How about a dramatic chop? Will that interest you?

Warning: even though this is the middle of November, I want you to know I practiced the abuse you are about to witness a month ago, before my Louisiana trip.
And, I must reiterate, I am in Florida, don’t do this in Minnesota.
Here’s the poor victim.
IMG_8081.JPG

IMG_8078.JPG
Ficus microcarpa née retusa, in the vulgar tongue, tiger bark ficus.
Are you ready?
It’s not gonna be pretty, sorry.
Oh, did you notice the broken branch?
IMG_8080.JPG
That’s what happens when you try to bend an unbendable branch.
I didn’t need it anyway, first amputation.
IMG_8085.JPG

IMG_8086.JPG
The roots need just a little work.
IMG_8087.JPG

IMG_8088.JPG
I’m going to try to rake out the roots, it being so late in the season and all.
IMG_8090.JPG
Maybe I’ll get a workout today.
IMG_8093.JPG

IMG_8091.JPG
So far so good…..uh oh! There’s a giant root in the middle that needs excising.
IMG_8094.JPG
Breakin’ out the saw!
That’s a big chunk of root.
IMG_8095.JPG
I’m going to have to be a little more, ah..aggressive, as it were.
IMG_8097.JPG
Regular tools ain’t gonna cut it here…..sorry, bad pun.
IMG_8136.JPG
Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
IMG_8103.JPG
I might as well fix the roots too.
This grouping needs to be bent over and simplified…..I really need to focus on it a bit….
IMG_8104.JPG
And this one is too chunky on the end but, more importantly, it needs to be bent up and flattened out.
IMG_8107.JPG

IMG_8106.JPG

IMG_8109.JPG
I undercut the bottom to help bend it (we don’t need another breaking incident)
Some chopping.
IMG_8113.JPG

IMG_8114.JPG
And zer roots ees done.
IMG_8116.JPG
I know, I was just going to comb them out. It’ll be ok, promise….I can see the future! (Actually, since it’s been a month and it’s growing again, I can safely say that what I’m doing here is not going to kill it. Or didn’t kill it. Or won’t….time travel grammar and getting the tense correct is hard).
Since I chopped the bottom back so hard and traumatized about 2/3rds of my readership, I might as well go for 100%.
Are you ready for the top chop?
IMG_8118.JPG
I think you are….you’ve been waiting the whole post.
Why am I chopping it?
Easy, there isn’t any taper (or very little) in the trunk.
IMG_8117.JPG
And with such beautiful roots, why shouldn’t the top follow?
And I know that I’ll get new buds all over the tree.
Here’s an example from earlier in the year on another tiger bark.
IMG_8121.JPG
I chopped it just above my ring finger and it’s grown about 40 new shoots; so many that I’ll need to thin it out or I’ll get a big ugly knob of a trunk.
So…as you can guess…it’s the saw again.
IMG_8122.JPG

IMG_8123.JPG
And I get a big cutting too!
IMG_8124.JPG
You bet that will root.
Here’s the tree….
IMG_8125.JPG
…..a little more pruning….
IMG_8126.JPG

IMG_8127.JPG
It looks like a voodoo talisman or some weird harvest doll.
Freaky…I need to put it into a pot before it gets up and starts dancing.
IMG_8128.JPG
Looks like it fits.
First, with a mostly rootless tree like this, fill up the pot with soil.
IMG_8129.JPG
Then you, gently but firmly, push the trunk into the soil, rocking and twisting it down to the level you want it.
This ensures you don’t have any gaping air pockets.
IMG_8130.JPG
I made sure to tie it down into the pot….I don’t want any nighttime visitors seeking revenge….
I’m fertilizing heavily.
IMG_8131.JPG
And that’s it.

IMG_8133.JPG

IMG_8134.JPG

IMG_8135.JPG
This is the “front”, as far as it even having one yet.
IMG_8132.JPG
What I did here was a step in improving a piece of material that had good potential (but not necessarily style-able yet) and setting it on its path to being a good tree.
Most professional bonsai people would have tried to make it pretty in one step, to make it easier to sell more quickly, but I’m more interested in the art and the growing and the teaching more than I am in the selling.
Now, I think I need to tie the pot down to the bench too, that’s a creepy looking thing.
Is anyone in Minnesota looking to buy a tree?

