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little cornish trees


The real deal Posted on Sat, April 21, 2012 13:24:57

hi Everyone,

just a quick post to let you know the blog is now moved to blogspot as the layouts are nicer.

NEW BLOG HERE – if you could update any links etc that would be great

Thanks Marcus

Juniper is ready

needles and scales - Junipers Posted on Sat, April 07, 2012 19:58:28

In an earlier post I showed the Juniper that came from John Hanby at Newstead Bonsai Nursery. Good friday was lovely and sunny so I started tweaking the bottom branch while taking a walk around the benches……once you start it has a habit of moving to the next branch and so on. !! I went out just after breakfast and next thing I knew it was about 3pm.

The tree was a perfect canvas as it had one big foliage mass to play with so I thinned a few branches out to create defined pads and spaces and this exposed areas of inner wood that will bud out now they are seeing the sun. As the inner buds strengthen it will allow some of the tired outer foliage to be cut off in future years and the whole tree to be kept nice and compact. I decided to take the tree to the Bonsai South West show at Exmouth this May as part of our club display so went a little further and cleaned out the underside of the pads to give them a clean neat look.

About 5pm I went out to take a picture and found a carving tool in my pocket – doesnt everyone ? soon the solid mass of the upper trunk had the start of a hollow carved into it before it got a bit cold so I took a quick picture and decided to dig out the dremel tomorrow. Here is the tree after styling, and the small pics show the tree in 2008,09,10 & 12

Saturday afternoon brightened up so I hollowed the upper area and put a hole right through the trunk to add interest and match the lower trunk better. After wearing out a few wire brushes the new area didnt look too new so I painted it with lime sulphar and left the lot to dry. Picture two tomorrow and now it will be feed feeed feed to boost as much tight growth as possible. The tree wasnt repotted this year so has 4 TBags full of my conifer feed on the soil and twice weekly applications of my new powdered fish emulsion – disolved in water. This gentle organic approach will give better results than blasting it with micacle grow.

I think it could be worth finding a nice stand for this one and I’m going to pop it in the car for the two days at Willowbog with Ryan Neil to pic up further hints to get the very best from the tree – there may even be another better style hiding in there !

And with the carving complete – my favorite Juniper

A group re-build

leaves and buds - deciduous Posted on Sat, March 24, 2012 18:29:30

Its funny how a day at the British shohin exhibition at Willowbog this month spent looking at a hundred or so little dinky trees lead to the purchase of the largest material I’ve bought to date ! The material that caught my eye was an old imported Japanese white beech group a meter tall and a meter wide.

The tree was imported about 10 years ago and to be fair has been caught out a few times by the late hard frosts that can occur in Northumbria, and I suspect when it was imported it didnt have a very healthy root system. This combination had lead to a few entire trunks dying off so the material had a very fair price tag to reflect this, so the tree booked a seat back to Cornwall to see if the milder weather down here would be more to its liking.

We wrapped the pot very tightly in clingfilm to keep the soil in place as it had to be layed on its side to fit in the car, and I bound the longer branches upwards so they layed flat and didnt snap off. Once unwrapped i gave the tree a misting off and took the first pictures.

The first job was to pluck off all the old leaves to see the branch structure and then study the live trunks to find the better angles. I planned to cut out the dead trunks and try to seperate some sections of the planting to re-design the group. The trees would be totally impossible to seperate individually as many roots were fused together and the trunk bases were moulded into each other in places, but I could see a way of sawing the mass into 2 or hopefully 3 pieces.

Here is the group cleaned of old leaves, but with the dead trunks still in place

And with the dead trunks removed – now we can see what there is to work with

Out came the saw and the group was sectioned up into three bits so the dead roots and trunk bases could be removed. This let me rotate the main tree 90 degrees to show the root flare and trunk base much better. I seperated two of the smaller trees with as many roots as possible as they were in the wrong places.

This was the first replant of the sections and I’m happy with all bar one trunk, which needs moving back

Now I let the tree rest for a few weeks, treating the soil with canna rizotonic to promote root health and growth. Then we will use guy wires to lower the main branches, try to strike some hard wood cuttings from the extensions and wail for the leaves to open.

finished the benches

The real deal Posted on Mon, March 05, 2012 17:37:47

After a busy Febuary the display benches and garden decking are finally built, painted and the trees are out of the green house, garage, house etc.

In among building there has been repotting to do and so far this year it has gone in this order

Acer Kiyohime, trident shohin, satsuki azalea, bigger trident, larch, flowering cherry, birch. Soon to follow will be the hinoki, then the other acers followed by pines and junipers. Its funny how repotting goes – last year with moving house etc I only did one or two, this year there are several that have to be done and 3/4 of the collection needs doing. Then I’m going to take a leaf out of the Japanese books and let some of the older conifers go 10 years !, others needing a little vigour are going 5 years between repots. with the deciduous I’m looking to 3 years for the ones growing and 5 years for the ones refining.

