This past weekend, Bay Island Bonsai hosted workshops by visiting Japanese bonsai professional Akio Kondo. Six of us brought a variety of trees that Kondo helped clip, wire, and bend. The shaggiest of the lot was a Japanese maple that belongs to Jeff. It’s an old tree undergoing an extensive makeover. Here’s what it looked like at the start of the workshop.
Shaggy Japanese maple
Kondo and Jeff made a plan for reducing the old apex. The black line below indicates where the trunk will be cut this winter. Just next to this line is a perfectly prepared wound. Kondo used an electric chisel to gouge out a knuckle just below the new apex. The cut is concave to allow scar tissue to develop without sticking out too much. After cleaning the wound, cut paste was applied.
After cleaning the cut
Along the way, most of the long shoots were removed. The few remaining shoots will continue to grow to help thicken the lowest branches and the new apex. They too will be reduced when they reach the desired size.
After reducing long shoots
The outline of the future tree begins to take shape
On the other side of the room, Boon worked on a coast redwood. Like on the maple, most of the long shoots were removed, but the apex will remain until it reaches the desired size.
Coast redwood before cutback (photo by Boon Manakitivipart)
Coast redwood after cutback
Redwood bonsai is fun in that typical specimens don’t evoke the tall giants we’re familiar with on the west coast, but they do evoke a number of other characteristics – deadwood primary among them – that make for interesting bonsai.