Posted in redesign, roots, tips and tricks | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Beating a water oak, ficus, and a boxwood with a red stick

And….. I don’t remember what day it is but whatever day it is, it must be Baton Rouge. At least.
Time to have some coffee with Lowell Tilly.
Man, that guy can drink coffee.
And he has some trees too, wow.
His main interest is the live oak style (which isn’t generally done with an oak).
Here’s a few boxwoods he’s worked on.
IMG_9030-0.JPG

IMG_8605-0.JPG
I arrived at Lowell’s house around noon, I guess, and he already had a few people and trees ready for me to work on.
He gave me a brief tour of his collection….and some coffee.
IMG_9029.JPG
Then it was to work, an azalea.
IMG_9031.JPG
When pruning an azalea keep in mind that, unlike most plants, it is not apically dominant. You could actually kill the top if you prune it too hard.
That’s one reason that azalea bonsai tend to be taller than is normally accepted (the other reason is there’s more tree to hang the flowers off of).
Then we have a ficus microcarpa I bent down into a cascade.
IMG_9032.JPG
I don’t think she expected that but I think she likes it.
Then, my favorite, some carving.
Lowell had a water oak (quercus nigra) or one of the various mutt species associated with it.
IMG_9033.JPG
It’s a tree that tends to be short lived in the ground but could have potential as a bonsai.
This one is half dead, which might have been from being too shaded (they need FULL sun).
IMG_9034.JPG
My strategy carving this tree is to keep the long branches but reduce and hollow out the trunk.
IMG_9035.JPG

IMG_9036.JPG
Here’s a YouTube video for your amazement and my edification:
click here, no…here
IMG_9038.JPG
I’m not going to style the tree because, it being deciduous and it living in a semi tropical environment, I could kick it out of dormancy and weaken the tree come real winter (the cold could kill any new growth) and then there won’t be much energy left for the spring burst of growth.
After that it was time for some coffee and then dinner (crawfish étouffée).
And some coffee before bed too.
The next morning, after breakfast and coffee, we went on a tour.
I got to see the LSU campus (with some great live oak and crepe myrtle)
IMG_8612.JPG

IMG_8614.JPG
I visited a real plantation house.
IMG_8622.JPG

IMG_8625.JPG
And I toured the Louisiana Museum, where I learned about the ancient Mississippian mound builders, Andy Jackson, sugar cane, and Huey Long.
By that time it was time for a little pick me up. We got a coffee and had some chicken and sausage gumbo (without okra for some reason. Can it even be called gumbo if there’s no okra?)
After that I saw the best looking lantana I had ever seen.
IMG_9145.JPG
Talk about oak tree style. That is, indeed a lantana.
IMG_9146.JPG
With but moments to spare, we finally make it to the meeting.
IMG_9147.JPG
By which point, looking at all the trees I have to work on, I could really use a coffee.
This a pic of Lowell taking a pic of me.
If you zoom in on the lens you can see infinity (after about six coffees, that is)
IMG_8651.JPG
I didn’t get all the pics but here’s a boxwood (the lady brought three!)
IMG_9148.JPG
And, finally, a big ficus salicaria just screaming for a trunk chop.
IMG_9149.JPG
Where does it need to be chopped?
Here:
IMG_9150.JPG
Did I chop it?
Nope.
Wrong time of the year.
Bonsai is art, but it’s also horticulture.
The tree would live and grow and put out branches etc….but the top most likely wouldn’t root at this time and it’d be a shame to throw it out.
And, except for some boudin and cracklings, that is my Baton Rouge adventure.
Thanks to all who had me (and Lowell and his family, especially for the home cooking and the coffee).
I will see you all soon!
Next stop, Gulfport Mississippi.
Oh, where’s the red stick? I was in Baton Rouge, or, red stick…..

