Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => Evergreen Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Steven on June 30, 2009, 11:10 PM

Title: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on June 30, 2009, 11:10 PM
Ok, upon mom's(irene-b) request I am showing, for now, one of my trees. It is a Blue Atlas Cedar that I had purchased through Ebay(waits to hear the "boo's" and "hisses") about 2 yrs ago. At that time it was not as filled out as it is now. After getting the tree I happened to be talking to MJ(weeble) and she was getting back into her pottery making skills. So I asked her to commission(believe's that is the word) a scoop pot for the tree since the style is Shakan. I have done some pruning and wiring up until October last year. Wayne suggested that I enter it in our study groups show entrance into The 13th annual Carolina Bonsai Expo held in Asheville, NC 2008. I do feel proud of this tree. I am proud because of who it impressed. Now on the last day of the show our special Bonsai artist Mr. Peter Adams critiqued all of the trees that were on display from all the clubs/groups who participated. As we are moving from tree to tree I listened to Mr. Adams discuss things he would change, alter, remove, add to the tree, how it was presented, the pot used and all the things he liked about the tree, how it was displayed, the pot used. As we got further along and getting closer to our display I began to have serious doubts about my tree. I didn't think my tree THE worst one there but how could my little tree stand up to all those big, expensive, highly prized, years of hard work trees that were there. Now up until my tree I can say Mr. Adams at least gave 1 thing wrong with any of the trees before mine. When he got to mine I was sweating bullets thinking "here we go. He's gonna really rip into how awful mine looks, how it's displayed". I was shocked when he said that he loves Blue Atlas Cedars and he liked how mine was displayed. Showing a nice blue canopy. He liked the style of pot I chose to display the tree in Shakan. Never did he mention 1 thing wrong with mine. Talk about being on cloud 9 :) I didn't get a big head but I was tickled. Anyhoo, that's the history and story of this tree. If I am posting this in the wrong area please let me know. Enjoy ;D

Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 04, 2009, 09:15 PM
Hmm it is apparent mine is not worthy of a conversation, comment or other. Oh well.  :(
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: weeijk on July 05, 2009, 05:14 AM
Steven, this is what I see when I look at it. It's a very healthy tree, it's very straight, it cry's for chokan (formal upright) but is put in a moonshell as a shakan (slanted) for some reason. It has hardly any movement or taper. Does it have roots on only 1 side?? That would make it more logical.
When not, I would change it into a chokan and place it in a very low and wide rectangular pot. Build the branches up from there.

These are just my thoughts.

Wessel
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 05, 2009, 06:22 AM
Yes I know it is straight. When I am confident I can wire this tiny tree with my huge hands and not ruin it I plan to put movement in the trunk. It came to me already in the Shakan style. There are roots all around but to make it a Chokan I would have to remove roots on side as they would be stickin way out of the soil. And from my past experience on removing roots on a conifer has not had a good outcome. The first picture shows the front I have been displayin it. As far as progression pics mom, what ya see is what ya get sorry. All I have done is wired a few branches and potted in scoop pot. I did resoil it for the Bonsai show in Asheville but that is it. Any suggestions on manipulatin the roots to change its style? Besides cutting and wiring. Thank ya's!
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Rick Moquin on July 05, 2009, 07:36 AM
Steven,

Bonsai is about conveying a message convincingly. The image you portrait whether it be a formal upright (majestuous) or slanting (why is it slanting) must tell a story.

This tree is young and IMHO the only way that a convincing image could be conveyed is to first get it out of that pot. It dwarfs the pot and the image it portraits is that it was placed there.

It also demonstrates once again IMHO that because it was slanted on "evil bay" that is what it is.

A more convincing image would be to plant this one out against the side or in a crevace of a large rock sitting in a suiban. Now it has a reason for the lean.

The other option is to plant that one out in a grow box (or the ground) as a formal upright. Either case will allow you to bury the uneven roots while developing more over time without radical root pruning.

Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 05, 2009, 09:51 PM
I understand the conveying a message with the tree. My message was simple: A lone Atlas Cedar reaches out for sunlight amongst a cliffs ledge(pots low side is the cliff while the tall back represented the mountain wall). I agree it is becomin too large for the pot. Y'all just crack me up with auction site name callin. I can get bigger and better Atlas stock BUT for the price and the poor condition they are in(no lower branchin due to no sunlight from overcrowding) they are not worth it to me. All they would be is formal upright lollipops. So I do get lesser stock for a lesser price to develop. Just gonna take longer. I do have oversized collanders in round and square and normal sized round collanders that would allow this tree to develop. I thank ya Rick. I'm all ears to anymore of ya "IMHO's" :) And I'm not bein a smartie either.
 Been at it over 2 yrs and still ain't learned...need more knowledge ;)
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Rick Moquin on July 06, 2009, 07:36 AM
Hmm it is apparent mine is not worthy of a conversation, comment or other. Oh well.  :(
... sometimes silence means everything.

Not discussing your case in particular, one of the things people loathed as mentioned on other sites is a negative review of their trees posted. Now this is understandable because at times the negative review did not offer the participant any alternatives or contain constructive criticism.

Not every tree will move everyone, this one just didn't float my boat as the late "Prowler" would say. However, I did offer options that might improve this tree.

Walter has a famous RMJ that I do not like, I have mentioned it in the past publicly and to him as well. Does that take away any of his talent or the remainder of his creations? No.

The attached picture is of an Ezo spruce from Walter, that floats my boat. Although it won an award there were some harsh reviews from the judges. For example the grass is out of proportion with the composition, which at first I didn't see but after it being pointed out, I must agree. Does this negative comment take away from the overall composition? No. When displayed again I am sure Walter will mow his lawn first  ;)

With reference to e-bay, good material can be acquired from there, but the good sellers are few and far between and the stock is generally overpriced. Allot of folks over the years got burnt and that is why it is referred to as "evil bay".

I was informed that BSG was to further the advancement of it's participants through serious exchanges. I believe I have met the requirements of this forum in my review. I offered alternatives to improve your composition. I further believe that Peter Adams did you a great dis-service with his review.

On the positive side of things, you have done a good job maintaining the health of this tree, most loose their first trees in short fashion. As my signature states "Bonsai is a journey, not the destination" This tree will see many transformations over the years from its humble beginings.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: weeijk on July 06, 2009, 10:15 AM
I agree it is becomin too large for the pot.

Why do you think so?? It's too small for that pot, not too large.....

I can understand the story you want to tell, but in that case, coming out of a cliff and reaching for light, it would have had a slight bend upwards, cause firstly it may grow slanting, but then it will grow upwards, towards the sun. I have here a example of 1 of my Larches, with onesided roots (I know the moonshell isn't too good, just training), just to show you how a tree would grow from a cliff.
 
You just have too decide how you want to commence........ keep us posted,

with kind regards, Wessel
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: MatsuBonsai on July 06, 2009, 10:42 AM
Steven,

I'm going to have to agree with Rick on this one, too.  The "story" isn't quite right.  It looks like a formal upright tree that has recently fallen over.  That's not the story of strength and survival that we typically want to convey.  With some wiring it may be possible to create a convincing display as you have it, or it may be better to change it all together.

Borrowing more photos from Al's Choosing a Shoku (http://bonsaistudygroup.com/bonsai-stand-discussion/choosing-a-shoku/) post:

(http://bonsaistudygroup.com/bonsai-stand-discussion/choosing-a-shoku/?action=dlattach;attach=122;image)
A Green Atlas Cedar

(http://bonsaistudygroup.com/bonsai-stand-discussion/choosing-a-shoku/?action=dlattach;attach=255;image)
A Blue Atlas Cedar

What do these 2 trees say to you?  Note the branch structure on each as well as the foliage pads.

