Entry: Thuja occidentalis – Eastern White Cedar – USA
Eastern White Cedar are a native tree to Upstate New York. They can grow to 60′ or more and are some of the oldest trees on the East coast.
They have number of desirable qualities for Bonsai. They can be found dwarfed and with interesting shapes and the deadwood on old trees is excellent and long lasting.
The bark is shaggy or smooth and redish brown as it is shed. The roots are often quite fiberous and compact.
I collected this tree from a rock pocket in Northern New York in October 2010. I perfer Chuhin and shohin size trees and it is more difficult to find this size with age and character. This tree has an interesting trunk with natural jins and shari. I chose this tree because it offers a number of different design options. I think if I am successful, the transformation should be dramatic and focus on the wonderful work done by nature. I have a deep fondness for the “Tree of Life” and hope to bring out the best in this one.
One Quarter Progression
The focus of the initial work is light pruning and cleaning while assessing the tree.
The determining best front and the best planting angle were part of this process.
I had made an assumption on the best approximate front and a potential planting angle when the freshly collected tree was placed in the temporary container. That was to change from one side to the opposite side for the best front and also from a cascade to a more informal upright stature.
Half Way Progression
The focus of this stage was exposing existing dead wood that was still covered in old bark and well as rough wiring and more pruning. A dremel with wire brushes and other bits as well as small blades were used on the dead shari and jins to clean and shape. Some new jins also were created and some were wired to shape.
The live bark was also brushed and the shaggy top layer removed. The root ball was wrapped with a plastic bag to allow for repositioning while styling and the tree positioned but not wired in the temporary pot. Branches are left longer and bushier to provide options in the design process. The upper live trunk was wired to echo the rising jin.
Three Quarter Progression
The focus of this stage was pruning and more wiring while refining the design.
The tree was left purposely full to allow maximum choice as the design reveals it self.
At least half the existing foliage was removed during this stage. Jins are also left long and will be reduced as needed and refined in the last phase. The original front is now the back but still looks good and it appears the tree may have 2 ways to display. Study of these photos has given me 10 new things to address for the final progression.
Additional refinement to jins as well as foliage have created an interesting tree from what was a shrubby, awkward raw tree. My stated goal was to create a dramatic transformation while bringing out the best features of this tree.
The overall foliage mass was reduced by close to 75%, but was needed. The tree was very healthy and it was done over the course of about 5 months. The roots were barely touched and I believe this helped it responded well. In fact the choice of containers was driven by finding a potting solution that would be attractive and at the same time not require much root work.
The technique of using Deadwood as a container was illustrated by Masahiko Kimura in International Bonsai Magazine in 1999 #2. I was impressed with the idea and decided to see if I could create an interesting solution to my issue. Fortunately I had a treated piece that I studied and tried different approaches with. Like a puzzle piece, the tree found its fit. A pocket was formed and attached with window screen. Moss was added to the surface and held with muck and wire pins.
An accent planted on a piece of old bark added color and interest.
This is as far as I felt I could safely go with this tree. I am pleased with the current composition for now and will allow the tree to fill out while continuing to keep the foliage compact. The image of the tree will look better and better as it matures in training and relaxes in the new form. The deadwood container is interesting and solved a problem but a smaller container should focus more attention on the tree in the future.
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Final Outcome: 5
Very challenging material, crown way too voluminous for a thin looking trunk.
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Final Outcome: 8
Needs better carving, looks artificial.
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Final Outcome: 8