Color of DeadWood on Junipers

yenling83

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Two things have got me recently thinking a lot about the color of the deadwood on Junipers.

1st Thing-
For the first time, I recently visited the ancient Bristlecone pines in the White Mountains. These are the oldest living things in the world and have amazing beautiful colors in their dead wood-whites, reds, browns, blacks. Lots of variation.

2nd Thing-
I attended Kathy Shaner's exhibit critique at the GSBF convention. One of Kathy's main comments about the display area was that in general she would like to see less extremely bleached white/yellowish wood. When asked about using artificial colors on dead wood she argued that Lime Sulfur is an artificial color. Overall she recommended experimenting-not on your nicest trees with various wood stains you can find in the hard ware store. I don't think she wanted to see as drastic of variations as on the Bristlecone pines, but it seemed she preferred less bleach white in general, with some darker sections where more moister would naturally be found in certain sections of dead wood.


My Opinion:
When I first started bonsai, I loved extreme contrast between the bleached white and red/brown of the live veins. I did not care for any color in the dead wood, I liked the contrast-it was striking and reminded me of life and death, good and evil, and yin and yang.

I am recently starting to get tired of extreme bleach dead wood. It looks too artificial and I see it too often. While the Bristlecone pine's dead wood might be too much-it's beautiful and imitating it could have potential. Realistically ancient juniper dead wood-does not look like Bristlecone pine dead wood, although I ask myself the question: What causes the drastic variations in color w/ Bristlecone pines and would Juniper dead wood ever look like Bristlecone Pine wood eventually? The oldest Juniper is still probably just a kid compared to some of the Bristlecone Pines.


What are your thoughts? Attached is a pic from my trip. A nice pic of a really old juniper can be found on bonsaiboon.com
 

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Attila Soos

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The colors on the picture you posted are extremely interesting. I would love to see something like that on a bonsai, but I would have to study the bristlecone's bark closely, to se what exactly causes those variations.

I am with you on this one, I used to love the contrast between the extreme bleached white deadwood and red bark, but my taste has "matured". The pure white deadwood may look good on some pictures, but if I had such a tree too look at every day, I would probably get tired of the stark contrast after a day or two.

So, I prefer more subdued colors on the deadwood. Contrast still looks good to me, but not if the effect is too artificial. Slightly coloring the deadwood can lead to more natural effects, while still maintaining a contrast.
 

Smoke

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Much of the deadwood on the bristlecones as well as the junipers found around the Grand Canyon still have much of the old cambium and bark on the deadwood. This is where the subtle changes in color come from. If all the bark and live protion was scoured from the deadwood it would look like the silver deadwood found in places near the tips of branch ends.

Ted Matson suggests watering deadwood on junipers daily while watering to help melt away the pitch that cements the bark to the deadwood.

It may be better in the long run to remove the bark slowly and methodically maybe almost sanding the bark away leaving small layered portions of varing thickness and color saturation on the dead areas to simulate this unique feature. This is easily done on California junipers that have dead areas with much of the bark still intact due to heavy pitch.

Cheers, Al

PS...the silver areas can be made to look much better by running dilute india ink over the areas and wire brushing gently. The ink runs into the veins and nooks and crannies adding much definition to the silver areas. This definition adds interest and it doesn't look so "in your face".
 
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Smoke

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Rather than use the wood stains to add the color a trick I did was to use dry concrete colors. These are rare earths in powder form and are very intense. A little goes a long ways. They can be brushed on like weathering a model tank to make it look "aged".

Once the colors are into the grain and worked in with a wire brush it is very permanent. I have a tree that will be unveiled soon that uses this technique. I developed this as I have never seen it done yet and I like the results.

Damn, I hate it when I let out all my secrets.

Al
 

Yamadori

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I attended Kathy Shaner's exhibit critique at the GSBF convention.
So did I. I wish I knew which person you were!

One of Kathy's main comments about the display area was that in general she would like to see less extremely bleached white/yellowish wood. she preferred less bleach white in general, with some darker sections where more moister would naturally be found in certain sections of dead wood.
Yes, she did a great job explaining her reasoning. It made asthetic sense. She mentioned letting wood stain run down in the grooves to get the natural details in the manner Al talks about with cement stain. I think it makes perfect sense.
 

yenling83

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Smoke-
The more I learn about Bonsai, the more I realize how secretive Bonsai really is. I guess it's much more secretive in Japan. But, I'm glad you shared one of your secrets-I'm sure you have others that you won't let out:)

I like the idea of the cement colors, there looks like a lot of different colors to experiment with. I also had not thought about sanding or removing the bark in a way to leave some bark/color behind. This is something I will play around with-although right now doing this in an ascetically pleasing, natural looking way seems very difficult, but not impossible.

I hope you will please point out your cement colored tree to me someday.


Yamadori
Would have been cool to say hi:) I really liked her Critique, possibly my favorite part of the convention.

Attila
"I prefer more subdued colors on the deadwood. Contrast still looks good to me, but not if the effect is too artificial. Slightly coloring the deadwood can lead to more natural effects, while still maintaining a contrast."

I like it!
 

edprocoat

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That picture of the Bristlecone was beautiful to see. I would love to see them in person someday.

ed
 

Eric Schrader

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In my experience the coloration on deadwood on high mountain trees is due to various types of lichen or similar. I've collected a couple trees that have the coloration and it slowly disappears when they are brought to a different climate. Further, I've seen the same color variation on fences that are in South Lake Tahoe.CIMG0793.jpg
 

sam

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yenling:

I've enjoyed your posts. you have an inquiring, thoughtful mind and a keen eye for good material. this particular post struck a chord because I too believe trunk color can be varied to bring out the best qualities in deadwood. in my case, in tropical hardwood species. I've experimented with waxes, including beeswax and colored waxes, then have gone to wood stains in combination with beeswax and lime sulphur for contrast - I posted my ideas and the results of my experiments on other forums. for the most part, the silence was deafening. feedback*that did come in was critical and in some cases, insulting. brown deadwood elicited comments including "looks unnatural", "looks like furniture." clearly, if it wasn't stark white, folks couldn't comprehend it. I'll be interested to see what you develop. thank you for opening the subject. congratulations to cathy for saying what she said. Its probably a first !! for better or for not. sharing some pictures of work on premna deadwood.

best wishes, sam

DSC00932.jpgDSC01112.jpgDSC00534.jpgDSC00549.jpg
 

edprocoat

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Sam, I used minwax honey oak semi transparent on an old juniper I used to have. To mee it looked great, I only brushed some along the raised grain on a twisted section I had jinned and in a hollow I left from a branch I had removed. I never showed it or posted a picture of it, this is the first and only Bonsai forum I have ever been to, but people who seen it always admired it. These were not Bonsai people, just regular joes who would say something like, hey I see you are growing little plants! The most important part was that I liked it, what was the words of that old song? if you can't please everyone, you got to please yourself.

I love the second picture and the fourth one, they are my favorite, the first one, too my eye, has a little too much color, and the third is borderline for me. If you like them, that is afterall, the most important thing. Nice work.

ed
 

sam

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thanks ed.
the photos are dated. the trees look alot different today. the trunks are shiny because they were just waxed. in a day or so the wax is absorbed and the shineness is gone.

best wishes, sam
 
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