Patience for Progress

Posted by on Nov 8, 2014 | 3 Comments
Patience for Progress

Bonsai can be a slow, sometimes frustrating hobby. But sometimes both delight and frustration can come from the same source.

One of the first trees I ever bought was this small exposed-root Japanese Black Pine, I obtained it in the fall of 2003. It’s a slant, or semi-cascade, depending on how you look at it.

I have a longer progression of photos of this tree than perhaps any other tree. It was the first tree that I ever worked with Boon, and the progress has been almost all forward, although occasionally I have to give the tree a year off from decandling.

When I went to clean up the tree recently I was struck by the density, but thought that perhaps the last five years had not yielded much in the way of progress. Three years ago I formulated the plan that I would add a lower pad on the left side, so that it is more of a semi-cascade and less a slant style tree. In that time I didn’t candle cut the particular branch at all, but last year I wasn’t able to decandle any of the tree due to lack of vigor. So the progress on this particular front has been slow.

Let’s rewind to 2004 and enjoy a progression of photos.

April 2004, the needles are just starting to emerge.

April 2004, the needles are just starting to emerge.

May 2004, during the first growing season after I purchased the tree.

May 2004, during the first growing season after I purchased the tree.

October 2004, after the first growing season.   The candles were not cut so the needles are long.

October 2004, after the first growing season. The candles were not cut so the needles are long.

November 2007

November 2007. Boon helped me add two grafts to the branch that makes up the front of the apex. The branch was too long compared to the lower branch and would never bud back any further. We put on two grafts opposite each other. Unknown to me at the time, I wouldn’t eliminate the branch in favor of the grafts until 7 years after the grafts were added.

November 2007

November 2007

At the January 2009 BIB show.   The needles were looking good and the tree was nice an healthy.

At the January 2009 BIB show. The needles were looking good and the tree was nice an healthy. My main criticism of the tree is that it appears to have three dis-associated pads of foliage. A more significant back branch on the apex would seem to solve the problem.

January 2014.   During the 2013 growing season the tree was weak, so I did not decandle it.   The result, after removing the old needles, was this shaggy looking image.

January 2014. During the 2013 growing season the tree was weak, so I did not decandle it. The result, after removing the old needles, was this shaggy looking image. Note how some of the left branch has already been brought down to start to create the lower pad.

June 2014, the spring candles are very vigorous in places because the tree was not decandled last year.

June 2014, after decandling the weak candles, but before the vigorous ones. The spring candles are very vigorous in places because the tree was not decandled last year.

November 2014, before any work.   The new needles are short, and the old needles are long and shaggy looking.

November 2014, before any work. The new needles are short, and the old needles are long and shaggy looking.

Looking up into the crown

Looking up into the crown

After needle pulling, before wiring.

After needle pulling, before wiring.

The fully wired apex

The fully wired apex

The fully wired tree.

The fully wired tree.

Now, about this time, I’m asking myself what I have to do to get that other foliage pad that I’ve been wanting. Maybe I should just forget the whole idea. After all, if I had candle cut the one branch over the summer I’d have a pretty good looking tree with nice even short needles. By comparison, in the three years that I’ve been getting the branch going strong I’ve had over 4 feet of growth on some of my younger pines.

Small loops of wire on the branch to remind me not to decandle it.

Small loops of wire on the branch to remind me not to decandle it.

The branch that was not candle cut has much longer needles than the rest of the tree.   The bud on it will elongate quite a bit next year.

The branch that was not candle cut has much longer needles than the rest of the tree. The bud on it will elongate quite a bit next year.

Back on the bench in the garden.

Back on the bench in the garden.

I’m not one to need to hurry something, but I’m getting the feeling that this extra branch may be another ten years in the making. Despite the sense of frustration, most of the tree is quite nice at this point. It has short deep-green needles and the shape and texture are quite pleasing.

3 Comments

  1. Scott Roxburgh
    November 9, 2014

    Thanks for another great progression Eric.

    Why not a graft in the back to fill in the gap?

    • Eric Schrader
      November 11, 2014

      Hi Scott,

      The branch that I need to fill the gap is already there, it’s just not quite large enough yet. But, you’re right, not sure why I didn’t think to graft more branching when I was already doing it elsewhere.

  2. Jeremiah lee
    November 12, 2014

    Love progressions like this and reading your blog! Please keep up the good work!