Bonsai Blog from Peter Warren. Tales from the life of a journeyman Bonsai artist. Trying to make sense of the world through little trees in pots.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Oh forgot to mention this...
Monday, 12 December 2011
Its not all doom and gloom
Saturday, 10 December 2011
What a week it has been...the van has clocked up a few miles, I have seen a good number of friends and there was Armageddon at home. A swing from high to deep, all in the course of a single day...my very own black thursday.
Saturday, 3 December 2011
A long month....
To say I was busy was an understatement...arriving in Japan at the start of November I, along with the long suffering younger apprentices spent two weeks, day and night preparing the garden for the arrival of all the international visitors for the 11th Aspac convention which was held in Takamatsu. During those two weeks I managed a day and three hours of working on trees. As per usual no pictures were taken but I did manage to continue working on a Needle Juniper that I had saved from death a while back and had repotted earlier this year. It was good to see it growing well again and the customer made a special point of bringing it in for me to work on which was a high point. The rest of the time was spent building a pond and reworking the garden.
The Takamatsu show was good but very tough. We had a trade stand and had to be down there to set up from 7 am. It was an 11 hour drive through the night of which I drove 9 hours...needless to say I wasn't in the best state of health when we arrived. The car was loaded up with what we estimated to be half a million dollars worth of stuff in there, just pots and stands etc, no trees...although we did come back with a load...so crashing was not an option. The Chief, in true Chiefly fashion flew down and arrived the next afternoon after we had set up the stand...and nervous that the arrangement was not to his liking, I awaited his arrival with dread. He turned up with a smile on his face and just said "Yeah, looks good...we won't sell anything though". For those that don't know him, he can be a great motivational speaker.
The show itself was good in the sense that I met up with old friends, made some new ones and I managed to survive the onslaught of the Chinese. They arrived in their hundreds on several tour groups and it was an intense experience. It is difficult when there is no common language and the only words I know in Chinese are "expensive, Ming Dynasty, No problem, brown noser and delicious". You can imagine the quality conversations that went on there.
Hanging out with some of the younger members of the bonsai community was a highlight and I also got to spend some quality drinking time with my senpai Akiyama who is at this moment in time, enjoying his second Prime Ministers award at the Sakkafu-ten, pictured below. Sadly I couldn't stay in Japan for it, but the time we had together, drinking and talking about Bonsai was great. There are some people in life who understand implicitly exactly what you mean when you say something and he is one of them.
Anyways after driving back to Tokyo (six hours drive this time), I also managed to go to Kyoto which was disappointing in many ways, the autumn colours were poor and the Taikanten was a little underwhelming. Once again though I managed to chat with a load of Bonsai people and learnt some stuff. I also managed to pick up a scroll very cheaply that is an original from 1704 which is great. One day it will make an outing...until then.
One of the reasons that I felt unmoved to write was due to the raging egos that have been dominating my life for the last month or so. All problems in life seem to arise from the presence of other people, especially those who are unreasonable and think that they are the most important person in the world. I often wonder if it is a disease specific to Bonsai, like Sphaeropsis Tip Blight or it is something which affects the world at large...I turn on the TV and see X-Factor and realise that there is no escaping it. For Sphaeropsis there is a cure, broad spectrum fungicide (ideally two or three varieties) applied monthly throughout the growing season, ; but for rampant ego related problems?
For the rest of the month I will be getting back to what is important in Bonsai...concentrating on my own trees, my own people and trying to enjoy Christmas. Noelanders is just around the corner and preparations for that are going to be in full swing.
Apologies for the depressive tone of the blog, its not all bad, it's just the black monkey visiting but as a great man once said..."Inside every bag of sh@te there is a speck of gold, it might just be the wrapper off a Caramac, but it's there"
Friday, 21 October 2011
Satsuki a-go-go redux...
Following on from the previous post, here is a before and after.
The tree is a kaho or gyoten of considerable age, estimated at 80 years which makes it a granddaddy...but it was in very healthy condition. It had been repotted earlier this year, pruned then and again at the end of june. Both times had been half for balancing the vigour and half for creating the style. The work now was to take that balanced vigour and use it to redevelop some serious problems.
The apex had two major branch structures in so one was removed and the remaining apex spread out as much as possible. There is still a gap on the top left but it will fill out. The pointing branch on the left was accentuated and other branches lowered and spread out. The second right branch was bent severely (for an azalea) and so i used raffia and 6mm alumi wire. When wiring satsuki, go big or go home on wire thickness....the thicker the better and wire it loosely. As previously mentioned a much more clip and grow style approach is being taken but that involves some wiring.
