Entry: Buttonwood – Conocarpus erectus – Mexico
Judge #1: Good treatment of good material, this will be a good bonsai, pot too bright color.
Judge #2: Excellent documentation and explaining on your objectives and how you did it.
Bottonwoods are one of the few broadleaf species that enjoy the acceptance of freedom of movement in the bonsai world. They like junipers tend to twist and move in strange manners quite different from trees that grow in plane fields. Bottonwoods that live in the rocks near the cost adopt this strange forms and the broken wood gets to be carved by nature and preserve by the salt water, providing a white color also much like that of junipers that live near the cost. The large leaves can be reduce in time and the trees are usually quite strong in the tropics, where they can withstand heavy pruning of the roots and branches. They tend to bud back quite easily in older wood as they commun name stands. I chose this individual due to its strange twist of the trunk coming back on it self, and also due to the ease to handle. One tree I can easily carry. I think it will make a nice semicascading tree due to the weakness of the nebari, and therefore the focal point will have to overshow the trunk line as a main feature.
For the first part of the progression series I like to submit a drawing of the design in my mind. I think it is a very important part to define what the likely possibilities are and see them before we start cutting things. This may be the second most important part of the series as it defines the artistic design and what are the things that need to be done. To me the most important part is the health of the tree as a pretty design on a dead tree would make this Ikebana and not bonsai. Having said this, the drawing of the bottonwood shows where I want to go a smaller pot of the same type and the tree semi cascading down in order to increase the positive space lower down thereby increasing the view of the weaker nebari. The twisted dead wood is shown with a little deeper structure and showing lots of dynamics and movement. I will comment more later on about the reasoning of this angle.
Half Way Progression
I am not a fan of cutting all branches on a tree, however in bottonwood this technique is good if one needs to obtain ramification closer to the trunk. The next part of the process was to select what branches would be needed to continue, so I left a few cm of the older branch to maintain some buds while completely removing those unwanted branches. The trunk was cleaned with high pressure water, however at this point I will not add any preservative to the wood as it is still needs a bit more character and it is also quite heavy, I could use a die grinder a bit but I think nature will do a better job at this point. The tree will have to be reposition to a semi cascade form, primarily due to the heavy positive space that the bend trunk has in comparison to the weaker nebari. If the nebari would have a stronger positive space then the tree could be done in an informal upright but for this tree I think a semicascade would be ideal since the new foliage would increase the mass close to the nebari and therefore giving a more harmonious feeling. Also it highlights the bend of the tree which is its main characteristic that makes this tree unique. As can be seen after a few months new leaves and branches develop, it is still a long way before branch structure can be set and leaf reduction can be carried out. At this point the best thing is just to control the growth to induce new branches to be able to work on at a later time. The tree starts to gain some of the energy that it lost by loosing those old branches, However even if bottonwood is a strong species it will set you back several months to do some wiring and bending at this point. If you want to go faster the best way is just to feed your tree put it into a warm sunny place with lots of water and do nothing. Sometimes one does more by doing nothing than by doing lots of work that will just slow you down. I would like the tree to be having a more or less the look in my drawing by the end of the year so I rather wait until the tree tells me its time to do more work, I think in a few months will be fine to do some actual bending and later on repot if the tree seems “happy” enough for that. Now the key words here that are not very well explained are “it the tree tells me it is time” and “happy”. These terms I use with the following rational: The first one, one has to look as how the tree is growing, how thick and healthy are the leaves, how strong are they, and how fast is it growing. Does it have a large amount of mature leaves that have already a good color and tone for the species? This information is what the tree is telling us that it has obtained enough energy to allow some work to be done. The term “Happy” is complicated involves the leaves the growth the buds and exactly how the tree is looking, it takes time to show this, at this point on the last picture the tree is not completely “happy” it is basically telling you not to do any work at this time. Easily seen by the shape of the leaves and their color and more their time of growth, so I will wait.
Three Quarter Progression
After a few months the tree is just beginning to be ready for the actual bending. However I will not do this, I will let the tree pass this time a allow it to grow a bit more. This will thicken some of the braches a bit more and prior to repotting I will again cut back just a little bit less than what it is today. This will make the tree easier to adjust to the new pot and will make better taper to the branches. To increase the speed of growth the tree has been placed in the grown (with pot and all) to make the conditions more stable (humidity and temperature) This obviously makes the tree grow faster. On the final part the tree will be repotted and cut back and thee wood bleach a bit (since bottonwoods leave next to the sea and their dead wood absorbers the salts those becoming white, similar to that of some junipers)
Conocarpus erectus or as better known botonwood its a very easy going species that can withstand heavy proning, the main attraction of this species is the irregular growth patterns it can have when growing in the rocks in the cost line. This particular tree was chosen for that reason as it has all the elements of twisted motion and fight with the environment, reflected on the dead wood. The dead wood was limesulfured to show the differences between life and dead wood. Also the light color is very similar to that found in nature where salt from the sea side its absorbed by the wood giving the same coloration. The tree was repotted into a similar simple round container that does not distract the viewer from the tree. I thought of using a rock to highlight the motion of the tree, but the truth is that imagination its better. By wanting to see the tree on a rock next to the see we can leave that to each viewer as everyone may have a different view, I think the important part is the felling associated with this. With regard to techniques used, mostly pruning, wiring, bending, hand pealing, hand carving, high pressure washing etc were used but I did not wanted to show every bend as the few hours of this is much less as compare to the time for growing and branch selecting and regrowing in order to improve ramification and branch taper. I think this tree needs to define better the lower pad, a little bit longer would be more impressive and also make the negative space at the base much better. The upper part needs to be prune constantly for some time to get a better ramification and homogeneous leaf size. All in all is a nice small tree that I think it has some future as a bonsai.
[tab title=”Judge #1″]
Final Outcome: 7
Good treatment of good material, this will be a good bonsai, pot too bright color.
[tab title=”Judge #2″]
Final Outcome: 8
Excellent documentation and explaining on your objectives and how you did it.
[tab title=”Judge #3″]
Final Outcome: 8