Here is a quick video of the completed tree area

Kyohime going forward

leaves and buds - deciduous Posted on Sat, February 04, 2012 09:10:54

The repotting of the kyohime triggered the coldest frostiest weather of the entire winter ! Luckily I had the garage ready (as the tree has broken dormancy in January 3 years running now) with a low bench and a 400w halide grow lamp & reflector rigged up ready.

As the tree was indoors I thinned the dense twigs that made the tree look like a birds nest, pulled down the main branches with guy wires then took a picture

The tree was too wide already but now it was 4″ wider ! at a whopping 44″. While corresponding with Dan Baton about making a pot for the tree in the future we have arrived at an ideal design where the growth is pushed back in with very hard prunning, getting the tree down to 28″ wide with the current height or 30″ wide if it gets taller. With this in mind I spent an hour on photoshop and produced the size we are aiming for

Now we are talking ! As you can see from the two pictures this is an easily achieved design, no artistic licence was taken moving trunks or adding mature new branches !, just a reduction of width, an increase in ramification and a nice outline. This also shows how much smaller the final pot design can go.

Now we have the plan, Dan likes it too, so I popped into the garage and pruned all lower branches back to an inner shoot. This will drive a new burst of buds on the inner bare branches in the coming weeks. The apex of the tree is a weaker area so the hard pruning lower down will strengthen the top too, helping to increase the ramification further up the tree.

This shows the reduction needed, and where to do it

This work is a perfect example of needing to make a tree look ‘worse’ in order to make it better in the long term. The very best way to get a potentially fantastic tree without paying silly money is to buy trees that have been neglected a little or lost their previous form. As long as a tree will make inner buds on old wood you are laughing.

January 21st – Repotting !!

leaves and buds - deciduous Posted on Sat, January 21, 2012 19:25:05

I’ve been checking the acers every day for the last 2 weeks and today the kiyohime started bud break. This hasn’t come as a surprise as we are 11 – 12 degrees in the garden nearly every day and have not dropped below 2 degrees at night all winter.

I had the soil ready – akadama, black ‘superlight’ pumice type stuff, kanuma, chopped bark, chopped sphagnum, dust sieved out and nothing bigger than 8-10mm. (just click the pics below to enlarge them).

I use a sickle to cut the tree from the pot rather than wrestling it out risking damage, then combed out the roots, washed the root ball with a powerful hose then pruned it back by a third all round and halved the depth of the roots. The new pot is the same length – 28″, but quite a bit shallower than the Walsaw ceramics one it came in last year.

To top dress the pot i used the akadama neat from the medium sieve and here is the tree repotted – No frosts now please !

Kyohime 5 trunk clump, 42″ wide, 28″ above the soil. Imported to Uk 1981-2 and must be 60 years old now.

Tomorrow i’ll add a few new guy wires to drop some of the bigger branches and layer the left hand side a bit more.

800 miles today

needles and scales - Junipers Posted on Fri, January 20, 2012 22:32:14


just had one of those mad motorway days – got in the car at 3am, was having toast with a friend 400miles away before 9. As i was in Yorkshire I knew a little bit of bonsai sight seeing was close by at Newstead bonsai so after a few miles detour I pulled into the car park. Due to a upcoming relocation there was a 50% off sale on every tree and plant on the site ! and it was genuine, the original price tags were still in place on all trees.

This was one of those unplanned days that turn into something special and 2 hours disappeared in the blink of an eye while my wish list went from 10 trees to 6, to 3, to a one on one – both trees Junipers, both trees Japanese yamadori imported to the Uk originally from Danny Use at Ginko in Belgium. Each was special, one incredibly twisted and compact – with cracked, aged jin and shari – the other with a slanting aged hollow trunk and amazing narrow live veins……. decisions decisions………..

In the end I was drawn to the foliage quality as both trunks were excelent – both trees were true aged yamadori (wild junipers) so the scale foliage was much longer than the commonly seen ityogawa. One tree was an unknown yamadori species and had quite long foliage with a blueish tint while the other was far more ‘British racing green’ and was compacting really well, with flowers forming on every branch tip. (It is likely this tree is species ‘sargentii’ with these characteristics).

When buying a new tree I always look to buy a trunk, as most species can have the branches created later but you are basically stuck with the trunk – with these two the trunks were amazing, and they had plenty of branches, so choice was narrowed down to the overall image that the finished tree would make… I ended up buying the tree with tighter, greener foliage.

Looking through the Newstead web site i found pictures of the tree from 2008, 2009 and 2010 so progression shots were good to see.