Once again poor camera shots but it is an attempt to do before and afters, even if it is just daily work. I realise this is what people want to see and there are a good number of professionals out there who do it and get a lot of love for it. I have been thinking about this for some time because i consider the work done here to be nothing special, like a lot of other published stuff. Still there is value in it so enjoy...
I guess this kind of pine styled azalea grown in a typical way into a triangle outline is the kind that was being criticised on the forum posts, and there is admittedly a standard shaping to many azaleas but therewithin lies a different aesthetic and appreciation of details rather than purely form alone. While the shape may be regular the quality and distribution of the flowers, the construction of the branching structure, the lack of scars and the overall health of the tree offer the possibility for appreciating technical and horticultural prowess as much as artistic ability.
A lack of obvious artistic input does not immediately mean the work is worthless as a bonsai. If judged on different criteria then it has value. The devil is in the details.
Anyways after a knee shattering flight i am in Birmingham for the weekend. Will be workng on a tree i demo'ed on earlier this year so maybe get some pics of that as well.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Due to the sheer number of trees here and the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, I have had to modify normal techniques to fit with the client's situation and try to use a less labour intensive styling method. By that I mean no fine wiring. With Azaleas however with patience, long range planning and superb horticultural care then this is possible. I have the first two, the client provides the third. Since I begun to thin them out and they were repotted in the spring, they have responded very well and we are succeeding in keeping them in shape with mainly scissors alone. For many trees the styling has been done in stages so as to keep the tree from stalling. One common problem with azaleas and bonsai in general is that too much gets done at once and the tree cannot recover, so like an engine with a faulty clutch, it stalls. Ideally the engine should always tick over at fairly high revs, so even if you know a branch needs to be cut off, if it needs hitting back hard, then do it in stages, cut half back, wait for back budding, let them harden a little, then cut back and you get even more branching. That way in two years you have a finished branch structure whereas cutting back hard initially would cause a stall and you end up stationary.
Make sense? If not then apologies. It does in my head at 5 am.
Anyways, I saw this post on the interweb where Satsuki are described as kitsch and almost always styled as Pine Bonsai. (Note to all, this is not in any way an attack on the author, just a comment in general) Now, regular readers will know of my love hate relationship with Azaleas but they are very very misunderstood from a western perspective. It is a shame to see that people do not have the same, albeit a strange and slightly trainspotteresque appreciation of them as they do in Japan. The fact that they are just called "Satsuki" and all lumped together when in fact there are over 800 varieties used in Bonsai, each with their own special traits and growth habits shows a lack of understanding...but the same culture and mentality doesn't exist in the West (thankfully in some ways) so I guess I am barking up the wrong tree...speaking of which...this is an azalea styled like a pine
Monday, 10 October 2011
Paris by easyjet...
This was supposed to have been posted on wednesday but the wifi cut out on the bus...
Yesterday was a very long day just for two hours of work...and when i say work, i mean having lunch. Earlier this year while at the Chief's I met an American professor/artist who lives in Paris and was exhibiting in Tokyo. He was brought to the garden and I showed him around, explaining a little about bonsai and display etc. We hit it off well and briefly discussed doing a show in Paris at the gallery space he curates in the university. After an email conversation i decided to go and see it and discuss in person.
It was a last minute decision and as there was no immediate financial reward, i was looking to do it on a budget. However i wish that i had stumped up the extra £25 to go on the train because the 3am start to drive to Luton was not pleasant...nor was the 2hour delay, half of it in what can only be described as a cow shed next to a service road. The huddled masses of budget cheapskates watched on as a Servisair baggage handling truck drove around a corner and about ten bags flew off the bag of a dangerously overloaded flatbed truck. With no regard to the watching passengers, the driver threw the bags back on and carried on slowly. Might want to rethink the perspex wall there...or just keep us in the warm until you are ready to let us on the plane. Apparently the delay was due to "technical reasons"...two hours later we took off and flew uneventfully to Paris.
The £25 i saved by flying was now put into single figures because of the cost of a bus ride into town. Didnt figure that into my sums did I? I made the meeting on time and we discussed the space, what could be done and of course, Health and Safety. We ent most of the time however eating sushi (naturally in Paris :-) and discussing the joys and hell of living in a foreign culture.
