The tree sculptures in this exhibit tend more towards the naturalistic taste and less towards the Japanese taste.

Since about fifty years the art of bonsai is spreading all over the world. By now it has become very strong in Europe and ares in Asia outside of Japan, like Indonesia, and, of course also in the USA. There is a tendency for the regions to form their own version of bonsai, but most follow the Japanese model more or less and only develop a local dialect of Japanese styling.

Bonsai as the art of living tree sculptures has one most important peculiarity: the process of creation of art is spread over many years, even decades and sometimes even over centuries. While normal pieces of art take some time to process they are finished after some while and that's it then. A new tree as a piece of material that is going to become a tree sculpture will usually not be much after fist styling. It takes several years and constant styling and re-styling until this can be called 'bonsai'. And then it probably is not even art  - yet. One can say that usually five years of work on a tree are the minimum before it is acceptable - show able. Well, really even showing after five years is too early. The same tree will be much better in twenty years if in the right hands. And even better again after fifty years. The trees that we see in this exhibit are on average worked on since five years. So this is very early. The best thing would be to postpone this exhibit and we all see each other and the trees in twenty years. This is , of course, only rhetorical. But it is true that in the art of bonsai the time is always too early to show a tree. Knowing about this problem of time this exhibit is even more remarkable as the quality is approaching world class standard according to my opinion.

Many people think that bonsai is a species, a special form of tree. Really any woody plant can be turned into a living sculpture. Most people use trees from nurseries for this. A few use trees from nature. The bonsai which are made out of collected material usually are much more interesting. But is it difficult to style them in a reasonable way. Natural bonsai don't conform to Japanese styling rules, they have a strong character and strange behavior. Too strange for most. But the results, if done well, are much more impressive. It has to do with the inherent natural character of collected trees. If the aim is to produce a living tree sculpture which is supposed to look like an old tree with lots of character then it is a good idea to start with an old tree with lots of character. This sounds so obvious! But fact is that 98 % of all bonsai in the world are mad from simple nursery material. Another fact is that 80 % of the very best trees are made from collected old natural material. So why don't more people use the 'better' material? It is because it is not easily available and too difficult for most. First the horticultural skill, we almost can call it 'art' to first of all find and then to collect a very old tree form nature and keep it alive. While this sounds simple it is a very difficult task, too difficult for the majority of trained gardeners. And then the task to style this raw material so that it looks like what the artist wants it to look like. This takes artistic skill and imagination and a vision from the outset that is beyond most who ever try it. In this exhibit we see very successful creations out of very difficult material.

What is the situation with the art of bonsai in Croatia?

Bonsai is not very common in Croatia yet as active art. Passively, as an art form for viewers it is probably quite popular. There is only a couple dozen of what can be called serious bonsaiists in this country. And only few of them can be called artists. The majority of bonsaiists here follow the Japanese model more or less, aiming at idealistic trees which look like bonsai. Another way would be to make a bonsai look like a real tree - which is what a couple are doing in Croatia.

One can say that in terms of the art of bonsai Croatia is a developing country. But it has a hand full of people who work on a European class level and even on a world class level. Having personally seen what happed here in the past years, seeing the show able results and especially the work in progress I see a great future for the art of bonsai in Croatia. The availability of some of the best material in the world will help this, of course.

Where do Marija and Andrija stand in the overall picture?

Marija Hajdić and Andrija Zokić are working closely as a team and refuse to appoint a certain tree to either one of them. they are definitely artists in my opinion, belonging to a European elite of bonsai artists already. They are specializing in broadleaved trees which they collected themselves for  nature in Croatia. This is something special, as 98% of all bonsai artists in the world are specializing in conifers.

Marija and Andrija are collecting the trees themselves from the area around Split. It is not a given that a bonsai artist is also an expert in collecting trees - which is a difficult task by itself to do it successfully. Mariaj and Andrija are trying to make their trees look like real trees in nature. This is called Naturalistic Bonsai Style. While this may sound obvious to most it is not obvious - the overwhelming majority of bonsaiists in the world are trying to make their tree look like a bonsai.

