Bjorn’s Biggest Loser – Before & After – Fertilizing Old Trees

b&a

Before and After. This masterpiece Itoigawa Shimpaku was restyled by Bjorn Bjorholm at Keiichi Fujikawa’s Kouka-en Bonsai Nursery in Ikeda City, Japan, where Bjorn was apprenticing at the time. The photo is from a post on Bjorn’s Bjorvala Bonsai Studio blog, as are all the photos in this post.

Continuing with our Bjorn Bjorholm theme (it fits well with our ongoing before and after theme as well). This post originally appeared here in April, 2013, with a few minor changes today

In Bjorn’s own words
“This massive Itoigawa Shimpaku has a long history as a bonsai. It was first shown in the Kokufu-ten about 35 years ago, back in the days before the boom in major refinement techniques and quality occurred.”
Continued below…

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Before. To paraphrase Bjorn, this tree arrived at Kouka-en after being over-watered, overfed and overgrown (see below "Fertilizing bonsai - finding the balance").

Bjorn continued from above…
Since then, it was purchased by several different owners and has been in the collection of its current owner for about 20 years. During that period, this particular client has tried to show it in the Kokufu-ten again on three separate occasions, and each time the tree has failed to cut the mustard, so-to-speak. The owner recently brought the impressive juniper to us at Kouka-en for a major restyling and to see if, perhaps, we might be able to transform it once again into a Kokufu-ten-worthy bonsai…”
 (please visit Bjorn’s blog for the rest of what he has to say about this tree).

after1

After. All that's left to do is to repot with the new planting angle.

Fertilizing bonsai – finding the balance…
In reference to Bjorn’s comment about the tree being overfed… What does it mean to overfeed a bonsai? We should say something here, as we’ve often encouraged our readers to fertilize more, rather than less. To clarify, we need to make a distinction between older well-established trees and younger less developed trees.

With older bonsai, once the trunk and branches are well developed, two primary concerns are the health of the tree and the continued development of fine branching (ramification). If you fertilize too much at this stage, the fine branching tends to grow too fast, with the result being undesirable thickness and internodes that are too long. So you want to slow the feeding down to just enough to keep the tree healthy and to promote tight ramification.

With younger trees, heavier fertilizing helps promote faster growth which can result in increased trunk girth and the development of strong primary branching. Though there much more that can be said, and, as with most everything, finding the proper balance between too much and not enough is key.

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This closer look gives you a pretty good view of how well this tree is ramified. If you look closely, you can follow the branching from primary, to secondary, to tertiary and so forth. Though conifers aren’t usually as highly ramified as the most developed deciduous trees, still, ramification is critical if you want top-notch conifer bonsai.

 

The biggest loser.

Tall Cliffs & a Rickety Little Bridge

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Partial shot of a large penjing style planting that features water, tall cliffs and a rickety little bridge. The artist is Bjorn Bjorholm with some friends as able assistants

Yesterday we featured a planting and a few other bonsai by Bjorn Bjorholm and friends. Today we’ve got another one from the same event (you can visit Bjorn on facebook for more)

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bfriends

Bjorn and friends posing with their masterpiece. Bjorn is the one with the blue T-shirt

 

b11

A piece of the action...

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Another piece of the action... this time with a couple tiny sailboats

 

bbridge

A closer look at the bridge. It's not clear why anyone would take it. I guess you'll have to use your imagination

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A Well Traveled, Hard Working Bonsai Artist

bjtodmainc

Bjorn Bjorholm posted this root-on-rock gem the other day. It looks like a juniper, but I can't tell for sure what kind and won't bother to guess. Speaking of guesses, I'll venture that some or all of the trees might share a single root system, and that the rock formation is manmade. I cropped this photo to eliminate background noise. A version that shows the whole planting is just below. 

