Reel Returns

Posted by on Jun 13, 2015 | No Comments
Reel Returns

For the first weekend in June I had the pleasure once again of hosting Matt Reel for a few days of bonsai work. BSSF did two group workshops with Matt instructing and I worked with him on a few trees privately as well. The great thing about working with a bonsai professional is that you tend to get a lot of work done. For me in particular it allows me to avoid distractions and just concentrate on grooming trees.

The first tree I put in front of him was a small J. procumbens ‘nana’ that I originally got from a nursery center. After getting it I didn’t think it would make a good bonsai so I planted it in my garden for a couple years where it cascaded over a rock wall. The growth was quite vigorous and after those two years were over I dug it out and decided to turn it in to a bonsai. There is a certain repetitive feeling to bonsai work over many years so after we take a look at what Matt did to this tree we can rewind to what it looked like a long time ago and what it looked like the last time it was in a show.

Matt's starting point.   The tree is established but hasn't been cleaned up for about a year.   Some trimming was done last summer.   Since San Francisco summers are so cool the growth is not particularly fast.

Matt’s starting point. The tree is established but hasn’t been cleaned up for about a year. Some trimming was done last summer. Since San Francisco summers are so cool the growth is not particularly fast.

Matt began by creating a shari on the front of the trunk.   It turns out that this section had been dead for some time already so he removed the bark with a scraper.

Matt began by creating a shari on the front of the trunk. It turns out that this section had been dead for some time already so he removed the bark with a scraper.

Matt repositioned some of the branches that were already wired and added some wires to clean up the look of the tree and rebalance it.

Matt repositioned some of the branches that were already wired and added some wires to clean up the look of the tree and rebalance it.

After Matt finished the tree is looking nice and tidy.

After Matt finished the tree is looking nice and tidy.

It only took an hour or so to clean up the tree, but it’s been a few years in the making. The most significant difference is the addition of the shari on the front which brightens up the composition considerably. After I add some lime sulfur it will pop even more. Now let’s see how this tree has changed over the years:

2006 first cutback and wiring.

2006 first cutback and wiring.

Summer 2008

Summer 2008

March 2012 after a full cutback, thinning and wiring.

March 2012 after a full cutback, thinning and wiring.

January 2013 in the BIB show.

January 2013 in the BIB show.

I think the most interesting thing about this progression and Matt’s cleanup and restyle of the tree is that the result has remained relatively consistent. In the March 2012 image I had styled the tree, in the January 2013 image Boon had adjusted it and raised it out of the container a bit more. In Matt’s most recent styling there is very little difference in the shape from either of the previous iterations. Thus all of us basically agree about how the tree should look. There is an interesting way of reading a tree, and sometimes the instructions are contained in the tree quite clearly. Thus this tree may look like this for a long time to come.