When I first hear the word Bonsai what comes to my mind is the shape of a stylized pine tree consisting of nicely cloud shaped foliage pads and a nicely curved trunk. I had the desired to own a Bonsai with this characteristics but I also wanted to enjoy the path styling it myself.

I searched in various German Bonsai centers until I found a tree that was close to what I had in mind by Bonsaipark Remscheid. A medium size five needle Zuisho pine, a species characterized for its very short needles. I took the risk to order the tree online without seeing it live. It was imported in March 2014 from Japan where it had been cultivated as a seedling. According to the seller, the tree has an estimated age between 18 to 20 years.

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Tree as received, April 2015
What I liked from the tree was the nice feminine curving of the trunk, its nice looking bark, the positioning of the branches and the good health of the foliage. A nice extra feature was the small natural shari on one of the bends of the trunk.

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Unfortunately after inspecting the tree I could notice that the nebari (root base) was almost non existent. The training pot where it was planted broke in pieces during the transport, which was not too bad because I had the opportunity to check the condition of the roots and soil.

The tree hadn´t been repotted for about five years. There were lots of overgrown roots  and a very tight, almost cement type soil. I had to make an emergency repotting by cutting the long cycling roots and cleaning the surface of the soil. Due to the fact that I didn´t have a suiting pot at that time, I left the rootball intact with the plan to make a full repotting in the spring of 2016.

In the summer of 2015 took place the Workshop with Walter Pall at Minoru Bonsai in Heidelberg, Germany. I brought this tree with me so it could be critiqued by Walter and I could get some suggestion on its styling. Walter made three proposals a) make a Literati style by accentuating the trunk line and cutting the lower branches b) using this literati tree in the future to make a forest group with other pine trees c) make a naturalistic style tree leaving most of the branches on an opening the foliadge pads.

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Me working on the tree at Minoru Bonsai. Photo: Walter Pall

Me as beginner and with the image of the tree that I had since the beginning opted for none of the suggestions from Walter but for the classical Japanese style with the branching layer and the conic form apex. I chosed the front and got into the pre-work.

 

Pre-Work

I cut a very large and full lower branch to minimize the weight on the lower right side. Some upper branches were also cut. A couple of stumps were turned into jins. I cupper-wired all branches til the tips and began with the pre-styling of the tree.

The tree was then fertilized and left alone until Autumn when I plucked the old brown needles. Since I´ve red, that the five needle pines are not as easy to handle as the two needle pines, I didn´t plucked all of the previous year needle growth, which can be seen in the pictures. I preferred to leave dense foliage pads at that time, instead of having nice looking ones but compromising the health of the tree.

 

Styling

I wasn´t very happy with the first styling from Autumn 2015. The first right branch looked too heavy although I already removed one big branch at the same height. The second right branch looked also too heavy and the crown looked like a sphere.

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Prior to repotting the tree this year in its current pot, I worked on the styling by trying to give some layers on the heavy foliage pads. I brought the  left side branches and the crown branches downwards, although the crown looks somehow better with the more conical shape, I will let the lower right crown branches gain some length by not decandeling that area. I will also add some layers on the crown in the future.

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The Pot

I considered two options for the pot, rectangular and oval one. Since this tree has feminine features I decided to commission an oval pot to Walsall Studio Ceramics in Englad with curved walls to resemble the main trunk line of the tree. I picked up the pot at Noelanders in Belgium this year.

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Repotting

As I previously wrote, I repotted the tree in the spring of 2015  as an emergeny measure by just cutting the overgrown roots and letting the rest of the roots and soil intact.

Since the soil that I left last year was too compact and the water was not properly draining I repotted the tree at the beginning of April this year. I raked all the old soil off without cutting the roots any further and repotted the tree with new soil 1/3 akadama, 1/3 pumice and 1/3 lava in its new Walsall Ceramics pot.

I really lilke the shape and color of the pot but to my taste, the height is a little bit on the large side, something to consider on the future. For now, I think the roots will develop nicely in this pot.

Now to leave the tree recover and to enjoy some of the sun that is due to come.

Development Sequence

I am still not 100% satisfied with the latest styling result, but so far I think there has been a good developement.

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