Sunday Study Group

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Is it the grilling ?

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Or the trees ?

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Or the Friendship that makes an informal study group (hosted by yours truly) so fun?

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It’s probably the beer.

We had sent out a last minute Facebook invite for the gathering and most of the usual suspects showed up.
We started at 9 am and ended at 8 pm. It was a hardcore group.
One tree we worked on was Jerry Santiago’s buttonwood.

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That’s actually Dave Velez in this pic.

Jerry got the tree in Puerto Rico. It was a more upright tree and last year he laid it down. It literally has one live vein and, essentially, only one root. So we had to wrap it around some rocks to prop it up and tie it down.

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The branch structure before pruning and wiring

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And after

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A lot of branches were removed and in the restyle we moved branches back and up and over.
And this (bad) pic is an example of a 2d medium trying to capture a 3d medium. You should see the tree in person.

Dave brought his willow leaf ficus clump

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Which needed a haircut badly. It was a bush


A hand in the bush giving the bird. I think that’s how that the saying goes.

We all took turns cutting the tops and bottoms, removing the tridents and quad-ents. Basically we selected the strongest leaders and cut away everything else. Leaving the growing tip intact to allow that leader to thicken. (That’s a bonafide Jim Smith secret.)

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It needs to be repotted but we are lacking a suitable pot. If anyone knows any pot dealers out there let me know.


I worked on this podocarpus. This was a competition tree at a BSF convention that Mike Feduccia worked on and I won in the auction.
It was (I think) originally collected by Erik Wigert and Mike competed in the BSF Scholarship contest using it. I think he came in 2nd.
I ( eep..sorry Mike ) actually turned the tree 180 degrees from his front ( which, I might add, did lose the hollow feature in the shorter trunk that Mike thought was important to the design. When we design a tree we trade off one good feature for one bad feature and hopefully come to a good composition)

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This is a detail of the apical jin

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And the rear of the shorter trunk.
Mike had focused on the overall design and only did a rough carving with root cutters. And it kinda looks like a beaver gnawed it. Time for some power.
This is one reason I advocate the use of power tools. Some wood (like the podocarpus ) is too hard (if we are working with larger trees) to use hand tools on. And on some trees power tools are a must because the grain is not fibrous enough to rip the wood down the grain. It just makes them look artificial (this is where that American traditionalist in the back row begins to look annoyed).
And that’s where specialists like myself come in.

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Detail of the apical jin after carving.

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And the shorter trunk.

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There I am. What a stud!

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Before wiring.

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This is the “before” of a small Jin.
By carving out sections on opposite sides a straight branch can given movement.

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Like so.
The process is like this.

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I love my drawings.

What I do before the whole “lime sulfur” treatment is to allow the wood to dry some more and then use a smaller bit to refine the carving. Then the lime sulfur.
I liken carving to this analogy of styling a tree: first, doing the major limb cutting and heavy wiring. Waiting for what you did to fill back in and then going back to work the secondary branches. Then a third time to work the tertiary branches.
This is how I approach carving. No matter what details I add now, the wood will age and check contrary to what I have done. So I do the major wood removal and make it presentable…..mostly.
Remember,though, this is my tree and not a demo tree where the audience expects a “finished” product at the end. I see this carving on this tree taking 2-3 years. At least.
But, hey, Bonsai is not an instant art form now,is it?

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Here is the tree wired.
I won’t repot until next spring.

And here is Nick Alpin’s ficus.

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I don’t have a “before” wiring pic but only a “before” repot pic

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There’s the after. I think it got jostled in the car ride home. Nice looking tree.

Jerry using my flex shaft carving tool.

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It sounds a bit like a dentist drill. Puts me on edge listening to it. I apologize to those who must endure it during one of my demos.

Dave using my Super Duper Electric Sifting Machine.

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I know. Words fail me too.

And here are some updated pics from the post on the ” old ilex ”
Buds everywhere

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The main work ahead will be the construction of the apical dome. ( I am trying to find a replacement for the word “apex”. Any suggestions?)

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We worked on more trees but I didn’t get pics of them all ( I was working man!).
So, the next time you see an invite, come on over. You will at least eat and drink well.
BTW, thanks Juan for the yummy cookies, we wished you could have stayed!

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
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