Bending the Unbendable Japanese Larch Bonsai

Bending the Unbendable Japanese Larch Bonsai

In this video I take a Japanese Larch Bonsai which has a very straight trunk and create a bend by experimenting with making the trunk more bendable.

Video Transcript

This is a japanese larch and look at the green buds here they’re all beginning to bud this tree belongs to my volunteer josh who is doing the camera work and this was a dead straight trip and he was trying to do all sorts of styles but let me just tidy it up a little bit there’s some wiring done to the pads i’ll do a little critique about this tree and i’ve not looked at this tree since it was given to him more than a year ago and all he’s done is wire these two branches and i will first do a critique and then see what inspiration comes our way usually with larch at this time of the year you need to prune them back to get nice pads latches are very vigorous and they do take from air layering that big air layering that we did last year is also budding so i will show you that on another occasion so if you look at this latch again this seems to be the front it’s not a bad tree i think if we put it in leaning style is okay but i somehow feel that this trunk here is much too straight and because it’s too straight it’s not as attractive as it should be so let me see what we can do with it so because it’s straight i want to maybe give it more interest give trunk line which is more curvy it’s not really a formal operator because it’s one-sided i could make that the leader like that ah it’s not bad if we make it like that and make that the leader you see but you really need to branch this side with a straight trunk like this and because we have so many larches i thought that for fun i would probably try and do an experiment okay let me bring some special tools on a higher turn table and then we do some more because it’s so stiff to bend it i know that latches are very very brittle so bending it could be a problem but what i might do as an experiment is to remove a bit of the trunk so this is almost like surgical operation so let’s use all sorts of tools no remember we’re not doing any hollywood presentations we’re just filming straight honest video without preparation i’m not doing several takes all these are what we call one take if it doesn’t work there’s no second retake so all our videos are impromptu so what i’m going to do now is try to split this trunk but not just split it by leaving the branch on i’m going to try and remove it i’ve never done this before but there’s always a first time i could bring the chinese cleaver again but that may be too frightening i was looking for my root cutter because sometimes the root cut can double up as a branch cutter but don’t worry we can improvise with these tools i’m literally trying to slice away one third of the trunk the beauty of bonsai as a hobby when you actually are into making bonsai not just buying it to look at is that the experiments are so exciting so what i’ve done here is split that to make it a thinner branch okay now that i split it i don’t think i need it what the hell let’s get rid of it i’ve taken that out now it might bend now it might bend let’s see if i take a little more from there and see what happens i’m not doing it just for the sake of doing and i know there’s an element of that as well but i’m doing an experiment in making a trunk more bendable without sacrificing the aesthetics of it if you remember that video i did when i showed that italian master take the center out this is a case where we can take the center out and make it more bendable that way in fact what the italian master did is not unique it is a standard practice it has been done before it is done i know quite a few people in japan and china they do that technique where they take out the inside of the the wood and then bend it i’m just taking a little more to make sure it is bendable and of course i know it won’t kill the tree because the bark on that side is well alive and there’s a lot of cambium there a lot of sap will continue to flow and now for good measure i’m going to do that technique where you reinforce the trunk i’m now going to insert some wires in there [Applause] so i’m going to use four millimeter wire i’m not getting commission for selling wire but i can’t emphasize enough how important the use of wire is if you don’t use wire where it is needed you will not make much progress some people skimp on war you may remember me telling you how in the initial days in the uk before bonsai wire was easily available i used to buy those overhead electric cables from the electric company that i used to work for here you are i still have some of it this was purchased in 1974. how many years is that 47 years ago i bought this 1974 i used to buy one ton at a time so this is the overhead electric cables i’ve taken the steel center out it is called what we call acsr aluminium core steel reinforced so they used to have like seven strands in it so this is the aluminium wire i used to use before you could get bonsai wire but nowadays when we have bonsai wire freely available there’s no excuse not using it so i’m going to put this on to reinforce it it’s just to support the trunk to prevent it from breaking also i’m going to introduce you to another thing this is packaging tape we use tons of it because we have such a big internet presence we sell a lot of stuff on the internet you will have seen a lot of masters use raffia to wrap the trunk that is very good material but if you don’t have that you don’t have to use raffia i’m all for improvising so if you use this tape to wrap around the tree or if you remember that italian master used the inner tube of the bicycle tire and that was used to wrap around the tree to prevent it snapping so this is perfectly acceptable and it holds the wire in place you can put a little more wire to hold it once you’ve done it so that will keep that wire in place don’t forget this tray is still being trained so while it’s being trained it doesn’t matter as long as the end result is achieved that’s all that matters okay so now that is reinforced so that’s not the end of story there’s more to come we are now going to wire this tree i usually like to measure the right amount of wire i know that some people they why with the coil dangling i don’t know how they managed to do it that of course is