Mugho Pine "Valley Cushion"

Ang3lfir3

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You might have seen this guy in the other thread.... It's a Mugho Pine "Valley Cushion" with a decent trunk and lots of excellent movement... the tree was started for bonsai and was grown from a cutting (no grafts here) .... it is about 15 yrs old or so...

This is how it looked when I got it home....



After about an hour of mayhem....



as always comments are welcome.... thinking this will look good in a dark redish brown unglazed pot maybe with a lip maybe?
 

Bonsai Nut

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Hard for me to tell where you are going with the design without it being wired... What line have you chosen for the apex?
 

Ang3lfir3

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lol ... true!! :) I figured not wiring it would make it harder to comment on but I wanted to put it up here before I forgot...

the apex will most likely come from that left most pointy branch on what you see as the central top.... that is not to say that all of that won't change once I start wiring it and the tree back buds this spring/summer (yay for mugho!) ... not sure I entirely want to keep everything on that left side either but we will see how things go with wiring and growing... of course the massive jins need to be carved and sculpted which is why i striped them now... to let the wood dry... they will be reduced accordingly

I realized too that it might seem weird to people that I am talking about what kinda of pot this might have in the future however I find it useful to envision some final concept at each step of the way but leave myself open to doing what the tree wants as we go along.....

also as I don't subscribe to the traditional ideas about styling pines (tho I am starting to notice people moving away from boring 1-2-3 pines finally) it will be interesting even for me to see where this goes.... I mostly work with non-pine material in my personal trees ... not really a huge pine fan and I get to work on enough of them at Elandan
 

Brian Van Fleet

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... of course the massive jins need to be carved and sculpted which is why i striped them now... to let the wood dry... they will be reduced accordingly

Nice start, good movement and taper.

On drying the wood first...are you using power tools? This is something I've really been contemplating lately: carving fresh vs. dry wood. Maybe the difference is the type of tools used, but I'm starting to develop a preference for hand tools and carving fresh wood, which has a very natural effect. So many others say to let the wood dry first, then carve. Using hand tools on dry wood (for me) doesn't seem to create as natural of a result. What's your take?
 

Vance Wood

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I like this tree a lot for its potential. Perfect example of what you can find with nursery Mugos if you take the time to look for trunks and think out side the traditional "Christmas Tree" configuration for a Pine bonsai. Nice trunk, especially for a Valley Cushion.

It is far easier to carve on green wood, the dry wood on a Mugo can be difficult to work with and sometimes power tools will leave the kind of marks you may or may not like. Having said that I think you have done something smart with the dead wood elements. I have found with Mugo Pines that it is better to leave large stubs when cutting a tree down like this than it is to cut them flush to the trunk. There is a tendency with this tree to respond to a flush cut branch by having an entire portion of the trunk, where the life lines run down to the roots, die leaving you with a Shari you may or may not want. Retaining a stub seems to hinder this tendency a bit and the stub can be removed latter or turned into a jin.

I would give you an A+ for finding and recognizing the potential quality of this tree. As to eventual style; that's another issue. What you have done is to go in a good direction taking advantage of decreasing and directional branching in establishing the end product of the process. A nursery Mugo is so much a study in removal of material. Now you might want to wait a season or two and see what happens, what survives and what you imagination tells you as things develop.

You should concern yourself in shortening the branching this coming summer. If it continues to elongate as it is now you may lose interest in the tree. As it is this tree has a great future.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I like this tree a lot for its potential. Perfect example of what you can find with nursery Mugos if you take the time to look for trunks and think out side the traditional "Christmas Tree" configuration for a Pine bonsai. Nice trunk, especially for a Valley Cushion.

The only thing I'll say is that this was pre-bonsai stock, not big-box nursery retailer material. I still agree with your point...
 

Vance Wood

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The only thing I'll say is that this was pre-bonsai stock, not big-box nursery retailer material. I still agree with your point...

That's probably true, but not exactly in the same sense many define pre-bonsai. For example: When I have been asked for a Mugo work shop I always go looking for the material with the traits I know will make for a decent bonsai and be the best value for those who wish to pay for the workshop. So---It could be said I provide pre-bonsai stock in as much as the material has been pre-selected by me for the purposes I have intended. With that in mind it is no longer nursery stock per say, it is now pre-bonsai stock by simple selection. I would place this tree into that category. Pre-bonsai as defined by many is stock that has had some initial bonsai work performed upon it which this tree does not appear to have had done. I guess it boils down to how one defines pre-bonsai and plain old nursery trees. This, by the way, opens up a subject for further discussion.
 