Posted in carving, goings, rare finds, wiring | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Challenge: get this ficus green by December 31st

I have taken upon myself a very difficult task: to get this tree green and pretty by December 31st.
Here is the tree.
IMG_9116.JPG
I picked it up from Old Florida Bonsai for a good price but, alas, without a pot.
Oh, look!
A pot.
IMG_9117.JPG
It’s a big pot.
It’s a big tree too.
IMG_9118.JPG
What kind of tree?
IMG_9119.JPG
Awwww, it’s a weeping fig.
Or, as I prefer to call it, ficus benjamina.
That’s right, go ahead and pour the derision and scorn over my head like that green slime on the old TV show “You can’t do that television!”
Why? Why did I spend good money on this tree?
Well, for one, it’s big. Let’s go back to the first photo:
IMG_9116-0.JPG
For scale, the tires on the cart are ten inches tall.
Second, I feel confident (I’m still crossing my fingers though) that I can green this up by my oh-so-short deadline (it’s the beginning of November. We are talking two (cold) months here in la Florida).
I have a secret weapon today though.
My youngest son, Mathew is helping me.
IMG_9120.JPG
He’s smarter than me, he’s wearing gloves.
IMG_9121.JPG
Let’s get to it, first, root work…..what?
Root work in November on a tropical?
IMG_9127.JPG
I thought, Adam, that you only recommended root work in the summer on a ficus?
I do, I do, but…..BUT…this is a case where I’m going to have to invoke the “do as I say, not as I do” rule.
I’m in Florida, I should have (mostly) a month of 60 degree Fahrenheit nights ahead of me.
I’m still gonna ask you, my dear readers, a favor…..pray for the tree.
Right now, the root mass is square.
The pot is oval.
I know I’m a bit of a rebel but, generally, a square peg doesn’t fit into a round hole.
Unless……
Where’s my saw?
IMG_9130.JPG
Imma gunna need some more implements.
IMG_9129.JPG
Wow, these roots are tough. I’m actually breaking a sweat.
IMG_9131.JPG
Except for those wedges I sawed off, I’m really just combing the roots out.
IMG_9132.JPG
While Mathew cleans up after his dear-ol’-dad…
IMG_9136.JPG
….I prepare the pot.
IMG_9122.JPG

IMG_9123.JPG
Wow, that is a big center hole. I have shohin trees that would fit through that hole.
I got the pot a few years ago for very cheap money.
IMG_9124.JPG
Did I have a tree or even a tree in mind for it?
Nope. I bought it just in case.
This is one of the best tips I have for you: if you see a unique pot for a good price, buy it.
Pots, unlike a tree, don’t die!
I’m not sure what country the pot is from, but here’s the chop.
IMG_9125.JPG
It doesn’t matter to me, really, I like the pot and it will work today.
The soil I’m using is a mix of pumice (sifted DryStall, what a waste, I lost about a third of it), red lava, calcined clay, sifted pine bark and expanded slate.
IMG_9126.JPG
My standard mix mostly.
Now for the big decision: where is the front of this tree.
Here:
IMG_9134.JPG
Or here:
IMG_9133.JPG
Mathew, or should I say, “Mario”….
IMG_9142.JPG
….prefers this side.
IMG_9135.JPG
I told you he was smarter than me.
The tree is so big it needs some double chopsticking.
IMG_9137.JPG
Then it’s a maximum strength prescription: I put fertilizer (Milorganite), some chelated iron (granular Ironite, to help green up the leaves faster), a granular systemic insecticide (Merit), and a pre-emergent herbicide (Oh2, kinda like Preen).
IMG_9138.JPG
Quite a lot of things, I know, but it’s gonna take all I have to get the tree growing.
I might even (gasp!) have to resort to some fish emulsion.
I think I have a good chance, what do you think?
IMG_9139.JPG
It might even be getting greener already.
IMG_9140.JPG
Wish me luck.
IMG_9141.JPG
I’m gonna need it.

Posted in Horticulture and growing, rare finds, roots | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

One seed juniper in Louisiana?

