Bark, Deadwood & the Ravages of Time

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I've long been fascinated by close ups. Especially shots of deadwood and bark with their richly illustrated stories of time and the elements.

Sunday morning. Crocuses, peepers in the pond and pure unobstructed sun. Time to get outside. So rather than taking the time to put together another new post, we’ll borrow from our archives. This one originally appeared in March, 2015.

All the photos shown here are by Salvador De Los Reyes. I believe that all but one are of his trees (here and here are couple earlier Bark posts that feature Salvador’s bonsai).

You can view more photos of Salvador’s bonsai on facebook and on his blog.

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If you are skilled enough, you can create the illusion of age by carving and applying other techniques on deadwood. But when it comes to bark, time and only time is necessary for that prized aged look.

 

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The photo is by Salvador and as far as I can tell, this is the only tree shown here that is not his. It belong to Luis Vila. The whole tree is quite remarkable and worth a quick click to a Bark post from 2013.

 

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Just in case you were wondering, Salvador does feature plenty of full bonsai photos (my apologies for the blown-up-too-far fuzz)

 

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Before and after

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Bonsai Before & After – Transforming a Badly Damaged Tree

HHafterHere's what Harry Harrington has to say about this impressive tree, and in particular it's recovery and transformation from what you see in the photo below... "This is probably the best example I have of the usefulness of anti-transpirant, an Itoigawa juniper bonsai that came to me in a very bad way a couple of years ago, and was sprayed with anti-transpirant once a month to reduce further moisture loss from the leaves while it recovered and grew new roots. (Second image is from just 6 months later after styling)."

We’ve been featuring Harry Harrington a lot these days. Part of this has to do with being the North American distributor of his The Foundations of Bonsai, and part is because I’ve long been a fan of Harry’s bonsai on a budget approach. Long before* I knew anything about his book

Continued below….

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HHbefor

Before. Not looking too good. A real challenge for any bonsai artist.

Continued from above…
Harry doesn’t promote what he’s doing as bonsai on a budget, that’s just my observation based on years of tuning into his bonsai4me website and following him on facebook. Harry has a knack for finding material that others may disregard and turning that material into quality bonsai and even superior bonsai. Or in this case, transforming a badly damaged bonsai into a work of bonsai art.

 

B1FOUNDThe Foundations of Bonsai

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HHanti

Harry's anti-transpirant

*Here’s a link to our first Harry Harrington post from March 2009

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Bonsai by Tickle

TICKLEMYRTLE

As you can see by the copyright, this muscular Myrtle belongs to Tony Tickle. So do the rest of the trees in this post (provided Tony hasn't sold them)

It’s been a while since we visited Tony Tickle, a man with a distinctive name and some very distinctive bonsai. All the photos shown here are from Tony’s Bonsai & Yamadori blog. If you want more, here’s your link to some earlier Bark posts that feature Tony’s bonsai

 

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TICKLELARCH

I've got a soft spot for Larches and this one doesn't do anything to diminish that feeling. I'm going to guess it's a European larch (Larix decidua) because Tony lives in the U.K. (even with Brexit, England is still part of Europe). Our Larches here in northern Vermont are American larches, aka Tamaracks (Larix laricina).

 

TICKLEBLACKTHOORN

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) in bloom

 

TICKLETEAHOUSE

Teahouse Kusamono. Is that smoke?

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TICKLEROCK

The white cliffs of Dover. Tony doesn't identify the trees, but they look a lot like Shimpaku

 

TICKLEMUGO

Cascading Mugo pine

TICKLEYEW

Tony's caption with this tree says simply, First Yew with Dan

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Straight Up & Tightly Bunched

ginkgo

You don't see that many Ginkgos bonsai and when you do, they're usually not this good. A couple things that stand out are the brilliance of the new leaves and how that brilliance is reinforced by the green moss, the green pot and even the barely perceptible little green buds on the trunk. And then there's the perfect little trunk that looks a bit like a termite mound. I borrowed the photo from Bill Valavanis' blog, Welcome to My Bonsai World.

Getting a late start today, so we’ll take the easy way out. This one originally appeared in June, 2015 (the photos anyway… I’ve redone much of the text). It has been a while since we’ve shown any Ginkgos and these are still among the best.

