From time to time I get emails (or PM’s or messages or asks or whatever social media platform communication jargon you can use) asking about help with bonsai trees.
Sometimes it’s horticulture:(Help…what’s chewing on my leaves!!!) but often it’s a question of:
“What can I do with this?”
“Can you help me style this?”
I’m pretty faithful in replying (if I missed someone out there, please contact me again….sorry if I did) but sometimes it takes a few days for me to reply.
I had another artist say I shouldn’t do this, or at least find a way to charge for it or be more selective in who I respond to (say if the president of a big club who might hire me for a gig or something).
But I actually enjoy it though, it’s an exercise that forces me to be more creative and to see the possibilities visually as opposed to tactilely.
Anyway, that’s all a prelude to what happened a few weeks ago.
It started by me getting an email from Ron, a resident of Jacksonville Florida.
He had gotten a twisted pomegranate from Kawa Bonsai’s Joy of Bonsai event.
It was purchased from D&L nursery, who was vending at the event.
Ron sent me several pics and I chose this pic for the front of the tree.
I did a little digital doodling and chose these branches.
And I drew a picture as well.
Well, it turns out that Ron is actually an officer of the North Florida Bonsai Club in Jacksonville (boy is my face red) and because of my sketching and drawing he came up with an idea for a class at his club.
The idea was to have the members bring a tree and I would draw a picture of what I thought would be the best future for the tree.
He also invited me to his bonsai garden for a private session working on his trees; one of them the pomegranate.
He had done the pruning and wiring and it was time for a bit of refinement.
One thing you should know about a pomegranate. The wood rots very easily.
A trick I learned from Roy Nagatoshi to kill the fungus that causes rot is to dip your tools into a half strength mixture of Lysol in order to sterilize them after each cut.
This tree unfortunately rotted down through the middle from the trunk chop.
There’s not much you can do except clean it up a bit and incorporate it into the design.
After some trimming and wiring we ended up here.
It’s shaping up.
I worked on a bougie with some reverse taper (basically I carved the shit out of it).
No pics of it, sorry.
And then, a surprise, it was time me to meet the Treaty Oak.
What, pray tell, is a a treaty oak, you ask?
Well, it’s a proper noun, The Treaty Oak, and it’s a field live oak (quercus virginiana) that is the oldest living thing in Jacksonville.
That is all one tree. It covers about an acre of land.
It’s in a park called “Jessie Ball DuPont Park”
I could plagiarize Wikipedia but I’ll post a link to the page (link to Wikipedia, click if you’re curious) and make up my own words.
It’s called “Treaty Oak” because way back in the 1930’s a journalist wrote a story claiming that a treaty between the native Floridians and the Spanish had been singed beneath it.
This “journalist” made up the story to save the tree from a developers axe.
It worked, for many years the story was believed.
The park the tree is growing in is named after a lady who, if you follow the history, was linked with everything from gun powder, banking, education and to the modern day Nemours Foundation and the brand new Nemours Children’s Hospital here in Orlando.
It’s all very fascinating.
If you’re like me, you’ll read the whole wiki-entry and click on each and every link and even go to the source literature to see what the wiki-author got wrong.
I actually spent an hour in the Green Parrot bar last night reading the entire history in between a game of darts (which I won) sipping on a Knob Creek bourbon double shot, over ice, and rocking to a local cover band called “Rolling Heavy”.
Here are some more pics of the tree, which I’ll let speak for themselves.
The last pic looks like two lovers are kissing.
The live oak will self graft if branches are touching each other.
Where the branches are touching the ground you would expect the tree to throw down roots but an oak won’t do that. The only way to propagate an oak is by an acorn.
I have uploaded three videos of the tree, you can follow this link to access my channel on YouTube and watch them, along with my other, odd, videos.
After the truly inspiring and even spiritual visit to the Treaty Oak, Ron and I had to rush to dinner and then to the meeting of the North Florida Bonsai Club.
We ate at Bob Evans, I recommend the grilled chicken breast.
I was a little trepidatious with the classes concept.
I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.
Then the members started to arrive and I realized I knew most of them.
And one of them, who must read the blog, even brought me a gift.
Yessiree, you guessed it!
Thank you sir!
Anyway, the workshop progressed well after a few false starts.
This was an azalea.
A willow leaf ficus (a big ol’ chunk-a-munk one too)
A sweet boxwood.
A new variety, variegated pyracantha.
It was tough but I figured out an idea.
There were more but I didn’t get pics of them all (or, truthfully, I got crappy pics).
This last one has the most promise but needs the most time to achieve the future plan.
Or plans, really.
It’s a hornbeam that has two good sides.
So I drew two possibilities.
I like the one on the left with the hollow showing.
All the participants got to keep the drawings.
After the workshop I had a long trip home (Jacksonville to Orlando, look it up) so I stopped at my favorite two-tailed mermaid’s coffee shop to get some liquid ambition for the road.
It was a long day filled with bonsai, good friends, both new and old (I didn’t even pick on you once, Francis, you were so worried about being caught in a photo) and creativity.
Were it could everyday be such as good.
‘Til next time Jacksonville, thank you!