Let’s take a look at three trees and see if I can form a coherent and connected narrative out of the techniques I used on them.
The trees.
An ilex schillings that needs some refining.
A bouganvillea that I’ve pretty much styled.
And a juniper that needs…. something.
Each of these trees were worked on at different times and under different circumstances.
Let’s look at the juniper first.
I was leading a bring your own tree workshop and this was one of the victims.
It’s transformation is the most dramatic but it’s also the simplest in execution (execution….that’s called foreshadowing..hee hee)
Three steps.
Believe it or not, it was styled as it was sitting in the pot. Don’t ask me why.
First step, change the planting angle.
The next step, one small cut…whoops!
Third step, wire.
Ah, looks like a tree now.
I did strip the bark from the leftover branch and did a crude carving.
Here’s a digital doodle to show you the tree in a pot.
And, you guessed it, a sketch.
The reason I chopped all that off the top was, first, it had no taper. And, second, the bends were not interesting at all. It was a large, boring s-curve.
Thirdly, it was dramatic.
Life (and workshops and even blogs) are, really, just a performance.
To badly paraphrase The Bard…life is but a bonsai bench and we….we are but bonsai on that bench…..or something like that.
Which segues nicely into the next tree.
A bit of performance art, if you will.
Most won’t allow it to be bonsai, let me know what you think.
I don’t have any before pics at all but I’ll give you the history:
It’s a bouganvillea glabra, red, that was a cutting. Most of it has rotted out.
But a bougie is almost a legacy of vegetative persistence.
As far as the tree and it’s style, I could give a whole treatise (as modern artists are almost required to do nowadays) on it.
Let’s just call it a bunjin, or literati if you will.
But mostly I’ll let the tree speak for itself.
The first and last pics are how I like to look at the tree.
Tell me what you think.
The next tree is a bit more bonsai-ish, it’s an ilex vomitoria, shillings-
I’ve let it grow unchecked for a few months. It’s had a bout of blackspot that I’ve beaten back until next year (hopefully).
It is a bit late in the season (middle of November) to be trimming it, but if I protect the tender new growth from a frost (unlikely but possible. Let’s hope for none at all) it should be ok.
The first step was removing all the ups and downs and old inbetweeners.
When I do an initial styling I will tend to keep more branching than necessary. Sometimes the reason is horticultural, and sometimes it’s just to fill a space.
This branch is now unnecessary.
So long branch.
It’s growth was also just too much different than the rest of the branching.
When pruning the tips, simplify to only two branchlets at each split.
And try to think ahead to the wiring stage….can this upward growing rebel bet wired into shape?
Why, yes… yes it can.
Now, to the wire.
I start at the bottom and work up.



The last three pics above are the right, left and back.
The drumroll please ……
The before
And the after…
Faithful readers will recognize this tree form three or four previous posts. The last in the string is here.
And, rereading it, I did exactly as I said I would.
Strange that I could be so consistent.
I gave the tree a light dusting of fertilizer (my go to, Milorganite) and refreshed the soil.
My plan now is to keep the watering to the minimum I can and hopefully get another flush of growth. Let’s hope the weather cooperates.
Now, for some shameless self promotion-For those readers in Florida,
I’ll be at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne this Saturday and Sunday (November 16-17) selling some trees and performing a demo at 1 pm.
The Bonsai Society of Brevard is having their annual show and there will be other vendors, a world class display and demos all weekend. It’s a fun bonsai show to go to.
Hopefully I’ll see you there.
If not, I’ll be posting soon on the demo tree I work on.

2 thoughts

  1. Adam, that Bougie is amazing! I was blow away when I saw the photo, great angle! But the chop on that juniper was even better, you’re right about blogs being entertaining! Bravo, bravo, bravo! Take a bow you’re the bonsai mistro!


  2. Bougie is phenomenal. It reminds me of the rock balancing people do. If it was mine there would be a sign near it, YOU TOUCH THIS TREE AND YOU DIE. It is a treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

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