After that marathon day and night (and day…) in New Orleans, I was on my way to Lake Charles to see Alan Walker, past president of BCI and current head of the Lake Charles Bonsai Society.
IMG_8494.JPG
This is my approach to the Mississippi River Bridge on I-10.
Here’s the bridge (for those so inclined).
IMG_8499.JPG
And the river.
IMG_8502.JPG
And a swamp and a bayou even.
IMG_8507.JPG
It was a three hour drive easy.
I arrived, changed shirts, had a sandwich and got to work.
This is Mark and a big, collected juniper.
IMG_8511.JPG

IMG_8510.JPG
Kendra was skeptical of my abilities. I had to prove myself.
IMG_8514.JPG
She brought an easy tree for me, the Florida dude, a ficus microcarpa. I rearranged the aerial roots to make the trunk appear larger, removed some branches and wired some others. Is she impressed yet?
IMG_8934.JPG
Probably not.
The next tree was a small, nursery grown neea I had brought along for sale.
IMG_8516.JPG
With some trees it’s just a matter of moving the branches a little.
IMG_8931.JPG
I think the jin is probably way too big.
In between all this I had Mark preparing his tree.
Mark drove more than two hours to see me, and, get this, it was his wife’s birthday.
He brought a very tall, very nice, one-seed juniper (juniperus monosperma) for me to work on.
The tree had been collected by the late Mike Blanton. Needless to say, I was very honored that Mark wanted me to work on it.
IMG_8515.JPG

IMG_8512.JPG
A little about the one-seed juniper: it’s called this because the fruit tends to have just one seed (not surprisingly).
It’s native to a lot more drier area than Louisiana, namely northeast Texas and New Mexico and can withstand extended periods of drought (the tree just shuts down, literally).
It also has the ability to grow roots very deep to find water, in fact, it is considered to have the second longest roots in the world.
And while the roots grow fast, the top doesn’t (that whole shutting down thing)
What does this mean for bonsai?
It means that they are very difficult to collect, which makes this tree very special. But it also means that, considering the root growth rate, you may need to repot this yearly.
And, taking into account the slow top growth, this tree could be hundreds of years old.
When I researched the tree and I learned about the slow growth it gave me pause; I’m glad I respected the tree when I worked on it.
Why?
Often times, we bonsai artists try to impose a style or a preconceived look to a tree, what I call the Japanese Christmas tree approach; putting a nice, neat and lush scalene triangle on the most twisted and tortured deadwood. A commercial look.
I was leaning towards this. I do, after all, need to impress the elite, even just a little.
While I was working with the other students I kept looking at the tree from the corner of my eye.
I set Mark to the task of cleaning the trunk; brushing the live wood to bring out the red under-bark (which will contrast with the deadwood also stimulates the tree to grow more) and defining, brushing the deadwood.
I also had him clean out those unwanted and weak pieces of foliage that sap the trees strength.
My initial thought was an egotistical one: I should kill the whole top and just leave the one, lower branch. How cool and dramatic would that be, right?
The more I thought about it though, the less I liked the idea.
This pic was by Alan Walker.
IMG_8545.JPG
Here’s what we did.
Or rather, didn’t do.
IMG_9011-1.JPG
I didn’t carve the deadwood at all.
Mark brushed it to bring out the grain but no tools were used to enhance it. It was great as is.
We let the tree tell us the style.
IMG_9012.JPG
More natural, less contrived.
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes contrived is what the tree is asking for, and there are some very artistic trees that have been made that way.
I just don’t think that this wild, American native yamadori wants to be a japanese pretty tree.
It’s practically screaming to me now.
IMG_9013.JPG

IMG_9014.JPG
Here’s the “front”.
IMG_9015.JPG
Here’s Mark and myself, hamming it up for Alan.
IMG_8544.JPG
I posted a brief YouTube clip of the tree because photos tend to flatten out an image: click here
After the workshop, Alan and his wife took me to have some more seafood, fried of course (I actually had fried bread, if you believe it) and then a relaxing night looking at Alan’s collection of, well, everything.
He let me play some guitar too, always a plus in my book.
Thank you Alan and Mark and everyone else who let me work on their trees, I really enjoyed the time I spent with you all, I can’t wait until next year for the return trip.