You don’t see that many Ginkgo bonsai. My guess is that this is because they are limited in terms of what you can do with them. The branches tend to grow more or less straight up and tightly bunched, and most seem to want to stay that way. Also, we’d be remiss not to mention that Ginkgos have been around for 270 million years.

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B1CLASSGinkgoThis one may be the very best Ginkgo bonsai we've ever seen. It's from Classic Bonsai of Japan (unfortunately, out of print). 50 years old, 33 inches (82cm). We originally featured it way back in 2009.

 

B1CRESPICU

A close up of the cover tree from the Crespi Bonsai Museum gallery book. As you can see, it deviates some from the usual straight up and tightly bunched Ginkgo characteristic.

 

H51-1This one also deviates a bit (but not that much). It belongs to Alex Probst. The pot is by Horst Heinzlreiter, a Bark regular.

 

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Here's that Crespi Bonsai book we referenced above. As you might suspect, it's available at Stone Lantern.

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Two Maple Bonsai Looking “Kind of Good Today”

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There are numerous plants in this world with red or reddish leaves, but very few can rival the sheer brilliance of this Deshojo Japanese maple. And just in case your eyes are completely drawn in by the intensity of the leaves, it might be worth pointing out the brilliance of the pot as well.

Both of these rather impressive Japanese maples were posted on facebook today by Bill Valavanis. Here’s what Bill wrote about them…
Two of my maple bonsai looked kind of good today so I thought I’d share their beauty with friends. Deshojo Japanese maple and Shishigashira Japanese maple. Enjoy!

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shishi

Here's a familiar tree. One of Bill's famous Shishigashiras.

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Mugo Pines – Achieving the Recognition They Deserve

770This powerful old yamadori (collected from the wild) Mugo pine would be exceptional even if it didn't have that piece of deadwood that doubles back on the trunk. With this feature it's a tree you won't easily forget. My one question has to do with balance. The long left side nebari provides an anchor, but is it enough to visually stabilize the strong lean to the right? I found this photo on Carlos van der Vaart's timeline.

All three bonsai photos shown here are from earlier Bark posts. However, most of the text was written this morning in front of a large window that looks out on Mt Mansfield, Vermont’s highest point (photo below).

It has taken a while for Mugo pines to be fully appreciated in bonsai circles. For a long time the only Mugos we knew here in the States, were nursery grown landscape stock.

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putz680This craggy yamadori Mugo is from Wolfgang Putz's website. Its natural come-as-you-are feel reminds me of Dan Robinson's North American bonsai (Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees).

Continued from above… Over the last twenty years or so, some remarkable yamadori Mugos have been showing up in Europe, where they are native. Still, that doesn’t help us here all that much, as USDA restrictions severely limit the flow of plant material into the country. Fortunately, we can enjoy quality photos.

Perhaps another reason it has taken Mugos a while to receive the recognition they deserve, is because of the powerful influence of the Japanese bonsai tradition. In Japan, Japanese black and white pines (and to a lesser extent, Japanese red pines) have long dominated.

Mugo-Bonsai-Creativo-School1

This exceptionally wild looking Mugo pine was posted by Sandro Segneri of the Bonsai Creativo School and Academy. As far as I know, most pines don't hold deadwood as well as some other conifers (especially junipers), so you might imagine that copious amounts of lime sulfur are in this tree's future.

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mmMt Mansfield 
Taken just now (cellphone) through a window
at the Hob Knob Inn in Stowe Vermont

Refining a Masterpiece Japanese White Pine

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Left side of a recently trimmed and wired masterpiece Zuisho Japanese white pine. The artist is Naoki Maeoka.

This Zuisho Japanese white pine must be one of the most outstanding formal upright bonsai in the world. It’s perfect taper, perfect branching with just the right amount of open space between each branch, perfectly rounded apex, and so on, all attest to this view of near perfection. But then near perfection is the goal with formal upright bonsai. And Naoki Maeoka is a master when it comes to refining extraordinary bonsai.

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JWPbefore

Before. Even in this unkempt condition it's easy to tell that this is no ordinary bonsai. If you have a lot of trees, it's impossible to keep them all in perfect shape at all times. In fact, you wouldn't want to. Periods of free growth allow trees to recover from the last round of trimming and wiring.

