Judge #3: Interesting design and use of starting material.
Chinese Snow Flower (Deutzia scabra)
120 cm (47.2")
I dug this shrub from my old farm in January this year and planted it in the ground. It has a completely hollowed trunk. Almost like a vase open at the top, and open at the front too. It will be a challenging material to style, but I feel very interesting if executed properly.
I have not being able to see inside the dense foliage which developed in no time, as to make plans for the future yet. I dont want to clip it at the moment since winter is coming and I want the plant to strengthen, before I commence trimming in summer.
I would like to develop leaders and primary branches while the plant is in the ground since that will be much faster, then dig it out and proceed with secondary branch development and ramification.
Within the past few month the branches have grown very well, but they are very straight . So I might need to chose one as a leader sooner and trim a bit the other branches, depending on the way I want to style it.
One Quarter Progression
I have decided to Check on the plant and see how it is growing. There were lots of branches that were not needed for the future design but were shading smaller branches that needed to grow better and I decided to chop the plant..
Another reason for deciding on chopping it is that there are places where I need branches, and the foliage mass was so thick that it was unlikely that they were going to bud. Opening it and exposing the areas to sun should increase the possibility of back budding.
Since The first portion of the main trunks is almost fully developed, All I need to do now is decide on the style and develop the second section of the three trunks I plan to keep, and part of the primary branches. The rest will need to be done under more controlled environment in order to be able to achieve better tapper and ramification.
The plant is very fast growing, but at the expense of large internodes.
I shall have to be reducing any leaders /branches at the moment to probably one maximum 2 internodes.
Also the branches at this thickness are totally unbendable and separate from the trunk at the smallest attempt to move them. Very young branches are almost succulent like and brittle. There is one stage when they are slightly lignified , which is the best for bending. So they will need to be bent when slightly lignified and clip and grow employed, in combination with wiring.
The branches were cut somewhat higher than needed , in case of possible die back . Ones they back bud and the new branches are established, they will be reduced to the correct size.
I have removed very few of the branches that are not needed. Left many of them so I have better options when styling. A branch can be removed at any time, but to re grow it needs time. So as long as they were not bar branches which can create reverse tapper, I have removed very few.
At the same time areas where the branches are cut need to heal, and for that reason ones I have decided what the final design will be exactly, they will need to go .
I would probably need to use electrical tools for some of the branches and in that area electricity is absent.
Attention needs to be paid to the rotting wood. I shall clean it today and apply wood hardeners and waterproof it.
I have the possibility of going with 3 or 5 trunk style. The trunk is the main feature on this tree, and going with 5 trunks will detract from the focal point which is the uro at the base of the tree. For this reason 3 of the trunks will need to be removed so that only 3 remain.
The branches will be styled in somewhat upward direction, and the style will be slightly windswept, multi trunk.
As the thickness of the trunks need to proportionate to the height , I made the right trunk the tallest, and the middle one slightly lower. If the development progresses well I shall evaluate the appearance and might make the middle trunk highest.
So possibility for change are still there.
I am a total newbie and the only one in Zambia keeping bonsai at the moment. But there are lots of people interested and we are in the process of forming a club.
This competition is on the job learning for me, since I have been reading 14 hrs a day about bonsai, but have no practical experience.
The tree was dug out from the ground , bare rooted and the branches reduced, at the end of winter August) . All bottom growing roots were removed, and larger roots growing horizontally shortened to less than 5 cm. All roots were arranged laterally and shortened. The tree had lots of fine roots.
While it was growing in the ground, frequent shallow watering was performed in order to encourage surface root development. It was fertilized every two weeks.
Unfortunately I did not have the correct size pot for the tree, and had to use much larger pot made from cement by me.. For this reason I filled the pot with stones, put a perforated plastic over that and planted the tree on top of the plastic in a home made mix: Zakadama 😀 ( crushed village made bricks) large particle sand, laterite and a tiny amount of compost.. 90% inorganic mix.
After planting the tree the tree was trimmed again.
Initially it lost all its leaves, and gave me a scare, but with careful watering (avoiding over watering) while keeping the tree in the shade, the tree has recovered well.
After I dug out the tree. I realized that there was a large portion of the trunk under ground, which negated the initial option of multitrunk tree.
As a result the design of the tree has changed, to more broomish style, and I have decided to keep all 5 trunks for that reason.
Three Quarter Progression
After the tree has recovered from the transplant, it back budded very well..
The first step was to allow all branches to grow, to help the tree recover from the transplant and rebuild its root system.
All the leaders were left to grow free while some of the branches shading the lower shoots were removed.
