Saturday, October 10, 2009

Taming the "Hinoki" Cypress 201 (Addendum)

In part one we discussed how to tame the infamous Hinoki Cypress. Albeit the article discussed the maintenance aspect of Hinokis as bonsai, it did not explain how to "develop" a Hinoki into a bonsai. Because this article is an addendum to the original, it may seem as repetitious. The intent is not to repeat myself but rather expand on what is available on my blog, condensed here, along with the rationale towards achieving a bonsai.

Growing your Hinoki into a Bonsai
Bonsais are created not styled. Styling a bonsai is the final stage of growing or creating a bonsai from raw material whether it be collected from the wild, acquired from a Bonsai Nursery or, acquired from a standard nursery. Styling a tree into a bonsai could be deemed as doing Topiary, which is defined as: clipping trees and shrubs into ornamental shapes. It is also said and professed that you should attempt to create the smallest tree possible from any "given" stock. The following pictures depict the creation from raw stock acquired from a local nursery.

This Hinoki was my third purchase in May '05, I named it "Lazy" because of its laid back disposition. At the time I thought it was something special. I had kept as much foliage as I could, considering they do not back bud on old wood, and tried to maximize the trees height. The results a tall and lanky tree, nothing else.

Some folks think that naming there trees is rather "lame". I tend to agree with them in part but, disagree in general. I could number them which is clearly visible under the "Hinoki Label". However, when talking to the missus, she hasn't a clue of which is which, but does remember names. This is critical when instructions for their care are given during my absence.

During the winter of 05-06 I toyed with the idea of reducing the trees height, being fully cognizant of the trees growth patterns, that I needed to keep as much foliage as possible. In February of '06 I went to work. The trunk was wrapped in raffia, two 5mm wires acted as spines against the trunk and the trunk was once again wrapped in raffia. The tree was wired and this is the result. Height reduction was possible and the tree looked more credible than its humble beginnings.

This shot was taken the fall of '06. The growing season was good and the fullness of the foliage apparent. Unfortunately the result looked more like a landscape juniper than a credible bonsai.

Although we dread winter as it seems because our trees are dormant we are sitting twiddling our thumbs, this is the time to reflect on the upcoming growing season. The tree was potted up towards the end of March '07. The root structure of this tree favours a slanting style and, I decided not to fight it at this point. A suitable rock I had available was placed on the left. This rock had a depression that fit nicely against the trunk and I believe helped the visual weight.

This rendition is what I thought would be the tree's future. The canopy still needs to fill out as well as refined wiring and foreshortening. Work also needs to commence on the deadwood.

After 4 years or development it is now time to start defining this bonsai. It is spring in Nova Scotia, the tree is nice and healthy and so today Lazy will be getting her new and final pot.

The final front... I could not get the tree exactly situated as I wanted it in the pot. The initial styling for the future design commenced in the summer of '08, where unnecessary branching was removed and the the branches wired/repositioned.

The tree after final styling this summer '09. I have a penchant for "penjing" This tree has the lines to accomplish where I want to go. I figure another 3-5 years and this tree will finally come into his own. Huuuuum, that will make it about 10 years. Yup that is about right, and it will only continue to get better.

... on the other hand, this tree as previously discussed was styled from acquisition. This could be construed as "topiary" and, it is. This tree is far from being where it needs to go but, does show that with proper selection of material, and the species, one can achieve a bonsai sihouette in a short amount of time.

How to get there

Notice that branch extending past the outline of the tree? That is the old apex. Also notice the visible branch under the aforementioned one, see the curve and movement? The article by Harry Harrington foreshortening explains it rather well. This technique is largely used in the development of foliage close to the trunk on Hinokis. Hinokis as bonsai cannot be created without the application of this technique coupled with judicious pruning.

It can be clearly seen that the old apex is too long for the outline of the tree, it is kept at this time to develop branching from the the existing foliage. As a new branchlet is fanned out flat, it will fill a void and allow subsequent removal of said branch/former apex.

