The following progression article was a Non-Professional – Raw Stock entry in the “2007 Knowledge of Bonsai Progressive Styling Contest” and was entered by David Fairbanks of the United Kingdom. This entry received a score of 15 out of a possible 30 points from the judges.
This entry took first place in the Non-Professional – Raw Stock category.
We feel that by featuring these progressions, which contain the thoughts behind the decisions made as well as a photo-journal of the various stages of design, a better understanding of not only the “how” but also the “why” of bonsai design can be shared.
Thank you David for deciding to enter the contest and for providing us with an article that will be read and learned from by many over the years to come.
The following article has been modified for clarity.
David Fairbanks – United Kingdom
Category: Non-Professional – Raw Stock
Meyer Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Meyerii’)
Starting height: 38 inches (96 cm)
Pot source: Nursery Container
This is my entry attached showing the stock from 3 sides. Before Image 2 is what i currently envisage to be its front, but i expect that will change during the styling process, as it always does
I have chosen this tree because i have wanted to work on a larger piece of juniper material for some time, and this contest gave me the perfect chance to persuade my other half to allow me to spend this kind of money on a piece of stock. It lends itself naturally to an informal upright, and i also hope to be able to use this to try my hand at deadwood creation.
This tree needed shortening. This was something i decided quickly as the ratio of trunk width to height was not good. i removed all the branches and bark on the top 3rd of the tree. After removing the branches that were clearly not involved with the future of this tree i was surprised with what i found.
I initially intended to go for an informal upright with this, as i stated on my pre photos. However due to the shape of the trunk i decided that a slanting style was the best way to go.
The reasons behind this was that the top section of what was to be the trunk was very straight. I felt that this fault would be better solved by distracting the eye from the trunk line by switching to the slanting style, and by using the veins of the wood i would be able to develop 2 live veins for the trunk.
The tree was given a very light repotting at this stage. No roots were pruned and the rootball remained intact in its existing soil. This means that i have corrected the angle of the trunk by placing the minimal stress on the tree as possible. I am much happier with this angle. i think that the branches in these positions will combine with the deadwood between the live veins in the straight section of the trunk will add movement and distract the eye from noticing the straightness.
This tree had not been peeled in a long time, so i set about peeling the old bark back to reveal the red new bark, this revealed the underlying grain.
Further branches were removed as the final image was worked, taking into account where the grain of the wood was taking it. The live veins were plotted out, and i could get a clear image of where the branches needed to be positioned.
Very basic jinning was placed on removed branches. Stubs were left in order to ensure i had the best possibility’s of any guy wires having an anchor in the best possible positions. New growth was pinched back to promote back budding as much as possible to develop foliage pads.
The live veins were placed on the tree, the old trunk at the top is removed, and worked into a basic jinn. i am pleased with the trunk now, as i feel the deadwood on the top 3rd of the trunk really distracts the eye from its straitness.
This picture was taken about 4 weeks after the live viens were placed, but from heavy feeding, and the wettest summer on record in the uk, they had already sealed up there edges and were now supporting all the remaining branches on the tree.
This was the stage that i was dumbfounded by something i had never come across in bonsai before. I have never took part in any contest before, nor exhibited any of my trees to anyone outside of my friends and family.
It was at this point that i was left with 2 paths. Do i style the tree how it was going, and create an attractive, yet dull slanting style. Or do i take the tree in the direction i think it should be. The first option would make a tree that would be quite convincing when it came time for the final images for this contest. The second would not. The better tree lay in the second path.
The second path however cannot be achieved within the time scales of this contest. It wont be any where near the final image, in fact it wouldn’t even be attractive. I wanted to hollow out the dead areas of the trunk. Leaving just the 2 live veins supporting the canopy.
I had imagined an artists old brush. You know the sort, the ones where a clump of bristles stick out at the side, no longer part of the point of the rest of the brush. Id imagined a trunk painted with such a brush, leaving a feint outline. More of a suggestion of a trunk that an actual trunk.
I also wondered if this was something common within bonsai. How many people have given demonstrations and styled a tree that looked good in 4 hours, and not what would look best in the long run. I wondered how many beautifully trees had never been.
I decided that i should follow what the tree was saying to me and go with the longer path. I felt that this would be something i would regret, although i hope it isn’t.
The tree has been repotted into a brown, none glazed Tokaname drum pot. This is not the intended finished pot for this tree, but the container it was in was very deep and i wanted to stop the tree from filling it with its roots.
This certainly is in the style of the final pot, as i feel this does work well for this tree.
As you can also see the hollowing of the trunk has begun. i do now regret doing this before taking my final pics, as i feel it looks peculiar at the moment, and it is very difficult to visualize the tree with the rest of the heart wood removed. I still beleive that the image from this route will be far better than if i haven’t. I suppose i felt i should try my best to show what my true vision for this piece of stock was, as appose to how i could make the stock look like a bonsai.
The branches are aslo wired into position accordingly. I am very please with th over all shape of the canopy. Its triangle shape adds balance to the slanting of the trunk. I am not happy with the branches themselves however, as they are think, straight and quite boring at the moment. This will be something that can be easily corrected in the future, so i am not to concerned with them currently.
I am still working the trunk, and all bonsais should start with a good trunk, with this in mind, along with the great amount of work i intended to do to this tree before the final photos, i saw little point in putting further stress on the tree medaling with the branches.
The remaining heartwood will be removed over time, as much has been removed t the bottom section as is allowed at the moment. The weight of the top will help the remaining veins to thicken and this in turn will allow me to remove more heartwood.