Posted in branch placement, goings, rare finds, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Neea workshop and Guy Guidry’s New Orleans Bonsai Boutique

This post has the possibility to be either profound or profane.
And the day begins: I woke up with a slight headache.
It was almost like a hangover. I probably should have gone out on the town and had a good time and therefore had a real hangover and then the migraine that my small headache exploded into later would have been a badge instead of just a burden.
This was the sky I was greeted with outside.
IMG_8408.JPG
It’s a good thing that the camera doesn’t show the mood of the photographer, otherwise the pic would have been all greys and browns.
Coffee, eggs, bacon. Need.
And about 800 mgs of ibuprofen.
Gerald took me to Ihop for breakfast, it was good and I was starting to feel better.
Time to go to work.
IMG_8416.JPG
Here are the trees, all purchased from Wigert’s s Bonsai and hand picked by moi (Erik gives a good discount to clubs ordering workshop quantities, and I pick out good trees, mostly…)
The first two are the most balanced with abundant branches and good nebari.
IMG_8837.JPG

IMG_8838.JPG
This one offered some challenges but was more dynamic than most of the others.
IMG_8841.JPG
A beautiful short one with a nice bend.
IMG_8842.JPG
An easy clump
IMG_8839.JPG
This is another one that had dynamic movement.
IMG_8840.JPG
The most difficult one.
IMG_8845.JPG
This next one had the best natural deadwood.
IMG_8843.JPG
And another dynamic one.
IMG_8844.JPG
This last one was not a collected neea but a nursery grown one that originally came from Jupiter Bonsai.

IMG_8846.JPG
The way I run a workshop is to first have the students try to find the front of the tree.
Then I visit each person and we have a debate. If they are beginners, I’ll explain how we arrive at the front (the widest base or nebari) or, barring that, what the back is.
If they have experience, it’s more of a give and take than a lecture.
Often a tree might have two fronts based on the nebari and then the talk is of branch structure, taper, deadwood etc.
Unfortunately for y’all, I didn’t document, in pictorial form, everything we did to the trees.
That said, here are the after pics of 8 of them.
IMG_8848.JPG

IMG_8850.JPG

IMG_8847.JPG

IMG_8849.JPG

IMG_8854.JPG

IMG_8853.JPG

IMG_8851.JPG

IMG_8852.JPG
I didn’t get an after pic of the nursery grown neea. It was a wiring job turning it into a nice deciduous tree style.
The one tree I should have gotten an after pic of was this one.
IMG_8856.JPG

IMG_8855.JPG
As you see, there was only growth coming out of the back of it.
Maybe I can get a pic from the guys in the New Orleans club to show you my solution? If I can, I’ll post it at the end.
The reason I didn’t get a pic was at this point, after all the carving and all the smoke and dust that entails, my head was about to explode. I’ve been getting migraines since as long as I can remember. I should get a doctor to prescribe a specific migraine medicine, but I’m stupid and stubborn sometimes.
Ah, but if I weren’t, you wouldn’t like this blog so much now, would you?
Onward to the the latest mercantile pursuit of mon frére en arte, the prodigious Guy Guidry and his new storefront, NOLA BONSAI. It’s in the Garden District of New Orleans on Jackson ave. near St Charles
IMG_8482.JPG
The architectural details are classic New Orleans.
IMG_8870.JPG
Wrought iron and leaded glass.
IMG_8871.JPG
Here’s Guy on the right and Jim on the left.
Can you guess what’s in the background?
IMG_8872.JPG
That metal framework coming to a point?
Believe it or not, that is the original top to the Eiffel Tower.
No, really…back in 1981 it was decided to remove the top (which held a restaurant) because it was weighing down the structure too much.
A chef decided to buy it and ship it to New Orleans so he could open his own restaurant. It, as many restaurants do, didn’t last, and the structure has been many things.
Now, it is owned by an organization that’s called the Eiffel Society and the building is a rental space (you could be be married, baptized, or eulogized there I guess).
Talk about a neighbor with a history. How would you like to see that everyday?
How about these trees?
Trident maple, big boy.
IMG_8878.JPG
I couldn’t get a good pic of the foliage pads on this juniper but here’s the deadwood and trunk.
IMG_8879.JPG
Let’s take a walk inside, shall we?
He has a sunroom filled with trees as you first walk in.
IMG_8873.JPG

