Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

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Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:11 pm

From the collection of the NC Arboretum:

[img][/img]

This Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis' bonsai was originally in the collection of Dr. Bev Armstrong in Charlotte, NC, and I think he purchased it from Chase Rosade sometime in the 1970's. Dr. Armstrong donated it to the Arboretum in 1997. Here is a picture of the same tree from 2000:



I was surprised to read in another thread on this site that some people think of this variety as "difficult". I had never heard it described so before, and personal experience doesn't support that view. Although there are easier plants to work with, Hinoki's do not require any extraordinary measures to grow, shape or maintain. The cultivated forms, such as 'Nana Gracilis', do grow slowly, and they do not favor a lot of heat or extreme cold. Maybe that's where the difficulty lies. Here, we have used them several times as material for beginner-level workshops. They are excellent, and fairly traditional, subjects for bonsai.

AJ
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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Guest on Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:53 pm

Lovely tree, thanks for sharing.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Rick Moquin on Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:13 am

My favourite species as well. Hinokis do not back bud on old wood that is why it has fallen out of favour for many practitioners. However, as you and I know they can be tamed using the proper combination of pruning and pinching.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  David Brunner on Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:36 am

AJ –

Thanks for posting these images. I have always been fond of this species and cultivar as well. However, I am willing to concede that the uniformly cool and moist climate of San Francisco may be responsible for the relative ease of cultivating these here (goodness knows it’s responsible for making the cultivation of many other bonsai “standards” beastly!)

I need to say though that I much prefer the positioning of this tree as it was donated by Dr. Armstrong, than that shown for 2000. The new pot is much better than the old, but why was the tree turned around (or so it seems)? This causes the branching patterns to be far less elegant. Perhaps it was for horticultural rather than display purposes? The tree is shown growing against a wall, and therefore would require a periodic “round-the-block.”

Nice tree none-the-less. It’s quiet and elegant. I like that! I can see in it the image of my ideal tree – healthy and vital, life-giving and life-sustaining. Not a tortured remnant.

Thanks again,
David Brunner

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  LSBonsai on Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:09 am

David Brunner wrote:
I need to say though that I much prefer the positioning of this tree as it was donated by Dr. Armstrong, than that shown for 2000. The new pot is much better than the old, but why was the tree turned around (or so it seems)

As far as I can tell it was not turned around. The first branch on the right in the 2000 pic was removed (or perhaps died). I prefer the newer image, but mostly for noticeable increase in refinement. I probably would have removed that branch... not too attractive how it emerged from the trunk with that awkward bow...

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  John Quinn on Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:26 am

Hi Arthur... I agree with David in prefering the original orientation. To my eye, the tree now is tilted to an awkward degree.


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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  kenduncan on Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:01 pm

Hi Arthur, good job as usual with the care of this tree. I had the same idea as Dr. John, to me the tree looks more comfortable in the pot in John's vert. Good call John.
Ken

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Rick Moquin on Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:24 pm

These (suggested) changes are so subtle yet very rewarding and it should not be a problem putting them into place during the next repotting.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:33 pm

Thanks to those who have offered their comments. I'd like to briefly respond to my friend John's suggestion about changing the angle of the tree - Obviously, I disagree with your idea. As you know me, so you know the tree looks the way it looks by intent, and not by mistake or failure to consider other possibilities. As I know you, I respect your knowledge and ability, so I don't demean your idea. I just like my own better.

The tree when I first encountered it was nice enough, but I felt it was ordinary. It was a healthy specimen, mature and well grown, but its styling was too conventional. Rather than spend the next couple of hours writing a thousand words about it, let me draw you a picture. Here, reduced to a simple geometric pattern, is how the tree was originally designed:

[img][/img]

This image is recognizable as a tree, specifically a bonsai tree, but it is a dull composition. It will not hold a viewer's attention for long. To remedy this situation, after several years of living with the bonsai as it was, growing it and maintaining it, studying it and thinking about it, I undertook to alter its basic design. The lower branch on the right side, the primary branch of the old design, was removed altogether. All of the branches were thinned out, and their lengths were altered to create greater interest in the way they related to each other. The front of the tree was changed by a very slight rotation counter-clockwise, to bring the lower branch on the left side slightly more forward and to give a more flattering view of the lower trunk (which remains a weak point in the tree's composition.) Finally, the trunk was tilted slightly to the left and a different pot was chosen. The tilting of the trunk improved the view of the base of the tree, which was another inherent problem for this particular specimen, but more importantly, it created more "drama" in the composition. To borrow a phrase from bonsai smart-guy David DeGroot, changing the angle of the trunk increased the "tension" of the design. So, a simple geometric rendering of the tree's current design looks like this:

[img][/img]

The degree to which all this has been thought out is reflected in the choice of container and where the tree is placed in it. The pot is deeper than what would typically be used for a tree with the trunk diameter that this hinoki has, and it's rectangular. The intention was to create a strong, stable base for the composition. The tree is potted to the extreme right side in order to balance the sharp movement of the trunk to left.

