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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Serendipity Below the Soil

     If you wonder "who is this posting on Steve Moore's bonsai blog", I don't blame you! It has been a while. Suffice it to say that for more than a year, we have been dealing not only with the multiple aspects of moving into a new home (most of which are now behind us), but also matters having to do with another house in which we once lived. But those are now also, and finally, behind us, and I can put more time into not just working on my trees, but writing about them every now and then as well!

One thing I was able to do this spring is repot this Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) which had survived in the same pot and soil for seven years. I acquired this tree in December of 2011, one of 14 young pine whips that I bought to develop for future use. (As described here.) In the spring of 2012 I moved it into a 1-gal Rootmaker®.

After 2012 repotting.

And there it remained, through various ups and downs, until this spring. I kept it watered and fertilized, along with everything else, but that was all. If this tree is typical of Pinus nigra, the species is pretty tough!

You see the slanted planting angle in the picture above. Over those seven years the slant became more and more pronounced as the top branches grew and some lower ones were lost, making the tree rather top-heavy. A year or so ago I concluded that the best design for the tree - once I got a chance to style it! - would be a semi- or full cascade. That would have required using the notch method (or "wedge cut"), with the trunk as thick as it had become. But nothing else, I thought, would fit how the tree had grown.

A month ago, with the buds just starting to elongate, I got a chance to repot it. Here is how it looked.

This Austrian pine before repotting; April 17, 2019.
Since I expected to eventually shape it into a cascade, I chose a new training pot that was deeper than it was wide. However, a surprise was waiting for me under the soil surface!

During the years between repottings, a recognizable nebari had developed less than half an inch down. I make it a point, almost without exception, to level the nebari of a bonsai-to-be as soon as I can. For one thing, it makes the tree look more stable. For another, it is for me a way of accepting what the tree has given me to work with.

Levelling the nebari sometimes make it more challenging to style the tree. But this time it showed me an unexpected design alternative, which I like much better! The tree will now make a nice upright bunjin (a.k.a. "literati"). Here is what I saw when I finished repotting.

The most likely front.
The plan now is this. The branches below the orange arrow will be removed a couple at a time, with the stubs of some turned into short jin. One small shoot (maroon arrow and below) I will develop to be an accent point. Existing trunk movement will be accentuated a bit with heavy wire.

The young shoot I plan to develop into a small point of visual interest.

At about the level of the blue arrow, I will do one of two things. Either I will bend the top of the tree back to the (viewer's) left, bringing the apex back over the base of the tree; or I will keep the movement toward the right but bend the top down at a 45°-60° angle, for a more dramatic effect. Right now I am inclined toward the first option. But it will be a couple of years before I have to decide, so stay tuned!

:-)  :-)  :-)