One Step Backward

Posted by on Apr 5, 2015 | 2 Comments
One Step Backward

Sometimes when you’re trying to make a good bonsai you have to take a step backward, or possibly even two.

I find it quite natural to analyze a tree that I see on a sales table and mentally delete branches while bending others and adding elements that can be grown in a couple years. But, I find that same process to be slightly more complicated and difficult when it involves major steps to be taken on trees that I’ve been growing for almost a decade. There’s something about all those years that can cloud my judgement.

This little pine, from the 2006 batch, had been sitting behind a couple others that I liked more and so was being ignored a little. It’s smaller than many of the trees, and seems to want to be a dynamic informal upright shohin.

But, the problem is that it looks like it has reverse taper. Right above the roots it makes a couple sharp turns that over the years swelled together to make a mass of wood. If this were a maple tree I’d probably just layer off the fat part and make new roots. But, in this case I don’t think that will work.

January 2014 before repotting back into the same pond basket and removal of a portion of the sacrifice branch

January 2014 before repotting back into the same pond basket and removal of a portion of the sacrifice branch

Summer 2014, growing well but somehow not what I had originally imagined when I wired the trunk back in year two.

Summer 2014, growing well but somehow not what I had originally imagined when I wired the trunk back in year two.

January 2015 before any work.

January 2015 before any work.

Just in case you wanted an idea of what the other side looks like.

Just in case you wanted an idea of what the other side looks like.

I had cut off the entire sacrifice branch over the course of 2014, first in January and then more in June. Because I had been ignoring this tree the low side branches are a bit longer than they should be, but they still have buds near the trunk. I didn’t remove the stub from the sacrifice until January when I styled the tree and repotted it.

After removal of the remaining sacrifice branches, wiring, thinning and repotting.

After removal of the remaining sacrifice branches, wiring, thinning and repotting.

The scar from the sacrifice branch is unfortunately front and center.   It will age over time and look better but will always be visible.   The small bud above and to the left will be used to make the entire crown eventually.

The scar from the sacrifice branch is unfortunately front and center. It will age over time and look better but will always be visible. The small bud above and to the left will be used to make the entire crown eventually.

The trunk fattening for this tree is largely over. I’ll need a small, perhaps more horizontal trunk section above the large section to put the top in the right place. And I’ll need to spend quite a few years developing the crown. I’d say this tree will have a passably finished looking crown in about five or six years, and a good crown in ten.

The design for the future.   I think the tree will end up being about 7" tall.

The design for the future. I think the tree will end up being about 7″ tall.

To move the tree along I needed to take a step backward, reducing the branching significantly to allow the small bud near the top to get strong to create the eventual apex. The repotting will help the health of the tree, but it will take a couple years before that small bud really starts to make progress.

2 Comments

  1. Scott Roxburgh
    April 20, 2015

    Hi Eric,

    Why do you leave the internal wood on your larger wounds? Will this be jin, or does it assist healing?

    Thanks for your blog too, I have learnt a lot from your posts.

    Scott

  2. Eric Schrader
    April 22, 2015

    My typical technique for dealing with a larger cut is to reduce the wood a bit. I don’t think it affects the healing process except that the live tissue will roll over the flat section and make it look like a smaller cut was made. On this tree I have two wounds to deal with that are right next to each other. I’ll let the wood dry out and then possibly break off parts of the stubs later to give it a natural texture.

    Once the sacrifice gets going on the new trunk section it shouldn’t take more than a year or two for these little jin to blend in with the rest of the trunk. You can see one that got buried in the trunk on my slant style pine that I covered in a previous post. It adds a bit of character to the tree I think.