Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bonsai tree: Read This If You Grow Japanese Maple

Now that I have your attention… This post is about a common bacterial disease called Pseudomonas syringae, which frequently affects Japanese maples yet is relatively easy to control. It is often misidentified as Verticillium wilt, as both cause tip dieback. The Pseudomonas bacteria form purply-black stem discolorations, which is the result of a toxin produced by the bacteria which kills cells. Twigs, branches and eventually the entire tree may die. Older and stronger growing trees are less susceptible, as are some varieties. Do not prune maples in the fall (especially in the Northwest) as this disease enters any wound and is encouraged by wet, cool winters. Any cut, at any time of year, should be sealed immediately with a liquid sealant.

Control is three-fold. The first is keeping your Japanese maples strong, healthy, and damage-free. The second and third are related: If you can keep your tree dry during wet and cold periods, that is half the battle. The other is chemical control, which is by copper sulfate or similar bactericide. ZeroTol (an oxygenator, essentially a very strong form of hydrogen peroxide) is excellent. Top spray and bottom drench is recommended.

If you have problems with this disease, try a chemical drench after repotting or after heavy root work. And if you live in an area with wet, cool weather in the fall through spring, seasonal prophylactic spraying is a sharp idea.

Clearing away leaves and especially seeds of maples—like bigleaf or vine maple—is essential after leaf fall as these commonly planted landscape trees are frequent carriers of the disease. Keep leaves and moss away from trunk bases, too.

The purply-black tissue damage of the Pseudomonas bacteria shown on this branch is typical of the disease.

Discolored stem damage above and below a pruning cut (seen as a white stub) where the bacteria likely entered the Japanese maple.
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Bonsai tree: Preparing trees for show

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Preparing trees for show

Late fall through early winter is show season in Japan. Depending on how many trees a bonsai professional has to show – or sell – October through February can be a busy time. Within just three weeks, I helped with trees bound for four different events. Show preparation can entail anything from needle plucking to repotting to detail wiring. And once show trees are ready to go, work begins on the sale trees.

My favorite task during the season is show wiring. On several occasions, I’ve been given a tree and told to make it look pretty without using heavy wires. Depending on the tree, this can be a confounding task. The first tree I worked on was a cascade black pine.

Black pine - before clean up and wiring

Japanese black pine

After removing old needles and trimming a few long needles, I began tweaking the branches, most of which were wired last year. I quickly realized I didn’t have a great idea of what I was trying to do so I let Mr. Tanaka complete the work on the tree. When the branches were set, I oiled the pot and applied moss to the surface of the soil. Here’s a photo of the finished tree.

Show prep complete

Japanese black pine – show prep complete

The next tree I worked on was a large black pine with long needles. The tree was in good shape, but stray needles and branch pads that lacked definition detracted from the overall look of the tree.

Black pine - before clean up and wiring

Black pine – before

I began by removing needles that grew at undesirable angles – usually downward – and wiring a number of small branches to better define key branch pads. When I finished, I had Mr. Tanaka take a look.

Ready for show

Happy with the result

Tanaka tweaked a few small branches and added a guy wire – for the most part, subtle changes. Here’s how the tree ended up.

Show prep complete

Show prep complete

Sometimes simple tasks can make a big difference. The deadwood on the white pine below was quite dark before I treated it with lime-sulfur.

Treating deadwood with lime-sulfur

White pine with lots of deadwood

I also plucked stray needles from a large white pine bound for Taikan-ten.

Cleaning the surface of the soil in preparation for moss

Needles plucked – getting ready to add moss

On the other end of the spectrum, some trees were wired from bottom to top. This isn’t normally done just before an exhibition, especially ahead of shows like Kokufu and Taikan-ten. The practice can, however, be acceptable for regional shows – especially if the tree’s owner requests it.

Tanaka and Peter wiring a white pine bound for Meifu-ten

Mr. Tanaka and Peter Tea working late to finish wiring a large white pine

The show prep that really caught my attention was the work that went into an old multi-trunk trident maple. The first step involved removing all of the leaves.

Mr. Tanaka removing leaves

Mr. Tanaka removing old leaves

I would have thought this job wouldn’t take a long time, but when there are hundreds of leaves on hundreds of branches and great care must be taken to avoid breaking branches, the task can take a surprisingly long time. It’s a perfect job for Mr. Tanaka, a third-year apprentice at Aichi-en who by coincidence has the same name as our oyakata.

Once the leaves were removed, Mr. Tanaka pulled out an electronic toothbrush and scrubbed the branches with water to remove green build-up wherever it appeared.