Bjorn Bjorholm has to be one of the most well-traveled and hard working bonsai artists anywhere. At least that’s the impression I get from his posts on facebook. Speaking of, stay posted for another of his amazing rock plantings tomorrow

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The whole planting

bjtmaincu

Up close

 

bjtoday3

Another Bjorn bonsai. This one looks like it might be the same kind of juniper as the planting above

 

bjorntoday1

Hat's off to Bjorn. This one strikes me as a good example of how to make a tree with a difficult shape look good. Bjorn doesn't say what type of pine this is

 

bjtoday2

I love the unusual shape and the gnarly ancient looking bark on this one. Judging by the needles, it looks like it may be the same type pine as above

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Two Splendid Cedar Bonsai

cedar-1

This has to be one of the very best Northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) bonsai we've seen yet. We've seen thousands of magnificent Cedars growing in the wild here in Northern Vermont and surrounding states and provinces, but very few top quality bonsai. BTW: this one belongs to Brian Donnely of Quebec City. The photo is from one of the U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition albums (I don't remember which). The rest of the photos in this post are of another brilliant Cedar that belongs to Michael Pollock

This post was inspired by a Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) that we’ve featured here in an earlier incarnation. This time it’s a before and after post we found on facebook (photos are below). The artist is Michael Pollock and the results are excellent
Continued below…

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beforeBefore. This is what happens to Cedars. You do a heavy trimming and wiring (see below) and next thing you know, it looks like this. Here's Michael Pollock's caption... "Swipe Right! Another recently re-worked tree. This time a Thuja or Eastern* White Cedar. Recent scientific study aged these collected New England specimens as quite old. Safe to say this tree pre-dates the USA. Really ready for a new pot soon."

Continued from above…
As you may know, our native Cedars present a challenge for bonsai artists. The foliage fans tend to grow too large for scale, so diligent and ongoing trimming is essential. Without going into too much detail, there’s an art to it that requires sharp shears, wire and an understanding of how cedars grow.

after

After extensive trimming and wiring. Now it just needs some time for the foliage to recover and grow just a bit, and it will be restored to its previous splendor (see below)

 

Thuja+5-31-13

It's previous splendor. From a post we did back in October, 2015

*We prefer to call them Northern white cedar rather than Eastern white cedar, though both are misleading. It’s not a true cedar (Cedrus) but rather one of five arborvitae species (Genus Thuja and family Cupressaceae (cypress family)) that grow in the northern hemisphere (2 in North America and 3 in Asia). Here’s a link to Wikipedia if you’d like to know more

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A Very Variegated Unusual Bonsai

var

I think this unusual gem is the first variegated privet bonsai I've seen. Here's what our source for this photo, Miguel Ros of Museo Tatsugoro said when he posted it... "It's a Ligustrum with a natural graft of the same species. Its leaves are variegated!!!. It's a beautiful tree." (If you're interested, here a link to what Wikipedia has to say about natural grafts.) 

When I stumbled upon this unusual tree on Miguel Ros Museo  Tatsugoro timeline, I thought the variegated and the unvariegated leaves look a lot like leaves you might find on two different Serissa foetida varieties, but that the trunk is impossibly thick for serissa. Had I been on the ball, I might have realized that the leaves also look a lot like they might belong on a privet, and that there are privets with variegated leaves, at least in the nursery industry, if not on any bonsai we know (until now, that is)
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varcu

Here's a closer look at the trunk and at the variegated leaves

Continued from above…
Privets have been capturing our attention a lot lately. Especially since we became the North American distributor for Harry Harrington’s unique bonsai treasure, The Foundations of Bonsai. Harry is a bit of an expert on Privet bonsai and his book is a very good place to develop your privet expertise and expand your knowledge of bonsai in general and particularly bonsai from what you might call ordinary stock (aka inexpensive stock).

