Abstract Bonsai - Callitropsis nootkatensis

ghues

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Hello there...fellow nutter's
Here is one of my Cypress (Yellow Cedar, Alaskan Yellow Cedar...etc) Callitropsis nootkatensis....and yes I do know that its not a true cedar. I've got an idea on what I'd like to do with this but I believe the end result will not be a traditional bonsai by any means but more of an abstract design. You can see that there is one long main vein feeding the top and the lower branch is on its own shorter vein . I've started to remove the vein from the main trunk which I plan on carving down to its inner self, exposing its former life lines burried under the outer shell. The colour of the wood on these trees can a beautiful yellow that I'd love to keep, rather than letting it go grey but we'll see.
If you have any design ideas I'd love to here from you.
Back to the workshop.....I'm going to go slow on this one and hope to have completed its first styling in a few months........a friend did tell me to use a power tool to remove the vien but I'll stick with my hand tools.....and work the outline and future image out on the sketch pad
Cheers G
 

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Si Nguyen

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Hi Ghues, I got one option for you. This is based on your second pic. It would require you to split that tall live vein and sweep it over to the right side, and reduce the top deadwood back a bit in order to cut off the bowing trunk line visually. The bow curve is bad, no matter which front you select. This tree has to be a flat top style I think, because of its flat sparse foliage.
Good luck!
Si
 

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Attila Soos

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Hi Ghues, I got one option for you. This is based on your second pic. It would require you to split that tall live vein and sweep it over to the right side, and reduce the top deadwood back a bit in order to cut off the bowing trunk line visually. The bow curve is bad, no matter which front you select. This tree has to be a flat top style I think, because of its flat sparse foliage.
Good luck!
Si

Si, that's a pretty slick sketch. I love it! You're good.

The problem is, the sketch would perfectly fit a pine, juniper, or true cedar(Cedrus).
But the droopy and leggy foliage of the yellow cedar is too unruly to create the image you've suggested.
 
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ghues

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Great Design Si

Thanks Si, and Attila’s right…… you are good.
I like what you've done ….you’ve improved on a lot of the weak areas; like the poor taper …separated the two to give an allusion of greater girth…..taken the crook/bow turned it to a straighter trunk line and lowered the height….and the spread of the foliage at the top creates a nice balance to the entire image.
Your vision is really close to mine in many ways, however I’m thinking of trying to expose the inner lines of the tree trunk (it’s skeleton if you’d like) by taking away the outer sapwood to see what the heartwood reveals….then I’ll see how the two will blend together again and perhaps wrap the live vein around the newly shaped trunk BUT I’ll keep it separated from the inner trunk skeleton as though the inner tree is fading away after centuries of decay.
I’m also hoping to keep true to the species real branch and foliage features for in the wild these trees rarely have a flat top habitat, usually they have a spiked top or multiple tops (to a really narrow point). The foliage hangs like feathers from the branches exposing the upper part of the branch rather than the traditional bottom of the branch.
These trees have a great habit of growing roots from buried bark/cambium so I built up the soil on the group of roots that appeared at the bottom of the original trunk.
I’ve added a couple of photos from yesterdays work.
Thanks again.
 

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ghues

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Adjusted image

Hi Si,
As your image was very close to my thoughts on a future for this tree (uncanny as it might be), I’ve tried to show what I was thinking……..I believe that after I remove a lot of the remaining wood from the live vein, it will become a lot more flexible, so I should be able to make it surround the tree at least once as shown in my crude drawing. This will dramatically reduce the total height of the design but still allow it to evoke a slender elegance.
I’ve done it in colour to show the possible contrast that I’m aiming for....the burnt carmen of the trunk (with the outer bark removed), the yellow of the Cypress wood and the green foliage.
Cheers
 

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Si Nguyen

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Si, that's a pretty slick sketch. I love it! You're good.

The problem is, the sketch would perfectly fit a pine, juniper, or true cedar(Cedrus).
But the droopy and leggy foliage of the yellow cedar is too unruly to create the image you've suggested.

Thanks for your comment Atilla. It is easier to draw a bonsai than to actually do it. To me, the sketch is pretty much a flat top, and it is feasible, as long as all the foliage is wired all the way to the tip. I have never seen one of these cedar before, but I would imagine it is a little bit analogous to the long flat foliage of a bald cypress. For this cedar, I think one would have to wire all the leaves all the time in order to flatten it out and make it look orderly.
Cheers,
 
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Si Nguyen

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Hi Si,
As your image was very close to my thoughts on a future for this tree (uncanny as it might be), I’ve tried to show what I was thinking……..I believe that after I remove a lot of the remaining wood from the live vein, it will become a lot more flexible, so I should be able to make it surround the tree at least once as shown in my crude drawing. This will dramatically reduce the total height of the design but still allow it to evoke a slender elegance.
I’ve done it in colour to show the possible contrast that I’m aiming for....the burnt carmen of the trunk (with the outer bark removed), the yellow of the Cypress wood and the green foliage.
Cheers

That's a very nice drawing Ghues! Almost the same direction as how I saw it too. I would only tweak the lower foliage pad a bit and make sure it stay a bit smaller in volume and width in comparison with the top pad. I am not sure you should twist the live vein that much around. Even if you could do it, you would have to keep it attached to the dead trunk all around some how, and in essence, making it a tanuki on itself. I am not sure if that would look right.
Good luck with it.
Cheers!
 

ghues

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The Foliage

Thanks Si,
As I said in my original post, I want this one to be something different (sort of abstract) so I'm going to break the "rules" and see if I can make it look decent. Right now the live vien is strong enough to stand tall on its own strength.... so I hope that after I've wired it up and shaped/bent it into position, over time it will set itself into its new shape.
I've attached a couple of photos to show how delicate its foliage looks on a mature specimen. Also note that almost all the branches have the same appearance, they fall downwards and then the outer section curves upwards ......throughout the length of the entire tree.
Thanks again for your sketch and I'll be sure to update this post in a few months.
Cheers
G.
 