Cleaning branches with electric toothbrush

Electric toothbrush technique

Many branches to clean

So many branches

The result was a beautiful trident maple. Some moss and an oiled pot completed the work, and the tree looked great at Taikan-ten. I’ll post pics of these trees as exhibited before long.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bonsai tree: Weekly Wire 8 & Scratch Honorable Mention Winners

Bunjin pine from Bonsai Today magazine. We’ve been talking about Bunjin style bonsai quite a bit lately, so why not stay on topic? This one’s trunk is a little heavier than most bunjin, but no problem. The same goes for the crown; it too is a little heavier than crowns on most bunjins, but goes well with the heavy trunk. One of this tree’s distinguishing features, the vertical downward direction of the right branch, is characteristic of many bunjin style trees.

Your generosity comes to fruition: I received this note and photo from Bill Valavanis the other day.“This afternoon, Saturday, November 19, 2012 Marco and I met with Isao Omachi to present him with several checks in the amount of US $55,000.00 received from the generous donations around the world. Isao was very appreciative of the gift which will assist his family to re construct their lives.” Isao’s house and bonsai collection were completely lost in Japan’s devastating earthquake/tsunami.

Just got this postcard in the mail from my friends and compatriots at the NBF. The tree is a formal upright Japanese White pine. Decent formal uprights are rare and this splendid samurai is far beyond just decent.

This is shot taken from a video that shows the Bonsai displayed by the Bonsai Societies of Florida at the Epcot.

Bonsai from Scratch Honorable Mention Winners

A heartfelt thanks to all of you who entered our contest. Your efforts made for a high-quality, dynamic and enjoyable experience. And thank you also to our great panel of judges. Your participation added richness and depth to the contest. Lest I forget, thank you also to those of you who donated prizes (Robert Steven – artist, author & teacher, Todd Hansen - Sanctuary Bonsai, & Paul Stokes - ofBonsai Magazine). Your generosity is appreciated.

First, second, third, forth & fifth prizes have already been awarded.

Now for the Honorable Mentions.

Congratulations to Ryan Wagner. His Juniper pro-nana won the First Honorable Mention prize in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Ryan’s prize is a $50 gift certificate to Stone Lantern.

Congratulations to Johnson Teh. His Yaupon holly won the Second Honorable Mention prize in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Johnson’s prize is Robert Steven’s ground-breaking book, Mission of Transformation.

Congratulations to Steve Ristau. His Japanese yew won the Third Honorable Mention prize in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Steve’s prize is Robert Steven’s classic book, Vision of My Soul.

Congratulations to Robert Spencer. His Cedar of Lebanon won the Forth Honorable Mention prize in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Robert’s prize is $25 gift certificate from Cafe Press, the ofBonsai Magazine store.

Congratulations to Jeff Doyle. His Echiniformis White spruce won the Fifth Honorable Mention prize in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Jeff’s prize is $25 gift certificate from Cafe Press, the ofBonsai Magazine store.

Prize winners: Please contact me so we can make sure you get your gift: wayne@stonelantern.com

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bonsai tree: Bunjin Ponderosa Pine Styling

This was a demo tree at a convention a few years ago. My client has been keeping it healthy and it’s been budding back quite well, and we decided it was ready for a rewiring.

I’ve been surprised how well Ponderosa develops here in the Northwest. When I first moved here in 2006 I assumed there would not be enough sun to really get the budding and shorter needle growth on these pines, but having worked on a few now over a few years I have another opinion. This one will need only another three years or so of growth before it feels settled into this new styling.

Ponderosa pine before wiring

And after styling. Tree is tilted to the left to prevent vertical/horizontal sections of the trunk, and to create better drama in the flow to the right. Apex needs several years of growth to fill in.
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Bonsai tree: Million dollar bonsai

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Million dollar bonsai

There was a lot of talk about a large white pine at the 11th Asia-Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki Convention & Exhibition (ASPAC 2011) offered for 100,000,000 yen. At today’s exchange rate, that’s close to 1.3 million dollars.

Million dollar white pine

Million dollar bonsai

The tree was offered by S-CUBE, the bonsai organization headed by Seiji Morimae. The tree sported a sold sign on the second day of the convention, but I do not know for how much the tree actually sold.

Could a large white pine really be worth $1,000,000? Good question. The pine is big, really big, and it has amazing roots.


Million dollar roots

Million dollar trunk

Good trunk, good roots, and the man behind S-CUBE, Seiji Morimae

What I’m learning is that it can be difficult to determine the value of trees like this because they are unique. Vendors have heard about the slow economies around the world in many languages this week, but a few good buyers have been leaving a slew of red sold signs in their wake, and the very best trees sold well – hence the success of S-CUBE at the event. If only more exhibits featured such nice trees!

Japanese maple

Japanese maple – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Chinese juniper

Chinese juniper – sold

Cork bark pine

Cork bark black pine

Chinese quince

Chinese quince

Black pine

Japanese black pine – sold

Japanese maple

Japanese maple

Chinese juniper

Chinese juniper – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

White pine

White pine – sold

S-Cube bonsai

A row of great trees
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bonsai tree: More Bonsai from Scratch Winners

Mark Arpag’s Dwarf Hinoki cypress is the third place winner in our Bonsai from Scratch Contest. Mark’s prize is a $150 gift certificate to Stone Lantern. See below for before photo.