After 5 month, the top section (right most sacrificial branch to thicken the lower portion was removed since the diameter was already in proportion to the lower portion of the branch and I needed some extra back budding in the lower section.
After the branches reached 6-8 pares of leaves they were reduced to 1 internode. This tree has 10 cm internodes. After I have done the same 3-4 times, all secondary branches will be wired and allowed to grow free in order to thicken them. While cutting back clip and grow was employed to add movement to the branches. Ones they have thickened , they will be cut back to the shortest internode, and regrown for Taper and movement. At that point tertiary branch development will commence.
This technique has allowed me to reduce the internodes to 1cm and less.
After the tree showed very strong growth, I carved most of the points were the branches were cut, and I did not need any additional budding, in order to commence healing. Some branches were left above the cut points to assists with healing of the wounds.
Also some carving was done on the uro section and polished.
The bridge above the Uro was left with 2 branches to grow in order to strengthen it.
The tree has recovered well from the transplant. Very strong growth and fertilizing every two weeks, added to the already long internodes of this shrub. Full sun exposure helped little to reduce the internodes.
During this period, my main concern was to promote strong root growth, by promoting strong top growth. Bone meal was added to the home made fertilizer cakes, supplemented with sea weed extract, and organic fertilizer.
The tree was planted over 1-2 cm of media mix, and all roots spread horizontally and radial direction, in order to prevent roots growing downwards. I needed roots to develop strongly so I covered the root ball with another 7cm soil over the nebari.
I had an option to leave more soil under or over the root spread, but I decided on the later, since surface roots are much easier reduced than vertically growing roots.
I tried to uncover the nebari for the purpose of the competition, but there were so many fine roots that I felt the health of the tree will be affected, since our winter is starting next month. Eventually surface roots that are not needed will be removed gradually after and during the repot.
The trunk flairs into a beautiful nebari, that just needs to have its roots thickened.
The trunk has lots of character, and movement, with some taper, that can not be seen since the nebari is covered with soil, but can be seen on the bare rooted tree’s previous pictures.
The textured bark and the uro already give the appearance of an old tree. For this reason the branches will have to follow the same direction, with lots of movement and taper.
The trunk is a sumo trunk, and the branches will need to be in proportion to it. lower portions/sections of the primary branches are thickened enough with exception of the front left main branch.
What is remaining now is to continue developing the second section of the primary branches and thicken them sufficiently, while creating movement at the same time.
Since this tree has very long internodes, I have been developing the branches like an acer. Grow 6-8 leaf pares and reduce to one internode, while leaving selected branches as sacrifice branches to thicken various sections of the tree.
Ones I have 2-3 short internodes, I will leave the branches to grow free for the tree to recover its strength, and at the same time thicken those sections. The process will be repeated until, desired length and taper is created in the primary branches.
Lots of unneeded branches were left to help with the thickening of the primary branches. This tree has the habit of producing 3 buds and more, from each internode. If left they can create bulges at the internode points. For this reason all third branches coming from a node were removed, while leaving some of the second branches as sacrifice or keeper branches.
At this point I have managed to create only 1-2 internodes that are short, and to which all branches were cut. I left long stubs at the end of the branches since the tree had some die back of small branches, during the first trim.
Our winter is starting next month. Ideally I would not have even shortened the branches now, but left them to grow, but that was going to make me present to the judges just a overgrown bush on which nothing is seen. Considering the fact that we dont really get frost in Africa, I decided to trim it but did not want to defoliate it at this point, since the tree is not strong enough for that yet.
The future of the tree is to develop well tapered branches with lots of movement, with a crown in the broom style with drooping branches on the side, to be in sync with the image of an old tree, with branches drooping from their weight. Close view will be portrayed by adding lots of detail to the execution of the design.
The Uro and the hole on the side of it, will be used as focal point, of the design. The bridge over the Uro needs to be strengthened and somewhat thickened and for that reason I left two shoots emerging from the center of it to grow, which will be removed ones this task is accomplished.
At the same time regular sealing will be done to preserve the dead wood.
Some minor carving still needs to be done on some branch chop points , but that will be done ones the branches emerging from those points have lignified.
The tree has flowers that emerge on the ends of branches on new growth, in somewhat spiky fashion. The broom style will best to allow for the flowers to be viewed, covering the crown at the tip of the tertiary branches,
Techniques used were basic clip and grow, carving, wood cleaning, sealing and waterproofing, combined with some tinting of the cavity, so the bleaching from the lime sulfur used as preserver, is not so white.
I am not sure if I did not make a mistake to trim the tree, or I should have wired the branches and left them so that they are cut after the competition, so it temporarily looks better. But it needed to be done so it will be what is meant to be.