Monday, October 14, 2019

Artist Adam Jones Holds Workshop with ACBS

By Michael Rusnak

The Akron Canton Bonsai Society was honored to host a workshop with visiting bonsai artist Adam Jones in October at Silver Springs Lodge in Stow, Ohio.  Mr. Jones trained at the world famous Bonsai Village and Bonsai Museum in Omiya, Japan.  He is the only westerner to own a successful bonsai nursery in Japan.  The workshop was arranged and sponsored by the Japanese Consulate General in Detroit.

The workshop began with a discussion about our club's major project for this year, the 30 plus amur maples that we dug this past April.  Mr. Jones offered plenty of good advice on care as well as a plan to train them into bonsai. Working with one of the maples that had grown wild this past summer, he discussed several important tasks, including selecting a front and visualizing an overall design for the tree.  He also discussed how to select which branches to keep to develop branch structure. He also talked about pruning, building ratification. A video with some of his comments about developing the amur maples can be seen on our youtube channel.

Members participating in the workshop brought current bonsai "works in progress." These trees are in need of some good direction and coaching to bring them to the next level.  There were several different species of trees, including maples, pine, juniper, spruce and yews. Additionally, we are also always looking to improve our own skills so that we might in the future create better bonsai.

Working like a chess master playing several different games at once, Mr. Jones went from member to member giving detailed advice on design, pruning and care of the trees. He talked about some of the important considerations when beginning a tree project, such as studying the tree, selecting a front, the most advantageous planting angle, and other aspects of overall design.  He was very specific and detailed in his instruction.  For example, in discussing some pruning the overgrown branches on evergreen such as spruce
or yews, he talked about which side branches to keep. Ideally left and right, eliminating those growing straight upward which will pull strong energy from the tree, and eliminating those growing downward from the branch which will become weaker.  He also noted the importance of identifying the leaf buds, points that determine how far back you can clip.  We have posted a video of parts of his discussion on pruning these still developing trees on our Youtube channel.

In addition to the workshop with ACBS, Adam's visit to Ohio included a demonstration at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, as well as a lecture at the Franklin Conservatory in Columbus.

Stock Spruce
At his presentation in Cleveland, Adam discussed creating a bonsai from nursery stock and transformed a stock spruce tree. The photo at the right shows the spruce as it was purchased from a local nursery, and below how it appeared after Adam did some well thought out pruning and wiring.  As shown in the photo, the planting angle of the tree would also be adjusted when re-potted in the spring. 

The Akron Canton Bonsai Society would like to thank Adam Jones for his patient, thoughtful and practical help and direction with our tree projects.  We would also like to sincerely thank the Japanese Consul General for selecting our club for this this terrific workshop. It was greatly appreciated.
Spruce after styling by Adam Jones

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Bonsai Ace Jim Doyle Visits ACBS

by Michael Rusnak

This Last week of August, visiting bonsai artist Jim Doyle of Natures Way Nursery in Pennsylvania held a "bring your own tree project" workshop for ACBS members. Members brought several different species, including  junipers, spruce, ficus, raintree, and pines.

Jim spent time evaluating each of the trees members brought for the workshop.  He advised members, on proper care, design and developing the trees into better bonsai.

In addition, Jim was asked for advise on our clubs main project this summer-- developing the 50 year old maples that were collected from the front of the building where the club has been meeting. (Scroll down and see our April post)

Working with one example from the hedge dig this past spring that has been left to grow wild this season, he commented on the attributes of the species and gave several suggestions for how to develop foliage, keep the tree healthy, and also how to feature and preserve the dead wood and hollow areas of the trunk.  See this video of some of what he had to say at this link to our Youtube channel.

Jim added the following points about amur maples:
  • One of the best maples for fall color
    Responds with lots of growth when cut back
  • Likes a lot of water
  • When developed will adjust to shallow bonsai pot
  • The species is very winter hardy and does well in Canada
  • Branches can be easily air-layered to get new trees
  • Clean soft wood from hollows and dead areas, use PC wood hardener to preserve area
  • Thread grafting works well if branches needed 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Yew Bonsai Progression

by Michael Rusnak

May 2015

Developing a bonsai from raw material is typically a five year project--at least. I mean to get a tree to the point where it starts to look presentable. If nothing else, photos can help you see how much a tree has progressed.   In 2015 several shrubs were donated to ACBS by a gentleman who was moving out of state. They were plants that had been dug out and potted, as can be seen in the photo from 2015. That summer I pruned the foliage ends back and fed the plant over the course of the season. I wanted to encourage some back budding closer in to the trunk.
May 2016, planting angle adjusted

The following spring, I re-potted the yew and changed the planting angle, rotating the lower trunk to allow a lower branch to become its new trunk. (low branch on right in the 2016 photo).  I recall it had been planted in sand, and had a nice healthy root system. The tree responded well to the pruning, and it was putting out some new shoots, closer in to the trunk, but mostly on the upper branches.
June 2019, after being allowed to mostly grow wild

I continued to prune the ends of the foliage, and except for that, I continued regular feeding and let it grow mostly wild for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
August 2019

The tree put on some nice growth, as can be seen in the photo taken in June 2019.  This past month, I did some wiring, trimming and shaping to try to bring the yew into a more conical shape.  I also removed much of the dead branches on the lower portion of the trunk.  I was hoping to keep more of it, but the lower dead branches mostly came straight at the viewer, and I thought the bulk of it interfered with its trunk line. So Some of it was removed. I think it's taking shape now, and is much transformed from what it was back in 2015.