JudyB

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Vance, what I took away from Ang3's first line of the post, was that the tree had been started for bonsai purposes. So that it would have the desirable traits that are so difficult to find in normal nursery or box store stock. So to me that is the important difference between the two.... in my opinion...

Ang3 I like your start!
 
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The trees were started by a master bonsai nurseryman from our area, Dave DeWire... He used to own what was called Mount Si bonsai nursery... and now has Wabi Sabi Bonsai. The material was developed to have an excellent base, but other than that, was left largely to it's own devices to develop trunk mass. Which would make pretty much everyone right.

And Vance... if you think he gets an A+ for this... wait until you see the work he is doing on a hornbeam from Elandan... I don't think I've ever been prouder. The wiring work he is doing would be on par with anyone on the circuit teaching such things now. It'll be a few days until it's done... this one is larger by a factor of about 5 to the last one he did. It's gnarly goodness.... :D God I love winter. :D

V
 

Vance Wood

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The trees were started by a master bonsai nurseryman from our area, Dave DeWire... He used to own what was called Mount Si bonsai nursery... and now has Wabi Sabi Bonsai. The material was developed to have an excellent base, but other than that, was left largely to it's own devices to develop trunk mass. Which would make pretty much everyone right.

And Vance... if you think he gets an A+ for this... wait until you see the work he is doing on a hornbeam from Elandan... I don't think I've ever been prouder. The wiring work he is doing would be on par with anyone on the circuit teaching such things now. It'll be a few days until it's done... this one is larger by a factor of about 5 to the last one he did. It's gnarly goodness.... :D God I love winter. :D

V

Thanks for seeing my point of view; He bought the tree for the base not the top of the tree. If you look at the first photo, there is nothing visible (at least from the photograph) that would attract anyone interested in bonsai to it. This is the point I have been trying to get accross to people for years about Mugos. You have to get your hands, if not your eyes, in under all of these branches, spent needles, compost and dirt to see if you have a trunk worth the effort of doing bonsai with it.
 

Ang3lfir3

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Thanks for seeing my point of view; He bought the tree for the base not the top of the tree. If you look at the first photo, there is nothing visible (at least from the photograph) that would attract anyone interested in bonsai to it. This is the point I have been trying to get accross to people for years about Mugos. You have to get your hands, if not your eyes, in under all of these branches, spent needles, compost and dirt to see if you have a trunk worth the effort of doing bonsai with it.

Damn straight!!!! ...... when showing newer bonsai people some of the material we buy we try to explain to them the idea of "I bought the first 2inches of this tree.. the rest doesn't really matter" or as Daniel would put it "show me a great base... I can grow a top" .... I can see how that would hold even _more_ true with Mugos ....
 

Ang3lfir3

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Nice start, good movement and taper.

On drying the wood first...are you using power tools? This is something I've really been contemplating lately: carving fresh vs. dry wood. Maybe the difference is the type of tools used, but I'm starting to develop a preference for hand tools and carving fresh wood, which has a very natural effect. So many others say to let the wood dry first, then carve. Using hand tools on dry wood (for me) doesn't seem to create as natural of a result. What's your take?

yes I will be using power tools (it would be weird of me not too :p ) I find they offer me more sculptural freedom when carving... I do use some hand tools mainly a knife and sometimes a small hand chisel ... Drying the wood gives the best results with power tools as it does not gum up the cutting bits nearly as much and the wood has already had some time to season... after that its mother natures work for a few years then refinement...

carving on this tree may take several hours depending on the level of detail I decide to add on the first pass.... There is a larch a carved a few months ago I have been meaning to post a picture of.... work that simply could never have been done with hand tools... even on such a small space... maybe I will try and do that today when taking breaks from this hornbeam lol :)
 

tanlu

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I like what you've done with your mugo pine. I used to look for nursery mugos but gave up since none seemed to have enough potential that was worth the effort to train it. This is a nice one.
 

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You have to get your hands, if not your eyes, in under all of these branches, spent needles, compost and dirt to see if you have a trunk worth the effort of doing bonsai with it.

Exactly. I think we are in complete agreement. The nebari on this tree is awesome. Perhaps I am wrong but I wouldn't expect to see similar structure in a tree that was not grown from scratch for bonsai... but I have to admit I have not scrounged up too many mugos. Not because I didn't care but because I can't find good conifer nurseries down here.
 

Vance Wood

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I like what you've done with your mugo pine. I used to look for nursery mugos but gave up since none seemed to have enough potential that was worth the effort to train it. This is a nice one.

They are out there you just have to look. This particular Mugo nice as it is, is not an isolated acquisition even from a mom and pop nursery if you know how to find one, and I do not mean to diminish the quality of this tree or the work done on it in any way. The problem most people have with Mugo Pines is that they do not realize you will not find a good tree by looking for a single trunk or a good branch structure. Most of the time you cannot see the tree because of the branches, branches and branches. The other problem most people run into is starting with trees that are too small to have gained anything in the way of mass in the trunk area.

The only way you can hope to find with any regularity a Mugo Pine with a good potential trunk is to start with trees in the 3 gallon range. You locate these trunks by getting your hands in under the branches, spent needles, compost and assorted junk the nursery is likely to throw into the pot. You feel around the base of the tree and if necessary gently dig your fingers down below the scree to try and determine how big the trunk is or how wide it flares out. With a little patience you will find some that will be real mind blowers though they are in the end going to take a good deal of work in the branch area.

If you start with smaller trees you are likely to find these skiny little things with reverse taper and opposite branching needing many years to develop, beyond what you could have had if you had followed the above discription.
 

Ang3lfir3

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They are out there you just have to look. This particular Mugo nice as it is, is not an isolated acquisition even from a mom and pop nursery if you know how to find one, and I do not mean to diminish the quality of this tree or the work done on it in any way. The problem most people have with Mugo Pines is that they do not realize you will not find a good tree by looking for a single trunk or a good branch structure. Most of the time you cannot see the tree because of the branches, branches and branches. The other problem most people run into is starting with trees that are too small to have gained anything in the way of mass in the trunk area.

The only way you can hope to find with any regularity a Mugo Pine with a good potential trunk is to start with trees in the 3 gallon range. You locate these trunks by getting your hands in under the branches, spent needles, compost and assorted junk the nursery is likely to throw into the pot. You feel around the base of the tree and if necessary gently dig your fingers down below the scree to try and determine how big the trunk is or how wide it flares out. With a little patience you will find some that will be real mind blowers though they are in the end going to take a good deal of work in the branch area.

If you start with smaller trees you are likely to find these skiny little things with reverse taper and opposite branching needing many years to develop, beyond what you could have had if you had followed the above discription.

totally agree 10,000% ..... no matter where you are you gotta get on your knees and get down there and look at those trunks!!!! that is where the value is.... if it makes you guys feel better there are about a dozen more like this one .... I'll prolly head over there and buy a few more in the near future..... :)
 

Vance Wood

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totally agree 10,000% ..... no matter where you are you gotta get on your knees and get down there and look at those trunks!!!! that is where the value is.... if it makes you guys feel better there are about a dozen more like this one .... I'll prolly head over there and buy a few more in the near future..... :)

The truth is there are probably hundreds of them here in Michigan if you take the time to look for them, not as nice as yours of course but with a little work can be made into pleasing credible bonsai.
 

Ang3lfir3

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The truth is there are probably hundreds of them here in Michigan if you take the time to look for them, not as nice as yours of course but with a little work can be made into pleasing credible bonsai.

thank you for the compliment ... feel free to post some of your nursery finds here that would be pretty inspiring..

as an interesting side note have you ever considered (or may you have already done so) teaching people how to purchase at nurseries.... I know that people get to excited and think everything is going to be great and don't spend the time to find the material that is truly worthy of working on.... I think people could really benefit from a demonstation/field trip like version of your explanation...
 

Vance Wood

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thank you for the compliment ... feel free to post some of your nursery finds here that would be pretty inspiring..

as an interesting side note have you ever considered (or may you have already done so) teaching people how to purchase at nurseries.... I know that people get to excited and think everything is going to be great and don't spend the time to find the material that is truly worthy of working on.... I think people could really benefit from a demonstation/field trip like version of your explanation...

Yes I have and you would be surprised how many people get totally worn out after about half an hour. As far as my nursery finds what I can post seeing I have already put stuff away for the winter will be some things you may have already seen. I'll do what I can.
 
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