 

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varhandback

The hand in this back of the tree shot offers a perspective when it comes to size. I lifted it from a video at Miguel Ros' Museo Tatsugoro's timeline... thus the fuzz

 

vartop

This bird's eye shows the extent of the variegated section. It was also lifted from the video at Miguel Ros' Museo Tatsugoro's timeline

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Juniper Bonsai – Before, During & After

yama2017Noelanders

This Itoigawa juniper (Juniperus sargentii Itoigawa) belongs to Yannick Kiggen of Yama Bonsai Studio. The shot is from Noelanders Trophy 2017. The 200 year old pot is by Nakawatari. The stand was built by Pascal Houdusse

This before, during and after sequence, covers four years in the life of Yannick Kiggen’s massive old yamadori juniper (yamadori is bonsai collected from the wild). Yannick bought it in 2014 from Maarten van der Hoeven of Bonsaiplaza, who imported it from Taisho-en in Japan.
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2014This before shot was taken in 2014. Of course it's not the original before shot from when the tree was collected, but it's all we have. When a bonsai is this well established, it's more a question of annual maintenance, at least until more dramatic changes are desired or required (it's impossible to simply maintain a bonsai as is - sooner or later some more serious restyling will be necessary)

Continued from above…
You might notice the wide range of foliage colors in these photos. This is the way we found them in Yannick’s facebook photos (I did do some cropping and just a little background tweaking in the photo above, but no changes in hue, saturation or color balance*)

 

yama2015Here’s Yannick’s caption… “I observed the tree for a year, and than the first shaping came in 2015

 

2016Yannick's capton... "2016- thinned it out again. stil needs a few wires and a different pot"


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yama2017And again, Yannick's caption... "Few weeks ago was time to unwire this Yamadori itoigawa. Manuel Germade cleaned this beauty"

yama2017Noelanders

Here's the after shot again. You might notice the pinkish tone on the shari and the background. When this happens it usually means someone has played with the color. In this case, it looks like they wanted to enhance the red in the pot. I adjusted the levels to take some of the pink out, but didn't want to mess with things too much*

*I usually consider messing with color taboo, especially when working with photos that belong to someone else. The exception might be a little softening of unreal looking background tones (this often means someone has already fiddled with the color)

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GreentTKimThat's Marcin Gajewski working on one of Kimura's famous rock plantings that happens to be sitting safely and securely on a Green T Turntable

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Bonsai Rafting – Sinuous & Straight

robertraftThis rugged sinuous root raft-style planting is by our friend, Robert Steven. I don't know the variety, but my guess is that Robert will let us know.

We’ve added one photo (just below) to this post on raft-style bonsai that originally appeared here in August 2015

We don’t need to say much about raft-style bonsai – Peter Adams has it covered below -except that all the bonsai rafts shown here are sinuous root style (netsunagari in Japanese) as opposed to rafts with straight line trunks, like nature’s raft just below

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naturesraft

Nature's raft. It's a straight one, rather than a sinuous-root raft, but you get the drift. You can still see some of the fallen tree's root mass on the right. In order for the raft to live, some roots from this mass must remain anchored in the ground until the new roots form underneath the fallen trunk. Thank you to Janet Gossett for sending us the photo

The section just below by Peter Adams originally appeared on Bark way back in 2010.

mapleraft

This very well rendered drawing by Peter Adams is from his book 'Bonsai with Japanese Maples.' It appears in a section called 'Creating Raft Trees' and on the back cover of the book. Whether or not this drawing comes from a tree in Peter's collection or is just from his imagination, we can't say

Rafting in Peter’s own words… “The raft method… is formed by laying a tree on its side and encouraging it to root along the recumbent trunk. The branches on the underside of the old trunk are removed to facilitate it lying comfortably in the new posture. Other branches are left and are developed into trees.”

I think Peter’s drawings are more or less self explanatory, depending on your experience. If you’d like more detail, try the book

 

maple3You can use a box while roots are developed along the trunk, and if you can't afford a suitable pot, you can always leave it there.
maple1&2The early steps: top to bottom. Notice how the upper limbs are wired to form interesting trunk shapes and how the lower limbs are removed before potting.

 

Firstsinuousroot

Where it all started. Sinuous root Japanese white pine after restyling by Isaburo Nishiyama. According to an article that appears in Bonsai Today issue 44, this the first netsuranari (sinuous root style) bonsai. It came to light in 1937 at a famous Japanese auction where it was distinguished from the older clump style bonsai. Most original sinuous root bonsai are Japanese white pines. That's a bamboo stick supporting the guy wires.

