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.
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.
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.
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.