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Attila Soos

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Thanks for your comment Atilla. It is easier to draw a bonsai than to actually do it. To me, the sketch is pretty much a flat top, and it is feasible, as long as all the foliage is wired all the way to the tip. I have never seen one of these cedar before, but I would imagine it is a little bit analogous to the long flat foliage of a bald cypress. For this cedar, I think one would have to wire all the leaves all the time in order to flatten it out and make it look orderly.
Cheers,

That's true, if you wire the foliage all the way, then it can be done.
(Just don't get me to do it, it's too much work for my taste :))

I like the hanging foliage from Ghues' sketch, that would actually remind me of the real cedar.

Good job Ghues! Posting the picture of a natural cedar gives us a true perspective of how these trees look in nature.

At first sight, leaving the foliage hanging like that would break a basic rule of bonsai (Rule#1: THE BOTTOM SIDE OF THE BRANCH SHOULD BE CLEAN-CUT AND TRIMMED), but after more contemplation, Rule #2 can override Rule #1 (Rule#2: TREES DESIGNED IN THE WEEPING STYLE DO NOT HAVE TO FOLLOW Rule# 1). Of course, there is Rule#3 that says: ONLY BROAD-LEAVED TREES CAN BE DESIGNED IN WEEPING STYLE, but I don't think that this rule has any merit at all. :)

So, your sketch has my stamp of approval, it has passed the "basic rules" test. It could actually start a new style, called "The modified weeping style for false cedars and cypresses", and should be included in future reference books.
 
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ghues

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Update - Spirit Of Nootka

Hi there,
That “Crazy Canuck” is back with an update…………..
While working on this project I've come up with the name/idea of "The Spirit on Nootka" which encompasses the concept of the live vein wrapping around (protecting if you will) the old trunk which I’ve carved down (the inner spirit of the tree).

As I've stated before – by definition it’s not a bonsai nor a phoenix graft/tanuki by any means…… but it’s been a fun ride so far. Attila speaks to the weeping style which is fine by me ;)
The Carving of the Old Mostly Deadwood Trunk:
Much to the dismay of my mentor I removed the live vein from the mostly deadwood trunk which as you can see I have carved – before = photo#1 and now = photo@2. I was able to find some interesting features within the old deadwood trunk (see photo #3) and ironically a couple of them depict some mystic creatures of the west coast photos “#4” and “#5”.

Cont'd on next post.
 

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ghues

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Update#1 cont'd

The Outer Main Tree:
Once the vein was removed I reduced the wooden core by carving (both power and hand tools) the entire length of it, ensuring the middle (center) was deeper and tapering to the outside (the natural curve of the trunk). I also ran my carver (along the bottom) into the top of the tree so that I could bury some large wire(s) into it for future bending/styling. The secondary stem also was carved (grooved) and wires were aligned into the main groove and the entire length was wrapped with strips of inner tube.
I then took a ½” plastic tube (used in outdoor irrigation) that I had filled with various lengths of aluminum wire, using the largest (6ml) first and decreasing the size until I couldn’t jam any more in. I left about 3-4” of the wires hanging out of the bottom, which I fixed to the lowest parts of the live vein (hooked onto roots buried in the soil). I then molded the wired tube (along and inside the carved groove) to the shape of the live vein and wrapped it with two layers of inner tube strips to hold it in place. In the upper section I removed (cut away) the outer plastic tube and embedded a number of wires into the final 3” of the carved groove.
I then started at the bottom and gently bent the live vein into the curves you see in photo #1 and #2 and photo #3 shows it with the wrapped (still wet from the oil) wooden trunk. I tried a number of positions for the trunk and have a few options for its final position. I will continue to bend the live vein over time for a more defined curve around the trunk but I didn’t want to push it too far this session. I’ll also reduce the foliage more as it looks too leggy at the moment and luckily, there are a lot of small branches to work with.
Cheers
Graham
 

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ghues

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3 Years Later

3 years later and still not even close to what I was hoping for....I'll re-pot into something smaller this spring. Due to it being a branch that self layered its roots on the live side (see photo #1), the nebari is very poor. I've shown a few possible fronts......?
Cheers Graham
 

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berobinson82

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Thank you for sharing. This tree, to me, has an almost prehistoric feeling to it. Like it belongs in a different era. Because of that, it appeals to me.

Yabba Dabba Doo!
 

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Very interesting tree and history. Thanks and keep us updated.
 

ghues

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Thanks for your comments Bernard and Doug.
I was shooting for the basic design that Si came up with but I've found that the main stem and main branch is very stiff but maybe just maybe over time I might be able to move the younger part of the main branch closer to the angle of the main stem. Can only try right?
Cheers
Graham
 

ghues

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Hi folks.....Here is an update on this project....... it enjoyed the summer and grew out a lot.......I still need to find a bunjin pot for it and trim/wire it.
Cheers
Graham (that ....Crazy Canuck)
 

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ghues

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An after photo...........Due to forecasted cold nights (-6-7C) I moved this tree with protction in mind.................this photo captures it enjoying the sunshine. I need a few more favorable growing seasons before I'll feel confident in removing the inner rod support and putting it into a much nicer pot.
Cheers Graham
 

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