Here’s the tree I teased with in the last article.  That’s how it looked two years ago in this post. I got the tree from Mary Madison, one of the best yamadori collectors in Florida. It was brought to my attention by a guy who used to be a friend but somehow, he and I aren’t anymore. Which is sad, really. It was bonsai politics that ruined our friendship. I could write a three part treatise on the deleterious effects of politics on the bonsai community. But I won’t. It’s not worth the space or the time. To quote Paul Pikel,

“I just want to work on my trees.”

With that said, here is the tree today.   I know, I know, I’ve kinda neglected it. You can see why the buttonwood’s botanical name is conocarpus erectus. No, not because it has hard wood, but, if allowed to grow, it grows straight. I need to get the branching back closer to the trunk. 

First, I need to carve the two cut ends and blend new carving with the old deadwood. 

Both the top…. ….and the bottom were sawn off flat at some point.   

The tools I prefer to use for finish carving are: 

A flex shaft carver (I use the Mastercarver brand) 

 With a variable speed pedal.   Like my new Chuck Taylors?

I use a small rotosaw carbide wheel…    …..and a flame shaped bit. They’re both a little gummed up at the moment but they still work. If you want to read about all the carving tools I use, click here

To the work then.      

 Now, my secret method. The torch and the brush.  

 The burning and then brushing of the wood enhances the natural grain (the grain is made up of hard and soft layers, the soft layer burns first and the wire brush removes it. Basically mimicking how the wood would decay naturally). 

The top: 

And the cascade: 

Some trimming and wire.   

 The tree will respond to this cut by budding back like crazy. Much like the elm in the last post, I’m not sure what the final branch selection will be. 

Pot, pot, who has the pot? Short square or…..  

….fancy blue urn?  I think I’m going with the blue. 

 Right side.   


Front.  I still need some lime sulfur to finish it off but this might be a future of the tree with foliage.   

Or maybe this.    

It depends on what the tree does. 

Some lime sulfur on the deadwood.   

This tree is so unique, to me it looks like a dragon swooping down, like Smaug, about to rain fire upon the hapless inhabitants of Laketown. 

Thank you, my former friend, for letting me know (even though we had stopped being friends at that point) about this special buttonwood. I think this could be one of my masterpiece works. 

And thank you Mary for being you. You are one of the great ones. 


4 thoughts

  1. My recommendation. If you’re going to make it Smaug coming out of the clouds, then how about some depth? Have the upper left branch go up and down to create the foreground clouds and the lower right branch form the background clouds. Smaug comes down between the cloud banks. He’s partially obscured on his tail end; fully exposed on his head. Here’s my poor Photoshop attempt at what I see:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s