How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

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How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by Steven »

This topic has been split from Jow's very popular thread Some Japanese Trees which is based on his adventures in Japan working in Taisho-en bonsai nursery which is run by Mr. Urushibata.

The idea is to compile information on how to grow top quality bonsai stock. We can then all get started and continue to share ideas, experiences etc. In a few years we should have some really nice material to work with.

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Last edited by Steven on May 21st, 2009, 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

the night before Last i had all of two hours sleep in the back of a hiace van while driving to Tokyo. We left at 11pm and arrived around 4am to start our bonsai shopping. We visited about 10 or so nurseries in the tokyo / saitama areas and bought a range of stock. Mainly shohin stock to be re styled and sold on Yahoo auctions Japan which is a fair part of the nurseries trade these days.

We got back after leaving Oyakata ( thats what Mr. Urushibata likes to be called, its kind of like sensei and is the same term sumo wrestlers call their stable master.) in Tokyo at the Green club for todays Professional Auction, we arrived back home around midnight... it was a long day, but a night of solid sleep soon sorted that out. Today i woke up and unloaded the van. Most of the stock that was bought for me was rubbish as oyakata is buying trees for me at the auction today.

So as Oyakata was away for the day i was on my own to do what i wanted, so i started with the worst trees.

Two of the rubbish trees i styled today are below. They are both Shimpaku.

The first was bought for 3000 yen ( around $37aud) and is below.

Front
IMG_5340.JPG
Back
IMG_5342.JPG
These junipers are fairly common and end up producing great little trees. I imagine that you could easily get these results in 3-5 years in a pot and less in the ground. To grow such stock simple strike some cuttings, and wire them into crazy shapes. tie them in knots and coil them up into tangled messes. the crazier the better. As they start to thicken remove the wire and re-wire and extending branches until you have a wired mess roughly the dimensions you are after. then the branches can grow out of the silhouette straight to thicken the trunk. This is how most of the drift wood shohin trees are grown. Once you get to around finger thickness start to add small sharis and then extend them in length and width by a few mm every year until you are left with nice driftwood stock.

Any way this tree had a cork screw going on so to disguise that i used a clamp to compress it and make the twists less regular.
IMG_5343.JPG
Then i cleaned up the sharis and added some and then wired it up.
IMG_5345.JPG

Next was a juniper that had been styled as a weird windswept something or other..... it was 2000 yen or about $25aud.

before
IMG_5346.JPG
After a clean up and wire, oh and of course a change of angle... Its still pretty messy, but it wasnt in the best of shape when we got it.....
IMG_5349.JPG
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

The `rubbish` trees would be easy for us to grow in Australia. We complain about bad stock (me included) yet don't do much about changing things by growing our own. I for one will be starting more of these junipers when i get back and i hope that a few others do as well. I am guessing that 3-5 years would be a reasonable time frame to get the results of the first Juniper. Its not difficult, you just have to get around to doing it!
Last edited by Steven on May 21st, 2009, 8:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

anttal63 wrote:ive already started after our talk b4 you left. now i look forward to doing some more when you get back. :D

Good work, i am planning on growing shimpaku and tridents when i get back..... The more people growning the better....
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How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by anttal63 »

as you know plenty tridents here 30-40. this week i potted up 9 shimps that struck as cuttings. where i go to collect radiata's there are seedlings every where, lets do them too! :D
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How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by ketutg »

those 'rubbish' trees are better than the ones i have in my collection *cries*
Is there an article/book with tips on how to tie, twist and bend shimpaku to get that style? (like the first 'rubbish' tree you worke on)
or should i just buy some starters and experiment??
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Asus101 »

ketutg wrote:those 'rubbish' trees are better than the ones i have in my collection *cries*
Is there an article/book with tips on how to tie, twist and bend shimpaku to get that style? (like the first 'rubbish' tree you worke on)
or should i just buy some starters and experiment??
There was an article in one of the bonsai Europe magazines.
All it is... Take your cutting, wire it using thicker than normal wire, and loop/twist/bend as you can see in the final one posted there. That's basically it, I have read some allow the wires to cut in before removing, others remove before it cuts in and re wires..
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

Asus has basically summed it up. The only thing i would add is wire early as when they start to reach pencil thickness they tend to snap when bent sharply. Wire when they are around 3-4 mm thick for best results. As for the bends, twists and curls, its up to you imagination. Just try to keep them compact (unles syou want to grow big trees). Its probably best if you just bend and cmpress them randomly and worry about the final trees appeareance a few years down the track. Also make sure you put the first bend in close to the soil line adn nothing is worse than a twisted tree on a straight trunk.
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by DavidN »

Tony and Joe,
I also put into the ground tridents about two years ago now of varying ages. Shimpaku's would be great if you could find anyone selling very young seedlings/cuttings etc. Don't think radiata's would work as well as shimps especially if you are try to go for short twisting trees. I'm keen if you know where we can get our hands on young shimps/sargents junipers.

edit: Thanks Joe for your comments on the importing of juniper. Too much of a risk.

