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

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A diamond in the rough?

I'm sure that most of you will have seen the recent exploits up at Willowbog, but in case you didn't...Mr. Snart has put some relatively complimentary pictures of me up on his blog here...

Thanks for the lovely weekend, but thank you even more for yet another tree that I walked away with.  I always seem to come away with trees...funny that.  This one was a tree I had my eye on for sometime but had been really stopping myself from pulling the trigger on getting it, because I was hoping that someone else would see the potential in this wonderful potentilla...

A rather uninspiring tree and one which had been forgotten on the bench for ages....just the kind of rubbish fantastic tree which is screaming out for me to waste my time and effort on...

and BOOM...a change of angle and some subtle lighting, fannying around with the camera and it suddenly looks pretty awesome.  Oh yes.

As luck would have it, I just got this Ron Lang pot earlier in the month...It looks a little large because I can't do photoshop, but believe me it looks pretty awesome.  As a combination it looks...pretty....you guessed it...awesome.

I have great hopes for this little bad boy of a natural looking tree.  One day who knows where this tree may end up? Probably back on the bargain shelves up at Willowbog as I go bankrupt from buying too many unsaleable trees...not that I am trying too hard to sell them...all my little pretties.

Am off to Spain this weekend for a busman's holiday...going to an exhibition in Peniscola with our lass. Thought I would treat her to a trip to see the European branch of the Sakka Kyokai's big show.  I am a member of the Japanese group, but not the European...maybe I should join in the party, but if they see trees like that on my benches, they will black ball me...I guess I should modernise my tastes?

Onwards and upwards...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Autumnal Movements in the Dark

Its been a while since the last post (tm) , and rather than globe trotting, I have been in the UK for most of October, enjoying what can only be described as Great British Weather. Autumn is here and like the other great British institution, the BBC, it is hanging on to the last remnants of faded glory and respectability.

A very enjoyable trip to Norn Iron was had, full details and more video, pictures and details than you can shake a stick at can be found courtesy of Mr. Eejit, the inimitable Ian Young. I must say that advertising such as that is very flattering and it is the sort of thing that cannot be bought...so thank you. It was an eye opening trip, seeing what I can only describe as some of the best individually grown deciduous trees in the UK. The general standard was good despite the paucity of professional input until recent years (or perhaps because of it?). The Willowbog influence was apparent and its clear that the internet has helped dramatically. The enthusiasm and desire to learn was refreshing, I look forward to my next trip there...assuming I get the invite.

As I said, the deciduous trees impressed me most and now is the time of year to be focusing on deciduous species. Pruning back and thinning out should be done once the leaves have finished and are starting to drop. After that we have around two weeks to do it before they begin to bleed like stuck pigs. The last couple of days have been heavily deciduous based, including a lovely new tree in the collection of a long standing client.

The first workshop we did together, as a test to see what the then relatively unknown and slightly hairier me could do, he brought me a fat little trident maple which was in need of a sorting out. I gave him a detailed explanation of what the problem was and how to correct it, how if it wasn't sorted soon, it would simply get worse, he agreed and it got pruned back quite hard. In 2014 the tree will almost certainly be punching it's weight at Noelanders. I must have done a good job because we have continued to work together and today I was presented with a similar trident.

The tree is a very nice specimen, had some minor flaws and issues structurally but it had one major problem, something which a great number of tridents and other deciduous trees suffer from. If the time and dedication is not put in to prune and thin out the branch tips down so that effectively at each node the branches split into two, then not only will the naked branch structure look hideous on a close up, but it will also affect the vigour.

From a distance, the tree looks ok, a nice silhouette, but a closer inspection reveals a fundamentally flawed and potentially fatal branch tip structure. The grotesque lumpy clusters of tiny twigs have been created by lazy technique which is equivalent to topiary. Simply pulling off foliage and shoots when in leaf to create a nice outline.

Rather than carefully and religously pinching out the new shoots as they grow, thinnng out strong areas and creating a delicate branching structure, handfuls of foliage are roughly plucked on a single occasion, leading to clusters of branches growing from a single node. This lazy technique is known as cluster plucking a tree.

Once a tree has been repetitively cluster plucked to this level for a number of years, the vigour of the branches decreases as the branch tips lignify, harden from the inside, reducing the sap flow and a noticeable decrease in vigour is observed. Similarly to satsuki, the branch tips must be young and green, one year old shoots, or the tree gets old, gets tired of constantly being plucked and gives up.