IMG_8875.JPG
And a perfect classroom space beyond that.
IMG_8462.JPG
He’s using the same strategy on beginners that I am: dwarf jade.
IMG_8874.JPG

IMG_8876.JPG
It’s a tree that’s easy to take care of but it can be refined into a beautiful bonsai in time.
He had all sizes, shapes and price ranges.
After some catching up and bullshitting, and letting him take care of a future bonsai artist (a boy of about 9) We bid adieu to Jim and I then took my life into my hands in a mad dash across New Orleans and over the longest bridge in the world trying to follow Guy to his new home in Covington. My head began to pound.
Originally, I had planned on traveling to Lake Charles that night, but Guy invited me to a party at his new fiancé’s parents house. The father happens to be a judge.
And Guy also promised me a taste of a dish that he is a master of:
Redfish Couvillion.
I could not refuse.
Oh, and you did read that right, I said “new home”.
Here’s where I have some sad news. Due to a divorce and having to split up the property and the trees, Guy’s nursery “Northshore Bonsai” is shutting down. The property has been sold and the trees are up for sale.
Just damn.
But Guy is an optimist and isn’t taking it too hard. He’ll bounce back.
And his new girl has a real calming influence on Guy.
After that harrowing trip, it is needless to say that I had to check my drawers….I mean, use the lavatory, upon arrival at the new homestead.

IMG_8880.JPG
I love Louisiana! Look at that heating device (I think). I can only imagine, on a frosty, Cajun, January morning, the blue flame licking from those ceramic elements above my head as I complete my morning constitutional.
Yes, it was on the wall above and behind the toilet.
Talk about a hot shit.
With my business done, it was time for a few libations to try to ease my poor tortured head.
We had a few minutes before we had to leave for the party so I took some more ibuprofen and studied this juniper.
IMG_8881.JPG
I think I lost myself enough in its curves that, at this point, my migraine finally went away.
Here’s a YouTube clip to really show you the complexity of the deadwood.
Amazing for such a small tree.
Then it was off to the Judge’s party.
It was a night of firsts.
The Redfish Couvillion (of which I can honestly say was the best I’ve ever tried).
IMG_8882.JPG
I had a just-about-extinct mixed drink called The Roffingac.
It was….different. I’ll let you do some research on your own about it.
I had headcheese and artichoke leaves. A strange combo, I know.
It was a good party, different than I was used to.
Then it was back to Guy’s place for the after party.
I got my guitar out and played some blues while we talked and talked.
About family and bonsai and life.
IMG_8883.JPG
I had to crawl myself into bed around am. The after party continued on without me.
I had to be on the road by 9 and in Lake Charles (30 miles from Texas!) by noon.
I said goodbye to Guy and his new Gal and I left Covington at 8:30.
I am, after all, a professional.
In the next post you’ll see if I totally botched my BYOT workshop with the Lake Charles Bonsai Society or not.

Posted in branch placement, carving, goings, wiring, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

New Orleans Bonsai or bust!

I’m back from my Louisiana trip and now I have to figure what the hell happened. There’ve been so many things I’ve seen and so many people I’ve met I’m just overwhelmed. Hoowheee!
The trip from Orlando to my first stop, New Orleans was 650 miles one way.

IMG_8311.JPG
Lots of driving.

IMG_8313.JPG

IMG_8332.JPG

IMG_8323.JPG

IMG_8326.JPG
The pics are not in any particular order. The last pic above, though, is showing wild yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria) on the roadside. The schillings dwarf variety is one of my favorite trees for bonsai. I think I’m going to have to make a collecting trip.
IMG_8353.JPG

IMG_8364.JPG

IMG_8348.JPG

IMG_8357.JPG
My constant companions on the trip were my spider and a little tiki figurine (the spider was welded by me, the tiki was carved by my friend Mark from SW Florida).
My daughter has named the spider Joe-Bob, I’m taking suggestions for a name for the tiki dude.
IMG_8369.JPG