All this may be of little interest to most people, but for me, as the designer of this tree, it makes the whole business much more interesting. Standing the tree more upright would make it look more conventional, and this would no doubt be more appealing to many people. Standing the tree more upright would relieve some of the tension, and then it wouldn't feel "awkward" to my friend John, and it would be more "comfortable" to my friend Ken. But relaxing the tension would make the composition less dynamic, and less individualistic, and that would make the tree less enjoyable for me.

In the end, we have to please ourselves in these creative ventures.

AJ
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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  kenduncan on Wed Jul 08, 2009 1:07 am

Good reply Arthur, I knew You had a reason for the way this tree was planted. I have done this myself with some trees that do not have a lot of interest, by making it a slanting style instead of a more upright tree, it adds interest. But I think that this tree has interest either way, very nice Bonsai.
That is so true that we have to please ourselves with our trees, that is the most important thing.
Ken

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  DaveP on Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:44 am

In my mind, there's a difference between dynamic movement and visual instability. The angle of the trunk could work very well to produce dynamic movement, but the branches on the right are angled up while the branches on the left are angled down or level. This produces an image of visual instability, as though it were one good windstorm away from falling over. If the branches on the right were brought down to level or below (conveying age as well), then the image would be that of dynamic movement and struggle.

Just my opinion and worth the price paid. Smile
Kindest~
-d

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Velodog2 on Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:22 pm

The branch structure and refinement is far more interesting now than in the original composition so that goal was achieved. But I agree about the feeling of instability. The branches are not angled believably for the inclination of the trunk. They should be a little closer to level at least near the tips, and the apex should be more upright, like a tree that is compensating for it's lean by continuing to grow upright. This would create dynamic tension. The two elements of gravity and tree fighting each other. As it is I believe the tree simply looks like it is in the process of falling over.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:31 pm

Velodog2 and DaveP, thank you for taking the time to post your comments. I have carefully considered what you have written, then gone out to look at the tree in question and thought again about your suggestions. I want to be certain that I am understanding you correctly. So I have made a sketch of the tree (sort of like an old fashioned virtual), attempting to incorporate your ideas. Please look at my sketch below and let me know if I am on the right track (I don't expect to produce the exact thing you are describing, but let me know if I'm in the ballpark.)

[img][/img]

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Velodog2 on Thu Jul 09, 2009 4:14 am

I like your sketch very much.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  DaveP on Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:43 pm

Hi AJ,

Your sketch is fairly close to the image I had in mind. Here's a rough virtual of what I was thinking. Obviously this could be better executed with detail wiring, as you've shown in your sketch. The branches on the right have been pulled down and shortened. The apex was reduced a little on the left side.



Kindest~
-d

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:08 pm

Thank you, DaveP and Velodog2, for your responses. In any dialogue worth having, all parties must listen to what the others have to say and do their best to understand the others' point of view. When I read your original comments, I thought I understood what you meant, but I wanted to make sure. Now I feel certain that I have a clear view of your ideas. So now I will offer my perspective and hope that you will afford me the same courtesy.

Your vision for this hinoki is to convert it to a conventional, Japanese-identified bonsai design. That is what is represented in my drawing. That is the very thing I do not want to do with this tree. It's not that I cannot grasp the fundamental concepts of conventional bonsai design (I couldn't draw the picture if I couldn't grasp the concept), and it is not that I cannot master the technique of developing trees that way (I have done many trees in that style over the years, and a good number of them still look like that), but doing it that way has lost its appeal for me. The conventional, Japanese-identified style of bonsai design does not speak to me, and so I have no interest in shaping any more bonsai in that manner.

What does speak to me, always has and hopefully always will, is the beauty of trees as they grow in nature. All my life I've been attracted to the look of them, and I have observed them and studied them, drawn pictures of them and taken photographs of them. Ultimately I sought out a career that would put me in close contact with trees every day. Now I grow and shape bonsai for a living. Not as a hobby, but as a profession.

The hinoki in this post is an example of a tree that started out being shaped to look like a bonsai. Now it is a bonsai being shaped to look like a tree. It does not look right to you. It probably does not look right to the majority of people who subscribe to this forum, and that's too bad. I'd rather you liked my work, but as I said before, it's more important for me to like it. You have generously tried to correct the obvious deficiencies in my design for this tree, and I thank you for your good intentions. But I tell you that it's hopeless. Don't waste your effort. Your helpful ideas will be better offered to others who aspire to the same bonsai ideals as you.

