Author Topic: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING  (Read 10287 times)

Dale Cochoy

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A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« on: July 02, 2009, 07:42 PM »
I wasn't quite sure where to put this article since it is not a satsuki azalea but instead a kurume variety. I guess it could also have gone under 'carving' as that was a major portion of the styling. I hope it's okay here.

This tale starts 10 years ago. I was doing a bonsai demo at a local county park office and when I was all done one viewer stayed to talk a while. It was his first viewing of anything bonsai related other than "Karate Kid". It seems he was a retired lawyer who had decided to rebuild his late father-in-laws wholesale nursery up near lake Erie. It had set empty since his FIL had died about ten yrs earlier. He was making great gains in refurbishing it and planting up some exotic conifers, etc. He told me there was a lot of old stock there he couldn't use and didn't want and I was welcome to come up and dig for free.
I took him up on it and removed several old eastern white cedars, an old huge ginkgo and this Kurume azalea. His wife said it was about 75 years old and was planted near the house and chopped back several times. Before I got to it there was recently some chopping.
I decided to dig it and it actually came out fairly easy, A beautiful root base and flare with a strange horizontal trunk coming off which had been chopped back long ago, ditto with the tall main top trunk.
I took it home , washed out the roots and cut it back to a starting position and potted it up. I INTENDED to start work on it the next spring.....
« Last Edit: July 02, 2009, 07:58 PM by Dale Cochoy »
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2009, 07:44 PM »
NOW, JUMP AHEAD TEN YEARS!

OK, ....so....I procrastinated. It sat in my garden growing, sprouting, blooming, etc. for ten years. It blooms fantastic with HUNDREDS of small pink flowers. Here are a couple shots of it blooming two years ago
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2009, 07:48 PM »
I finally decided to jump into it this spring and my friend Matt came over to help.
First we had to do a serious preliminary cut back.  
My Jack Russell Terrier 'Monte' is modeling it for scale. Also boards on table are 5 1/2" wide.
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2009, 07:55 PM »
After we got it selectively cut back enough to work on we removed it from the mica pot it had been in for TEN YEARS!! .  I wish I'd taken a picture of the pile of cuttings/branches! We raked it out, trimmed some roots, hosed the root ball with full force, cleaned around the rootbase  and squeezed it into a chinese ceramic oval that was about 5 1/2" deep inside.
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2009, 08:05 PM »
Next I spent a couple hours carving the dead trunks  and stubs that ran horizontal and vertical. While carving out the dead I built taper into these large sections. I decided to keep the horiz. trunk as it added quite a bit to the size and would allow me to create a nice low crown and, mainly, because it was an intrigueing trunk that I did not recall seeing elsewhere in books. It had some interesting large roots at it's end that really clasp the trunk down.  Also, had I removed it I would have been left with a HUGE scar that, in Ohio, would NEVER heal over and, in fact, might kill off that side of the tree!
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2009, 08:12 PM »
More carving.
When I was done carving I smoothed my woodworking out nice with sanding flap wheels. 
« Last Edit: July 02, 2009, 08:13 PM by Dale Cochoy »
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2009, 08:20 PM »
Now it was time to do the first and preliminary wiring of this new bonsai in training. I did the wiring about a week later after I was sure nothing was going to die off right away after the carving and repot. It took most of an afternoon. I found I could get a nice rounded shape and crown with all the branches I had. A few were simply too heavy to bend without killing so I used pull-down wires to get them into the ballpark and then wired the smaller branching. Next year I can really improve this after I get a lot of buds breaking back ( which is going great right now) . I'm pinching off suckers I don't want and letting new twigging fill-in where I want it.
BTW, I did not lose even one twig to death after all this work!!
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2009, 08:28 PM »
Now that the tree was cut back and many branches removed, the carving done and wiring done I could now actually get my hands into the tree for my next step.   I used my old trick of mixing acrylic latex paints, with a tiny bit of lime sulfur, to comouflage the carving as best I can with the colors of the trunk. I do not want this much carving to stand out. It will never heal over and will eventually rot away if not treated somehow. I don't WANT it to be part of the 'design' in this tree as with conifers, etc. I don't want to see it! The color matching helps hide this very well. I took a picture of the colors I used for blending. After the first go-around dries you can touch up the colors a bit.