IMG_8376.JPG

IMG_8366.JPG
It was like traveling into another time or era when I rolled into New Orleans; the radio station I landed on (in my almost endless scrolling of stations) was playing blues….and not a hundred year old blues but modern music written by young artists. Here and here are two videos I shot going over the bridge.
Here’s the timeline.
– I left my house in orlando at 6am.
– traveled exactly 650 miles to the hotel in Kenner, La in 10 hours but I arrived in 9 hours (a cookie to the person who can figure out how I managed this minor bit of time travel)
– I checked in, a pic of my my room number so I didn’t forget when I stumbled in later in the night:
IMG_8379.JPG
-I freshened up (650 miles in an old car with no a/c, I seriously needed it)
– dinner (everyone I spoke to in Louisiana about food and what I wanted asked me the same question, “Do you like seafood?”)
IMG_8381.JPG

IMG_8380.JPG
– then a quick look at a GNOBS member’s collection (finally some bonsai, right?)
IMG_8789.JPG

IMG_8788.JPG

IMG_8790.JPG
– And then to the demonstration.
This was the tree….
IMG_8389.JPG

IMG_8392.JPG

IMG_8390.JPG

IMG_8391.JPG
Now, I know what you’re thinking….you’re thinking that it looks like Cousin It from the Addams Family.
Imagine my reaction.
At this point, it’s been a fourteen hour ordeal to get to where I am, and now I am presented with this tree.
The worst part was that I had hand-picked the tree from Wigert’s nursery specifically for this demo and I had no memory of it at all!
Wow!
The tree is a neea buxifolia (a native of Puerto Rico and one of my favorite bonsai subjects) that was collected about a year ago from the mountains. It’s a real Yamadori.
What did I do?
Well, I didn’t get too many pictures of the process, actually (it’s a little rude taking pics during a demo).
But I did get some.
I’ll try to fill in the blanks.
Oh, wait….Jim (my host) has a phone call…..hold on.
IMG_8394.JPG
Ok, he’s done, now where was I?
I cut off about 99% of the foliage, did a bunch of carving (the correct terminology is: “I carved the shit out of it..”)
IMG_8403.JPG

IMG_8406.JPG

IMG_8405.JPG
And here’s the tree:
Back:
IMG_8791.JPG
Side and side:
IMG_8793.JPG

IMG_8792.JPG
And the front:
IMG_8794.JPG
I tell you what, it was a blur.
I wasn’t sure if it came out good but the photos seem to show that it did.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the demo too. Maybe they felt sorry for me?
I should draw a picture of it, right?
As I do that, this is Mitch, hamming it up for the camera:
IMG_8795.JPG
Nice shirt.
He took this pic of me….I think you can see the confusion in my eyes.
IMG_8396.JPG
Here’s the before pic of our poor neea:
IMG_8389.JPG
The after:
IMG_8794.JPG
And my sketch (I should work in ballpoint more often)
IMG_8797.JPG
After that it was a roaring night of drink and debauchery on the town, blues clubs, dancing girls, to go drinks, Voodoo princesses and drag queens and….and……all for someone else.
I went back to the hotel and crashed.
Sorry to disappoint.
I had to work in the morning.
The next day was a ten tree workshop with some more neeas, most of which needed carving.
At 9am in the morning.
Who schedules a bonsai workshop on a Saturday morning at 9 am in a town like New Orleans?
These guys are hardcore bonsai.
Needless to say, the next post is on the workshop trees and a visit to the Cajun Rockstar himself, Guy Guidry.
Bedtime for me though, as you will soon read, I was gonna need it.

