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Acer buergerianum


Restyling a Mugo Pine

by Wolfgang Putz, Austria

In the summer of 1997, I called Pius Notter for the first time because I wanted to meet him and visit his mini-arboretum in Boswil, Switzerland.

In October 1997, during my first visit in his garden, I was overwhelmed by his yamadori bonsai, which I had seen only in his books and some bonsai magazines until then. My cousin and I were so fascinated that we enrolled ourselves for a weekend course at the arboretum while we sat together for lunch with Mrs. and Mr. Notter. Because of so many appointments, a waiting period of 3 to 4 years was expected in order to attend the course.

I hardly believed in the possibility of taking part at such a course, but when I called back home in September 1998 on my birthday, during my holiday in Canada and Alaska, my family told me that my cousin and I would be able to take part in a course early, because some participants from Germany had canceled.

We were thrilled, and only 5 days after my flight back from Alaska to Austria I drove to Switzerland with my cousin.

Now we stood, overwhelmed, in front of untold numbers of yamadori trees in Pius Notter's bonsai garden.

From this mass of trees, I took a rather big mountain pine (Pinus mugo) with interesting parts of dead wood, which was collected in 1997 at the height of 1200m, from a bog in the Central Alps of Switzerland.

The main task of styling this tree, because of the season, wasn't the foliage, but the best possible adaptation/carving of the dead wood to get jin and shari. After the use of a Samurai™ carver we finished our work with fine wire brushes.

Heavy snows in its former mountain home must have beaten down this mountain pine several times, as several strong branches had been broken.

Being quite a beginner at this kind of yamadori design, I decided to choose one front (yet later I changed my mind …) and I styled the tree after my own idea.

The dead wood was worked on with a Samurai carver and special wire brushes. Protective goggles are an absolute necessity for this kind of work.

The carving and refining of the jin took several hours. Later, the dead wood was carefully treated with fire to remove the fibrous remnants of the carving. Only when the wood was dry was it treated with lime sulfur.

For wiring the tree, I needed roughly 2 hours. Later, the branches were put in position with the help of Pius Notter. On Sunday afternoon, the initial styling was finished.

During 1999 the tree was left in the wooden box, recovered from the styling and grew vigorously, supported by organic fertilizer. Horst Heinzelreiter from Austria made a pot that matched the tree (after an example of a Tokoname pot) and I was able to repot the tree at the end of March.

At the JAL World Bonsai Contest 2000, this mountain pine was among the top 100.

In May 2001, my bonsai buddies from Germany, Jürgen Zaar and Jörg Derlien, visited me. In my bonsai garden we talked about a possibly better front for my mountain pine and we decided spontaneously to restyle the pine together and to give it a new front. Besides that, the two showed me some new tricks... (Jürgen Zaar was a student of Salvatore Liporace).

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In September 2002, I met my bonsai buddies Jürgen and Jörg again, this time at the river Mosel in Germany. Again we worked together on the canopy and tried to pull the foliage a few centimeters to the left.

October 2002 at the Euro Bonsai Gala in Bad Staffelstein, Germany, the tree was selected among the 15 best trees of the show by the two special guests and bonsai masters from Japan, Mr. Harunobu Tokita and Mr. Yoshihiro Nakamizu.

2002 Euro Bonsai Gala (below)

I was very surprised by this honour and I have a lot of fun with my mountain pine.