Bonsai for future generations

It’s so important that we make locally grown material for bonsai as we know that it will thrive in our climate and that we make provision for future generations of bonsai enthusiasts.

I have been taking cuttings for over ten years, some take but many do not. I have a parent Itoigawa plant that I have used and have taken over 100 cuttings from this.  Once the cutting have reached three growing seasons I introduce movement into the small trunks with copper wire, I also pot on into larger pots, usually shohin pots.

After another three growing seasons they are ready to move on to larger pots and so continue. Some of the cutting are used to graft onto older junipers that are having their foliage changed.

Another aspect of providing for future generations is (if suitable) I replace yamadori collected with a young tree of the same species into the place where I have dug. Here you can see some Yew saplings ready for that purpose.

What looks older, an Uro or a Jin?

My passion are deciduous trees and in particular Hawthorns, regular readers of this blog will be familiar with many of the hawthorns in my collection, this post is about the Raft and the Uro (holes) I have created over many years. I am not an advocate of jins on deciduous trees, mostly because the wood is soft and will rot in a very short time making the work pointless. This is different for hardwood trees such as Oak, Yew, Juniper where carving can enhance the appearance.

When I create an Uro I cut deep into the tree to make a ‘dark’ interior, I want to create shadows and character. I also seal the cut with paste because I want callusing to occur, I want the callus to ‘roll over’ the hole. In some instances, the Uro has been completely seals by the callus.


Juniperus communis 10 years collected first styling

I collected this Common Juniper (Juniperus Communis) 10 years ago and today it had its first styling. The trees are VERY difficult to collect, establish and style, so much so that most collectors simply do not dig them as yamadori as the survival rate is so low. I learnt from Peter Thali in Switzerland that the only way to collect these successfully was from a particular rock type and a short window in the year. I collected this single tree as per his advice and the tree has thrived. Styling Juniperus Communis is notoriously difficult as you cannot wire any new growth, wire can only be applied to branches that have bark, this gives a first styling that can look somewhat untidy as you can see… but the framework is there.

I love the thin live vein and the twisting around the deadwood, the foliage will fill out but this will be done with scissors and NOT pinching. The lovely Duffet pot is only temporary until I find a suitable pot.

NO carving by machine has been done on this tree, all the deadwood has been worked by hand stripping and burning the flaky ends.

Here is the tree 4 years after it was collected

deadwood detail on Juniper first image Communis Juniper


Workshop with Taiga Urushibata at British Shohin Bonsai


During the British Shohin Bonsai exhibition at RHS Wisley Gardens in the south of England that was hosted by Sutton Bonsai society I attended workshop led by Taiga Urushibata. So much time can be wasted at workshops simply wiring your tree, so I pre-wired my pine before the workshop, I also took along another pine to work if time allowed.

I could easily have styled this tree but I wanted Taiga’s ‘take’ on the tree, there were so many option available… what was his idea for the tree, how would he style it? I believe that you are never to old to learn no matter how many years you have been working with bonsai.

The tree is a ‘natural’ cascade as the base of the tree has a sharp bend bringing the trunk more than 90º also the base and nebari are very interesting displaying deadwood and deep fissured bark. There is a VERY old shari running almost the length of the sweeping curve trunk.

After a short discussion Taiga agreed that this was the best option and the styling began. I wanted to bring the crown of the tree closer to the base, this meant a very severe bend. The tree had raffia in the area to be bend. Taiga told me that such a bend was not safe however I was confident that it was OK as the tree was strong and Scots Pine are very flexible. A tourniquet was applied to a temporary steel bar; this tourniquet was later replaced with a shorter one attached to a dead branch nearer the base of the tree. Taiga expressed that a bend such as this would not be possible with a Japanese Red pine as the branch would snap in two.

The final design was more or less as I envisaged. The other trees worked by Taiga included a few Junipers, a Yew and pines.


First Styling of the BIG Yew including Time Lapse Video

This is the first styling of the BIG Yew Bonsai, I have waited three years since the tree was potted into this pot, it was VERY healthy so now perfect for the work involved. There are no short cuts when it comes to creating a Yew Bonsai from raw yamadori stock, its a long process of structure, branch creation fine branches and foliage. I guess from mountain to Exhibition this will take 20 years, its already been 8 years since this tree came from the mountain, you can read earlier blog posts where I cut the tree in half, and Potting the tree for the first time