I hope you enjoyed this tale of a 'starter' bonsai.  The pot is about 21" across, and, as you can see, the tree is wider than the picnic table!
I wonder what this 'stump' would have sold for at Kokufu Ten  green club?

I'll take a few pictures this fall after it fills in quite a bit and post them here.

Dale
« Last Edit: July 02, 2009, 08:30 PM by Dale Cochoy »
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2009, 10:37 AM »
I love it, but would not the aged bark not help with the finished look?
Although I have seen your work with the lime sulfur up close and can attest that you blend them beautifully, I feel that you might be selling this old surviver short by making the bark look younger but that is just my opinion and up front in person may be what I need to see what you see (You can ship it to me  ;D).
What tools did you use for the carving?

Possibly you misunderstood the camp part. I did not paint any bark on the tree, ONLY the carved areas. If you look again at the pics you'll see how noticeable the carved/smoothed areas are. I use the paints to BLEND that color into the bark colors as closely as I can. Once the tree 'dirties-up' a bit they really blend in. The alternatives are to just let the large carved areas alone to rot ( and always show up like had been doing for years now) or lime sulfur which really makes them stand out which I don't want. If BT ever comes back up look up my old thread about serious carving on a huge bougie and notice how the carved areas just disappear. BTW, I had never seen anyone do this technique before I started using it.

For carving I used a Makita die grinder, my Samurai and Ninja Master, two sizes of core box router bits,  and about 6 different shapes of burrs. Then I used some sanding flap wheels to smooth it a bit. I usually don't use them  because the burrs  leave a pretty nice finish. I wanted to smooth out this large piece bettr though and shape it better.

BTW, I mentioned I used a tad of lime sulfur in my acrylic paint mix. I do this not for any protection effect but I found it knocks off any possible sheen off the paint finish and also gives it a 'smokey' finish.

Maybe to help illustrate the paint camo blending better  I'm enclosing two pics of my BIG bougie in which I did this after major carving and restyle. The carved areas are hardly noticeable and not much time has gone by since they were done.

Dale
« Last Edit: July 03, 2009, 10:46 AM by Dale Cochoy »
 

chris s

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 09:24 PM »
Very Nice.  I really love the trunk.  Hope to see more pics of this tree in the future.

Chris
 

Dave Murphy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2009, 08:46 AM »
Hey Dale.  Great article and cool azalea.  I'm wondering, where do you see this tree going over the next 10 years?  Are you planning to leave the canopy alone, or are you planning on shortening the branches and bringing the canopy in closer to the trunks?  Thanks again,

Dave
 

BarbaraM

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2009, 10:52 AM »
Thanks Dale, this was a great read.  After finishing the story I went back to the first pics.  The rafted branch was so little when you collected it.  Now it is so significant to the design.  It is amazing how much it developed over the years of rest.
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2009, 06:02 PM »
Dave,
This is a big tree and the canopy is nice and rounded. You are looking at it "unfilled". It is coming along nicely and I'll get some shots later in the year. It's filling in fairly quickly from the severe cutbacks.

Barbara,
Yes, you know I had to dig out those photos when I decided to do this and scan them. I hadn't realized it had grown so much EVERYWHERE! You lose track as years go by and all of a sudden realize....hey....this grew!

I'm expecting this to be gorgeous next spring as it has hundreds of flowers but since it has actually had some styling  the trunk will show nicely now also.

Dale
 

Dale Cochoy

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2009, 04:19 PM »
An updated picture after a month.
It's filling in.
8" concave for scale.
 

bonsaikc

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Re: A STARTER AZALEA BONSAI.....TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING
« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2009, 10:28 AM »
Dale,
It's looking great, and for what it's worth, I think Kurume belongs in the Azalea discussion forum even though it's not Satsuki.

It's a big one, and I'd love to see a formal photograph of it on a stand with a neutral background. For me, the layered branch to the left is so totally kurume that it really speaks to me. What is your ultimate plan for the tree?

Chris