PENJING STYLING
Training Podocarpus in the Chinese manner

                Styling bonsai is the greatest challenge and there are many forms of inspiration.  Japanese bonsai tend to replicate codified styles.  "Nature's Bonsai" enhances and builds upon old knarled collected specimens that already have character.  The podocarpus trees in our collection are trained to illustrate Chinese styling influences.

Podocarpus 276 building 72dpi 3x4 vert.jpg (52766 bytes)

BUILDING;   TRAINING BY PRUNING!

             Basic styling!  Start with an idea, concept or a unique feature.  This started with interesting roots that looked like legs that had playful animal-like qualities.   The design balanced a compact foliage mass connected by a thin, elegant soaring trunk!  All training has been by pruning only. Trees that are trained by pruning only have a very comfortable appearance.

Podocarpus 277 building detail I 72dpi 4x3.jpg (71122 bytes)           This compact crown was formed by standard "building" techniques:  pinch the primary growth tip, select from the branches that develop, pinch the branch tips, and create the details of the branches.  Change the main shin-line to create a new crown direction.  Keep refining and adding interest!
Podocarpus 278 building detail2 72dpi 4x3.jpg (62185 bytes)

 

          This root system trained itself and was just exposed.  It was the inspiration for Fuku-Bonsai's "Hawaiian Dragon" styling being offered as Living Lovables.
Podocarpus 310 thin-tall 72dpi 4x5.7.jpg (120411 bytes)           "THIN AND TALL."    The tall elegant trunk contrasts with very short branches.  Another tree trained in the Chinese manner with just pruning.

           Usually those starting out like the idea of a thick stout trunk. As they gain more experience, they begin to appreciate trees that have more subtle styling. This is a 40" tall bonsai with a 2.5" thick trunk.  It would have more traditional proportions if the height were half as tall and branches were longer.

           Initially every possible branch was retained and the mass of each branch is based upon the thickness of that branch.  This branch concept varies from Japanese bonsai where lowest branches tend to be longest and overall shape is a triangle. 

Podocarpus 313 thin-tall detail 72dpi 4x3.jpg (67437 bytes)

 

          Again the root system created an interesting base from which a tree emerges.
Podocarpus 315 reduction 72dpi 4x3.jpg (64742 bytes)

REDUCTION FOR STOUT TRUNKS!

           High in the mountains at the top of the tree-line where trees struggle to grow, there is natural die-back during some weather cycles and strong regrowth during favorable weather.  This natural sequence produces outstanding bonsai stock and Fuku-Bonsai's Reduction-Building training techniques (also known as "Sumo" styling) duplicates the process.

Podocarpus 314 reduction next 72dpi 4x3.jpg (65456 bytes)

 

           This tree has been reduced twice so far and has a proportionally large trunk.  Imagine removing at the red-yellow marks to create a stout dramatic trunk!
Podocarpus 273 rearranging 72dpi 4x3.jpg (63099 bytes)

REARRANGING FOR CURVES!

            Gentle pruning can create interesting detailed branches and dramatic pruning can create exciting trunks.   But if you like curves, there are any number of ways to make a straight trunk into a curvy trunk.  The most common method is wiring. If you start when the tree is easily bent, you can invent your own training methods!

Podocarpus 275 rearranging detail 72dpi 4x3.jpg (83973 bytes)

 

             Training of this tree began at the same time as the tall slender first tree about 1982 when trunks were thin and easily bent. The 36" tall rooted cutting had a trunk just 1/4" thick and was very easily bent with strings and wire.  There are multiple compound bends so if you look at the tree from different directions, you'll see other sets of lively bends.   Exposing the roots add interest. 
Podocarpus 308 rock group 72dpi 4x3.jpg (59537 bytes)

ASSEMBLY FOR INSTANT MASS!

              Creating a bonsai from a single tree is time consuming. But if you have a two-tree group, it looks heavier from the start.  Learn to group trees together.  Learn rock plantings and tray landscapes for an instant effect!

Podocarpus 322 forest 72dpi 4x3.jpg (64963 bytes)               The Chinese love slender taller bonsai while also having the skill to create impressive very stout trees!  Like the "Thin & Tall" tree above, creating this type of forest requires the discipline to keep the forest thinned out and to create as much character as possible with each branch.
Podocarpus 324 forest detail 72dpi 4x3.jpg (99542 bytes)

 

            The forest features 21 trees of different heights,  irregular spacing, and planted at different heights.   Even thin trees develop more character as they age.  37" tall. 
Podocarpus 329 roots1 72dpi 4x3.jpg (61333 bytes)

EXCITING ROOT DESIGNS!

             The finest Japanese bonsai begin with an analysis of the root system and this often determines how the tree will be shaped.  Roots take on a greater emphasis in tropical bonsai as when ficus trees take on banyan shapes.  Chinese penjing leans more heavily to pure art and roots are a dramatic creative component.  These are two root designs in progress with extensive wiring of the roots and training checked every few years. The aluminum foil form a temporary "pot" while the roots are developing.

Podocarpus 330 Roots2 72dpi 4x3.jpg (68594 bytes)              Creating an interesting root system is often more difficult than training a trunk!  Not all trees will allow their root systems to be exposed and once you know which trees will allow it, consider the roots as part of your design concept when training those trees.  Develop long roots in extra deep pots or by including heavy temporary support wires until roots are sufficiently thick enough to support the tree.

CONCLUSION

                I tend to train many trees of the same plant varieties. This allowed me to learn and master the horticultural requirements so the trees grew well. In learning the basic bonsai styles, I've tried to train a tree into every possible style.  Learning to train one plant variety into many styles and shapes is a whole lot easier than trying to build a bonsai collection with just one plant of each variety! I strongly recommend Dwarf Schefflera as it's a proven houseplant that will grow anywhere.  It can be trained into more different stylings than any other plant!  

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FOR MORE INFORMATION about Aristocratic Chinese Penjing,  also see:  Yee-Sun Wu & The Spirit of Man Lung Penjing

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