After finishing, i had 7 hours until my return flight, so i walked for 30 minutes, looked at some big buildings...took a picture or two and then texted my mum to check if there was an earlier flight home. There was one at 6 so it seemed like the best thing to do and i went straight to the blemish on french architecture that is Charles De Gaulle airport and asked the easyjet people to change my flight. It is a little publicised service but they will change the return section of the journey free of charge. This is the second time i have used it and it saved me 4 hours of trudging around Paris on my own, or sitting in the terminal...so i deleted the mental letter of complaint i had written earlier and sat down for a well deserved sit and a cup of coffee.
Returning back and doing my sums, i saved nothing...it cost me more in terms of stress and hassle but was it worth it? Watch this space.
Today is ryanair to katowice...hell in a handbasket. Well the time there is good, just the flight is hell.
On a further note...today, monday, the news is out that cold winters are due to the sun...which is having a rest.
Monday, 3 October 2011
They seek him here...
I had some workshops in Cheshire and up in the wabi wastelands of Northumbria recently, held up at Willowbog. I don't take pictures myself as I have a tendency to lose or break expensive electronics, so I will point in the direction of a site where you can see them....Bonsai Eejit. It is a good blog as well, so I suggest following it. I wish he had photoshopped this picture though...
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
After the devastation of the last few winters, it is essential that bonsai enthusiasts in the UK take precautionary steps to protect their trees from the harsh winter that will be coming. It may snow in October and we are likely to see some very low temperatures. Lots of factors are causing climate change, man made and natural, however what is certain is that if we have another harsh winter and trees are unprotected then we will have a lot of dead trees on our hands. I will admit that over the last two years I have lost close to £10,000 worth of trees. I cannot let that happen again. This happened because I didn't prepare for both the weather and my absence from the country during it.
Having learnt my lesson the hard way it seems perverse to me that many people are unwilling to invest a little time, effort and money in creating winter protection when they may have spent lots of it on their trees. Bonsai is a continual investment, if that is lost at any point, then all the previous work and effort has been wasted. Just for the want of a little extra spending, everything goes to waste. The same is true for soil, pots, fertiliser etc.
Bonsai are more susceptible to the cold as the roots in a pot will freeze much easier than those in the ground. The earth retains a lot of heat and only the surface layers of soil are seriously affected by the frost. In a pot, the entire root ball can freeze and cause fatal damage to the tree. This must be avoided....but how?
Trees must be protected from cold soil temperatures, over watering, and wind. To this end, for the few trees I own, I have constructed a small poly tunnel, in which there is a heating bed to maintain soil temperature above freezing, a fan heater to keep the air above freezing and hopefully settling on the tunnel itself. All delicate trees will be buried within the heating bed which contains a heating element attached to a thermostat which will activate the heating once the soil temperature drops below 3 degrees C. The idea is not to keep the trees growing but rather to stop any damage. The lack of air flow through the poly tunnel will also keep moisture loss to a minimum and so I cannot imagine that any water will be needed over the winter.
Poly tunnel frame, ground prepared for the bed etc. My mum wasn't overly pleased.
Constructing and choosing the materials was relatively easy. A little though was required to find the most cost effective way but carefully searching the internet and recalling some long forgotten physics helped.
The poly tunnel was purchased from ebay for £90, 4m x 2m, with careful packing it can fit a good sized collection. The heating element and thermostat were also purchased from the internet at a price of £80. A cubic metre of perlite and expanded clay was delivered to my door for £120. We had some old fence boards at home which helped but timber to build a bed can be acquired for £30. A fan heater £20, plus RCD breaker and extension cable for £10. The electricity used over the winter will be minimised through setting the thermostat as low as possible. In total, around £400 spent to safeguard the current financial investment and six, seven years of work and some future masterpiece trees....even if I do say do myself.
I chose Perlite as the medium for the heating bed as it came out on top in several important factors; specific heat capacity, thermal conductivity and price per volume. It requires less energy to heat up, it retains heat and moisture incredibly well and is cheap. I will reuse it for my potting mix for freshly collected trees, whips, sick trees etc. I am a firm believer in Perlite for certain situations and having a cubic metre next spring is not a problem, I will keep the bed for problem trees I think. I topped off the perlite with a layer of expanded clay, slightly more expensive but heavier and larger particle sized, offering another layer of insulation and stopping the perlite from blowing away either from the wind or the hosepipe. The only issue with Perlite is the dust that comes with it, breathing it in is not a good idea, so I opened a hole in the bag, stuck the hosepipe in and made it damp. The hosepipe was used to stop any more dust from flying up when pouring out as well. A dust mask is advised.
