Lee at Work
We were visited by Lee Verhorevoort who has become very familiar to our members and receives a warm welcome. On this occasion he took charge of trees brought by members to the meeting, carried out some initial work on them to illustrate how to progress development, and gave the owners advice. Whilst working Lee kept up a Commentary about what he was doing and paused occasionally to offer tips about the species of tree or general maintenance.
Lee started work on one of the evenings raffle prizes. It was a 3 feet high cedar planted in a plastic washing?up bowl and was long, straight and lacking in any taper. The tree had been donated coming from the bonsai owned by the late Roy Stevens. The problem was how to give some attraction and taper to the tree whose height was out of proportion to the trunk thickness. After talking about the possibility of carving the trunk to generate attraction and an illusion of taper, Lee believed the most practical solution was to shorten the tree considerably then to trim the long branches retaining one as a new leader and making the branches near the apex shorter than the lower branches. The next stage would be to create movement by raffia wrapping the trunk and bending it using guy wires. Planting at an angle would give a better visual appearance. Time did not permit this stage to be carried out but Lee explained how to bundle the raffia strips which would then be soaked in water. Raffia wrapping prevents breakages and retains moisture.
Next was a Scots pine collected from waste ground. The trunk was planted at an angle and there was good development of the back of the tree. There was a slight inverse taper of the lower trunk which could be hidden by raising the level of the compost. Lee discussed the retaining and bending of some of the branches.
He demonstrated how pruning should leave a growing shoot in order to avoid leaving a blind shoot which would ultimately die. Lee discussed the merits of copper wire against aluminum wire for conifers. Wiring of pines assisted back budding and the best time for this to was February. To illustrate the bending using guy wires Lee bent one bottom branch with a wire down under the main root. Finally he recommended the tree should be re?potted in free draining soil to reduce needle length and to keep it pot bound.
Our members were certainly offering Lee some problem trees as he considered a Chinese elm with twisted aerial roots. Although it could be developed as an exposed root style Lee favoured air layering near the bottom of the trunk and the removal of most of the aerial roots. However to avoid years of work Lee suggested reducing the apex and to make the most of the existing features of the tree. Once trimmed the branches should be kept short.
Lee's opening comment about a small well groomed cotoneaster was that a topiary effect should be avoided. He demonstrated how to cut into the pads removing secondary layers and reducing thickness of the pads. The straight portion of the hunk could be wired and bent to give movement.
A buddleia stump had come from a garden then had been carved and potted for three years. Most of the stump was dead. Suckers and growth were coming out all over the stump. The positions and length of the growth gave rise to many options. Finally Lee suggested maintaining the higher growth and also a lower sucker. This species grows fast but could die back as well. Buddleia wood was soft and needed to be well dried and protected with quantities of lime sulphur.
A tree of the chamaecyparis gracilis species showing thick growth was the next tree to be examined. Lee removed all dead growth and minor foliage in the centre of the tree. Lee gave advice for this species, It will back bud at junctions so it is important when cutting back to leave stubs at the junction with a branch or trunk to encourage new growth. Cutting across needles will only result in foliage turning brown, cutting should be done at main stems. Needles can be finger pruned . The owner of the tree was given advice on wiring, feeding and watering.
A grafted pine had sparse foliage. Lee advised wiring everything to encourage back budding. Then it should be placed in sunshine or good light to strengthen the tree and to generate new buds. The centre shoot of a group of shoots should be removed as again this will encourage back budding. When considering wiring and bending Lee suggested looking at the galleries of photos in bonsai books and magazines to note the flow of branches in classic trees.
A white pine had been recently pruned and had been wired. It had good basic structure but needed more wiring of the apex. Care should be taken to leave the tips of branches turned slightly upwards. This tree had four branches in one zone just under the apex and Lee advised removing one branch. The tree should be re?potted in March or April without much root pruning. Giving general advice, Lee said the amount of existing roots should be considered carefully before root pruning. He felt that there was a tendency to remove roots just to fit into a pot and if the roots were weak to start with then the health of the tree could be damaged. Any long roots could and should be shortened.
Lee considered there was too much foliage on a juniper with rock. This hid the trunk line. He demonstrated the benefit of removing 20?25 % by wrapping the foliage to be removed in a plastic bag. Then he reduced the length of some of the longest apex shoots. Noting a long jin he reduced this saying that the lengths of jins should be in proportion to the trunk. He explained that using a small blow torch on jins dries out moisture and speeds up the jin bending process. Finally he concluded that the tree was overpotted.
Next on the examination table was a cotoneaster with an inverse taper of the trunk, Lee recommended removing over half the upper part of the trunk unless the owner wanted to retain an informal upright style. If a sucker appeared near the foot of the tree it should be retained and allowed to extend to thicken up the trunk. All side shoots on such a sucker should be removed. A more drastic measure would be to air layer the tree in the region of the inverse taper and start a new foot to the trunk.
An olive had a straight trunk without taper. Some bending would improve the appearance. Wiring should be done with care as the smooth bark is easily marked with wire bites. The tree could benefit from a light pruning and it should be given some protection in a cold greenhouse.
Cryptomeria are very apex dominant and the specimen in a large black plastic bin was no exception. Sharp tools should be used when cutting back to a junction to avoid die back but foliage pinching could be used to achieve and maintain shape. Pruning and trimming should be avoided in September. Frost makes foliage bronze and winter protection can prevent this and saving weeks of growth recovery. This tree had two branches from one point which leads to unsightly swelling. Lee recommended removing the thicker branch. There was a lower branch emerging from the lowest point on the main trunk but was not a true twin trunk style tree. Lee suggested that this branch could be used to thicken the main trunk then removed. Branches could be wired and lowered slightly.
It was a constructive evening when the members who had brought trees went away having had their trees worked on even if time limited the amount of work. They received advice on the next steps which they could carry out at a more appropriate time.
Meeting. 13th November 2001
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Copyright & copy; 2001, Surrey Heath Bonsai Society.