Judges comments

“Nice crown, I like the way wire is used at the top. Wire could be used on lower branches on the right to the same effect.” Excellent; some confusing foliage/branching between the trunks; also, subdivide low branch pad on the small trunk, it’s too large for the trunk size.”   “Couldn’t tell what we have from looking at the stock. Nice outcome.”  “Great overall flow. Could reduce the top left branch on the second trunk that grows into the main trunk.”

My comments

I like the overall movement, the crown and the way the branching on the main trunk helps create a sense of balance. I think that balance is thrown off a bit by the overly heavy branching/foliage on the right side of the second trunk. In fact, I think the whole second trunk presents problems, though in the long run, keeping it is probably the right choice. It will just need some serious work over time.

Third, forth & fifth places

We’ve already presented our first place and second place finishers. This post presents the third, forth and fifth place finishers. Stay posted for some honorable mentions to come.

Dan Burke’s Chinese juniper finished fourth. Dan will receive a beautiful Nick Lenz pot that was donated by Todd Hansen of Sanctuary Bonsai.

Judges comments

“Very nice – most creative. Top is a little heavy.” “Well done; bring more foliage forward in the top third to hide the circular bend near the top of the trunk.” “Nice shari/jin just above the base. An excellent transformation of a stock plant with several difficult challenges; including weak lower branching, poor taper and a difficult top section. Good job!”

My comments

Nice feel. I like the overall shape, the shari/jin near the base and the wiring job. It will be interesting to see if some taper can be developed on the trunk over time and if some of the weaker branches can also be developed. I’ll also be interested to see how Dan deals with the heavy bend near the top. Overall, I think he is off to a very good start.

Ferry Freriks Pfitzer juniper finished fifth. Ferry will receive a $75.00 gift certificate from Stone Lantern. Before photo is below.

Judges comments

Very good; key branch could be lower; jins a bit long perhaps.” “Handled very nicely. Strong and beautiful.” “Highly creative transformation. Bottom jin is a little distracting.”

My comments

This one struck me as one of the most creative solutions of all (one judge ranked this tree highest and it came in third for most improved). Based on the comments and my observations, what held it back is the over-reliance on jins; especially the bottom one, which I find quite daring, but also quite distracting (it looks unnatural, like it is just wedged into that tight spot created where the trunk doubles back, and it keeps drawing my eye away from the tree and down to the lower right corner of the photo). When I imagine it without that long jin and with more restraint on the other jins (a little cleaner foliage too), I see a most excellent and very sweet, compact, well balanced tree.

Before photo of Mark Arpag’s Dwarf Hinoki cypress that finished third.

Before photo of Dan Burke’s Chinese juniper that finished fourth.

Before photo of Ferry Freriks Pfitzer juniper that finished fifth.

Source: Bonsai Bark Read more!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bonsai tree: A twisting black pine

Source: Bonsai Tonight
A twisting black pine

The back pine below appeared on the turntable and I was asked to make the tree “more beautiful.” What an unusual tree!


Twisted pine

Before looking very closely, I immediately got to work plucking old needles. That gave me a chance to study the tree and let me put off figuring out what to do with it. Once the tree was clean, Oyakata – Mr. Tanaka of Aichi-en – asked what I wanted to do with the tree. I said I wanted to make it more compact and wanted a tiny bit of foliage to poke out on the right side. I thought about doing that by bending the top part of the trunk to the right. That would have the effect of undoing the final curve in the trunk. Tanaka suggested that I think about bending the trunk even further to the left. If the tree is funky, go with it, he said. Sounded great to me. I haven’t done a lot of heavy bends on black pines so I had fun wrestling branches with bare hands and jacks to get it into shape.

Guy wire

Stainless steel guy wire

This opened up quite a few cracks along the branches. I was told they’d heal just fine, so I added cut paste and moved on to the next bend.


Openings in the bark after making a severe bend

Before long, the branches were covered with screws and wires.

Guy wire

The result of bending the trunk 4″

Guy wire

Guy wire with screws



Wired branches

Branches wired

When I finished positioning the branches, Tanaka spent a few minutes pointing the branches upwards and moving them closer to the trunk. I had positioned the braches farther apart and pointed the buds outward. Why make the change? Mostly to improve the tree’s silhouette.

Front - after

Wiring complete

It was 10:30 p.m. when I finished working on the tree – about 12 hours in the workshop. What a fun way to start a bonsai vacation!

Here are some shots of the tree from different angeles to offer a better idea of how twisted the thing is.
Front – before

Front - after
Front – after

Right side
Right – before

Right side - after
Right – after

Left side
Left side – before

Left side - after
Left side – after

Back – before

Back - after
Back – after

I’ll be curious to see how the branches withstand the big bends. I’ll ask Peter Tea for a photo if the tree’s still around next year.
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