On August 28, 2018, our Club Sensei Kathy Shaner performed a demonstration on a collected California Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). The demonstration redwood tree was collected about three years ago by Bob Shimon of Mendocino Coast Bonsai. The redwood was at the smaller end of the classification of Chiu or Chumono, two-handed bonsai, 16 to 36 inches in height. Its trunk was thick and somewhat slanted with top heavy healthy green foliage.
Let me digress for a moment and explain more details about the demonstration tree. There were two trees offered for demonstration. In addition to the redwood, there was a Procumbens Nana Juniper (also known as common juniper or Japanese Garden juniper). The club members voted to have the redwood serve as the demonstration tree for the evening.
Kathy started the demonstration by pointing out what we should be looking for in a bonsai. That being the best focal point or item of interest within the tree. She believed that the redwood demonstration tree could be developed into a multiple trunk bonsai. She began by working the surface soil, removing the soil to expose surface roots and discover what was the extension of the trunk base, referred to as the nebari. The widest part of the trunk base or nebari is oftentimes used for the front view. The nebari is found under the surface.
There were pieces of deadwood near the trunk base that showed tool cut marks. Kathy worked on eliminating the tool cut marks by using pliers and branch cutters to “cut and tear” the straight tool mark edges. Some of these pieces of deadwood became jins. A jin is a branch that is deadwood or created as deadwood and can appear almost anywhere on the tree. Jins are short since deadwood rots and breaks off over time in nature.
Kathy then discussed styling the redwood tree. She wanted to angle the tree by tilting it upward and forward towards the viewer looking at the front. She said perception is very important here. With the redwood tilted towards the viewer the tree appeared and felt like the tallness of redwood trees in nature.
Kathy explained the difference of jins versus shari. A jin was described above. Shari is deadwood created in nature or by the bonsai artist along the trunk of the tree. She reduced the thickness of several deadwood trunks by stripping the bark using the “cut and tear” method. By doing so, this strengthened the primary trunk in size and appearance. She said the styling of the demonstration redwood would have multiple tops by wiring three branches upward, each having its own height, one being the apex or taller than the others.
She used copper wire for its strength and holding power. Kathy’s wiring was loosely wrapped around the branches to create movement and hold them in place. She would wrap the wire in an elongated manner and not close together like a spring. She chose to have three apexes, each wired closely together and which would have similar growth patterns. By wiring loosely, she would avoid having the copper cut into the bark of the branches. The wire could stay on for about one year and would set the branches in the desired position. Wire cuts are ugly and require vigil to avoid them.
New growth on redwoods should be popped off at the very tips of the branches in order to prevent them from becoming long and leggy. Using you fingers, you pop off the tiny middle section of the new growth tips. This should be done throughout the growing season.
Kathy advised that the demonstration redwood tree should be placed in the shade until it becomes adjusted to its new location. Light morning sun and afternoon shade is the best condition for the young branches.
Upon completion of the demonstration, Peter Naughton won the raffle for the redwood bonsai.