Welcome to All in One Bonsa

Bitten by the Bug

Welcome to All in One Bonsai...a blog that aims to remind me of what I have forgotten. Over the years I have been finding out as much as I can about the art of bonsai. I hope the information in this blog will shed some light to the beginning bonsai enthusiast out there.

I saw some bonsai trees at a corner market one night in Taipei and asked the guy if he was willing to teach me how to create these miniature trees. He directed me to a night school where all the instruction was in Chinese. My Chinese ability is very ordinary at the least so although I was learning bits and pieces, I really wasn't getting all I wanted from the course. The best parts were when the teacher would start pruning a beautiful tree or when he showed us how to repot a bonsai. The mystery was still out there but my interest wasn't waning, if anything it fueled my motivation to find out more. And so I did.

Let the adventure begin...

Recently I have discovered the joy of pottery. Bonsai and pottery are close friends so it was only a matter of time before I was introduced to her. Welcome to All in One Bonsai...and pottery.

Feel free to visit my site where you can purchase some of my handmade pottery. Quite a few pieces have been wood fired as it is the prefered method here in Taiwan:

Esty Shop: AllinoneCeramics

Sunday, 24 March 2013

From Beast to Beauty

 From Beast to Beauty

During a recent road trip with Jack, his wife, my girlfriend and I, we happened to catch a glimpse of a small but unique shop advertising rocks for sale.  We were a few hours drive from Taipei and as we were getting hungry we decided to stop, eat, and look.

As we walked into the ROCK SHOP with satisfied stomachs from the local dumpling restaurant, we were greeted by a man holding a water sprayer who looked surprised to see us.  He later told us that I was the first white face to ever walk into his shop!

Not only was this guy friendly, he had some magnificent rocks/stones for sale.  My eyes were drawn to one particular stone that was quite large, and possessed interesting character.  It really did look like a large mountain range with cliffs and valleys.  I can be an impulsive buyer at times.  This was one of those times.  After haggling the price down we eventually agreed on a fair price.  He told me this particular rock came from the Gulin River in Gulin, China.  I was curious as to the age of the rock.  He estimated the stone to be around 10,000 years old.  This made me even more satisfied, even if he was stretching the truth.  Maybe he is right?  I'm sticking to that story anyway.

I made a quick withdrawal from 7-11 and when I walked back into his shop, everything was wrapped up ready to be given a new home.  

I thought the rock pools added character.

Definitely an interesting front.

Later that night as I was unwrapping the bubble paper, I received a shock.  In my haste to buy this stone I had failed to look at the back of the rock.  

The back of the stone.  Had I looked at the back of this stone in the shop I probably would not have bought it.

I didn't like the back at all.  It looked as if it had lost all its power.  The front so strong and the back caved in.  I accepted this stone and didn't really get too upset, after all what could I do?  I figured I was to learn from this experience.  As the blood rushes to the head, I need to step back and take my time.  I looked and looked at this stone over the next few weeks and I eventually convinced myself this rock is still a natural work of art.  

I then took my stone to my bonsai teacher, Mr.Yen.  He and I studied the stone and decided that we could alter my original thought of having this stone as a suiseki display and change the composition into a penjing style.  A penjing arrangement meant adding a tree or grass, or plants, to create a vision of a landscape.  We both agreed that this was what we would do.  The plan was to make a defect into a feature.

I hunted around in his nursery and found a suitable pot.  He has many beautiful pots lying under all his benches.  I love this place!  
A 30 year old Chinese pot.

Mr.Yen had explained to me that the reason why it wasn't a valuable stone was because it didn't rise from a low point to an elevated peak all the way around the circumference.  The front did but the back failed to do this.

Covering the back section with soil and planting some bamboo was our final decision.  We hoped this would do the job of rounding out the back.
Our first step was to cover the pot with sand.
Next, position the stone a little forward of center to make space for the bamboo at the back.

Stone positioned with bamboo planted at the back. Starting to take shape.

Adding more soil in the caved-in section of the rock.  I found another rock and we decided to include it in our creation. It is meant to serve as another distant mountain, hence the different style and color.  Not sure if it works?

Adding moss to hold everything in place.  In among the bamboo plant we included some small rose bushes that are yet to bloom.  When they do, I think they will add a nice splash of dark red to the landscape.