Also, take a moment to visit this link (http://bonsaitonight.com/2009/04/28/tell-me-where-the-first-branch-goes/) for an interesting post/exercise on branch structure and design.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 06, 2009, 12:07 PM
Here are 4 pics showing this tree as a formal upright. All I did was lean the pot back as it sits this way as well. I'm open to any ideas on this view. Thanks!
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: clrosner on July 06, 2009, 08:55 PM
My second try to post this picture.  I played around with Photo shop.  The idea was to chop the main trunk and wire up a thinner branch to put taper to the trun and make the tree a lot smaller and more compact. I, also deleted the branches growing downward.

Warmest regards,

Carl
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: clrosner on July 06, 2009, 09:00 PM
See if this picture is better?

Carl
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 07, 2009, 11:04 AM
Thank you Carl for the virts. I am however going a different direction. These trees don't take too well to being trunk chopped. You don't know how far they will dieback. Got a much larger Green Atlas that I got cheap cause the former owner(not who I bought it from) trunk chopped it too close to good branches and the tree died back considerably. Losing a good 2.5 inches of height. They also don't like too much root pruning. Anyway, here is a pic showing how the rootball is when the tree is presented as a formal upright.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 07, 2009, 11:14 AM
These next pics shows where I repotted it to go with the formal upright style. The pot is not permanent. Just needed something to accomodate the rootball. Thought of going with a collander but I would have had to raise the tree high to allow that lowest branch to be unobstructed. I wired down the rootball on the inside of the slant and outside to hold it in place. I then used a tongue depresser with a notch to lean up the tree. This should hold in place to allow the roots to change direction. This tree naturally grew in a slant position. It was never manipulated to grow that way by means of wiring. If this does not take in this upright position I guess I will just have another crappy worthless tree to water and feed. Any suggestions are welcomed. Thanks.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: AlexV on July 13, 2009, 08:00 PM
Hi Steven,

I have a small Atlas Cedar that was in a similar condition to yours about 3 years ago.  It was in a small pot and it was straight, and while I was happy with it at first, I stopped being happy with it quickly.  What I ended up doing may work for you.

First I re-potted it, chopped off 1/3 of the roots including all roots pointing downwards, keeping only roots going out to the sides.  I then placed it on a small board in a large 5g can and left it to grow.  As a note, I have had no issues root pruning my Cedars, and I have watched Jim Gremmel (the owner of the 2 very nice cedars earlier in this thread) do massive root work.  The rule seems to be that if the tree is healthy, it can handle having its roots pruned.  However, the tree will not develop the nebari you want if all of its roots are pointed down.

I then wired it, putting some curves on the trunk.  I left the wire on for a season, until it almost started to bite and then removed it.  Unlike maples, wire scars on cedars will not grow out, they will be there forever so watch the wire.  This season I have wired all the branches and the tree as a whole is progressing.  It probably needs another 5 years in a training pot and another 5 years working on ramification after that, but that is the progression to get a really ancient looking cedar.

As far as pruning goes, I haven't gotten to it with this little tree, but eventually when the trunk is the size I want it I will need to prune it back and train a new leader.  This is a pretty good way to get taper in your tree.  My understanding with cedars is that you leave a stump of about 3 inches, then when it dies off carve the stump away so the tree heals over.

This is a long process, but it has been shown to turn out some really nice trees, including both of Jim's Cedars (which I drool over every time I am at his nursery).

I am attaching a couple pics, the first is from 2006, the second is from 10 min ago.  Hope some of this helps!