All the trees in, some are buried in the bed pots and all, other stronger trees are left unprotected but will be wrapped when the weather turns.
You may notice that the deciduous trees are still in leaf and it is incredibly early to be preparing, however I am away almost all of October and there have been long range forecasts which predict snow soon. Better safe than sorry.
Heater and grow lamp. Heater is not pointing towards trees, on the lowest frost guard setting and on 1KW rather than the max 2KW setting. Lamp is above pines, junipers, yew and rosemary trees Still a considerable distance though, at most 1.5 m, closest is 1m
One other feature I have included which I have used every year in the smaller greenhouse is the grow light. A 250 W system which gives artificial sunlight, as close to the normal spread of wavelengths from the sun as possible. Why do this? All deciduous tree which lose their leaves do not need sunlight whatsoever and could be kept in a pitch black garage until close to spring time. Those evergreen trees which still have leaves are slightly different and require a little sun to see them happily through the winter. The idea is not to keep the growing throughout the winter, but just to keep the engine at idle and not stall. Once spring begins and we have natural sunlight, the trees start off quicker and grow much better. Mediterranean species and Japanese pines and junipers are not used to the grim Northern winters and so a touch of sunlight is essential for happy trees. It is not essential to keep them alive, but just to keep them happy I would advise investing in one. Prices start from £80 for a small system. I run mine on a timer, giving around 3 hours of sunlight a day, from November through until end of February. At around 1 Kwh of electricty per day that is roughly 15 p a day, lets say tops £20 a winter. The bulb has a tendency to blow or need to be replaced every four months, so thats another £15 a year. I'm still well under the £10k and years of work I threw away over the last few years.
In conclusion...the basic rules for winter protection are to:
Keep the roots from freezing, expanding and dying. This is achieved by insulation and minimal watering. Regulate water intake, bury or wrap trees in something...even snow is better than exposure to wind.
Shelter from winds, especially the cold north winds
Allow the trees to go dormant. Do not over heat the greenhouse and keep the trees from going dormant.
Get as much natural sunlight as possible. Ideally supplement with grow lights.
Please give more consideration to the winter...even if it is just burying the trees in the ground, you don't have to go too far...just act now before it is too late.
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Autumn is here...
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
If heaven loved not wine,
A Wine Star would not be in heaven;
If earth loved not wine,
The Wine Spring would not be on earth.
Since heaven and earth love wine,
Need a tippling mortal be ashamed?
The transparent wine, I hear,
Has the soothing virtue of a sage,
While the turgid is rich, they say,
As the fertile mind of the wise.
Both the sage and the wise were drinkers,
Why seek for peers among gods and goblins?
Three cups open the grand door to bliss;
Take a jugful, the universe is yours.
Such is the rapture found in wine,
That the sober shall never inherit.
Friday, 12 August 2011
Planning for the future
It is a big garden juniper which was rescued from a garden up in the Wirral many years ago, then languished in a pot for many more years before I got my hands on it. It was very weak and had almost no roots, so for the last three or four years after repotting it has been just building up strength (that is another way of saying I have not found the time to work on it). Now it is strong enough and has a good root mass in a loose soil mix (20% garden compost, 80% Perlite). More importantly the live veins have settled down and thickened along the main arteries up to the only living branch. Although there is a lot of green and wood up top, only one thinish branch remains which needs to be fed. This leads to thickening of the live vein along the section feeding it.
My plan, right from the start had always been to graft some Itoigawa whips into the trunk and redevelop the tree with branches lower down and with a workable foliage. The lower trunk is actually quite powerful and if the bottom section only can be used then there is potential for a very powerful, chunky little chuhin sized tree.
The foliage on top was reduced to allow sunlight in and also to stimulate the tree into growing. It has realised that half the foliage is gone and puts effort into growth. This will help us with the callusing. The reduced live vein up top and also around the back, is helping to channel the majority of flow around the whips. If this does not happen then the two wont join up.
Due to the rushed nature of the job, I am dubious as to the success rate, I think the back will take but not the front. Still I have more whips and plenty of time. I doubt we will see this tree anywhere near finished in the next ten years. Still, step two in the plan is achieved, we shall have to see how effective it is. It has benefitted from several years of being ignored, now in order to allow it to join and then gain strength, it will be ignored for at least a full season. This time next year will be the next time I will look at working it. If the growth is very vigorous on either the top of the tree or the whips then it may require attention.