After a nice watering with a fine holed watering hose.  
I wanted to fill up those natural rock pools.

A close up of the new improved back.  

A sparse covering of moss in the front is a nice touch.

Finished product.  Maybe a blood rush is ok if you go with your gut feeling?
All in all, it was a good learning experience.  People keep on telling me that every problem has a solution.  I don't know about that, but in this case I am happy with the end product.  

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

My Before and Afters


In an earlier post titled Bonsai in Taiwan I mentioned that I had purchased 20 small juniper trees and I promised to upload some of my efforts trying to improve them a little.  Well, today I had a spare hour so decided to attempt my first of 20.  Today I really should be doing something else but right now I can't think of what it should be.
The is the juniper tree we will be working on today.

The first step was to remove the wire.  These trees are a few years old and have been trained with bonsai wire.  I am not sure exactly how old this juniper is but my guess is around 3 or 4 years.  This tree was grown from a cutting.  Most juniper trees are grown from cuttings as they respond well to this treatment and grow at a much faster pace compared to beginning from seed.
It would have been wired quite quickly without too much thought.  The nursery where I bought this tree has thousands so a few bends here and there is all they have time for.  I thought I might be able to put some more time into this tree and see what happens.

After I unwound the wire the branches held a little.
I now looked at what could possibly be a good design.  I didn't exactly know what I wanted but I did know that I wanted movement in the trunk and branches.  Having movement in trunk and branches depicts a tree of great age.  In bonsai try not to have a trunk or branches too straight, especially when dealing with junipers.  The natural juniper tree grows in the mountains where snow and wind are aggressive.
As I was taking off the wire you can see how it was biting into the bark. This is regarded as a good time to remove the wire for juniper trees.  The trunk will grow and the scar will heal, leaving an interesting bark texture.  
As you can see in the above picture the wire was inserted into the soil and then wrapped around the trunk.  That is one method for wiring a trunk.  I prefer sticking the wire up through the drainage hole at the base of the pot and coming at the trunk that way.  I find you have more support.  Just make a little L shaped hook at the base with your wire so as it holds in place.

Next, I did a little clean up job by removing the small branches at each juncture. By doing this simple cut, the tree takes on a much older appearance.
Made some more decisions.  Once I start I have trouble stopping!  I have a basic idea of what I want to do but I am still not convinced . I looked at the tree for a while playing out different shapes in my mind.  I was tilting the tree in its pot, moving branches carefully with my fingers, and imagining what I could do to the trunk.  If you get stuck, move off to find a bonsai book with great pictures.  Find a tree that could possibly match and COPY the design.  This will give you some confidence.

Eventually, I decided to create a wind swept style bonsai, where the strong wind would be blowing from the right which makes all the branches bend to the left..  I wanted the foliage to come back to the left to again create more movement.  I thought wiring the branches that way would give it some character.

I have now wired the tree and have attempted to create what was in my mind.  You will notice that I also took the bark off a few sections of the tree.  This is again to give the viewer the illusion of a tree that has endured hardship, and hence, age.
I wriggled the tree out of its training pot and placed it on a red dish.  I then scrapped the old soil from the roots and dipped it in a bucket of water.  You need to keep the roots wet as you do this procedure. You can still see some of the old clay soil which was really sticky and hard.  I'm not sure if that soil was the best for the tree - although it was growing quite well in it.  Next, I mixed my river sand with granular soil.  This soil mix was around 50/50.  I want the water to drain freely out through the drainage hole at the base of my new pot.  I ended up cutting a few of the older roots and leaving the smaller ones.  These smaller roots are ideal for the health of the tree.  It's these smaller roots that do the bulk of the work.  The older roots can be cut and eliminated as these are less important.

 A mix of river sand and soil.  An excellent medium for clean water drainage and most importantly quick root growth.
I then secured the tree in the pot by using more wire.  I pushed wire up through the pot's drainage hole and secured the tree around the root ball - (sorry I don't have any picture of this - I will post some at a later stage).  It is very important to do this because new roots will only grow if the tree isn't moved around too much.  When the tree establishes itself in the soil after a few months you can then remove the wire.
The final result.  All in all I am reasonably happy with how this tree now looks.  I will now place this juniper in a shaded area for a few weeks and then release it back into full sun.  It is Spring in Taiwan at the moment.  Spring is the perfect time to wire trees, change soil, and cut some roots.