I have been closely working together with the couple since 2007. They started from an amateurish medium level and now are in an international league already. They have received awards and invitations in Europe and are featured in international bonsai magazines around the world. To develop a convincing and very good bonsai from collected raw material takes many years. Therefore it is remarkable that after seven years of serious work with bonsai they have already achieved this  level. Knowing what they have in their collection I can foresee that they will become some of the world leading bonsai artist in regard to broadleaved species within the next few years. I am very proud to have been their teacher.

Walter Pall

Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast, four miles from Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia Roman province of Dalamtia. ges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them.
After the Romans abandoned the site, the Palace remained empty for several centuries. In the 7th century, nearby residents fled to the walled palace in an effort to escape invading Slaves. Since then the palace has been occupied, with residents making their homes and businesses within the palace basement and directly in its walls.[Today many restaurants and shops, and some homes, can still be found within the walls.
This palace is today, with all the most important historical buildings, in the center of the city of Split. Diocletian's Palace far transcends local importance because of its degree of preservation. The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic coast. As the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in  European and world heritage.

here the trees:
edit: the original post and images of the trees can be viewed here: http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t15328-the-exhibit-in-the-imperial-palace

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Treatment of Raw Jins on Yamadori Mugo Pine

Raw jin.

Blow torching removes wood fluff and raises the grain. A wet towel is used to protect the foliage.

Lime sulphur is applied with a brush.

Lime sulphur dried and Jin completed. All that's left to do now is to allow the wood to weather.

All jins completed.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bonsai Wood Carving with 'The Nibbler'

The "Nibbler" is a three-tipped trigon cutter designed by Chris Guise, specifically with bonsai carving in mind. I first read about the tool on the European Bonsai Forum and decided to purchase one for my new Makita die grinder. Service was great and the tool arrived very promptly. The Nibbler can be purchased from Chris at http://bonsainibbler.co.uk/.
The nibbler as received, with tools for replacing the carbide tips when they eventually dull.

Close-up of the Nibbler's head with three cutting surfaces.
The Hawthorn bellow had some pruning wounds from a year ago when some large branches were removed. At the time I hollowed the areas slightly with a small rotary tool, but had planned to make the cuts much deeper and create a hollow, joining the two wounds together and allowing water drainage. Enter the Nibbler!

The two wounds before carving.

In just a couple of minutes the Nibbler had nibbled a hollow right through one hole to the next.

Tool marks improved by blow torching. I think this will need repeating when the heartwood has dried out. 

Carving finished for now. Still a very long way to go with this material which I plan to style in the fukinagashi form.

The Nibbler coped equally well with both live and dead wood and made short of the task. The cuts were then tidied with a Termite burr from Kaisen Bonsai before finishing with a blowtorch.

I was very pleased with the Nibbler and would highly recommend it for bonsai carving. It comes in both 6mm shaft for Makita type tools and 3.2mm for smaller Dremel type tools. In fact, I may just have to order the 3.2mm as well and see how that fares!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn) Survival Part 2

In September last year, I blogged about my first attempts at collecting P. Spinosa yamadori. http://yamadoriartuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/prunus-spinosa-collection-and-survival.html The establishment technique that was first told to me by Simon Jones, is also used by Tony Tickle for his collected Prunus, and also I believe, Crataegus. I am not sure who can be credited with the original development of the technique as I have also heard of it being used in Europe, but I believe that Simon learned it from Tony. I have already shared the basics of the technique in the first post, whereby the newly collected trees are kept dark and humid inside black bin bags.

While chatting to Tony at the Swindon Winter Image Show, I was lucky enough to receive a full description of  the finer points of his technique first hand. I do not wish to appear all cloak and dagger, but I believe that Tony is planning to publish his technique soon and in the meanwhile, he asked me not to "tell everyone"! This Spring I have followed Tony's instructions with three Blackthorns - all of which are doing very well and have a number of healthy buds which have now leafed out - much better than my two buds last year! I also have a fourth Prunus which I planted in pure sphagnum moss. Interestingly, this tree appears to have weaker leaf buds, but stronger root growth, with roots emerging from along the exposed trunk.

Below are two of the trees that were established using Tony's technique, photographed as they were removed from the bin bags.