Judge #1: Great start! Lowest branch is perhaps unnecessary (too low)
Judge #3: Suggest removal or shortening of top-jin. Original front could be improved by removing all the branches on the lower left of original front. Taller feeling.
Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
60 cm (24") / 60 cm (24")
This tree was collected on the northern California coast in old timber country. The wide trunk and the aged interesting decaying deadwood are testaments to the quality of such material. Coast Redwood bud back frequently with minimal effort. The challenge to this material is that it requires a soft touch. Delicate wiring techniques, and patience are a must. Branches take time to set (lignify) and the delicate fern-like foliage is easily damaged, which can die-back if not handled properly during styling. The next challenge is after care. One of the main reasons coast redwood bud back so easily is due to adaption to a humid, cool, mild environment. Evolutionarily it has been more favorable for the redwood to start a new branch than preserve one that has been damaged. This is also a favorable trait for wildfire survival This obviously poses a problem when developing mature branching. Despite these challenges, this tree has lots of character, is good size, is healthy. This Coast Redwood will make a great medium sized tree, most likely in the informal upright style.
One Quarter Progression
Some of the best features of this tree are the aged, interesting deadwood, and the void that exists in the middle of the deadwood. Many sides were considered for the ‘front’ of the bonsai. However, only a view/angle that provided an intermediate view of the widest and the narrowest trunk views seem to be aesthetically pleasing. As one can see from the first photos, this tree, if not positioned/styled from the correct view/angle will be very wide, flat, and two-dimensional or narrow and uninteresting, with very little to no trunk taper. The front I have chosen for this tree views the trunk at an angle between the the widest and narrowest sides. Additionally, this front displays better trunk taper, and allows you to view the void/open space between the deadwood at an angle that helps to soften the harshness of the void while still adding interest. Although there is some interesting deadwood that is now located at the back of the tree, the tree’s movement forward toward the viewer seemed to be more important for the overall final design.
After the front was decided, the first thing that needed to be addressed before any branches could be manipulated was the fragile decaying deadwood. The deadwood was delicately brushed clear and any loose debris was blow out of the deadwood. Although lime sulfur is the standard bonsai treatment of deadwood, I did not feel that white deadwood would represent the natural look of deadwood in natural redwood forests. A wood hardener/preserver was applied to the deadwood instead of lime sulfur, to preserve it’s shape, texture, and color.
Next, the branches need to be styled. The first few main branches would wired to set the structure and then fine wired all the way out to the tips of the foliage. Now the tree begins to take shape!
Once the best front was established and the first initial branches set with wire, additional branches were structurally wired. The branches were wired with fine wire all the way out to the tips and the foliage pads were layered. The tree is now half way wired.
Three Quarter Progression
Three-quarter Progression: Once the main branches were wired and set, the crown and apex was styled. All remaining branches were fine wired and placed to define the overall silhouette and structure of the tree. As you can see, many branches were left on the tree to reduce stress from styling. As the tree progresses and matures, superfluous branches will be removed and the remaining branches will be refined and branch pads will be defined. For now, the tree will rest for a season, awaiting a new pot for the following spring 2014.
After almost one year of growth and good aftercare, wire that was biting into branches were removed. Redwood bonsai have delicate branches and it is not uncommon for branches to die back if handled improperly. Fortunately, not one branch was lost over the course of the year. This meant that superfluous branches that were left on during the initial styling could now be removed. The deadwood was further defined and cleaned. Lime sulfur was lightly applied to some areas to help the viewer distinguish between the living and dead portions of the tree. However, the natural shades of gray, silver, and black were carefully preserved to represent the natural colors and texture of redwood deadwood in nature.
This winter has be mild and we have seen excessive heat waves and record high temperatures. Although a new pot was oiled and ready, the excessive heat was too much of a threat to repot the tree successfully. The tree will be left in it’s training pot unless the weather changes in the near future and gives a good window for repotting.
In the future, this tree will be repotted into it’s final bonsai pot. The pot that is being considered is a round, unglazed Japanese pot. Additionally, more branches will be removed as the tree fills out and matures, to present a more simple yet elegant design. If all goes well, 2-3 more years of refinement will be needed to bring this tree in to a show quality bonsai.