 

hawthornraftThis one is a Hawthorn. You don’t see too many Hawthorn rafts (I know of no others) and I don't think I've ever seen one that overflows the pot on both ends. Speaking of, that perfect pot was made by the owner of the tree, John Pitt, a well-known bonsai potter.

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valavanis_cotoneaster_horizontalisHere's a sinuous root bonsai where the original trunk is completely buried (or almost completely, I can't tell for sure). It's a Rockspray Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) in splendid fall color, by Bill Valavanis of International Bonsai. BTW: Bill, like Robert, is another old friend who seemingly keeps track of the entire bonsai universe.

 

bakerraftThe Japanese maple raft belongs to Stephen Dodds from Belfast Northern Ireland. It was originally purchased from Willowbog Bonsai. I like the way it arches up out out of the ground (twice), just like Peter's drawing (above). For more on this tree you can visit Bonsai Baker (Stephen's blog) and two Bark posts from 2012 (here and here).

 

raftcloseup

Close up

 

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A Magnificent Affront

Taisho

This magnificent old yamadori Shimpaku, with its self framing deadwood has to be one of the most outrageously unusual bonsai we've ever posted. It's from Taisho-en in Japan. I originally found it here.

Spectacular smokey Yosemite (day before yesterday with a fire detour), Rustic old Jamestown (Yesterday), San Francisco to Portland (today, more fires) and back home to Vermont (Monday). It’s a wonder we even have time to answer our email – but we try – and a wonder we have time to whip up a new post. Again, we try, but today we’re re-whipping one from August, 2014

Trees as unusual as the one above are often controversial. I think some of this controversy is a tendency towards orthodoxy. We get used to things a certain way and next thing you know that’s the correct way
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taisho3

Another magnificent old Shimpaku. Unlike the tree above, it has a classical bonsai shape. Still the deadwood is magnificent. One thing that is unusual about this tree is how the live vein is completely hidden (at least in this view). This photo is from Bonsai in Japan.

All three photos shown here are of trees that live at Taisho-en. Here’s a short discription I lifted from Bonsai in Japan: “Taisho-en is a working nursery in Shizuoka (the foot of Mt. Fuji). It is run by Mr. Nobuichi Urushibata and specialises in Shohin bonsai. That being said there were numerous examples of fine medium and large bonsai as well.”

 

taisho2

Another classical bonsai shape, but if you look at the negative space you'll see something unusual going on. This photo is from the Taisho-en website

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A Magnificent Affront

Taisho

This magnificent old yamadori Shimpaku, with its self framing deadwood has to be one of the most outrageously unusual bonsai we've ever posted. It's from Taisho-en in Japan. I originally found it here.

Spectacular smokey Yosemite (day before yesterday with a fire detour), Rustic old Jamestown (Yesterday), San Francisco to Portland (today, more fires) and back home to Vermont (Monday). It’s a wonder we even have time to answer our email – but we try – and a wonder we have time to whip up a new post. Again, we try, but today we’re re-whipping one from August, 2014

Trees as unusual as the one above are often controversial. I think some of this controversy is a tendency towards orthodoxy. We get used to things a certain way and next thing you know that’s the correct way
Continued below…

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taisho3

Another magnificent old Shimpaku. Unlike the tree above, it has a classical bonsai shape. Still the deadwood is magnificent. One thing that is unusual about this tree is how the live vein is completely hidden (at least in this view). This photo is from Bonsai in Japan.

All three photos shown here are of trees that live at Taisho-en. Here’s a short discription I lifted from Bonsai in Japan: “Taisho-en is a working nursery in Shizuoka (the foot of Mt. Fuji). It is run by Mr. Nobuichi Urushibata and specialises in Shohin bonsai. That being said there were numerous examples of fine medium and large bonsai as well.”

 

taisho2

Another classical bonsai shape, but if you look at the negative space you'll see something unusual going on. This photo is from the Taisho-en website

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