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.
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 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!)