Neagari – A quick wiring

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 | No Comments
Neagari – A quick wiring

This little exposed-root Japanese Black pine belongs to a friend. Actually, it was a seedling that I started, but the credit for the current state of the tree goes to a friend. He’s no longer doing bonsai and had the forethought to sell his collection before it deteriorated. This little tree was mine, then his, then mine again and now belongs to a client and student of mine who is curating a very nice little collection. The tree isn’t the picture of health, but it did respond to some candle cutting over the summer and put out some nice growth.

The trunk had obviously been wired once before, but the result after that was apparently a bunch of needle-buds-gone-wild. Forget for a moment the current state of this tree and think about development of a young pine into this “Neagari” style.

To make an exposed-root tree, the one- or two-year old tree is transplanted into a large container with some coarse pumice or other substrate that drains well. The substrate should be 1″ or larger and not retain much in the way of nutrients, think looowwww cation exchange ratio. After transplanting, the tree will grow roots down through the coarse material into the container below where you should have normal bonsai soil. Then you gradually expose the roots and remove the pumice to make a Neagari style tree.

The only other thing that had happened to this tree up to the current time was a sacrifice branch growing out, and then being cut off. The cut is obvious from the stub; and the result is that all the needles that were on the remaining section of trunk sent out buds and there was a profusion of upward-bound branches a couple years later.

The assumed front, before any work.  The stub at the bottom right is where the sacrifice branch was removed.    The needle buds above it on the trunk section all sent out vigorous buds in response.

The assumed front, before any work. The stub at the bottom right is where the sacrifice branch was removed a couple years ago. The needle buds above it on the trunk section all sent out vigorous buds in response.

The back before any work.

The back before any work.

The roots have a satisfying randomness, and are not straight thanks to the technique of using a large substrate to grow them.  A bit of it is still embedded between them.   Assuming good care the roots should all stay alive and begin to bark up in a few years.

The roots have a satisfying randomness, and are not straight thanks to the technique of using a large substrate to grow them. A bit of it is still embedded between them. Assuming good care the roots should all stay alive and begin to bark up in a few years.

The tree from the side and above showing the root spread.

The tree from the side and above showing the root spread.

Did I mention that this tree as of Fall 2014 is only 6 growing seasons old? Well, when you make a trunk out of roots you have the advantage of utilizing all the growth that the tree is putting on, rather than just the top half. These roots create the illusion of taper and a trunk much faster than can be done with a real trunk. No trunk chops, no wire scarring and no other tricks required.

The front, after wiring.   The largest branch on the top may still be eliminated in favor or a smaller one that is coming forward

The front, after wiring. The largest branch on the top may still be eliminated in favor of a smaller one that is coming forward.

From the back after wiring.

From the back after wiring.

Looking down after wiring.   The branch structure is pretty good, but not perfect.  A year of good growth will fill out the silhouette, but it will take another 5-7 years to get a really good canopy.

Looking down after wiring. The branch structure is pretty good, but not perfect. A year of good growth will fill out the silhouette, but it will take another 5-7 years to get a really good canopy.

The front was chosen based on the sweep of the trunk, first slightly away from the viewer and then back toward the viewer. This allows the lower branch to sweep forward naturally and the tree seems to embrace the viewer and provides a clean visual resolution when viewing it in a display.

The tree is certainly not ready for an exhibit, but it is well on its way. Now just a couple more years of diligent care will get us there. (and at least one more detailing and wiring!)