Monday, 25 November 2013

Larch Rewiring

Back in August, I posted about a small larch that I picked up at the Swindon Winter Image Show in February this year. Below is the tree before and after its first styling as featured in the earlier post.
The tree was left to grow unhindered through the Summer, then yesterday with most of the leaves dropped, it was pruned and rewired.
The ramification has come on a good deal in one season. I am looking forward to getting it into a pot in the Spring.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Tony Tickle's Garden (Burrs 2013)

During the Burrs Bonsai Workshop Tony Tickle always provides an opportunity for participants to visit his garden and allotment - an opportunity not to be missed! Unfortunately on this occasion, the weather was not in our favour but I did manage to take a few snaps around Tony's garden between dashing in and out of the greenhouse to shelter from the rain.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Ostranica Bonsai Pots

For a number of years, naturalistic bonsai enthusiast, John Ostranica has been developing his skills as a bonsai ceramic artist, specialising in more unusual and rustic designs. Until recently, his creations have been used mainly with his own trees or gifted to fortunate friends such as myself.
Shohin pot by John Ostranica in my own collection
Accent pot by John Ostranica in my own collection
After a number of enquiries from perspective buyers, John was finally persuaded to sell a few of his pots and the first batch for sale were taken to the recent Burrs Bonsai Workshop where they received great compliments and sold like hot cakes. Those pots creating the greatest interest have been John's unique imitation rock pots. Below is the latest of these rock pots to come out of the kiln and is now being offered for sale.

Height 12cm, width 26cm, depth 22cm. Price £60
I am a big fan of John's pots and will certainly be encouraging him to keep producing them, so it is my plan to offer a number of them for sale on this blog as and when they become available. For sales and enquiries please contact John direct

Friday, 15 November 2013

European Akadama?

In my local aquatics store, I have found a European manufactured substrate which appears to have very similar properties to Akadama. The product is Plant Substrate made by Velda, based in the Netherlands Today I purchased a bag of this substrate and have mixed it into my standard soil mix. I will report on how it fares in time, but it looks very promising.

Plant Substrate packaging

Plant Substrate
Velda also produce another substrate which I have already used in my mix with good results, named 'Superdensa'. Unfortunately I can find nothing on the packaging nor on Velda's website that states what these products are actually made from but Plant Substrate appears to be clay based (Akadama) and Superdensa appears to be Pumice based (Kanuma).

Here is my finished soil mix including Plant Substrate, Superdensa, Akadama, Sophisticat  and pine bark chips (the quantities are not accurately measured.)
Finished soil mix prior to sifting.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Burrs 2013

Last month I blogged my memories of Burrs Bonsai Workshop 2012 and wrote of my disappointment in being unable to attend again this year. Well, last weekend saw the return of Burrs and due to a last minute change in circumstance, I was there! Returning artists were Tony Tickle, Terry Foster, Pavel Slovák, Will Baddeley  and Hans Van Meer and for his first visit to the UK, Márcio Meruje.

Burrs is not just about bonsai, but also about people, friendship and fun. The beer was always flowing, and so too was the laughter. At what other bonsai event can you watch a range of musical performances and even fire juggling?!

Neil "Smithy" Smith fire breathing
Tony Tickle with beers brought by attendees from across Europe.
As well as all the partying, there was also some serious bonsai work. Participants brought a range of material with them from raw, unworked nursery trees to ancient yamadori, and each tree made great improvements on its journey towards a 'finished' bonsai.

Neil Smith and Terry Foster discuss Neil's Pine.

David Fairbanks and Rob Atkinson discuss a Pine

My material for the weekend was a Mugo Pine, collected from  the mountains of Europe by Pavel Slovák. Pavel kindly brought the tree to the UK for me and together we worked upon its first styling. I had my own ideas for how the tree could be styled, but tried not to think about it too much as I knew that Pavel would come up with a better design.

Pavel started work by creating the first Jin, then left me to make the other two jins. I then applied raffia to the single branch in preparation to wire it into a continuation of the trunk in our design. Pavel then wrapped the branch with electrical tape and bound with cable ties before wiring and bending.

Once the trunk was set in position I stripped the needles to ten to twelve pairs and wired each branch, all the way to the remaining needles. Pavel then tilted the tree to its final angle and positioned the branches. Pavel is well known for his Pine bending, but I am not aware of his techniques ever being shown on video, so I made a short film of his work.

The finished Mugo Pine
I am slowly working through the editing process of the many photos and video clips that I recorded over the weekend, so watch this space for more updates. Burrs must surely be the greatest bonsai workshop currently running anywhere in the UK and there is always something to be learned, whatever your level of experience and skill. I think that anybody involved in bonsai should make the effort to attend at least once. One thing is for sure... you are guaranteed to have fun!
The Burrs gang