Cheers,
Alex
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 13, 2009, 09:45 PM
Thank you much for your experience and tips. I will keep these in mind as I develop this tree another way. I left the roots alone as it doesn't have many. The pot I have it in now is shallow, only 1 1/2" deep but big enough that the root should be able to roam a little. Also hoping that it will start to stand up on its own as it was a true Shakan. Not wired or trained to grow that way. I have a couple of "whips", 1 blue and 1 aureum, that lean some from the base to about 12" and then lay over horizontally. That is just how they have grown. I try to place them according to the sun in hopes they pull themselves towards the light but no luck. I thank you for your time and advice Alex.  8)
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: weeijk on July 15, 2009, 05:16 AM
Hi Steven,

When I look at y'r tree now, the 4 new pictures, I can't get arround the feeling that it has a lack of taper.
I would chop it down to about 3 branches, or chop down to just under the top. When I would do the second chop I would wire some curves in the trunk. From there out, I would do as Alex suggested, let it grow wild for 2 or 3 seasons, speccially in the toppart, reducing the growth on the branches you want to use later (getting or leaving growth next to the trunk)
Keep allready in mind that you need a second chop to gain even more taper.

Hope you understand a little what I mean,

Keep us posted, Wessel
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 15, 2009, 06:35 AM
I understand Wessel. I won't begin the chop process til next yr. In trying to place this tree upright I have put alot of stress on the roots. I had to wire down the side that was under the slant of the tree then prop the tree with the notched tongue depresser. I'll let everyone know how it goes. Thanks!
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: rockm on July 15, 2009, 08:41 AM
"I understand the conveying a message with the tree. My message was simple: A lone Atlas Cedar reaches out for sunlight amongst a cliffs ledge(pots low side is the cliff while the tall back represented the mountain wall)."

I agree with the redesign choice to a more upright position. This tree ain't cascade material.

The above quote made me think of how some folks can get trapped thinking more in terms of a "story," which can cloud the realities of their material. This is a pet peeve of mine, so I beg indulgence here as this isn't aimed specifically at the poster.

"Stories" for trees ARE NOT NECESSARY. Making them up can lead to awkward and forced compositions. Problems can arise when a designer has a specific idea of the composition he wanted, not in the immediate demands of the actual tree he has.

Design always starts with the tree, not with a story about the tree. Fictional stories can lead to all kinds of rationalizations that compromise design choices--"Oh, yeah that bar branch is there because it was protected from the winter winds blowing up from the rock face." You don't use the tree to tell a story. The tree tells its own story through its existing characteristics. Listening to the tree, not to the narrative in your head, usually will show the best path design to take.

Specifically, this tree has no descending branching that could be used as the dropped cascade branch. A cascade trunk has to descend drastically and immediately to be convincing in design. A gradual, arched or bowed cascade looks odd and forced.  There is also no opposing branch  that could serve as a crown for a cascade--the drastically dropped branches in most good cascades have a branch that moves upward at almost a right angle to visually counterbalance them.

This tree has typical opposite branching and a straightish trunk that translates into informal upright--not formal upright (a style that is quite demanding in starting material).
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: AlexV on July 15, 2009, 11:46 AM
Ya know, I went back and read my post and realized it implied I was advocating making Steven's cedar into a cascade.  I actually was thinking informal upright for Steven's.  I was only using the example of my little cedar to show that you can put some big wire on it and really put on some curves.  The steps you go through for most styles in this beginning stage is similar, but I agree, cascade isn't right for this tree.

I also highly support your plan to give the tree a rest.  I think Boon has finally broken me of the habit of working on material that isn't healthy/ready, and my trees are much happier for it.

Alex
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: bonsaikc on July 15, 2009, 02:19 PM
Thank you much for your experience and tips. I will keep these in mind as I develop this tree another way. I left the roots alone as it doesn't have many. The pot I have it in now is shallow, only 1 1/2" deep but big enough that the root should be able to roam a little. Also hoping that it will start to stand up on its own as it was a true Shakan. Not wired or trained to grow that way. I have a couple of "whips", 1 blue and 1 aureum, that lean some from the base to about 12" and then lay over horizontally. That is just how they have grown. I try to place them according to the sun in hopes they pull themselves towards the light but no luck. I thank you for your time and advice Alex.  8)

Steven,
You've received some good advice so far in this thread both on the horticultural and artistic fronts.

