John Milton Bonsai

The spring defoliation marathon is officially over here at Aichi-en. Most of the tree’s we did here were japanese maples and trident maple’s. I’d thought I’d share a few trident’s that I did. All these tree’s were grown by Oyakata’s grandfather from scratch but, all quite different. All three were partly defoliated, leaving inner weak shoots and weak area’s.




The second tree.




Although they are both root over rock style tree’s, they have their difference’s.

The first tree.

We have many tree’s styled like this at Aichi-en because Oyakata’s grandfather was one of the first people to style root over rocks with a long casting branch in Japan. I think it works well when you have a tall rock and helps to balance the image, giving a natural feeling even though it is a more stylised form.
It would be quite easy to imagine a tree in nature clinging to…

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Odd’ball’ red pine

John Milton Bonsai

I just thought I’d share a red pine tree that resides here at Aichi-en as I did some maintenance on it (pulling needles, reducing the shoot’s to two and thinning), plus it is a hard to get a decent picture of it where it is positioned at the nursery.

This tree I find, has a good feeling for me and is a personal favourite, although it’s hard to choose here.

It in fact technically, has an obvious ‘rule’ fault but, I don’t think takes anything away from it. Rather, I think it adds to its character.


Close up of the shari Close up of the shari

The tree is a collected/yamadori from Japan, originally bought by Oyakata’s father.

The branches have raised a bit and it could do with some wiring to show it off to its true potentially but, it was just maintenance for now, as it is that time of year.

Here’s the…

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John Milton Bonsai

On my return to Japan we have been pretty busy with the past Meifu-ten and The impending Kokufu-ten. Mostly the work has been styling/wiring with the occasional black pine/kuromatsu needle pulling.

I thought I would share a few of tree’s that I have recently wired and they are all black pines.


This is a kifu sized black pine.
I didn’t get round to taking a before picture, I should have done because it wasn’t a bad transformation. The tree was very dense, I pulled all the old needles and thinned out a fair bit before wiring.


Another tree I did was this shohin black pine. Again unfortunately I didn’t get round to taking a before pic. This also was a bit of refinement work for sales.
It is looking a bit yellow here but, has greened up since coming out of the cold for a while.


This is a Kuro…

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Ryoji Fukui Goyomatsu

John Milton Bonsai

Back along Mr Tanaka came back with a new kifu sized white pine.

The tree is setsu-goyo/grafted on to black pine base which many of us are familiar with being as many are exported around the world. Favored for their strength and size. This one however is very old, older than many you see and sets it apart some what.

This tree also belonged to a famous collecter and customer who has since passed, Mr Ryoji Fukui. A customer of shokuji-en(Ishi-San), formally residing in Nagoya and now Inazawa, it was the most famous nursery in Nagoya. Shokuji-en is famous for shohin bonsai and Fukui-San was a shohin collector but, also had some very nice big tree’s.

There is a published book of Fukui-San’s tree’s but, this tree does not feature in it. The book contains many we’ll known tree’s including Kokufu winner’s.

I set about working the tree according to…

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John Milton Bonsai

Recently I was given three akamatsu (Japanese red pine) work on. The way it works here is we are assigned a tree to work on, given some very simple instructions eg. Wire this tree, cut this tree, etc and the rest is up to us.
Akamatsu can be tricky to work with because they can snap with no warning when you try to bend them, especially small finger thick branches. Also the needles can some times be slightly frail, even when hardened off (depending from tree to tree). Aside that I think they are very nice trees, they can have really good bark in time, delicate looking and respond with multiple buds when candle cut.

Here’s the first tree that I styled, before work.


Here's Juan San getting in on the action giving scale (I'm sure I've seen that pose somewhere before?!?) Here’s Juan San getting in on the action giving scale (I’m sure I’ve seen that pose somewhere before?!?)

It wasn’t a straight forward tree. It wasn’t…

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Red pine second styling

John Milton Bonsai

A little while back i was given this akamatsu/red pine to wire.

