Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

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

Satsuki a-go-go

Once again it has been a while, but there you go. I have been mostly busy with work, here and there, did some more work in Poland. I have pictures somewhere when I get around to it...and now I am in the US. I have been working on Azaleas at a large collection, if not the largest collection outside of the motherland and it is a difficult task to get through them all. The work at this time of year is corrective wiring and pruning back vigorous shoots, thinning out the new growth since the summer pruning.
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

Apologies for the photo, it was taken by me, using an ipad...not exactly fit for purpose and the ipad has a terrible camera. Plus I was in the middle of a days work which is more important.

This is a Kinsai which was half dead so when I repotted earlier in the year , I ripped all the dead wood off it, changed the planting angle, put it into a John Pitt pot and reduced the number of branches. Most of them are unhealthy and may possibly die and so not much effort has gone into it thus far. I pruned it back a little more this time, did a little deadwood work and wired a few branches but no more than an hour spent on it. It recovered well and looks ok, but once a tree has started to die back, then on most varieties, it is a question of time. Kinsai is borderline, if the tree is healthy then it can survive with deadwood, if not so vigorous then the rot has gone deep. I am still hedging my bets.

The wood was cleaned up and treated with wood hardener and lime sulphur but the work on it is all natural. It is pretty cool actually and the best dead wood I have seen on an azalea. I hope it survives. Still, a few years enjoyment is better than none....but it is contrived and styled like a pine so I guess there is no value to it whatsoever?

Last day here and then I am off to Alabama for the weekend. Looking forwards to it....always fun in the south....kind of like the north in England.

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...

It has been a busy few weeks since the lazy summer, just getting back into things. I have picked up a few new converts to the cause and seen some positive signs for the future. Maybe there is light at the end of the polytunnel after all.

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...

Baldness as well all know is a sign of great virility.

Anyway, the workshops all went well and I think most people went away knowing more about Bonsai than they did when they started, which is the main thing. I have a slightly different approach to workshops than many others, sometimes it works, other times it doesn't.

Friday and Saturday were spent at the EBA event near dusseldorf in Germany. There were some Japanese over promoting Omiya and the possible world convention in 2017 there. I was asked to help out, but I ended up just sat chatting with John Pitt and Dave Prescott for the most part. There were some good trees and some not so good trees. One which took my breath away was a potentilla grown from nursery stock over 35 years. Absolutely awesome. I didn't take a picture but believe me it was great.

The trip was good for networking, I met some new people, including the chief of the French Association who was a great bloke. From the sounds of things, French Bonsai is on a very sustainable upward curve...I am going to try and get over some time. I also had chance to discuss the plan to take over the trees of around 8-9 people from the UK to Noelanders and display them in a similar way to the professionals do at Kokufu. The organisers of the show were enthusiastic and open to the idea. It is the future....i've tasted it.

If anybody in the UK wants to display at Noelanders but doesn't want the stress and hassle of taking it over, or needs help prepping the trees, then get in touch. Minimal fee is being charged as we need to get the UK back on track and pushing forwards.

I have also been fixing pots, a couple of pics here...but I'm only half way through because I broke the cheap diamond burrs I got off ebay and almost set fire to my kitchen with a propane burner that was a little on the powerful side. I will get it finished in snowy december and post it up.

Off to Paris tomorrow. I have to take the camera...otherwise there is no point me going.