To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose


After all the satsuki shows have been set up, a little calm has descended upon the garden. That is mainly due to the fact that the Chief has left for a week for a Satsuki show in Germany. He will be working with Valentin Brose, a German apprentice who had to leave recently and is starting to work in Europe.

When the Chief goes away, everyone breathes a sigh of relief but there is something unnaturally strange about the garden when he is away. It gives us a chance to actually do some work for once rather than running around doing whatever pops into his head at the time. We are going to be busy this coming week, with the end of the satsuki shows, lots of pruning to be done and also an auction where I am expected to act on behalf of the Chief. He picked out some stuff he wants to sell and told me the reserv e prices. Bonsai auctions are a lively affair and I am going to have to hold my own against a number of buyers and sellers. I also have carte blanche to buy whatever I think is good. The Chief loves to buy stuff and people love him for it, the Satsuki auctions wait until he arrives even if he is two hours late. I am going to be put under a lot of pressure from everyone there, then there is the pressure of buying something for too much or completely unsaleable…as was the case in January. Still, all good fun and will be a learning experience. I am mainly going to see the action and report back…who is buying what, what prices etc.

The title of the post refers to the trend I have been following recently of being asked to do things that are completely out of season. Yet another Five Needle pine was given to me to wire, despite my protestations that it was the worst time of year to do it…”Just be careful” was the reply. The tree belongs to the same person who owns the Juniper I did earlier…so it was a bit under the weather, a lot of dead or dying branches on the inside, unbalanced vigour , branches with no buds. Not the ideal candidate for a massive amount of detailed wiring so I tried to balance the desire to make it look nicer with the need for a rest and hand in the right direction to achieving balance and stop losing branches.

Five Needle pines tend to send out three buds, one strong central terminal bud and two weaker buds to the side. If the terminal bud is allowed to grow too strongly, it restricts the growth of the two weaker buds to the point they die. This causes branches to become leggy and lacking in ramification. The key to pines is to protect the weak and oppressed and to hold back the strong. Much like Socialism 😉 This was done all over the tree and a considerable amount of foliage and unnecessary branching was removed. Rather than wire everything out to the tips and knock of the soft developing buds, only main branches and essential branches were wired. Again, a very rough and ready look borne as much out of horticultural sensibility than aesthetics. Almost nothing was wired in the apex as I cut back as hard as possible to developing buds. To wire them now will be counterproductive and that is what I will tell the customer. I will also ask him if he is willing to change the front.

Looking at the tree, I couldn’t believe how flat and dull it had been styled…not by us I might add. It just lacked any interesting character point, with a big head, boring branch structure and totally unrelated second trunk. I turned the tree around to look at the tree from an angle and found a much better front. It had depth, movement, a dead wood feature and a bit more elegance. It seemed so obviously the front I had to spin the tree around a few times to double check.

The unfortunate thing about being me (well one of the things) is that I can’t just do what I want, when I want. This tree belongs to a good friend of the Chiefs and although he has lost interest in Bonsai, I am not sure how he would take to me completely redesigning his tree. When I first started as an apprentice he was a bit on the rude side towards me which I took to heart and I am not going to provoke things any more than is necessary. Although he seems to like me now…I am not convinced.

With the restraint of not being able to go crazy on the tree and do what in my mind was necessary, I set about making a two fronted tree. Shock horror. A tree with two fronts. Yes it is possible. Admittedly in this case the current front is styled to look a bit on the boring side whereas the side I want to make it from is much more interesting…however, there has been no irreversible branch removal, which I would need permission from an absent higher power for. I will take it over to the owners house sometime in the week and ask his opinion. More branches need removing and internal buds need to beef up before a more detailed and final wiring but given the time of year, the tree and personalities in question, I have done as best I can.

If I get the nod, the bottom branch is coming off and it will look like it this.

In other developments, I was allowed out of the garden yesterday and ventured into the real world. I had a meeting about the proposed e-book which I have been asked to write.

I had done very little preparation for it

so I scribbled some notes on the train but it was not necessary. I have a free hand with regards to content, it is left entirely to me. I will also be able to publish it as a proper book if so desired. After the discussion was over I realised that I actually have to sit down and write it, rather than writing about how I am going to write a book. Bit of a difference.

The good thing about the real world is getting out and seeing some pretty girls, of which there are a great number in Tokyo. Seeing the female form is always refreshing for young(ish) bonsai apprentices and somehow our conversations always revolve around to them. The other night we were sat around after work talking over a beer and I told them what I had written about here, what I was thinking with regards to styling and the approach of natural beauty rather than prettiness. Naganuma, who is a bit on the coarse side but quite insightful described it as “Ranchou no bi”….the beauty of disorder. He also made the point that the reason that women go to so much effort to make themselves pretty is so that after a suitable period of courtship, a dinner date for example, men can ruin it….thus making them suitably disordered and therefore beautiful. His language was a little more colourful…but his point true to an extent.

Anyway, I have to get some thoughts down on paper…

1 Comment

  1. I'm a keen follower of Your Blog. Maybe mostly, because You seem to share your own very way of seeing the bonsai phenomena within a honest forever aprenctice view and you're not afraid to put out what you think and feel, even if you're exposing an aesthetic point of view or something as simple as tools cleansing. So whatever You write i'll be interested in reading it. Hopes of a good project and best success.

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