December 19, 2019

BYOB? Bring Your Own Bonsai, of Course!

Source material: 2019, October 28

          Some of you may already know I participate heavily in Seattle's bonsai community through the Puget Sound Bonsai Association. We aim to share bonsai with the public around Seattle and to help local bonsai artists elevate their skills. To that end, we often have guest artists come to lecture and demonstrate how to work various species or how to use different techniques. Around once a year though, instead of hosting a high-profile artist, we host a "Bring Your Own Bonsai" Workshop where all members can work alongside other members. This sort of atmosphere allows newer members to get advice from more experienced bonsai artists in the area and allows more experienced artists to see what other people in the club are working on. The event is one of the more enjoyable club meetings of the year for me because I get to talk to many more members than I usually would during a typical guest artist demonstration - I would highly suggest other members incorporate such a community-building event into your schedules. Now that my advertisement for why you should join our club is over, here are the two trees I worked on at that meeting.

Closeup of my privet. Here in Seattle, moss creeps up the trunk very easily in winter. It makes for a nice photo, but I wouldn't leave it on for too long unless you want a temperate rainforest vibe.

          The first tree I worked on is an English privet I acquired from our current club president, Tony Fajarillo. Tony is a landscaper and very skilled bonsai artist - all the carving was done by him. Earlier this summer, he sold me this tree at our club potluck event for only $40 if I recall correctly! Luckily for me, Tony said he wasn't sure what direction to take the canopy. With that quality of carving for that price, I couldn't resist! I imagine making this into a clump style in the future.

          This is what the tree looked like after a summer of unhindered growth. I often allow new trees to grow for a while when I first get them to make sure they are healthy before styling them.
          I see two potential fronts. At this angle, you can see I removed most of the suckers as they steal energy from the rest of the tree. I left one on the left which I might keep to grow into a minor member of the clump. I'd like to grow a branch on the right side to fill in that space a bit more.
After basic pruning. Front 1
         Below is the second potential front - and the one I like more. I feel like these are the only options because the carving definitely deserves to be highlighted. From here, I see I should find a way to put some movement into the back left trunk. I will probably do this through the clip-and-grow method as bending with wire can only hope to impart a gentle curve into such a thick branch, which would not fit the rest of the design's rough angles and deadwood.
Front 2.

          My second tree is a ficus acquired from Kaya Mooney. Many of you in the bonsai community may know him from his past work apprenticing with Boon Manakitivipart in San Francisco and now from his work as an apprentice in Japan at Fujikawa Kouka-en. Anyways, before all that, Kaya was originally practicing bonsai in Florida and I bought this tree from him as he was preparing to move abroad.
          The first series of photos show the tree in early October, a few weeks before our PSBA meeting. At that time, I removed wires which I had put on about a year prior. I left the wires on a bit too long, creating some scars on the branches. Luckily, these scars will heal quickly on a fast-growing species like ficus. I also chose not to prune back at the same time that I removed the wires; the extra leaves should gather more energy to help the tree heal faster.

Before pruning - front.
Before pruning - back
Here you see the trunk has a few callouses to heal over. More foliage also will help heal those faster.
Some of these rear wire scars are pretty gnarly. I should be more careful on a small tree, as these details are more noticeable than on big bonsai.

More wounds and scars to heal on the back.

          I didn't really plan ahead until the morning of the PSBA event as to which trees I should bring. I ultimately chose my ficus because it is such a beginner-friendly species, that it would be good to show off what can be done with it. Well, that, and the fact that any beginner can stick ficus cuttings in water or dirt and grow a whole new tree from my trimmings. I wouldn't want them to go to waste!
Front "before" pic. I got a bit too eager and made a big chop before documenting it, which is why I am lucky to have taken the other photo set earlier in October.
          Front "after pic. I like the progress! I trimmed back some long branches, rewired a few, and I think the wire scars were already looking a bit better. Now I wait to repeat the process. There are a few branches I am hoping to see some back budding on - especially that front left branch which is a bit too thick and taperless for our shohin design. Next year I will look for a glazed pot to bring it to the next level.

A unique perspective... another #TeaserTuesday promise met. Follow my Instagram for more!

P.S. All returning PSBA members for 2020 get a $10 discount if you do so before the end of the year!
Follow this link to get the discount and enjoy the perks of our membership with our local Seattle bonsai community.
Anyone who wishes to join as a new member for 2020 should follow this link. New members get a free workshop and tree as part of their first-year membership!
Feel free to ask me any questions you have about the Seattle bonsai community. PSBA is always looking for ways we can improve our club and make bonsai more accessible.

P.S.S December 20th Update:
I forgot I brought this carved elephant back from when I visited Thailand last year, with the intent to display it next to my ficus. I'm still working on three-point display ideas!

I match these together because of the tropical origins of the ficus.

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