There are some trees which can be made quickly, there are others which require a little more long term view. There are very few trees that have nothing good about them or any redeeming feature. It just depends how long you are prepared to wait and to what lengths you are willing to go.
Text for the book comes slowly at times, quickly at others...possibly due to the fact we are absolutely thrashing India at the moment in the Cricket.
This morning before play started I wrote this, which seems apt...
The fundamental point to remember when appreciating Bonsai is that you are looking at a natural object which has been artificially styled and maintained. The lengths to which this is taken are aesthetic and philosophical decisions, yet the most important fact remains that bonsai is a natural object that is being appreciated, albeit a highly stylised one.
I need a harsh editor I think
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Shohin on acid
Sunday, 7 August 2011
In praise of British Craftsmanship....
Sunday, 3 July 2011
The only constant is change
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
The People of the World Will Surely be Victorious
I am supposed to be back in the UK by now, sat watching rain affected sports events and thinking about which flavour crisps to eat next but due to a fantastically interesting project under the guidance of Bill Valavanis, I have extended my stay for another week. Bill arrives tomorrow with a famous cameraman to take pictures of Bonsai to create a very artistic picture book. All profits are going to charity to help the Tsunami relief so it is all for a good cause. I am very much looking forward to it, even if it means my reunion with Cheese and Onion Walkers is put back a couple of weeks. The sacrifice will be worth it.
Candle cutting continues apace, I have had to keep reminding the youths to cut cleanly and true, no strange angles or the new buds will form in strange positions. Another important thing that they fail to do is to clean and disinfect their scissors after each and every tree. This prevents the transmission of fungal infections from tree to tree, all the more important of late as there is a new type of Pine fungal infection raging in Japan at the moment. Dont know what is called in English but it is pretty bad on the trees.
Lots to do today before they come so I will leave you with this, from which the title of the post was taken... a wonderful song from the Cultural Revolution....
(For any Americans that may take offence, there is a more than a slight hint of irony in the use of communist propaganda in relation to a country of which the elite wealthy are buying more luxury goods than they can stuff in their suitcases while the peasants which make them stupid amounts of money starve in the countryside. Please do not take it seriously ;-)
Sunday, 19 June 2011
Here on my own...
The reason for such indulgent reminiscing in the past is that I have just spent a very enjoyable night working alone, listening to Depeche Mode, The Cure and The Smiths whilst Candle Cutting the Chiefs most famous Black Pine, the infamous Seiryu, and then working on fixing a customers azalea which was in need of being sorted.
It was a very refreshing experience to actually sit and enjoy doing Bonsai again, something which has been missing from this and the last trip to the Chief's...and I realise why. I was sat alone without having to worry about what the other apprentices were doing or not doing. The Chief popped out around 9 and poked his head through the door, smiled sheepishly and said "I'm off to bed...I'm knackered". I smiled back and said "G'night". Those are the times where nothing is said, but everything is understood. It is hard to explain the relaitionship between a master and apprentice, but I have spent more time with him than I have anyone else except my own parents.
That is pretty crazy when you actually sit down and consider it. It's like being married...except you can't get divorced.
Anyway, I had decided to push on with getting some important work done because frankly, nobody else is capable or willing to do it. The Chief leaves for four days in China tomorrow, then from the 22nd I am busy with another project, so all the important stuff needs to get down before then. Things have been stressed of late, mainly due to the entire lack of application, effort and common sense of the younger apprentices. I don't want to sound like an old man but if the idiots that I am surrounded by are representative of the youth of today then I despair for the future of the human race. It's not that they are bad people but they just have a complete lack of desire and difficulty following the simplest of instructions. I always check with them to see if they have understood what I said...making a point of getting them to repeat my request, but stlll it all goes wrong somewhere. The next day, the pont I tried to teach them the day before is forgotten and the same mistake is repeated.
It drives me to despair which is then made even worse when the Chief rips into all of us, especially me recently for some stupid mistake which could have been so easily avoided by either asking me, or thinking before acting. There is only so much you can do and I seem to spend all my time looking after three children aged 40, 29 and 22....none of whom seem to listen to a word I say. I ask myself if I am at fault.
One thing is for certain, it is putting me off ever having an apprentice of my own...if that ever arose.