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Formal upright perfection. Naoki doesn't say how many hours he spent. Maybe his 20 hour job on the Shimpaku (below) will provide some reference, though my guess is this one took even longer.

JWPcuright

After, right side. This shot shows one imperfection... the grafting scar. In the almost straight-on shot just above, foliage covers just enough of the scar to reduce its impact.

JWPcutop

After, the crown

Speaking of Japanese pines…

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shimafter

Freshly restyled Shimpaku juniper, also by Naoki Maeoka. From a post we did back in January... No Problem that 20 Hours of Expert Work Can’t Solve.

after-4

Maoki doesn't say how long this Needle took to refine. It's from another January Bark post... Reviving a Neglected Bonsai

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It’s Taxus Time

YewMauro

This old Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) belongs to Mauro Stemberger. The color coordinated pot is by Petra Hahn (even the moss has reddish spots). I found the photo on The Art of Bonsai Project. 

Just for the fun of it, I searched our archives for the word Easter today. As you might suspect, all the posts with Cotoneaster came up. No surprise there. But so did several others, including this one (from December, 2015).

My humble apologies… I didn’t realize that it’s tax time until after I dug up this old  ‘Taxus’ post. Once I did realize, I couldn’t resist the title.

Continued below…

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bt56-p031-0111This powerful and famous Yew by Bonsai Master Masahiko Kimura is in a class by itself. It's from our book The Magician, the Bonsai Art of Kimura 2.

One of the great things about Yews is they grow almost everywhere. Half the landscapes here in the Eastern U.S. sport a yew or two. For some of us, it’s possible to find good ones for bonsai in our own front yards (suburban Yamadori). Or someone else’s front yard. Just don’t get caught (just kidding, I hope you do get caught).

 

yew5Every time I open Bonsai Today issue 106 and lay my eyes on this wicked old English yew (Taxus baccata), my mind does a little double take. It may not look exactly like anything you'll see in nature, but it certainly jumps off the page. The extensive and very time consuming carving (as well as the trimming and wiring) is by Kevin Willson. Photo by Simon Carr.

 

B1NATpacrimyew11This photo from the 3rd U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Album is a good example of the quality photos you’ll find in all of the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition Albums. The tree is an old Japanese yew from the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

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YewOmiyaThis muscular Japanese yew resides at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum in Saitama, Japan, along with numerous other top tier bonsai. The pot looks like it could be Tokoname. Though you can't see the back, it's possible that the single live vein in the front supports all of the foliage in the tree's substantial crown.

YewWalterRugged tree, rugged pot. It's hard to say if the two trunks share a single root system, but my guess is they do. Or maybe there's only one trunk with a large hole in the center. It's another Japanese yew. It belongs to Walter Pall. The pot is by Walter Venne. The tree was originally collected in Korea and is said to be over 100 years old.

 

 770taxusmauroThe powerful Yew with its flowing (melting) deadwood and reddish bark belongs to Mauro Stemberger (as does the tree at the top of the post). And then there's that wonderful little piece of deadwood that's used as a companion. The pot is a Tokoname.

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Two Tricks with Bonsai Wire & 3 Day Wire Special

CA17-OCT-jwp-copy

Japanese white pine from our 2017 Bonsai Calendar (sorry, sold out). This tree has no doubt been repeatedly wired over years of development.

In addition to sharing a couple useful tricks with bonsai wire, this post is to let you know that we have just begun a 3 day Bonsai Wire Sale. 20% off all of our wire (Bonsai Aesthetics wire, Yoshiaki wire, U.S. manufactured Copper wire).  When you combine it with our extra 10% off orders 100.00 or more and Free Shipping on Continental U.S. orders 49.00 or more (but only if you select Free Shipping when you check out), this is a good opportunity to stock up.

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straight

Too long and too straight. We all know you can add curves to a branch that is too straight, but did you know that you can also use wire to shorten a branch that is too long?

 

notstraight

Much better. Now it's shorter and more interesting.

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halfCrack! Branches sometimes crack. In fact, experienced bonsai artists sometimes intentionally crack a branch in order to bend it more than it normally would. Either way, you need to stabilized it while it heals (see below). You also need to apply sealing paste (cut paste).