Posted in branch placement, carving, goings, philosophical rant, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cleaning tools and refining a privet

Damn humidity and Florida rain.
IMG_8297.JPG
I need to get my tools in shape for my Louisiana tour.
It’s always a battle with rust on carbon steel tools (the “black” bonsai tools you see for sale).
Now don’t get me wrong, you still need to clean and oil your stainless steel tools too.
IMG_8298.JPG
For one thing, if you have carbon steel that’s making contact with stainless, the rust from the carbon will transfer over to the stainless. I think it has to do with negative and positive charges.
And often the sap from whatever you worked on last is acidic and could etch the metal.
On to it then.
Unfortunately for you all, this won’t be a sharpening tutorial but just a cleaning and oiling lesson.
Sharpening is a full post in itself.
First, I use a plastic bristled brush (like a toothbrush) to remove all the dirt and dust etc.
Then I break out the synthetic steel wool.
IMG_8305.JPG
Synthetic steel wool has the abrasiveness of regular steel wool (which is very little) but it won’t rust. It’s like one of those green scotchbrite pads, but better.
For the really dirty areas, I use a sanding block that has abrasive material throughout the whole body of the block. Which means that, as you use it, the abrasiveness doesn’t wear out.
IMG_8306.JPG
On the stainless tools only, and with dried ficus juice especially, I’ll use Magic Erasers. It’s like magic.
After cleaning, I’ll usually sharpen, but you don’t get to see that part yet, so now it’s oil.
I’ve researched the question of oil quite a bit.
What most bonsai people recommend (and sell) is this magical sounding stuff called “camellia oil”.
This is what I use.
IMG_8299.JPG
What is camellia oil? It is an organic oil pressed from the camellia plant (the same plant we get tea from) and the reason it’s used is its ultra-fine viscosity and (because of the viscosity) its ability to bond with steel molecules and prevent rust.
It is also the traditional oil used for samurai swords.
As such, you would guess correctly that it is pricey (unless you buy it by the gallon).
Here’s the rub. You know the stuff I use? Because camellia oil is plant based, it has a tendency to spoil, to turn rancid and smelly, as it were. Modern day camellia oil is a mixture of the highly refined 3-in-1 oil and camellia oil, just enough to call it camellia oil and still keep it from spoiling.
They mix it, you see, because 3-in-1 oil is also ideal for bonding with steel.
Just like camellia oil.
IMG_8300.JPG
Done with the tools.
The last bit of maintenance is on my tool roll.
IMG_8302.JPG
I made it (with my wife’s help) out of canvas.
I prefer canvas to vinyl or leather because I can spray oil on it and not ruin it…..too much.
IMG_8303.JPG
The reason I spray oil on my tool roll is to keep water out.
It’s kinda an old timey way of protecting tools, but I like it.
With my tools cleaned and all slippery….
IMG_8304.JPG
….I’m going to turn my attention to a Florida privet I’m carrying along as a visual aid for my stop at The Lake Charles club.
IMG_8286.JPG
I’ve already applied lime sulphur to the carved portion and done a topiary trim.
Now I’m looking at it and just not liking what I see.
The reason I’m taking the tree on the Louisiana Tour is for the Lake Charles club to see what carving can do in making a somewhat average tree look a little better.
At the moment though, it still looks rather average.
There’s something that’s just not right.
Maybe I need to clean it out more?
IMG_8287.JPG
No….still something not right
This is a good example of using the camera to spot flaws.
Can you see what I see?
How about now?
IMG_8288.JPG
Of course you can’t see it now, I doodled it out.
This branch, which has been my nemesis the whole time I’ve been styling the tree, has to go.
IMG_8289.JPG
A little tweak of the branching and….
IMG_8290.JPG
Damn Florida sun, you can’t see it very well right now, let’s hope that the sun goes behind a cloud.
In the meantime, the light is good for some dramatic shots.
Imagine you are a hawk and you’re just about to land on the dead treetop.
IMG_8291.JPG
Or this….
IMG_8292.JPG

IMG_8293.JPG
Now that I think of it, the way we look at these trees if just the way a bird would see one.
IMG_8294.JPG
Or Superman.
Ah, the sun is behind a cloud!
Take the pic quick.
IMG_8295.JPG
Now I’m ready to for my trip, except the hundred other things I have to get ready.
It’s Thursday night and I’m leaving at 6 am Friday morning; it’s not a bad journey, only 650 miles or so to my first stop, New Orleans . Yup, at this time tomorrow, I’ll be giving a demo for the New Orleans Bonsai Society.

Posted in refine, tips and tricks, updates, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments