Creating taper by carving the trunk top

bluesky

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Hi,
On this Wild Olive Oleaster there has been a huge ugly stub where it was trunk-chopped several years ago.
This picture was after repotting about 18 months ago:
49999396401_770302b399_z.jpg
chop1cl640.jpg


So over the last couple of years I have been whittling down the branching structure, choosing the keepers and leaving a space to get the tools into the canopy to access that huge chop site.
This is how it looked last year after late-summer branch work. In retrospect I should have removed several more branches... but in bonsai there's always another year!
50563317697_092e3e53ef_z.jpg


So this autumn I decided it's time to get the Dremel in there and sort out that trunk top once and for all. I also did a lot more branch chopping. This is how the trunk top looks after the carving work:
carving-V-480.jpg

Oleaster-insta-640.jpg

There is still a lot of healing and developing to do on this tree... as we all know, a bonsai is never finished, of course.

I did a video of the whole process here if you're interested.
Please let me know your opinions!
I am genuinely interested to know what I could have done different, or better.

I don't have the available time to do videos as frequently as the famous youtube channels - nor do I have the viewership that they have - but I try to make the few videos I do relevant and watchable.
A typical video takes a few weekends to make, between the tree work, the filming and the editing.


Thanks in advance for watching and for your comments!
 

Ply

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Interesting video and nice result.

I'm always tempted to grab some chisels or gouges and remove big ugly bumps that ruin a trunk line. I'm afraid it would kill the bonsai though.

How much carving can a bonsai handle without significantly hurting its health?
 

bluesky

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Thanks Ply!
I have been surprised at how much carving a small tree trunk can take, as long as you leave the live vein lines intact from the trunk base to the branches.

Certainly you can carve into deadwood without risking the tree at all. It's carving into the live bark that is the potential risk. Above branches is safer than below, for obvious reasons.

I expect different species have different levels of resilience but to date I haven't killed a bonsai by carving its trunk. (hope this is not famous last words! 😂)
I have carved: Zelkova, Chinese elm, Trident maple, boxwood, olive, privet, and ficus retusa. I guess there are other peoples here with more experience of carving other species.

One more piece of advice: be extra careful if you're sawing into a tree the same year you repotted it, because the roots might not be well enough established to hold it firmly in the soil, so sawing could potentially dislodge roots from the adjacent soil and possibly break a load of feeder roots. You can tell because the trunk moves around badly while you're sawing it. The one in this video held firm, no problem / I last repotted it in May 2020.
 

Shibui

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How much carving can a bonsai handle without significantly hurting its health?
Probably not so much how much but where you carve that can make a difference.
As @bluesky pointed out there MUST be an intact strip of bark from roots to each branch to supply water and nutrients.
Normally sap takes the shortest route from root to branch but young trunks are resilient and I can carve a spiral up a trunk provided each live branch is linked to the spiral. The tree will soon change sap flow to follow the spiral of bark.
Older trees and trees that have previously been damaged may already have some areas of bark that are not working well or may even be dead. With trees like that it pays to check very carefully to see if you can spot any signs of live veins and dead sections before carving.
If you have not seen trees with extensive carved and dead wood features try searching for pictures of Japanese junipers. Many of the older trees have just a single thin strip of bark to keep the entire top part alive.
 

Joe Dupre'

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I use this procedure on almost every tree I train. I try to do most of the carving on the backside of the trunk. When that's not possible, I use Walter Pall's suggestion and just make the wound BIGGER and more irregular. I normally finish off by applying a crushed charcoal/ water mixture to blend the bright color of the cut into the color of the bark. The cut all but disappears from a few feet away.

Nice tree, by the way.
 

bluesky

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Thanks!

Yes I think painting the wood with charcoal or other additives looks great if you're trying to achieve a particular appearance. Especially on old hollowed out trunks where you want it to appear as rotten wood without it actually rotting.

I've seen people colouring the carved wood on olive bonsai with an olive-brown colour but in this case I think it looks ok with the exposed wood.
Maybe I'll change my mind when I remove the cut paste in spring...
 

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