The audience has gone very quiet these days…I understand we all get busy preparing for winter and appreciating the last of the fall color. So I thought I’d stir things up a bit by presenting a tree that one person already gave up on; it came my way as part of a deal to help pay for another tree. Both trees came from Randy Knight of Oregon Bonsai. The subject of tonight’s post is an Engelmann spruce collected by Randy. It went to a customer who returned it, stumped as to what to do about styling. If you don’t already know by now, I like to take on a challenge sometimes and this tree offered plenty of that! Let’s see what all the fuss is about:

spruce

 

How do you describe a tree like this? All three roots are the same tree, they are not separate trunks. So exposed root style would be a start. There were quite a few stubs from branches that had been pruned in the field or by its first owner groping around for a bonsai. Another shot:

spruce

 

If you’re still wondering why I took this on, I don’t blame you 😉 But I did see something almost right away about this tree that might just be its redeeming quality and I’m sure some of you out there have already done this in your mind. And for those who have not, here is what I thought:

spruce

 

Now we have gone to a definable style–slant style or semi-cascade…I’ll let you squabble over how to define it. How about ‘Exposed root semi-cascade slant’ style? I write this tongue-in-cheek for fellow bonsai-ists and for those less serious or just dabbling, please bear with me. I also considered the opposite side for the front:

spruce

 

The base where the roots join from this side is very similar to the opposite but as we go up the trunk  from this side, it veers away from us and to the back. A number of branches also emerge in the area just above the roots on this side, whereas the other side is free of branches and we get to see a clear view of the trunk without pruning anything off. The other downside to cutting branches is that you have to deal with the fact they have been cut off. And speaking of which, the next step in working on this tree involved cleaning up the tree–removing all the tiny dead twigs and making the cut branches and stubs look natural. This is something you want to do before you begin wiring and styling the tree as it can be pretty hard to do when everything is wired up. A shot after cleaning up and working on the branch stubs known as ‘jins’:

spruce

 

Once the clean up is done, we can start to wire the tree. We start wiring the largest branches first:

spruce

 

I’ll do a series here of the wiring as it goes on, bit by bit. And for those who don’t know about wiring, we use annealed copper wire and anchor two branches together with the same wire. So part of the strategy of wiring is looking for branches of similar size to pair together with the same wire. We use less wire this way and it makes the wire look more elegant.

spruce

 

spruce

 

spruce

 

You can see by now, we’re nearly there and what follows is the nearly endless process of tweaking and fine tuning. And by that I mean every time you move one branch, they all need to be re-positioned to accommodate the new branch’s position. Fun stuff but one needs to learn when to step away and let the tree rest!

spruce

 

spruce

 

spruce

 

And that set of photos were taken at the end of the day Thanksgiving Day. Today started off  bitter cold for us this early in December–it was 25* this morning when I got up but the sky was clear and the sun was out…a good day for taking some photos. I got a better background up and the tree really pops out from the black velvet:

spruce

 

spruce

 

spruce

 

That’s all I’ve got for tonight, hope you’ve enjoyed the process of turning a difficult tree into a bonsai!

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