In this original design, the old apex could be utilized quite well although against the rules and conventions. With time the foliage could be repositioned to hide the bare branching etc... In this vision the apex still needed to be brought down and developed. It can be readily seen in the picture where the future apex is coming from. The second pad on the left requires to be brought forward and down filling the negative space we see now. The small pad developing to its right brought down to fill that void etc... The large void filled by the development of the new apex. Over the years the tree could be defined further and make a respectable bonsai. The next picture shows what I contemplated and saw the summer of '08.

I always liked the trunk movement from this angle and it is an angle in which I was recommended to pursue, which as you know I did... (Pic circa '07)

The tree was refined the summer of '08. This is a picture of the tree prior to repotting the spring of '09. The fluid movement of the trunk and branches are commensurate with the Chinese "penjing style", and hence why I changed direction with this tree. This practice is not uncommon in bonsai and is pretty much the norm. It is making a tree better as it develops, not unlike a child who changes his mind on what he/she wants to be when they grow up. All that is important is that the appropriate classes were taken to achioeve the end or, in our case, branching.

The second branch on the right (third foliage pad going up) is what remains of the old apex. The tree has filled out well this summer and several branches have been wired and repositioned. The tree looks nothing like this picture. Next spring the wire will be removed and the tree allowed to grow unhindered for '10. The following spring the tree will be re-potted utilizing the new chosen front.

Where do branches come from?
From the existing foliage you silly goose.

If you take any branchlet and fan out the foliage, what you see is a branch with hundreds of tiny leaves for the lack of a better word. Each one of those in turn has the capacity to become a branchlet and subsequently a branch with thousands of leaves.

Developing branches
Outside of "in arch grafting" what you have is what you have. In arch grafting of Hinokis has shown limited success (so I am told). Therefore you need to develop your own branches. But before you can do this, you need to establish well ahead in time where you want to go with this tree, or better yet, what the tree has conveyed to you, which is the better choice of the two. Once that has been established, you can now select, prune and develop your branching.

The branch that is on the tree as we speak, attached to the trunk is known as a primary branch. The foliage that emerges from that branch (referred to in this article as a branchlet) is your secondary branching. The foliage from these branchlets are your tertiary branching which will develop quaternary branches and so on and so forth.

This photo explains the aforementioned readily. As each fan is separated from the foliage whorls, the sub-branching is readily seen. As these fans are spread out they occupy a lot of space. Let's take the top right hand branch for example. The two branchlets emanating at the top are secondary branches. The next branch along the primary branch points downward (for now, so does the other branchlets). Secondary branch development on the primary will be: the fisrt; and third branch from the primary. The second branch is pruned off. For all intent and purpose the remainder of the branch can be pruned off at this time. However it is not desirable to do so because of design considerations. But I believe you can understand my direction from my comments. The two selected branches will be part of the future tree, everything else is only there to maintain the tree healthy.

As these branchlets grow into branches the procedure is repeated. That is another reason why we do not pinch Hinokis but rather judiciously prune them. Furthermore, in order to get branch extension, the foliage must be allowed to grow terminally vice laterally. The lateral growth is maintained via the spreading of the fans, subsequently removing unwanted branching via judicious pruning. This technique goes on and on like the energizer bunny.

Because branches are allowed to grow, they can then be shortened to the next branchlet without affecting the trees design drastically. A proper maintenance schedule will ensure your tree is show worthy every year. During the vegetative season, this is where the tree is allowed to grow unhindered. During this period small adjustments can be made without any drastic effects to the overall composition. If the tree is to be exhibited, then past experience will dictate when to conduct necessary maintenance to ensure the tree is at its peak during exhibition.

1 comment:

Rick Moquin said...

Thank you very much. I hope I was able to offer some insight into a marvelous tree to have as a bonsai (once tamed)