Here is the tree safe and sound back in Cornwall – where it is much warmer than Yorkshire ! so I expect the tree to wake up thinking spring has arrived. I’m going to make the large foliage mass into smaller layered pads, define the lower branch into 2 pads and add a few spaces to the left hand side. There is a beautiful curving part to the shari near the top so it will be good to open a little ‘window’ through the foliage so it is visible.

The pot was made for the tree by Walsaw ceramics.

A quick play with photoshop to give me the planned final design

playing about

Clubs, Shows and display Posted on Sat, January 14, 2012 23:01:40

Last night i downloaded a free trial of photoshop cs 5.5 and wow, what a powerful tool – it is certainly the best editing software i’ve ever tried. as it was a 30 day trial i decided to try a few virtual compositions on some of my trees to see how they would look with more or less foliage, branches etc etc. This is a perfect way to try various designs from the warmth of my chair on these cold nights before chopping off really important bits of the tree.

First one is a basic material Japanese white pine, mostly unstyled and ready for a lot of wire, and quite a few hours. I’ve actually put this tree up on the club for sale page at £445 but desided to do a quick photoshop virt to see where it went.

As it is right now:

With a 25 degree tilt, 3 branches off, pads leveled and a new pot – i’m thinking this tree should be got of the for sale page quickly!

Next tree is a chinese elm i’ve had for 19 years. As it was 18 years ago

This year:

And what i was planning for the tree:

Then i tried an experiment with a lot more foliage on the needle juniper -but this needs a bit more work to get right – i like the left hand side though, just need to get the right side sorted.

tree in sept

virtuall styling

Here is the Red Maple as it is, and with the outline i’m planning to grow the tree to

I thoroughly recomend this for a play about, great fun for a winters night.

cheers for now, Marcus

Web site work

Clubs, Shows and display Posted on Sat, December 17, 2011 10:00:13

This week has been spent making 3.5 ton of fishing bait in a pre christmas break production push !! and then giving my local bonsai club web site a face lift.

What began as thinking “i’ll just start off putting the meeting dates up” smiley ended up with moving the whole site to the hosts I use for the bait and aquarium feed sites, then deciding to begin the site from scratch.

Over three evenings manic typing I think there is enough initial material to upload the site to the big bad world. In addition to the essential club information we’ve got a sales page ( more material and pots on route), a club blog to chart the day to day chatter and a seasonal guide to our tree species and how they behave in Cornwall – where it is mild – even now we have not dropped below +3 at night in the garden (sorry Peter smiley, not even a frost on the car yet !).

The flip side is it is wet, very wet – I have about 12 trees in the greenhouse to keep them dry

For anyone with short cuts to the old club site they won’t work anymore…..

Clicking HERE will get you to the new site

info@cornwall-bonsai-society will get pictures, links, material for sale & blog posts to me

Cheers everyone, now the mammoth task of doing the species guides !

The progression of some trees

Clubs, Shows and display Posted on Sat, December 10, 2011 19:37:41

Inspired by our surroundings

The real deal Posted on Tue, December 06, 2011 21:56:08

Now and again I like to make a bonsai that isnt the normal tree in a pot – there is a never ending amount of inspiration to take from our surroundings, views, landscapes and even cityscapes.

There is a themed meeting next year at the Cornwall Bonsai Society with the topic of Cornish landscapes and trees, so I wanted to actually create a detailed little slice of the county, rahter than just an elm, blackthorn or hawthorn planted on a slate. Many of the traditional farms and boundaries are still slate dry stone walls – a twin skinned wall filled with soil. Over the years these walls get capped with various trees, shrubs and plants so you end up with a true mixed planting, offering seasonal texture and colour throughout the year.

Here is my bonsai cornish wall

The pot was made by Alexander Kennedy – Splatt Pottery, up on the Cornish Moors so it seemed the right pot for the planting.

The trees are a cotoneaster horizontalis cutting, some elm cuttings, a blackthorn root cutting, some cell grown box cuttings and a garden center flowering cherry. The wall was just a load of slate bits stuck together in layers.

Reviving an old one

needles and scales - Junipers Posted on Sun, November 27, 2011 18:56:12

This is the tale of an old tree with a little slice of English bonsai history. It was originally one of the larger trees that belonged to Anne Swinton and as she devoted more time to smaller trees it was one of several trees that found its way to Mendip Bonsai studio. I was having good success with shimpaku junipers at the time so decided to see what could be done with the tree.

from the first pic you can see a probable 10 years of free growth in a pot with a wild mop of bare branches, the foliage all grouped on the ends and no real clues to the trees original style.

I know john had fed the tree a bit so I continued using nureku every 6 weeks and wired the mass of branches into a gentle dome with a few lower foliage pads. I wanted to gauge and build on the trees strength so foliage reduction was kept to a minimum as the treee needs as much greenery as possible to grow strong.