Anyways...enough whinging, back to the Bonsai. At the moment we are finishing off the Satsuki pruning, working on the late flowering varieties and customers trees that are brought in. The general rule of thumb is to get it done by the end of June, then you will depinitely have a good set of flowers next year, leave the pruning into July and the if the weather turns bad, there is a chance not as many flowers will be set. We are also working on Candle cutting Pines.
I had to properly shout at the two youngest apprentices a couple of days ago for not coming to me before starting Candle cutting. Not only had one of the cut them candles of a tree I am in the process of styling and wanted to do myself, but they also started from the strongest trees. Both of which are signs of a lack of brain function. After shouting at them for a couple of minutes, during which they actually got a bit scared as it doesn't happen that often, I sat them down and we had a twenty minute discussion on how to make Bonsai, particularly with regards to the seemingly dull aspects such as candle cutting, which they approach as some kind of horticultural necessity rather than an essential technique in the styling of a tree.
I asked the youngest lad to tell me how to make a Bonsai...he couldn't come up with a decent answer. The other lad made an attempt to explain but was off the mark a little. It is a difficult to answer question because there is no one technique, no one area that is any more important than the other. As I tried to explain to them, it begins with something as seemingly unimportant as the little metal staples we make to keep the fertiliser cakes in place and ends with displaying the tree at the highest level possible.
If effort is found lacking at any of the steps along the way then the tree wil not improve. If the legs of the metal staples are too short and the wire is too thin, then the sparrows will flick the fertiliser cakes off the pot in search of insects, then the tree doesn't get any food, doesn't set strong buds, branches die and it needs to be restyled from scratch again.
Wiring, carving and bending big branches are not the be all and end all of making a tree, they are simply the starting point. The real creation of a tree comes through carefully applying the correct techniques, both horticultural and technical and paying attention to details. Everyday details make the difference between success and faliure, not wiring and finishing a tree in day.
Anyways, back on track...After finishing of the Blue Dragon, I began work on this Azalea. It is a Matsunami, an old variety which doesn't thicken very much and has the tendency to grow thin, long branches. It has multi coloured flowers and is one I like. I bought one a couple of weeks that will feature soon. The problem with multicoloured varieties is the dominance of one parent or one colour. If the tree is allowed to grow au naturel, then within a few years it will all coe one colour...red. Red is the dominant colour and once it starts to grow, it spreads. Withina couple of years a white flower can become red, slowly working it's way through speckled, striped and then full colour. It is a one way transition, once it has becom red it can't go back.
Apologies for the poor pictures and makeshift back ground but I was trying to get finished. As you can see the main branch on the right has a lot of red, an awful lot of very strong red. A mistake was made when the tree was early in development and that branch was made from a red flowering branch...a school boy error. As the tree has developed. the red flowers have gotten redder and spread to other branches. there are entire branches on the tree which are red. If possible, the best ting to do is to prune out the red branches entirely as you find them.
Sometimes, the entire branches needs to be replaced, but that takes time if there is thickness to it. In the case of this tree, the character branch is entirely red, but in order to correct it, two branches of "normal" non read Matsunami have been grafted in. The grafts are of the normal multi coloured variety and so there will be variation in the flowers. Sadly it means removing large sections of the tree.
Once the red branches have been removes, the branch appears very bare and slightly lacking in volume and ramification. This will take three years to fill back in, unless the grated branches go gangbusters on us and grow like crazy. After a rough prune, then more detailed pruning, cutting out the hard, thick areas and unnecessary branches, The main branch was very carefully wired and set roughly in position. As it is a grafted branch, extra care needs to be taken so as not to tear it off at the base. Grafts are generally only attached by the cambum layers and there is a lack of structural integrity to the join, so they can often pull apart easily, even after several years of healthy growth.
The finished tree looks like this. A few years of development on the character branch and it will be quite a nice tree. As it stands, anybody who looks at it simply says, "too much red". This is a particular characteristic to Satsuki enthusiasts and half the fun of growing them.There is an obssessive nature to getting the perfect mix of flowers, a perfect example of that variety. We are not to this level of concern at all in the west, which may be a good thing!
Anyway, it is past 1 am and I need to be up in the morning to drive the Chief to the airport. I have a week left in Japan and to be honest, I can't wait to get back and away from the stress of looking after younger apprentices. That said, I will definitely miss working on trees, going through the different stages of creating a Bonsai. Especially enjoyable when done alone...