I went out in the garden and sought out this hinoki again today, to look at it and think about it in light of the discussion that has taken place about it in this forum. I looked at it for a long while. It looked like a healthy, beautiful, old, wild tree. Like something I would see in a dream. It rained here today, and we needed the rain badly, so I felt good just for the sight of the rain coming down from the sky. But as I stood there in the rain and looked at the image of Tree before me, I thought everything was perfect. I know it's not, but for a few moments today it looked that way to me.

Thanks for the opportunity to share these thoughts.

[img][/img]

AJ
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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  kenduncan on Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:40 pm

Arthur, knowing You as do I was moved as well as tickled by your reply, and I could not agree with You more. Looking at and making Japanese Bonsai for so long, I tend to get hung up on the same look. As an artist I want to make my trees look more like trees, to create a place that I can enjoy.
I see this tree as one that I could have seen on one of the many trips to the woods or along side a road somewhere.
Good job in projecting a real tree.
Ken

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Velodog2 on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:05 am

AJ thanks for listening to our ideas and considering them. They are ours and the tree is not. You have your own vision which is clearly and carefully thought out, and it's been interesting for me to be able to consider them. You seem to be growing as an artist by trying new things and that is admirable. Please continue to enjoy the evolution of your tree.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  DaveP on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:21 am

I'd agree with Velodog's sentiment. I can understand and appreciate your design decisions, AJ. My adjustments weren't based on a Japanese-inspired design, but based on pure physics. Mentally scaled out to a full-sized tree, the only image I get is of a snapshot in time, just seconds before the whole thing hits the ground. Not intended to be offensive with that .. just the picture I get. The trunk angle is fine and doesn't need to be changed (neither the trunk nor the left branches were altered in my virtual).

However, I've given my input and it was treated with kindness & fairness - for which I thank you! I'll return the favor by saying that I do know the tree is in good hands and I'm sure as it matures and changes, the image will change as well. It'll be interesting to see this tree in another 10 to 20 years - and I'm truly looking forward to it. Variety is a Good Thing!

Kindest~
-d

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AlainK on Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:42 am

DaveP wrote: (...) My adjustments weren't based on a Japanese-inspired design, but based on pure physics. Mentally scaled out to a full-sized tree, the only image I get is of a snapshot in time, just seconds before the whole thing hits the ground. (...)

I tend to agree with Dave, but I also understand Arthur's point of view.

Maybe adding the kind of little figures that one can see in Chinese "Penjings" could settle the matter :



Cool

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Rick Moquin on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:49 pm

Arthur,

I have been reading and regurgitating everything that was said in silence. Looking at all the point of views without participating in the discussion.

I believe I know where you are coming from wrt the future of this tree. The Japanese style is boring to many and many wish to pursue a different avenue, and I understand that.

Artistically speaking, you need to move the viewer. Although the addition of dynamism might increase the boring nature of this tree, the tension is too great and artificially produced. The representation is that of a tree that has "just" been accidentally hit by a bulldozer, and hence a tree that is "just" starting to lean or an immature slanting tree. If the message you are trying to convey is that of a tree that has just begin slanting, then yes you have re-created a convincing subject. If however, this tree has grown in a slanting style, then you would not find a tree with the branches positioned as such in nature.

I need to change computers to render a virt of what I am trying to say. Ill get back to you.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Rick Moquin on Fri Jul 10, 2009 2:34 pm



On the other hand the following photo is of a natural slanting tree. We need not wonder where the sun faces. The branch plane says it all.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  Velodog2 on Fri Jul 10, 2009 3:50 pm

To be succint, sometimes there are good reasons why japanese bonsai look the way they do. But no, that doesn't mean that yours has to look that way.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:47 pm

This thread has gone to subjects that I never supposed it would, but that's fine. I appreciate the civil tone that has been maintained throughout the exchange of differing ideas.

As I've said, I love trees and study them endlessly. If you go looking, you can find trees in nature assuming some striking and even incredible shapes. This is not to say that all shapes are appealing, or that we should try to incorporate in our bonsai designs every possibility that we see in nature. But where a person draws the line as to what looks good and what doesn't, and what they want to represent in their bonsai design, is an entirely personal matter.

Often when I see a peculiar form in nature, I wonder how it would be received if it were presented in bonsai form.

[img][/img]

[img][/img]


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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

Post  AJ on Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:52 pm

Here is a picture of a tree I see on a fairly regular basis:

[img][/img]

Talk about unstable! Talk about looking like the next good wind will knock it down! I've been admiring this tree for many years and it has always looked this way for as long as I've known it. It's been through a few hurricanes in that time, too. I think the unlikely lean and the feeling of seeming instability is what makes this particular tree so interesting.

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Re: Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress

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