In 2002 I attended the Kimura convention here in the DFW area, and like all conventions there was a nice vendors area also. Anyone who’s been to any kind of bonsai convention or show can spend a lot of time and money in the vendors area. This was the case for me at that time, buying additional trees and pots to add to my collection.
One such tree was this nice green shimpaku pictured below, that I got for a somewhat reasonable price.
I was just starting my work with junipers at the time and wasn’t sure what all this tree was going to need but I knew it would take at least a little straightening out. The branches for the most part seemed to be in proportion with the trunk, though I wish the trunk were a bit thicker. If that were the case though, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford the tree then. So be it as it was, I took my shimpaku home and started to look it over with much anticipation as to where I would be going with this guy in order to make it more pleasing to the eye.
What came next I don’t think I was ready for; ten straight hours of wiring almost non stop. I must say though that I had a blast in those ten hours because I could see the tree taking shape with the branches radiating all around giving the tree some depth also. Below is end result of those ten hours.
But as time marches on, so does the growth on these guys, and if your not real careful you can over do it before you know what hit you. Just look at how heavy the growth became on this shimp after only two years. Now it’s too much for that somewhat thin trunk. Sure it looks and is healthy, but it really doesn’t look pleasing to the eye anymore. I’m sorry to say that it’s beginning to look like just another shrub.
So it was back to the drawing board and hopefully I could clean it up without taking too much off or taking off something that would ruin my couple of years work. Below is what I ended up with and I must say that I was pleased to some extent with what I had done, but there was something still bugging me that later on would cause me to completely restyle the tree, and that is the top part of the tree, the crown, one of the main aspects of a tree. If you look closely at the top you’ll notice that the top consists of many thin branches that again give it that shrub, or the look of just another bush and not a real bonsai.
Now I’m sure there are many who would say ” aw it’s not that bad, just leave it like it is”. In fact I tried that myself for at least a year until finally I just had to do something.
I decided that this tree would never satisfy me as long as it had so many branches in all the wrong places. I was pretty confident of my styling work and wanted to try something a bit radical with this tree, something I hadn’t done yet but really had an urge to do.
It’s my belief that shimpakus sold like this one was with a simple thin trunk should not have so much foliage that it will take the viewer away from the main aspect of the tree, and that is the trunk itself. Shimpakus with a large amount of foliage will have a nice large trunk to offset the foliage and again be the main thing the viewer sees.
So with that thought in mind I remembered the look of the chinese penjing and how open their trees look and how exposed the branches and trunk are. Penjing just happens to be my favorite style of bonsai, maybe because in my mind it’s more of a radical look, something that not all bonsai enthusiasts are apt to appreciate.
Once I got locked onto the thought of making this tree something different than all my other trees, there was no stopping me. Below is the result of my work on this shimpaku that I had given up on.
As I said, the penjing look is not for everyone, but exploring new ideas and transformations in this art, is something I really enjoy. This pic was taken shortly after the restyle and shows it in a deep container since I had to reposition the tree with much of the rootage tilted up.
The restyle was done last year and now it’s a new repotting season and the tree now has a new pot that’s just a bit shallower, and compliments the tree much better, especially the movement of the trunk.
One thing I also had to address at the repotting which also could’ve been done at anytime, was the issue with moss starting to run up the trunk of the tree. Moss looks good on the soil surface but shouldn’t be allowed to run up the trunk, mainly for health reasons. Notice the pic below and how I took an old tooth brush and began to brush the trunk in order to loosen and scrape off the moss.
Above you can see how easy it was to remove the moss by first loosening it up with the tooth brush and then by peeling it back. This method worked great for this type of trunk, but if your going to remove it from a trunk that has beautiful old flaking bark, the best way would be to use vinegar and wait for a day or two until the moss is dead and then gently peel it off as best as you can.
Well I hope you liked my restyle of this shimpaku, of course I’ll understand if it’s not your taste since many have come to accept the full foliage trees as their style of bonsai. But hopefully I changed a few minds with this type of styling design and have won you over to see bonsai with an artistic flair.
In my next article I hope to have another shimpaku that I really had to do a clean up in order to keep her looking just as good as she used to.