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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

Stock.. how to.

Today we visited a hobby grower to buy some material. I got talking with the owner in my broken Japanese and he talked me through his process, then let me choose a juniper to have from his stock selection. I chose the one below and re-potted and wired it up... it is 3 years old i think and had been grown in a seedling tube it whole life (think egg cup size). Its a good example of what you can achieve easily.
IMG_5364.JPG
If you look closely at the shari you will notice the lines that are apparent. These are created by one year making a thin shari, then the following the shair is widened. The years growth adds some wood to the trunk and therefor a line appears when you widen the shari. If you slowly widen the shari every year you end up with really interesting patterning. I will get into shari`s tomorrow post some pics of good examples.

The above tree had been wired after it had rooted as a cutting. The it was merely grown on. It is a Mame or mini sized tree but it was grown in a very small container it whole life. If it was planted in something bigger it would have increased in girth much more.

Below is a bad photo from my phone that shows a 1 year old seeedling and a 2 year old.
090521_093729.jpg
Sorry about the crappy quality, i didnt have my camera with me...

Below is a picture of some junipers at the best age to start with. If you are going for a larger sized end product (therefore the bends don't need to be as compact) you can probably use slightly larger starters. you should find that most bonsai nurseries have this kind of material.
IMG_5359.JPG
Next its wired. Use Aluminium wire. We use aluminium as you can use a larger diameter than what you would with copper, therefore it doesn't bite as quickly.
IMG_5360.JPG
Then let your imagination run wild and put bends and twists on all directions. Don't be too concerned about the final appearance as some of the twisted parts will become jins. when the wire begins to cut in you take it off and wire the shoots that have extended, again twisting and bending them to make a compact mess. It is a good idea to twist the trunk as you bend as this makes sure that the shari, when you create it later on, will spiral with the direction on the bark and wood grain.
IMG_5366.JPG
That's pretty much it. Then ensure you feed heavily, very heavily. You can grow in pots or the ground, just be mindful of the wire cutting in. A little scarring is fine but dont let the wire get enveloped by the bark as removing it will damage the branch.

Here is another good example of what can be achieved. If you follow the trunk with your eye you can get an idea of how it was initially wired.
IMG_5368.JPG
I hope that is enough inspiration to get out there and give it a try. This technique will work with many species and i am sure some interesting natives could be grown like this.... Tomorrow i will write a post on Sharis and add some pics of other species grown in this manner.
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Last edited by Jow on May 21st, 2009, 9:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by Jow »

DavidN wrote:Tony and Joe,
I also put into the ground tridents about two years ago now of varying ages. Shimpaku's would be great if you could find anyone selling very young seedlings/cuttings etc. Don't think radiata's would work as well as shimps especially if you are try to go for short twisting trees. I'm keen if you know where we can get our hands on young shimps/sargents junipers.

edit: Thanks Joe for your comments on the importing of juniper. Too much of a risk.

David N
Make sure if you are growing tridents that you lift them and do heavy root work on them. Nebari is the major feature of tridents. I will make a post when i get around to it on how most of the shohin tridents are grown soon....

Radiatas should work fine, the only down side might be needle length, but at the rate they grow i am sure a medium sized tree would be fast to grow, especially in the ground!

As for Shimpaku, i am pretty sure they are Juniperus chinensis. Shimpaku means something like `juniper` in Japanese. There are many types of Shimpaku, some with sparce big foliage (good for big trees) and then versions like `itoigawa` which has small tightly compact foliage (good for shohin) I am pretty sure we have some good material to at least take cuttling from. Make sure you look for foliage characteristics that you are after. I think Tony has a good chinensis to take cutting from, nice and compact growth. So we at least have the starting material.
Last edited by Jow on May 21st, 2009, 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Japanese trees.....

Post by miyagiman »

hey, i'm going to try some radiatas, i love em, dave.
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How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by Jow »

I tried to find a few other examples but its dark and these are the best i could come up with......

A red pine. (its been in pots this size its whole life so i`m sure ina bigger pot it would be much thicker....) I think it woule be interesting to wire up a pine so it looks like some of the example Shimpakus in the above post......
IMG_5369.JPG
and from the top...
IMG_5370.JPG
And a Japanese Orange (i think) It has small oranges when it fruits... perhaps a cumquat?
IMG_5371.JPG
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Re: How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by Jow »

Good to see people getting excited! Its spurring me on to take more pics of different methods... Ill post about Shari creation tomorrow.... its another easy technique that achieves great results.
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Re: How to grow good bonsai stock like the Japanese nurseries

Post by Steven »

Thanks for putting this together for us Jow!
Soon there will be no excuse for anyone to complain that they can't get their hands on good stock in Australia ;)
Regards,
Steven
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