The Art of the Rescue

Often when we dream of working on bonsai we see ourselves surrounded by master class trees hundreds of years old, wiring and refining branches, enhancing deadwood, or returning to shaping of the foliage. However, much of the work we do for clients is rescue work. Let me paint this story for you: Client has inherited some trees and loves the art of bonsai. Her husband gives her a tree purchase from some show long ago and of course she has an attachment to it. The client may not know much about caring for the trees but loves them.

This was the sun side of the tree. All of the foliage was going one way and is so dense that the sun never made it back inside the branches so that the foliage is only on the very ends of each branch.

So here goes the rescue work. After years of watering and some minimal feeding, the trees live. They are not rotated and grown one sided as they sit in the shade under the eve of a house. I get the call to come help save the tree which I gladly do for the love the art. I have some clients who have great collections so you never know what you will find.

This is the story of a juniper species that was root-bound, not wired in the pot so that when the tree is moved it just falls over and is placed back up-right. Where to start?  Look at the tree and imagine what it looked like when it was young. Prepare the pot and tie-downs. Prepare the soil, then, starting working the root ball to free those roots, teasing them carefully. Place the tree with the best front, tie it in well, and begin shaping.

 

 

Tree has been tied-down and branch wiring begins.

That is not normally how it is done. I usually shape and wire before transplanting but when the tree is falling out of the container you have to change it up some.  Then wire, thin and style to get it on its way; keep imagining what the trees would be like in the future and start setting branches. In this case,

 

 

I am opening the tree up to encourage back-budding so I hope to cut off all this existing foliage in the future, decreasing the size by more than half and restoring this to shohin style. That will take some work but the rescue mission and achieve the ultimate goal with care.

The final form for now opens up all the branches to allow sun and hopefully back-budding so the tree can be reduced.

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