The tree responded over the next 2 years with inner buds appearing in the branch forks so i repotted it and pruned off some of the leggy bits, back to the new inner growth. One more year in the current form and I felt the tree was fully regained in strength so a smaller crown design was wired in, some lower branches were removed and the tree allowed another year to adjust to the styling work.

This year I started looking with a critical eye at the tree and knew the current crown was much too big for the slender trunk so there were 2 options – reduce the crown by at least 50% or fatten the trunk………..I considered splitting the trunk up the middle and adding a wedge of deadwood but after batting ideas around at the St mawgan nursery we decided to use the tree as a tanuki whip !

Out in the japanese garden a log was chopped out of a very large juniper with a chain saw and I set off home with a 2ft long chunk of juniper wood. I needed some speedy carving tools so bought a mad attachment for an angle grinder from Graham at Kaizen – a termite. This soon filled the garage (and house!!) with a lot of sawdust – what an amazing fun bit of kit!

I took the now smaller bit of juniper log into work, and spent an hour sand blasting it, lime sulpharing it etc and the next day screwed it to the juniper ! now we have a trunk to work with so the top will be allowed to grow a bit to swell the live vein, a long back branch will be air layered and added to the other side of the dead wood and the tree will be a nice tanuki I think.

pic to follow tomorrow

Tree: Juniper chinensis shimpaku – 100+years old

origin – Japan

source – Mendip bonsai studio

3 trunks are better than one

Pine trees Posted on Sat, November 26, 2011 16:58:47

This was a strange bit of material that caught my eye on my last willowbog visit – it was a triple trunk scotts pine that Peter bought back from a recent trip to Ireland. The trunks were the reason I liked it – a perfect low split into 3 trunks of different thicknesses.

The bark is showing a little age now but the foliage was very sparse and leggy.

Luckily I seem to get plenty of buds all over the scotties I’ve had in the past just by treating them like japanese black pines – following the black pine pruning methods to the letter.

I wanted a tall elegant image, vaguely suggesting a literati, but with the three trunks supporting the one crown.

version 1 had a very long dropping branch left on, better to leave it at the start, observe the tree and then decide whether to keep it. Version 2 has the long branch reduced and this is the tree today. Version 3 will appear tomorrow, as looking at this picture i know the final design

Now the tree is getting lighter but the fat trunk doesn’t fit with the others – – I looked for ideas on the ibc forum and had a few suggestions to make the tree a twin trunk, and one sketch showing a lovely twin trunked literati. I used the sketch as the plan for the foliage, but stuck to the 3 trunks as that was why i bought the material in the first place. borrowing a trunk splitter I set to work on the fat trunk trimming it down, hollowing it and running a wire up the inside – now the tree is just right

And the sketch from ‘cram’ that helped take the tree in this direction

A year in the life

leaves and buds - deciduous Posted on Sat, November 26, 2011 16:19:39

Here is a tree that I had been looking for for several years – a good red leaved maple.

As is the way, when you least expect it the right tree suddenly jumps out of the blue. I had made one of my trips up north to Willowbog bonsai nursery expecting to find a nice larch or scotts pine when the 2nd tree I spot was a stunning, vivid deshojo type red acer ! So taken by the unexpected find I decided to pop back the next morning with my piggy bank and the tree was soon settled in the boot of the car.

I wanted to repot it as the beautiful but small japanese pot was drying out back in Cornwall very quickly so I took the tree to the local japanese garden, where there happen to be quite a few nice pots. The garden has a huge collection of acers and the owner was stunned by the tree and was adamant it was acer palmatum beni maiko rather than deshojo due to the leaf lobes and the vivid colour, with the bright red / pink followed by a bright green rather than the duller purple / green blotchy pattern of deshojo.

The tree was summer repotted into a 28″ unglazed oval pot – a lovely pot with perfect lines – made for a japanese supplier in china. Now the tree has a better reservoir of water, more humidity under the branches and a more stable appearance.

As the summer has passed the tree has increased inner twig density a lot, and these pictures show the last 5 months development

Last week the tree started showing Autumn colour

Gordon Hunt ceramics

Clubs, Shows and display Posted on Sat, November 26, 2011 15:40:04

Saturday morning we paid a visit to Gordon Hunts’ ceramic studio to look for a few pots and to bounce a few ideas around. There was a cascade pot that looked perfect for my semi cascade Yew tree – the tree styled at the pine lodge show back in June. It didn’t take long until a box of accent and shohin pots were in the car too ! so lots of material to play about with.

This was a piece of raw material that had been collected somewhere up north, traded in at Willowbog bonsai nursery, and then travelled home south with me. It is still very much a first styling – lots of growing and refining to do.

And this tree was the insipration for me to style this yew – a japanese yamadori yew that is about 20 times bigger, 10 times older and probably about 30 times dearer ! but there are similarities to the two trees styles – this one is hiding in the willowbog greenhouse atm

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