Twisted Shohin Itoigawa

Truth be told, it’s probably close to an inch too tall to be Shohin, but I’m working on that. I bought it from Bjorn in March 2014, when we drew some Shari and created some Jins, and then repotted it:

I let it grow for the rest of 2014:

Then wired it out in early 2015:

The apex was a bit pointed and too tall. But, not a bad start. In May 2016, I showed it at our Alabama Bonsai Society’s Spring Show like this:

Kathy Shaner was the judge, and made the following comments about the tree in her critique of the trees in the show:

And a few weeks later, I had the opportunity to work with Kathy on this tree. She had me spend time separating some of the places where the trunk had been doubled back on itself, cleaning up the sharis and then we started on the apex. I had split trunks of Shimpaku junipers with her before, but since this tree was small, I wasn’t fully confident in how it would turn out.

But she is a master and I am a student, so this is where we ended up. I let it grow for a couple seasons after this, not exactly liking the result. The tree also grew stronger on the right than on the left. I’m not sure why, unless it has to do with sun exposure. I turned the tree 180 degrees to get the weak left side into more sun for a few months, but it didn’t really help.

Finally, in December 2018, I decided to prune and wire it again. Here is where it started:

To compact the design, I started by shortening long growth:

Then removed juvenile and weak growth from the crotches.

Then wiring branches into position:

And finally, tightening it up a bit more with some guy-wires:

Here is a shot after the work was finished:

And a series of the development:

Next steps are to let the apex fill in, and to continue working on the shari.


A new old Tofukuji Pot

Here is a recent pickup from Matthew Ouwinga, a hand-formed round, or terebineri by legendary Heian Tofukuji. 3.5″ in diameter, with a glassy blue glaze over his warm graham-cracker color clay.

An area of glazed-over pitting and a bit of grog peeking through adds some interest:

Another area showing characteristic rippling texture of his hand-formed pots.

Here is another Tofukuji pot showing the rippling texture, lifted from Ryan’s website:

And a few more examples of Tofukuji’s terebineri pots from his book:

The chop and foot attachment:

Chinese Quince, 2 years of work

I like the look of Chinese Quince when they’re grown thoughtfully, with lots of movement and taper.  The longer I train them, the more I appreciate the work that is required to make something that likes to grow long, straight, and taperless into something that looks like this:

To get a quince to look that refined requires constant trimming and wiring.  Beginning in spring 2017, I started with pruning branches short, wiring several branches down:

And letting it grow for a few weeks…

Then pruning it back, and wiring the green shoots down in May:

And again in July:

In late September, the wire was biting in, and removed:

A light trimming back, and it can coast for the rest of the year.  It will be pruned again after leaf fall.

Fall color…November 2017.

Here is a leafless shot from December ’17

Light pruning, and wiring a few rogue branches in place:


By late March 2018 it was leafed out again:

And in mid-April, young shoots were wired to add some wiggle, and the crown was lightly pruned back. Before:


Once the wire starts to hit in and the shoots lignify, the wires will be removed, the branches will be pruned back to one or two leaves, and allowed to grow again. Meanwhile, the shedding bark adds some interest for sure.

Aafter a few weeks of growth, it developed rust, and I ended up having to heavily prune it and unwire it. A bit disappointing, but hard-pruning is really what develops character.


So, in mid-July 2018, it had grown enough to wire again:

Below is early August 2018, and if you’re not keeping track at home, this represents the fourth pruning this season, and I suspect it will produce another flush. It will be good to see this one leafless again.



Mid-August, and the wires were digging in, so the tree was unwired and lightly pruned again. Before:


If you’re counting, that’s 5 times the tree was pruned back and wired this year.

Fall color was good too:

And when it was leafless, here is the result of the year’s efforts:

Still some rough areas, and I think eventually these secondaries will probably need to be shortened again. For now, just the straight and heavy areas are pruned.

Then every branch is wired.

So here is the side-by-side after 2 years of building branches. Can’t wait to see what the next 2 years brings!

Next spring, a repot and some work on the nebari.