This tale starts 10 years ago. I was doing a bonsai demo at a local county park office and when I was all done one viewer stayed to talk a while. It was his first viewing of anything bonsai related other than “Karate Kid”. It seems he was a retired lawyer who had decided to rebuild his late father-in-laws wholesale nursery up near lake Erie. It had set empty since his FIL had died about ten yrs earlier. He was making great gains in refurbishing it and planting up some exotic conifers, etc. He told me there was a lot of old stock there he couldn’t use and didn’t want and I was welcome to come up and dig for free.
I took him up on it and removed several old eastern white cedars, an old huge ginkgo and this Kurume azalea. His wife said it was about 75 years old and was planted near the house and chopped back several times. Before I got to it there was recently some chopping.
I decided to dig it and it actually came out fairly easy, A beautiful root base and flare with a strange horizontal trunk coming off which had been chopped back long ago, ditto with the tall main top trunk.
I took it home , washed out the roots and cut it back to a starting position and potted it up. I INTENDED to start work on it the next spring.
NOW, JUMP AHEAD TEN YEARS!
OK, ….so….I procrastinated. It sat in my garden growing, sprouting, blooming, etc. for ten years. It blooms fantastic with HUNDREDS of small pink flowers. Here are a couple shots of it blooming two years ago.
I finally decided to jump into it this spring and my friend Matt came over to help.
First we had to do a serious preliminary cut back.
My Jack Russell Terrier ‘Monte’ is modeling it for scale. Also boards on table are 5 1/2″ wide.
After we got it selectively cut back enough to work on we removed it from the mica pot it had been in for TEN YEARS!! . I wish I’d taken a picture of the pile of cuttings/branches! We raked it out, trimmed some roots, hosed the root ball with full force, cleaned around the rootbase and squeezed it into a Chinese ceramic oval that was about 5 1/2″ deep inside.
Next I spent a couple hours carving the dead trunks and stubs that ran horizontal and vertical. While carving out the dead I built taper into these large sections. I decided to keep the horiz. trunk as it added quite a bit to the size and would allow me to create a nice low crown and, mainly, because it was an intrigueing trunk that I did not recall seeing elsewhere in books. It had some interesting large roots at it’s end that really clasp the trunk down. Also, had I removed it I would have been left with a HUGE scar that, in Ohio, would NEVER heal over and, in fact, might kill off that side of the tree!
When I was done carving I smoothed my woodworking out nice with sanding flap wheels.
Now it was time to do the first and preliminary wiring of this new bonsai in training. I did the wiring about a week later after I was sure nothing was going to die off right away after the carving and repot. It took most of an afternoon. I found I could get a nice rounded shape and crown with all the branches I had. A few were simply too heavy to bend without killing so I used pull-down wires to get them into the ballpark and then wired the smaller branching. Next year I can really improve this after I get a lot of buds breaking back ( which is going great right now) . I’m pinching off suckers I don’t want and letting new twigging fill-in where I want it.
BTW, I did not lose even one twig to death after all this work!!
Now that the tree was cut back and many branches removed, the carving done and wiring done I could now actually get my hands into the tree for my next step. I used my old trick of mixing acrylic latex paints, with a tiny bit of lime sulfur, to comouflage the carving as best I can with the colors of the trunk. I do not want this much carving to stand out. It will never heal over and will eventually rot away if not treated somehow. I don’t WANT it to be part of the ‘design’ in this tree as with conifers, etc. I don’t want to see it! The color matching helps hide this very well. I took a picture of the colors I used for blending. After the first go-around dries you can touch up the colors a bit.
I hope you enjoyed this tale of a ‘starter’ bonsai. The pot is about 21″ across, and, as you can see, the tree is wider than the picnic table!
I wonder what this ‘stump’ would have sold for at Kokufu Ten green club?
I love it, but would not the aged bark not help with the finished look?
Although I have seen your work with the lime sulfur up close and can attest that you blend them beautifully, I feel that you might be selling this old surviver short by making the bark look younger but that is just my opinion and up front in person may be what I need to see what you see (You can ship it to me Grin).
What tools did you use for the carving?
Possibly you misunderstood the camp part. I did not paint any bark on the tree, ONLY the carved areas. If you look again at the pics you’ll see how noticeable the carved/smoothed areas are. I use the paints to BLEND that color into the bark colors as closely as I can. Once the tree ‘dirties-up’ a bit they really blend in. The alternatives are to just let the large carved areas alone to rot ( and always show up like had been doing for years now) or lime sulfur which really makes them stand out which I don’t want. If BT ever comes back up look up my old thread about serious carving on a huge bougie and notice how the carved areas just disappear. BTW, I had never seen anyone do this technique before I started using it.
For carving I used a Makita die grinder, my Samurai and Ninja Master, two sizes of core box router bits, and about 6 different shapes of burrs. Then I used some sanding flap wheels to smooth it a bit. I usually don’t use them because the burrs leave a pretty nice finish. I wanted to smooth out this large piece bettr though and shape it better.
BTW, I mentioned I used a tad of lime sulfur in my acrylic paint mix. I do this not for any protection effect but I found it knocks off any possible sheen off the paint finish and also gives it a ‘smokey’ finish.
Maybe to help illustrate the paint camo blending better I’m enclosing two pics of my BIG bougie in which I did this after major carving and restyle. The carved areas are hardly noticeable and not much time has gone by since they were done.
Ok here are a few quick ‘one-year later’ pics I took today after removing a BUNCH of suckers, trimming and cleaning up a bit. I left several suckers that I am training to fill out some of the more bare areas around lower branches near the trunk and up into the canopy. I had lots to chose from. It’s filled out quite a bit and I expect it to bloom beautiful again next spring. This spring it was at about 25% of previous years since it was so sparse.
The camo’d carving is toned down and blending in nice.
As stated previously with dates figured out this old collected Kurume is around 86 years old now.
It is all I can do to move this tree by myself, it is quite heavy. For size comparison the boards on the picnic table are 6″ and boards on fence behind are 4″.