Hats off to Uncle Albert

They always told me when you get older time seems to pass much faster. I have no idea what constitutes ‘older’ but time now seems to pass me by like money slipping through a politicians hands. Bonsai is very good at marking time for us or, should I say bonsai is very good at making us aware of how little time we have. I remember when I started all this malarkey thirty years ago I had real problems getting to grips with how slow trees grow and how long it was taking my trees to develop into bonsai. In retrospect it was the fact I did not have enough trees to work on and those I did have i was intently busy killing, slowly. With two to three thousand pots now there is literally a lifetimes work here for a small band of workers and we will NEVER be done with it. The great advantage of so many plants it that some just lounge around developing really nicely all on their own without my bothering them. Sometimes bonsai need to be left alone and, assuming you kept some piccies, the rate of progress can, on occasions, be quite alarming. These days a lot of trees I had a hand in starting as bonsai are in the hands of good folk who like to look after them and once in a while they come to visit.

One such visit happened today, a sabina juniper I sold last year came back to see me and get a hair cut. To see the original story go back and read – Demo’ Result & A Dumb-ass Deal.

I am still reeling from my own stupidity and now I have salt in the wound. My good mate Tim (aka Uncle Albert ,now 85) does a very good job looking after trees when he’s not torturing them having gone away on holiday for two weeks in the summer. That being the case I was very happy to see this sabina juniper return looking so hale and hearty. Since my demo’ back in May 2016 no work has been done on this tree other than careful siting in the garden and water management. Over that period the tree has had chance to settle itself and recover, make foliage, wood and roots. The result is a tree where the wiring has done it’s job and once removed everything is staying in place. The tree is drinking water and the beautiful foliage is soaking up the sun  producing lots of energy for more growth.
Now that the tree has filled out so well and settled down we can take a small step forward. Today there was insufficient time to prune the foliage as much as I would like but then, in the UK, I have found that taking away too much foliage from a juniper will put a crimp in it’s ability to develop further. Now is also the time to review the style of the tree. We have removed the larger wire and taken out a couple of branches that are no longer required which has helped balance the design. We started thinning the foliage and cleaning the underside of the foliage pads. Finally, as the tree has done so well and been in this pot for five years I was happy to make the move to a more maneagable pot. Early autumn seems to be the best time for this where a sabina juniper is concerned. These is no need to go mad at the first re-pot, it’s not required to strip out all of the old soil, every time I have done this in the past  junipers go into serious decline and often take several years to come back. Just a little tickle around the sides and the bear minimum of root reduction. This tree will never notice the difference and will maintain it’s momentum.
I am very resistant to putting trees into bonsai pots. I have said before that putting a tree into a bonsai pot does not make it bonsai, just like living in a garage does not make you a car. Bonsai pots look nice and help us to slow the growth rate of a tree in order to achieve beautiful refinement. In most instances putting an undeveloped plant into a bonsai pot means it will never develop well or reach it’s true potential. Save bonsai pots for bonsai trees! That’s the secret to this junipers amazing development over the last eighteen months. It’s nice to feel we are getting somewhere with our bonsai and the secret by and large is not to do anything unless your tree is ready, what YOU want to do is entirely immaterial and irrelevant. For me the joy of bonsai is the process not the result but if you fall in love with the process and master all it’s complex elements your trees will be more beautiful than you could ever have imagined. My bonsai came from a love of nature and the magic of our natural environment only exists in the absence of meddling humans. Creating a little piece of natural magic in a pot ultimately means we have to allow it to happen, not get in the way. Once finished there must be absolutely no evidence our intrusive hands were ever involved. Sadly many bonsai we see, and those that get the most attention, are overly affected by those meddling hands creating pretentious, loud and showy images that are far removed from what nature, and time, left to their own devices created that inspired us in the first place. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the noise and clamour and suffocate ourselves in the complexities of technique. The plants we have for creating bonsai desperately want to be beautiful and, by and large, all we have to do is let them. Learn to be a gardener, outside in the sun and rain, and forget the rest!
G.

May 2016, cleaned up ready for working

May 2016 post demo’.

Autumn 2017 and ready for some more work

A very light prune and a couple of branches removed result in a more open balanced appearance.

A little tickle around the roots and into a pot. Amazing what largely doing nothing can achieve.

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