Saturday, July 4, 2009

Scots pine #6

I found this huge Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, in a bog within walking distance form my home in Bavaria, Germany in 1992. It was about 3 meters (ten feet) high and wide. I cut it back right in the bog and left it alone for three years. In April of 1995 I came back with the late Derek Aspinall to take a look at it. In these days Derek used to come all the way from the north of England to the Alps to sell a carload of pots and then go collecting in the alps with me. The pine was much denser than before and we decided to dig it out. Derek helped me to drag the thing back to the car. The wet rootball was very heavy, I can tell you. At that time I used to plant collected trees into my growing field and leave them alone for several years. Now I would plant it into the smallest possible container right away.

In April of 2001 the pine was finally harvested. The rootball is still quite small for this huge tree, but the crown is quite healthy and dense. It can be clearly seen that there was a second trunk at the base which went down to the ground and was cut off. At that point in time I decided to make this a fake fat root to get a very impressive nebari. One problem with collected Scots pine is that they very rarely have a decent nebari.

In July of 2007 it was decided to finally give this tree the big first styling. First the crown was edited again and all the old needles were plucked.

All the stumps were jinned and it looks terrible. Will this ever become a good bonsai?

David wired for several days. Finally the pine looks decent and seems to have a grand future.

The wire had to be taken off in fall of 2005. As expected and normal on Scots pines most branches went back into the old position and many new ones developed more and more green at the ends, became heavy and started to hang down like a weeping willow. A Scots pine in this stage looks like it will never become a decent bonsai. In May of 2007 I had some help and we took the tree out of the large container and planted it into a much smaller one made by Derek Aspinall. Then the crown was edited, and the old needles were plucked. What was supposed to look like a fat root but really was the stump of a second trunk was cut back and made into a very ugly jin. What was I thinking? Well, wait and see.

The tree was left alone and set around in a rather pathetic state for two years. Finally, in the beginning of July, 2009 all old foliage was plucked and it looked somewhat like a natural tree. But this is not good enough, of course. The deadwood still looks grotesque and crude and the crown needs a lot more refinement. Naturalistic style does NOT mean to leave things to nature. Quite the contrary. it only should look like nature did it all in the end.

The deadwood now had enough time to really dry within the past three years. it looks very crude, unrefined, man made. Some folks may have wondered what I was doing her exhibiting such ugly stumps in my garden. Well, bonsai is a long term process. Now is the time to refine.I went over most stumps again with a dremel type die grinder and very small bits. Then the tree was placed so that I could apply the torch and the heat would go up into the air and not burn some live parts. As one can see In actually set fire to some parts of deadwood. Afterward the charcoal is brushed off with hard strokes of a brass brush.

Now the crown was edited slightly, meaning some branches got cut back. Then the long wiring session starts which takes more than a full day. First all thicker branches are wired and put into position. When this is finished I have a rough sketch where I can see very well what it will look like. If i like it I continue and ire EVERYTHING. Every little branch gets wired! I take copper wire only and thicker than most folks. I want the branches to stay where they are regardless of whether a bird sits on them, a thunderstorm comes through or snow gets on it in winter.

Now the tree is finished for the time being. The wire will probably have to go off next summer and I may have to rewire again. As it should be with a bonsai in the naturalistic style it looks like a credible tree from all angels.

NSC_7931vr is a virtual. although I like it form many angels I think this is the best front. so I placed the pot underneath to see what it will look like next spring.

Most artists would paint the deadwood with lime sulphur now to make it whit like it 'has' to be with a good bonsai. I do nothing like this. This is a statement! Natural deadwood is not always white it can well be dark like this one. I will not paint this to make it look unnatural.

A big problem with naturalistic bonsai is that they seem to be so dense and untidy on a photograph while in reality they are rather sparse and very natural, but not untidy. They have powerful three-dimensionality with back branches which can be seen through holes in the front. On photographs this look like an untidy mess. One solution is to show the trees against a very light background. Thus the crown appears much more sparse.


Anonymous said...

The mention of weeping willow caught my eye,i saw extensive weeping of shoots from the lower branches of pines whilst hillwalking recently.

Long tiers of weeping branchlets had formed from branches about twenty foot up and were now chest height.

The shoots atop the tree were ruggedly upright as you would expect but where a break in the canopy had occured all these pencil thin ropes of shoots were descending downwards.

I wondered about taking a meter long cutting.

Rozman Nik said...

Nice naturally styled pine.
But sorry, I still don't know what you were thinking when you cut the 'fat root' off.

Rick Moquin said...

At one point the tree was tilted (after David had done wiring)you are standing on the right of it)) What are your thoughts wrt not leaning the tree from that point onward?

tim said...

Walter , having just started on my first collected Scot's pine , there are some old branches that i am going to jin and was going to paint with lime sulphur , but after seeing the results with the blowtorch , i have now changed my mind , thanks for stopping me ruining a tree .

Walter Pall said...


the leaning angle was mainly caused by the thick 'root'. It had to be covered. After I cut it off this was not necessary anymore. But I might lean the tree again at next repotting in spring when I change the front anyway. We'll see.


Walter Pall said...


pine wood will always rot very quickly when dead and under the soil. So this fake root would always have been for a few years only.


Zopf said...

Hallo Walter
Vielleicht wäre es eine Möglichkeit
mit Tele und offener Blende
über die Tiefenschärfe die Dreidimensionalität besser einzufangen.
mfG Dieter

Walter Pall said...


ja, das habe ich shcon früher einmal versucht. Muss ich wohl wieder machen.


Milan Domény said...

Beautifull tree and excelent work! :)

Jason said...

Excellent Walter! I like the final image and think getting big of that big ugly root was the best thing you could have done. It played no part in a convincing design.

Thanks for sharing!


Mario bonsai said...

Excellent example of how out of bad materials, get a very attractive basis for bonsai. I am like a tree and thank you very much for the detailed presentation.

Ana said...

What do you mean by 'bad material', Mario?

[asking as a curious novice - the thing looked spellbinding to begin with to me...]

Walter Pall said...

My definiton of bad material: a piece from which one cannot create a decent bonsai in a reasonable time frame. Good material: a piece from which one can create a good bonsai in a reasonable time frame
This here was very good material from the outset according to my definiton. The question remains as to WHO works with the material.
I agree with Mario in some respect. Most would have had problems developing this one and thus would have thought that this was poor material.


Mario bonsai said...

Perhaps I used the wrong term (bad), however, Walter has done the most to respect.


alfredo espino said...

Walter: Erstaunliches Ergebnis! Would you advice the use of teka oil on dead wood? I mean on an Eleagnus I´m working on. The wood remains sort of dark...


Walter Pall said...


sure you can use oil if you want your wood to remain dark.