We’ve officially had our first frost as I write this post to show you summer’s ‘last hurrah’ earlier this month. I tried my best to bank those days when the temperatures ventured into the low 70’s. Mornings were cool and on one such day, I found this on one of my engelman spruce:

Dragonfly

 

It didn’t move for several hours and I wondered if it was in its last throes of existence when I checked later in the afternoon, it was gone. I caught a late-bloomer on the bench growing in with a little bougainvillea. It’s a small succulent I collected in the mountains of Southeast Arizona:

Bougainvillea

 

A detail of the flowers:

flower detail

 

And with such nice weather came the opportunity to work outside in the warm sunshine. This is a lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta latifolia that was collected near Crater Lake, I was told. It was heeled into the ground in a small nursery in a huge burlapped rootball. I acquired it in March of 2012 and replanted it at a different angle and into 100% pumice, replacing most of the heavy clay field soil it had been in for I don’t know how many years:

'crankshafta'

 

This is typical of this species of pine–long, leggy branches with tufts of foliage out on the ends. A shot with the lens cap of my camera to show the size of the trunk:

'camshafta'

 

I can only guess what happened to this little tree that caused the abrupt changes in the angle of the trunk and the twisting down low…it’s quite possible it may have happened when it was just a seedling that struggled to get up from the ground. Maybe the seed landed in a spot that allowed it to germinate but not grow straight? Whatever the case, it sure lives up to its generic name ‘contorta’ πŸ˜‰ Job one for me will be to bring those long, leggy branches in closer to that contorted trunk and place them in such a way to accentuate the curvy, twisty nature of this tree. Let’s take one more look at the base of the trunk:

'camshafta'

 

We’re looking at the tree from the left side, or the tree’s right; if you look to the left, you see the trunk forms a ‘U’ shaped curve as it comes out of the loop at the base. My plan was to take the first branch of the tree which is the lowest branch on the tree, through this ‘U’ and over to the right side, or the tree’s left. The reason I wanted to do this is that I needed a branch on the right side where there wasn’t anything until almost the top of the tree. Plus, I wanted to utilize the smaller branch directly above it to be the first branch on the left…are we confused yet?? In the next shot, you can see the branch has been threaded through the ‘U’, first without wire to see if it would even move there and also to see how it might work out on the other side of the tree:

'crankshafta'

 

Once I took the branch through this ‘dry run’, I wired it and set it into place. Here’s another shot zoomed out for you to see the branches in their new position:

'crankshafta'

 

If you compare the first picture I posted of the tree to the photo above, now there is foliage on the right side of the trunk and much of the length of the first branch is shortened by moving it from the left side of the trunk, around and through the ‘U’ and over to the right side of the tree. The next shot is of the tree all wired up; I wish I had some more progress shots but I really got into it and just couldn’t stop!

'crankshafta'

 

In order for our design to have unity, we repeat what was done with the first branch throughout the tree, all the way up to the apex. Here is a shot of the tree from the back for you to see the placement of the branches from a different perspective:

'crankshafta'

 

A shot from the left side, or the tree’s right:

'crankshafta'

 

The stand the tree is on is an old crankshaft I found in a dump; I thought I’d name the tree after that…Pinus contorta ‘crankshafta’ πŸ˜‰

'camshafta'

 

And a detail of the first branch on the left, one of my favorite branches on the tree for how it turned out. Please remember this is a first styling of this tree and that after I styled it that day, I had to let it rest. Not all the branches were wired but will be when the tree is telling me it can take the work. And now that the branches are closer in to the trunk and have been bent fairly severely, there is a chance buds will appear along the lengths that before had nothing. Depending on how the tree responds, I might even be able to plant it into a bonsai pot this spring, around March is best for this species in the Portland area. Stay tuned for more posts in the future about this tree…

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