Anyway, we'll see how it responds over the balance of the summer and next spring. I'd like to see the foliage come down a bit lower, and I still need to do a little carving on the dead wood areas.  More refinement will need to be done in the coming few seasons, and in time, it should make a fine bonsai.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

ACBS Summer Exhibit At Akron's Stan Hywett Botanical Gardens

ACBS has partnered with the beautiful and historic Stan Hywett Hall and Garden this summer to be part of their "Art in the Garden" series of events.  The hall is famous its botanical gardens as well as its architecture.

Our club will have a month long display of tropical bonsai in the beautiful and spacious conservatory on the grounds from June 15th to July 14th. For the event the Stan Hywet greenhouse director Joe Mihalik created special stands of varying height from the trunk of a large spruce tree.  The stands are arranged in three and five tree groups, and display the trees against the neutral sky background of the greenhouse glass.  In addition the Gardens graphics department added signs with information and facts about the art of bonsai that were placed with each tree.

Because of the heat that can build in a summer greenhouse, only tropical bonsai were part of this
extended exhibit. Several tropical varieties are present, including several varieties of ficus, Brazilian rain tree, and Jaboticaba. Many trees in the exhibit are paired with miniature "mame" companion bonsai.  In addition to the tropical bonsai,  the club will exhibit a small number of pines and other winter-hardy species on two weekends when ACBS members will be present to talk with visitors and  some demonstrate the process of creating a bonsai from raw nursery stock.  Club members will be at the Stan Hywett conservatory on Saturday June 22 and Sunday June 23 from 10:00 to 4:00,  and also on Saturday July 13th and Sunday July 14 from 10:00 to 4:00pm.

We invite all of our internet friends and members of the bonsai community to visit our exhibition.
 Watch a short video tour of the exhibit on our youtube channel at this link.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

ACBS Mini Show at Rohr's Nursery

It is always surprising how many interested people show up to talk about bonsai. This first full weekend in June was no exception as word got around that ACBS was displaying some of its and demonstration how bonsai can be created from ordinary nursery stock.
The nursery hosted the mini show in its neat out door gathering area, sort of a garden within the garden, where the club set up and did a little tree work. Emmett carved up a couple of 5 gallon size boxwoods to show how the process begins.  Members talked with visitors about such things as how to pick out a good candidate for bonsai from stock material, what species are good first time attempts and general care questions.
So relaxing--working on a tree with friends on a terrific June afternoon. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Azalea, Five year Progression

Azaleas picked up while on a run, 2014
by Michael Rusnak

One of my favorite things about the art of bonsai is how you can create something out of nothing. A tree headed for the shredder or landfill, can get a whole new life as a bonsai.

Even better is the process.  Although it may take five to ten years to become a presentable tree, it gives you a lot to cheer about along the way. Let me show you how many cheers this clump of azaleas has given me.

Clump as picked up, 2014

I was out for a run one spring morning in 2014. I spotted this over grown, bug damaged azalea clump.  It had been dug out by a neighbor and left on the curb for the trash.  There were some interesting shapes along its base, and when I picked it up, it broke into two main pieces.  So I brought them home to see if I could get them to live in a pot.  Both sections pulled apart into several plants.  Unfortunately, the largest one which had a trunk nearly as thick as my wrist and was full of ripples and movement had a lot of damage where it was removed, and did not survive.

Now three tree grove in 2016
The other sections survived. One was a clumped together and formed a sort of three tree grove.  Two other small sections survived.

Something to cheer about, 2016
Over that summer, and the following summer of 2015, the trees began to get back their strength.  In the spring of 2016, now only two years after being toss out for the trash, being potted up, cut back and responding, all three must have been happy and tossed out some blossoms from its sparse foliage, which can be seen in the photos.

May 2018
This variety of azalea, whatever it is,  has an unusual flower.  They almost look like roses when they come out. But already I think the fun of developing a piece of trash into a bonsai is obvious with these plants.

In order to achieve proportion and also ramification in the branching, they need cut back each season.  I let them grow wild all summer, and because I like the blossomes so much, I've waited to prune them.  In any case, the process of letting it grow out and then cutting back the next season seems to be working for them.
Azalea grove, May 2019
Small azaleas May 2019
It will take more seasons, but I think they are getting better and better. And we will see how they improve a few more years down the line.
But in any case, during this long process, they give you bunches of things to cheer about. That is what makes bonsai such a great art. 
Check out a 360 of the azalea on our youtube channel at this link.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Hedge Maple Dig-- Raw Material for Bonsai

What a great opportunity.  No bonsai guy could resist.

The building where our club meets is being remodeled, and a maple hedge needed to be removed. Instead of being shredded, they were donated to our bonsai club, and now begin new lives as bonsai.

This was an exciting project for our club.These trees, estimated to be 30-40 years old, are outstanding raw material for bonsai.

 Each club member got a tree. Many could be split into two or three trees. Many had fantastic shapes. They should have brilliant yellow fall colors. Even as they were being dug, it was tempting to start studying them for design and how they will eventually take shape as bonsai.

Assuming they survive in pots, these trees are about five year projects. It is hoped that in the future our club will present an exhibit of these maples.

The excavator operator saved us a lot of work, and dug the trees neatly to preserve as much of the roots as possible. The operator dug 30 trees in under 90 minutes. He ran like clockwork.

We had them bundled up and ready to pot up in the afternoon.   Take a look at this video on our YouTube channel that shows some

 Now just look at those trunks and their fantastical shapes. They look like something out of a fairy tale.

Can't wait to see them develop.