done because it’s very efficient you don’t waste any wire you when it comes to the end of the coil and you stop but i usually am able to judge how much water is needed this is where i’m going to the top there now one piece of wire is nothing in fact that is only four mil why i should be using something like five or six or seven mil but let’s see i don’t want to go over the top just right but a bit short okay let’s see if that bends it now if you hear it crack don’t blame me sometimes you may not be successful must admit it’s doing nothing still too stiff still too stiff so i like to show mistakes as well so if it doesn’t work we will try it again i know a lot of people say that i teach life lessons i’m not here to teach life lessons but a lot of the things that apply to common tasks that you do are really things that you would apply in daily life and making mistakes is one of them i know that a lot of people i don’t know whether it is societal pressure or whatever and they regard as mistakes as being terrible things unforgivable sins but i always or not always over the years as one gets older you get to realize that mistakes are the way you learn in life if you make mistakes don’t look at it in a negative fashion because if you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn so that was like a mistake but so what we will proceed to correct it so that was not bendable i misjudged it let’s see if i take a little more if it would work i don’t want to take so much that it makes the tree look a disaster i don’t know how i managed to talk and work at the same time really i’m just thinking aloud i’m just thinking about as i work i think so although you may be silent if i was on my own i would probably not say anything but since i’m doing the video i’m just thinking aloud what goes through my mind so instead of using that router to take away the inside you remember that video i saw the photographs i showed off that italian master using all sorts of routers and things to gouge away a channel i could have easily used a router to gouge this whole channel here but i’m not doing that i will just use the branch splitter to take away the wood i’m trying to keep some bark there because the bark might heal over it’s like a skin graft i didn’t tell you that at one stage i almost became a doctor because we there were some doctors in our family but uh for some reason i decided to follow my father’s footsteps and become an engineer but i hated engineering so this is really like a bit of surgery surgery now it is bendable now we’re getting somewhere now we’re getting somewhere what’s that saying if at once you don’t succeed try and try again so that is very true this was a case in point so use all sorts of tools to improvise i’m just trying to take some wood out from the center wood of course is the dead cells it’s the bark and the cambium which is alive so that is bend over i’m trying to gouge away a bit of wood so that i can tear some of the wood from the inside you see what i’m trying to do i’m getting that and tearing it away so the branch splitter can be used like this even the root cutter can be used like that see pulling away the insides of the wood and now you can see already it is bendable but that cambium is okay that will keep it alive now again i will put that reinforcing bar to prevent it snapping just in case we bend it too much so that’s how we’re going to use the reinforcing bar but as they say there’s not rocket science when you do grafting with plants in horticulture only horticulture it is no different from that grafting is really a surgical operation in fact you’ve got to be very clean and sterile because if you’re not clean and sterile the graft doesn’t take so all that is almost like medical practice now we will wire again in fact i think i will start it from here i’m just providing an anchor here so the two branch principle is in fact what i’m doing i was going to tape it i will tape it again i guess you can use duct tape you can use cello tape you can use any type of tape raffia of course gives a very neat finish but if you don’t have raffia i’m just showing you because i do have raffia but i’m just showing people what you can do without having to use raffia now knowing the way larches grow i am pretty confident that this will set in a year so i won’t have too long to wait okay i’ve reinforced it and now the moment of truth i’m going to bend it just to make it less straight and to give more line and interest to the tree no magic tricks so that straight piece has been bent and when that calluses that should be quite nice you see this distinct bend i haven’t heard any cracking sound so i haven’t cracked it definitely haven’t cracked it i’ll just say something about designing trees i’m always intrigued by some people who like to design the shape and they say that this is how i’m going to design the tree and this how the tree will turn out with me i find that that is very restricting and i just work with the tree and see how it turns out i never pre-plan anything in that sense if it turns out one way well and good if it doesn’t i don’t force the tree to do what it may not want to do i’ve now almost given a 270 degree turn on the trunk so what was a straight tray i’ve now made it into this and i think you will admit that i’ve given more line more line and substance to the tree this is going to be the new leader this is going to be a nice curve so that dead straight piece which was like that by taking away two thirds of the trunk i have been able to bend it using that technique so this is a completely new technique that has been done and i will take some screenshots to show the before and after of this tree and give it a year we will follow this tree through and i’m sure it’ll look very interesting it’s got a nice trunk everything is in the right proportion and it’s in a drum pot let’s see it looks nice even from this side it looks nice using that as the back branch so many possibilities with this tree so just a couple of reinforcing bars and a couple of coils of four mil wire and i’ve now changed the shape of that latch completely so this is something very radical and i hope that those of you who are more adventurous will try and do something like that look at it it’s nice from every side this is a nice side this is what we removed so i hope you learned from this one [Music] you

You May Also Like