These trees are much like pines in that, when you cut a branch or the trunk, leaving a longish stub will prevent you from losing branches below the cut. Let it dry for a year and then carve it back.

I think you are hoping for too much in waiting for heliotropism (the capacity for a plant to seek the sun) with most bonsai material. It takes many years for environmental influences to affect trees in this way in the wild, and they may never do so in a bonsai pot or in your microclimate. This is why we take matters into our own hands with wire and clippers. If your bonsai looks as if it were reaching for the light, this is a win, even if you have done it with artificial means.

Good luck!

Chris
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: johng on July 15, 2009, 04:40 PM
"I understand the conveying a message with the tree. My message was simple: A lone Atlas Cedar reaches out for sunlight amongst a cliffs ledge(pots low side is the cliff while the tall back represented the mountain wall)."

I agree with the redesign choice to a more upright position. This tree ain't cascade material.

The above quote made me think of how some folks can get trapped thinking more in terms of a "story," which can cloud the realities of their material. This is a pet peeve of mine, so I beg indulgence here as this isn't aimed specifically at the poster.

"Stories" for trees ARE NOT NECESSARY. Making them up can lead to awkward and forced compositions. Problems can arise when a designer has a specific idea of the composition he wanted, not in the immediate demands of the actual tree he has.

Design always starts with the tree, not with a story about the tree. Fictional stories can lead to all kinds of rationalizations that compromise design choices--"Oh, yeah that bar branch is there because it was protected from the winter winds blowing up from the rock face." You don't use the tree to tell a story. The tree tells its own story through its existing characteristics. Listening to the tree, not to the narrative in your head, usually will show the best path design to take.

Specifically, this tree has no descending branching that could be used as the dropped cascade branch. A cascade trunk has to descend drastically and immediately to be convincing in design. A gradual, arched or bowed cascade looks odd and forced.  There is also no opposing branch  that could serve as a crown for a cascade--the drastically dropped branches in most good cascades have a branch that moves upward at almost a right angle to visually counterbalance them.

This tree has typical opposite branching and a straightish trunk that translates into informal upright--not formal upright (a style that is quite demanding in starting material).

I think I kind of agree and disagree with what you are saying Rock.  I think the most important thing you said was, "The tree tells its own story through its existing characteristics."  Regardless of what narrative the artist may have had in their head during the training or creation of the tree...the bottom line for me is the "story" the tree shows me as a viewer...although the "story" may be similar for different viewers ultimately it is unique to each individual.  The trees that move me the most are the ones which make a connection with my experiences.  This is also true in my own trees...I have many that are reasonable trees but its the one which make that connection to my experience that have the most appeal.

John
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on July 15, 2009, 09:11 PM
These may help some I don't know. Found the very first pictures I took of this tree when I removed it from the package it arrived in. These were taken 2 years ago. Like I said I did buy this through Ebay and looking back on my purchasing records the seller is from GA. Please be gentle  ;)
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: rockm on July 16, 2009, 09:48 AM
John,

I understand where you're coming from. I think good bonsai do "tell a story" but that story is largely in the viewer's head and, as you said, that story varies from viewer to viewer according to their life experiences.

The point I was aiming at (and probably missed  ;))  is that sometimes bonsaists get stuck on constructing elaborate tales to back up design decisions. While there can be some merit in that approach--"a prevailing wind forced branches in one direction", there can also be alot of justification and rationalization about bad design decisions.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Herman on October 17, 2012, 02:14 PM
Lol, I liked the tree at a slant...there are many ways to skin a cat...

Pinch and lil needlepluckin in the top regions, less so in the middle regions, and leaving the bottom to grow out. High nitrogen fertilizer in spring and first half of summer, wire and patience. You guys confused him to formal upright then to informal upright then cascade, then started arguing about the story a tree conveys, LOL!

Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on December 12, 2012, 08:04 PM
I miss this little guy.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: nathanbs on December 13, 2012, 12:23 AM
Do you mean the tree or Herman? ;)
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on December 14, 2012, 09:09 PM
The tree. Never met Herman so don't know his stature.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Herman on December 14, 2012, 09:28 PM
Do you mean the tree or Herman? ;)

You really are an idiot, aren't you...

@ steven, my condolences

why did it end up on the firewood pile?
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Don Dunn on December 18, 2012, 12:43 AM
I'm new to Bonsai,  at least in a serious way. I have a large Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar in my Japanese landscaped back yard. You have inspired me a bit to try and doing an air layer on mine. I have not  seen any Weeping Blue Atlas's used as Bonsai and I wondered why not. Maybe it's the long cascading branches folks don't like. Well I'm a little twisted and think it might be a good challenge to work on. I just joined a club and will start some lessons this January. I hope I can get a few tips from people on the forum. Be kind to me but also be real and I hope to improve over time.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Adair M on December 18, 2012, 08:29 AM
Welcome to the forum!

The most knowledgeable person I know of about atlas cedar is Jim Gremel.  Will they airlayer?  I have no idea.  If I were in your position, I would see if I could contact Mr. Gremel and ask his advice.  www.jimgremel.com (http://www.jimgremel.com).

This forum, by the way, is a great resource.  You can learn a lot by reading the old threads.  (Obviously... that's how you found this one.)

Adair
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: John Kirby on December 18, 2012, 09:43 PM
There are lots of them around, mist have ugly grafts. Some big old ones, take work to keep compact, maybe Boon will weigh in and talk about them. I have just played with the conventional Atlas Cedars.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Don Dunn on December 19, 2012, 01:02 AM
Thank You Adair I checked out his web site and it's pretty cool ! Maybe someday I can get up to his place and check it out. I live about  40 miles south of San Francisco. I have been looking for a forum and joined a coupe of others but they are general gardening type Forums with a Bonsai page, those are just not worth bothering with. I have already seen a lot of info that I have not seen any place else. And to be able to ask people about Bonsai problems who have so much knowledge is a remarkable gift.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Don Dunn on December 19, 2012, 01:10 AM
Thank you John for your reply. The weeping Blue Atlas I have is getting very large.  I made a telescoping pole for it and keep training it up and turning it at the same time. They are very aggressive in growth. Most of the them I have seen are allowed to grow parallel and can take over the whole yard.  I do love them as they are such a beautiful tree. I really don't mind trying to air layer it because I have so much growth that could be eliminated anyhow.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Steven on December 21, 2012, 10:29 PM
Herman I sold it a few yrs ago. Now I can't find any good affordable blues to work with.
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: boon on December 31, 2012, 12:32 PM
when i studied with Master Mitsuya in Japan, he put a few blue atlas cedar in the ground.  then he air layered several branches.  they are about 1" diameter.  they started to root in a year.  we had rain storm.  all of them broke.  the wood is very brittle. (next door neighbor has a large cedar.  several old long branches snap and fall to the side walk during winter storm here in CA).  they did not have enough root yet and all of them died.
so it will take at least a couple year to air layer it.

Jimmy Inadomi in Castro Valley used to have a few weeping blue atlas cedar.  the trunk has better curve than the straight one.  and easier to wire.  it is hard to find a good size one in the pot.  only small grafted one available. 

Jim Gremel is the only one who field grown the atlas cedar in the ground.  if you want a good one, go to see him. 
Title: Re: Blue Atlas Cedar
Post by: Don Dunn on December 31, 2012, 06:23 PM
Thank you Mr Boon
I think I will try the air layer later I guess about March, I live  in the Bay Area like your self. If I go up far enough to get a 3/4 to 1 inch branch then I will  probably  have a 6 foot long piece to air layer. I think that may be to much for the branch to carry and it will then fail. Do you or anyone have any thoughts about how long or if I should cut the end off to make it say 3 foot long?