Saving Ugly

This latest post is for me a way to keep this blog going.  I get excited about something and all I think about is that “thing”.  I do everything for and with that “thing” and when I get my fix for that “thing” I move on to something else.  This happens to me with bonsai and I been doing bonsai for at least 15 years.  As with my bonsai, my goal is to keep this blog goint to help me hone my skills, share stories and something interesting, and hopefully something to inspire others.  One thing that kept me always coming back to bonsai is that something interesting is always happening.  That is, something is growing, a tree needs styling, a tree needs repotting, a new tree needs to become a bonsai, a potentially new material is available to salvage, and so on.   Bonsai is a live and dynamic art.  Contrary to misconception that bonsai is a slow, calm, and it takes a lot of patience, I tend to see it as an exciting, ever changing, never a boring hobby.  I know, call me crazy because for some, that sounds like work.  It is work, but when you love what you’re doing it doesn’t feel like work.  I come across materials that makes things exciting even if I don’t get to work on them for a while.

Here’s a tree that’s been in my nursery for a while that’s now growing to be a decent bonsai, actually it’s a very old “ugly” shrub that has a massive trunk (about 1 ft wide).  This is currently my largest bonsai and heavy to move around.  It’s a viburnum (not sure what variety yet) with white flowers, maple leaf shape leaves, and yellow oranges translucent berries in the summer and fall.  Viburnum are usually seen as landscape shrubs, usually mounding. This is a unique bonsai for one, I don’t believe anyone will have a viburnum bonsai this massive.   If  have to guess the age of this tree, it will be at least 40 years old probably up to 60 years old or more.  Not very old for a bonsai but for a viburnum, it’s very old.

I salvaged this “ugly” shrub from a landscape project in Mercer Island around 2006.  It started as large shrub around 6 ft, right now from root base to the highest point about 28″.   I remember when we dug this shrub out, it had a very bad smell, it’s compared to a person that have not taken a bath for a while.  I checked myself and my workers it wasn’t us.  Today I still smell that familiar from this shrub.  At first, I wasn’t familiar with this shrub and really did not know what to do with it. I did know that because it was an old shrub, I wanted to make a bonsai someday.  For the next four years after I got it, I just made sure it grew healthy and slowly changed the soil to a bonsai soil mix.  I repotted this tree probably only 3 times sinced I collected it.  It first went into a bonsai pot probably only about 4 years ago. The detailed photos below shows rotted holes on the trunk.  Some  are natural and some I carve myself.  I just repotted this tree January 23rd 2015 and found the roots are very healthy.  The branches is a result of  pruning for the  last 4 to 5 years but this once ugly old shrub will continue to become more beautiful each year.  The branches will continue to be ramified.  I will post more photos of this bonsai as the seasons go.

In bonsai, the artist must imagine the potential beauty in the ugly.  His job is to “collaborate” with nature and create a unique artwork not only in 3D but with a 4th dimension, called “time”.   How exciting is that.

2015-01-23 09.59.50
root system as of January 23, 2015.

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