Thursday, May 3, 2007

Black pine styling, KoB contest - part 1

Here are the pictures of the black pine that I have styled reently for a client. The styling was entered in the KoB international styling contest.
you can find more information here:

Phase 1: before

Walter Pall - Germany
Category: Professional - Pre-Bonsai Stock
Japanese Black Pine 'Kotobuki' (Pinus thunbergiana)
Starting height of the tree: 79cm (31.1 inches)
Pot source: regular Japanese

While I will style many trees this summer I chose this one because it shows a few things very well. As far as I can see it is a regular wild Japanese black pine onto which the dwarf variety 'Kotobuki' was grafted many decades ago. It looks like many years ago, probably around 20, the branches were wired and the tree styled in general. Then this tree stood in a Japanese nursery for many years and it was just pinched and maintained in general, but not styled anymore. Eventually it was sold and imported to Germany around five years ago.

I have seen this tree on an exhibit two years ago where I did a public tree critique. My comments went along the lines: 'This is very exiting material. Mind you, I say material, because it is not really a styled bonsai in my eyes. After many years of just keeping it healthy it looks a bit like a topiary tree, the branches may look nicely groomed to some, to me they look like a hedge, like a poodle. While it is not cheap at all it is not a very good bonsai, but it has potential to be a great one. It needs thorough styling again. The nebari could be much better defined. The branches are too horizontal in a slightly old-fashioned way. The big poodles should be thinned out considerably and get a much finer structure. I think that the general potential is enormous and it begs the question why this was not kept in Japan. I came to the conclusion that it never was first choice there because of the deadwood. While it is hard to believe for a European bonsai practitioner, traditional Japanese stylists want no deadwood an a black pine whatsoever. The black pine in their eyes is like the great samurai, brave, powerful and invulnerable - without wounds. Very few of the very well known Japanese black pine masterpieces have any deadwood. So my guess is that it was just not considered very good material. Well, In Europe and probably also in America the general notion would be to treat it like we treat all other pines. In modern styling there can be more deadwood than live one. So this for us is great material.'

I was very surprised when a few weeks ago I was approached by a person who bought that tree finally and asked me to act where my mouth was. Wow, what a challenge.

So here is the original tree in the category 'Pre-Bonsai Stock'. While it may well look like a very good finished bonsai to many I will try to prove that it actually is PRE-bonsai stock.

The tree is very healthy and vigorous. The Kotobuki variety is a very good grower and it ramifies tremendously.The color is dark green and looks very natural on this kind of old trunk. April is a very good time of the year to start working on such a tree.