Bonsai tree: Styling a Japanese white pine

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bonsai tree: Styling a Japanese white pine

Source: Bonsai Tonight
Styling a Japanese white pine

The first tree I worked on at Aichi-en was somewhat unusual. The second tree I worked on made the first tree look easy. From a distance, the white pine looked unremarkable.

White pine - before

Japanese five-needle pine – front

The tree’s exposed roots were covered by foliage in the front, but easy to see from the back.

White pine - before

Japanese fine-needle pine – back

After looking closer, I realized that the foliage hid the tree’s true form. The trunk had been bent down until it crossed itself.

Trunk crossing itself

The tree’s apex crossing the trunk just above the roots

I didn’t have a clear idea what I’d do with the tree. “Very unusual tree,” Mr. Tanaka said with a big grin. I smiled and thought, “great.” As I did with the first tree I worked on, I began by removing the old needles. This gave me a chance to size up the tree and make a plan. Here it is after I removed the old needles.

After cutting old needles

After removing the old needles

Before I started wiring, I made a case for shortening the apex where it crossed the middle of the trunk. Mr. Tanaka said to go ahead and cut it. Next came the wire.

For the first bend, I placed a screw directly into the trunk near the top of the tree and pulled it down using stainless steel wire. This made the tree more compact. I then wired the remaining branches, making a few cuts along the way. Here’s the tree after the initial wiring.

After styling

First pass – wiring complete

I wanted to make the apex smaller and I wasn’t sure about the lowest branch on the right, but I kept it to see what Mr. Tanaka thought. I had bent the branches enough that I didn’t want to tweak the tree anymore and I passed it to Mr. Tanaka for final adjustments. He removed two of the branches, one near the apex and the lower right branch, and then reset the rest, keeping the silhouette and basic style roughly the same.

I picked up a styling tip by watching Tanaka set the branches. He tended to bend the main branches way down, and the smaller branches out a bit. This made the tree a bit more compact while keeping nice branch pads. Here is the tree after Tanaka made these changes.

With adjustments by Mr. Tanaka

Styling complete

Because the tree is so unusual, I’d be curious to see how it looks several years from now. If it’s still at Aichi-en, I’ll be sure to get pictures.


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