When faced with a branching structure such as this, the only thing to do, is to rip it up and start again.

...total and utter cluster plucking mess
Once the majority of bad branch tips are removed, the tree looks a whole lot lighter and less full but it is now back on the upward slope as opposed to the terminal decline it was on. Deciduous trees need to be renewed every so often, the branch tips need to be replaced when they get old and delicacy in the branch tips is necessary.

There are still a few branches that need removing but at least the branches will regain some vigour now. Protection over the winter and a period of free growth is necessary to get the tree back up and running. The good thing about tridents is their vigour and predictable back budding on old wood. Give the tree three years of dedicated work and it will be very well ramified, delicate and have healthy, cluster free branch tips.

This weekend I will be up at Willowbog for more workshops, is great when I go places where they ake lots of pictures...means I don't have to.

Preparations for Noelanders are moving ahead with great speed...lots of excitment and enthusiasm amongst the Saruyama faithfull...in times of great bonsai depression it is great to have something to look forward to...Like me, I'm scheduled to work on my own trees in December.

Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Purple(ish) Haze

Back in the land of the unpredictable weather and as I will be effectively out on the road until December  now is the time to get the winter preparations ready...although this morning was a gloriously autumnal morning.  One of those days when you are glad to be alive...

Returning back after just ten days there had been a massive change in foliage colour, and especially in one of my favourite species...the mighty Sumac.  A much under used tree in western bonsai because you can't actually do anything with it other than just kind of grow it...and prune it when it gets too big. No fancy wiring nor styling decisions to be made so it gets over looked. Regular readers may know this tree but this year is the best colour I have ever seen it, and so here you are...

You can't beat it for natural character, low maintenance and awesome autumn colours...

A big brother in the garden looks on....

and some little brothers wait to be potted up...love the way that only the edge which is not sheltered by the bench has turned...but that is a sign that the frosts are coming. Propane heater arrives tomorrow and will get most stuff inside, everything else will under cover.

Today was spent clearing out the greenhouse, getting yet more blocks and stuff for yet more shelves...but that means more space for more trees...but just for the time being...'Scuse me while I kiss the sky...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Rock on

Im sat in the airport on my way home from a very interesting trip which included an apperance at the 6th International Stone Show in Hershey PA. It is my third time speaking there and it seems people are yet to get sick of me and think I still have something to talk about regarding suiseki, so it was nice to be part of it.

Mr. Morimae of S-Cube fame came over and did presentations on various topics but the focus was the use of suiseki with bonsai, a topic which many people find difficult to come to terms with. One common theme throughout the three conventions I have been to has been the desire from the majority of the udience to have hard and fast rules and regulations. "You can't do this, you can't do that..." It is appropriate to think in these terms very much at the starting point but this idea must be moved away from, rather than think negatively, it is always better to think "It is better to do this..." or "we must do the best with the tools at our disposal".

I learnt a lot and even became interested in a slightly more modern interpretation of stone appreciation. Now, this is in no way trying to be suiseki but it is trying to be, and succeeds incredibly, a wonderful work of art. One of the vendors at the show was Tony Ankowicz, an artist/craftsman/stone hunter from Wisconsin and he had this creation on his booth. I immediately fell in love and after a few hours of consideration and then talking to Tony, I pulled the trigger and purchased it.

He had some other stones with him with even more fantastic bases but the lines and curves of both the stand and the stone were outstanding. The craftsmanship on the base was incredible and I couldn't resist the challenge of finding a use for it as a display item. Discussion with Mr. Morimae and Wil Lautenschlager confirmed my thoughts that this represents an exciting development in the worldwide appreciation of stones, bringing it in to a modern era but retaining the essential characterisitcs of an art form which has origins dating back two thousand years. We were all excited about his work and saw great vision and craftsmanship. It was refreshing to see some thing new and definitely western as opposed to the rigid copying of Oriental practice.

I have to now find a way of displaying it alongside a bonsai. I have a sabina that looks as though it will may be possible to display with, but it is still very immature. Still, the rock can wait...

Speaking of display, the Noelanders trophy will soon be upon us. Mr. Snart and myself will be offering the same service for UK enthusiasts who want trees taking over and bringing back, so please contact us for details. We should have a good showing again, so I look forward to organising that again.

Feeling sleepy...so until I get home...