This Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) came into the shop this past week fresh from a recent Nagoya-based auction. Despite the overly expressive movement, the original front was relatively uninteresting, so I opted to flip the tree around and utilize the shari on the backside of the plant.
The original angle lacked movement at the base, so I raised the tree up on the left side and brought it slightly forward. Although this added some dynamism to the bottom portion of the trunk, it also unfortunately accentuated the tree’s thin base. Also, this new angle created a “pigeon-breasted” effect. To eliminate both of these issues, I used guy wires to pull the upper portion down and to the rear.
The rear was also guy wired forward and the top third of the plant was wrapped with rafia to avoid major cracking during bending. The final result is a much smaller tree that can now be classified as a chuuhin. I will post updated photos after repotting.
This Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) has been around the block a few times, so-to-speak. It was purportedly purchased for an unbelievable sum of money from Kyuuka-en in the Omiya Bonsai Village back in the height of the Japanese economic bubble by a Kyoto-based collector. At the time, it had 7 trunks and all but two or three crept along the soil surface likes long, slender snakes. It was then received about a decade ago as a “gift” of sorts by one of our regular customers, Yanai-san, whom I’ve featured in previous posts. He then set to bringing all the trunks upward and together to create a more bunjin-gi-esque design (which you can see here in the first photo).
Yanai-san recently asked us to give this slender grouping a new look. The first step was to remove all the old “scaffolding” and see where the trunks naturally fell. Yanai-san had done a good job of bringing the trunk bases closer together, but the upper portions of the trunks crossed too much, so I employed a system of thin guy wires and a small brace system on the right to place them in the right positions.
The heavy and unusable branches were then removed and the remaining branches were wired into the final shape seen here. Although this tree doesn’t have the wow-factor that others posses, I think its unique shape and character make up for any lack of “shock-and-awe.” We’ll see after a few more decades if time continues to add the this grouping’s beauty and elegance…
This solid chuuhin Black Pine was purchased at a recent auction and needed a quick restyling to bring out the best of its natural features. At its original planting angle, the impressive deadwood was only slightly visible, and the cascading branch shot downward at an almost perfect 90 degree angle.
The first step was to reposition the tree to soften the cascading branch angle and bring the shari more into focus. Next all of the branches were wired and repositioned to pull them downward and closer to the main trunk to create a more compact design.
Lastly a new (old) pot was chosen – one that was a bit softer and more unique than its original container. When the tree first arrived, I wasn’t sure that much could be done in terms of improving the overall design, but I think the final result proves otherwise.
So the title might be a little over-exaggerative, but this chuuhin Black Pine required a level of care and detail that most trees don’t. It was purchased at a recent auction by Mr. Fujikawa and brought into the shop for styling this past week. Since it’s already late in the spring season, it had to be worked immediately as the new buds were already beginning to move (and are easily broken during styling).
The movement of the trunk and age of the bark make this little guy a very unique find. Unfortunately, its previous owner had kept it in semi-shade, so last year’s growth was a bit soft and gangly, making styling very difficult. The profusion of branches and needles also made working this plant all the more painstakingly detailed.
First, the old needles were plucked and the angle changed slightly by bringing the left side of the tree up a bit to create more movement in the lower portion of the trunk. The left-most branch was then guy wired down to make the tree appear tighter and more compact.
Finally, it was repotted into an antique Tokoname pot. Although its current size would prohibit it from passing the Kokufu selection process, if the tree is well-maintained and the pot size shrunk a bit, in the future this little guy will definitely stand a chance for the big show.
One of our long-time customers brought this 100+ year old collected Japanese Yew into the shop this past week and requested it be detailed up for his collection. The tree has an excellent hollow trunk and nice, fine branching. The change wasn’t major, but still I think there’s a definite visible difference. Given a few years of development, the right pot, kusamono and shohin companion, this tree might just make it to the Kokufu-ten as a chuuhin three-point display piece.
This massive Itoigawa Shimpaku has a long history as a bonsai. It was first shown in the Kokufu-ten about 35 years ago, back in the days before the boom in major refinement techniques and quality occurred. Since then, it was purchased by several different owners and has been in the collection of its current owner for about 20 years. During that period, this particular client has tried to show it in the Kokufu-ten again on three separate occasions, and each time the tree has failed to cut the mustard, so-to-speak. The owner recently brought the impressive juniper to us at Kouka-en for a major restyling and to see if, perhaps, we might be able to transform it once again into a Kokufu-ten-worthy bonsai.
As is obvious by the photos above, the tree was far overgrown. The owner had over-watered and over-fertilized for several growing seasons and a majority of the growth had become too thick and unusable. All total I removed about 35% of the growth in the initial restyling process. This included all heavy upward growing branches and long, leggy branches as well as areas of overgrown foliage.
After a couple days of wiring work, the tree looks much more like a refined bonsai. The lowest branch on the right and those in the back will eventually have to be removed completely, but for now I’ve kept them to add visual weight to the design. The pot will also be changed in the near future, so I’ll repost those photos once the tree is complete. Hopefully it’ll stand a fighting chance next time at the Kokufu-ten!
After a bit of a hiatus from updating the site, I figured I’d try to come back strong with this killer Hinoki Cypress. I styled this tree for the Kokufu-ten this year. It’s a registered Important Bonsai Masterpiece with the Japanese Bonsai Association and is well over 150 years old. It was collected before WWII and has since become a world class bonsai. The foliage has been reduced in size by pinching so much so that it almost appears to be a dwarf variety (the original foliage was long and leggy).