This tree was first styled back in 2012 by Mr Tanaka for an Kinbon article.

As you can see the transformation was truly impressive and some awesome work. It completely altered the tree making compact and balanced. However as in any process of making a bonsai tree this is only the first stage and is never instant.

Following the styling only maintenance work has been performed on the tree. This included de-candling, pulling of needles and general care.

The tree wasn’t de-candled last year and now was starting to loose shape. Mr tanaka decided it needed a second wiring and asked me to wire it. I started by pulling needles and removing any branches that had died.

After pulling the needle’s it’s easier to see how much the tree has got out of shape from a picture…

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To Kokufu or not to Kokufu???

John Milton Bonsai

One day before Mr Tanaka was set to go to Kokufu he asked me to style this tree for the sales area.

At the time it was just before we watered, it was close to lunch and I need to leave early that day (about 3:00) for personal reasons. Mr Tanaka and the guy’s were heading off to a customer’s for work after lunch.

The tree had been bought previously bought by Mr Tanaka on-line. It is old, good leaf and many things going for it. The only problem with the tree from an earlier inspection is its bad branch structure. Knowing this and with my time limit I knew my work was cut out for me (apprentice pressure).

So I set about wiring, cleaning the tree and pulling old needles as I went. Quickly we got called for lunch but, I ate fast and I went back to work…

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Prunus Mume (3b of 4)

Nebari Bonsai

The verdict…


About the round Tokoname pot. It’s a 13.25″ x 4.5″ deep Touyou by Mr. Matsumoto Takeshi. Lindsey Farr visited the kiln in his World of Bonsai Series, episode 11: http://ofbonsai.org/galleries/videos/world-of-bonsai-series-one-episode-11-tokoname-aiba-koyo-matsumoto-touyou-dragon-trident-2. Why this pot? First, I really like the pot, and felt that the composition worked. The angles of the trunk contrast well with the softer curves of the round pot, especially where it turns inward at the bottom. The nailheads add just enough texture to compliment the bark. I like umes in unglazed, dull or dark glazed pots because to me, the charm of an ume is in the contrast between a feel of great age, and the freshness of the new flowers. I don’t want a pot that will compete at this time of year. As it ramifies more, the green Chinese oval can look nice, as would an old, dark stoneware unglazed oval, or an antique…

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Prunus Mume (Part 2 of 4)

Nebari Bonsai

The ume bloomed beautifully last month. As the last of the blooms faded, it was time to revisit some old articles and notes about pruning. I’ve always read that ume is pruned heavily after blooming. I’ve also read that buds may not predictably open, so if the branch is pruned back, not leaving a viable bud, it’s not likely you’ll get one that spring. So, in true conservative fashion, I pruned the ume gently. Once the buds swell and leaves begin to emerge, it is safe to prune back to the first or second viable bud. More on that in Part 4.

In full bloom:

After deadheading most of the flowers:

Wire removed:


Lightly pruned:


What’s next? Repotting is done after blooming and before growth begins. With the warm weather we’ve had, I’m surprised it hasn’t started leafing out yet. Pine candles are starting to stretch, and magnolias are blooming…

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Prunus Mume (Part 1 of 4)

Nebari Bonsai

Last year, one of our club members brought an Ume to a Kathy Shaner workshop, and this year I worked on one with Peter Warren. Both said the same on the timing. Since we’re getting close to Ume blooming season, here is what they said:

* Mid-summer: wire green shoots, but don’t prune back.
* Winter: when flower buds fatten, you can shorten those shoots back to a profile that looks good when flowering.
* Late winter/spring: after flowering, prune it back hard, to 1-2 nodes and repot.
* Late spring: pinch back a little, but not later or you’ll risk flowering in the winter.

Some other notes Peter shared:
* Smooth, glossy leaves have flower buds at their bases. Those that are a little rougher in texture will not flower, they look/feel different. Flowering-leaves also curl up in the fall.
* It’s ok to let…

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