 

half2Keep it still. You can use a guy wire to prevent any more downward movement while the branch heals. All four drawings in this post are from Bonsai Today issue 21.

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Principles of Bonsai Design – 2 Years & Going Strong

Oki-HackberryThis magnificent old Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis) is a tree that I've had the honor of seeing up close and personal. It lives at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Washington State. A not-to-miss experience if you're ever out that way. Though the distinctive split trunk needs no comment, you might also notice the highly developed ramification (fine branching). The tree was donated to the Museum by Ben Oki.

It has been almost two years now since we posted this glowing introduction to Dave DeGroot’s indispensable Principles of Bonsai Design. With the slow inexorable erosion of print media in this digital age, we never thought we would see another bonsai book this popular. But popular it is. And for very good reason. It’s simply the most thorough and clear exposition of bonsai design you’ll find.

Continued below…

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B1PRINspread

Principles of Bonsai Design. Here's a spread out of Dave's chapter on branch structure.
"This book is an absolute must for any serious bonsai grower. I heartily recommend it." Jerry Meislik, author of Ficus, the Exotic Bonsai.

 

Lee-juniper-smallThis Formosan juniper (Juniperus formosana) by Mr. Kuo An Lee is from Taiwan. Amy Liang Chang donated it to the Pacific Bonsai Museum. 
Dave DeGroot wrote: "This Chinese juniper was nursery grown and trained in Taipei, Taiwan. The basic shape was created by bending the juvenile tree around a bamboo stake. Field growing enlarged the trunk, which was then topped to obtain the correct height. The illusion of great age was supported by stripping the bark from certain branches and parts of the trunk. Carved grooves and channels in the stripped trunk suggest a long period of weathering and decay, further enhancing the illusion of age and powerful natural forces.
 The artist has created a feeling of gracefulness with the gently curving, slanted trunk, while the dropped branch on the right adds tension and interest by making the tree just slightly unbalanced."
B1PRINpage You might notice this page from Dave's Principles of Bonsai Design includes the trunk of the tree just above.

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Liang-Black-Pine-smallAmy Liang Chang (you might know her as just Amy Liang) of Taiwan is the artist and donor of this gnarly old (over 400 years!) Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii).
Dave wrote this about this magnificent old tree: "The black pine is a coastal tree of southern Japan, strong, vigorous, long lived and possessed of many attractive qualities. For all the above reasons, it is known as “The King of Bonsai."
This tree was quite tall when it was collected. In order to create a bonsai of pleasing proportions, the entire upper trunk was cut off, leaving only the lower trunk and the first four branches. Taipei bonsai artist Amy Liang Chang purchased the tree from a Japanese nurseryman in 1971 and styled into in its present form. The tree was totally cleansed of soil to permit its importation to the U.S. in 1989. Although badly stressed by that experience, it lived up to its reputation as a strong, vigorous tree and recovered fully."

B1PRINpage2

One more page from Principles of Bonsai Design. Just to whet your appetite.

 

Gray-Maple-smallThe artist and donor was of this brilliant Japanese maple was  George Gray of Dallas, Texas. It's date of origin is 1963 and it has been a bonsai since 1968.
Here's what Dave DeGroot wrote about this colorful tree: "Certainly, the Japanese maple is one of the most beautiful trees in any landscape, and one of the most beautiful for bonsai as well. Artist George Gray developed this maple from a cutting over a period of more than 30 years. Such a long time in a shallow pot has given the tree excellent surface roots and delicate, well-proportioned branches, so that it projects a sense of both strength and softness. A low, upswept branch on the right side of the tree adds interest by suggesting a secondary trunk.
The shape of the Tokoname-ware container is oval to harmonize with the softly rounded shape of the crown of the tree. The beautiful blue-green color of the container is a perfect foil for orange and red autumn foliage."

 

B1PRIN

Principles of Bonsai Design. The most thorough and useful Bonsai Design book since John Naka's famous Bonsai Techniques 1 & 2, both of which no doubt greatly influenced Dave (at the risk of bonsai heresy, Dave's book may be as thorough and useful as John Naka's famous books - you can decide for yourself if you can get your hands on Techniques 1 and 2).

 

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