Juniper project cont’d May 2019

It was February 2017 When I discovered this great untidy Juniper at the back of the yard at a nursery, long neglected and left by the previous owner and just waiting to be revived.

The story that followed can be recapped on my blog pages sprinkled throughout my
bonsai achives section

I am now at this stage (below)and wondering what I should have in mind for the futuresdr     May 2019

Not a techy by any means I have managed to play around with the Paint.Net a free software programme and eventually arrived with the following image which might be somehting to aim for .What do you think?sdr





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Red and gold-more autumn colour


Just rushed out between the showers, days of showers at the moment , to get some photos of these trees with the few minutes of sun upon them. On the whole I don’t like autumn, as far as I am concerned it is the harbinger of winter and I really hate winter, but this display of colour is bringing me round a bit for a few days at least.


‘Jacks Acer’ as you can see the ugly root doesn’ t look quite as bad as it did a a few weeks ago when I acquired this at the auction of Jack’s trees at our club. I imagine Jack must have had this some years as single trunk Beech trees take a long time to get to this stage.



Tree on arrival 11th Oct 2018


Our Golden Wedding Anniversary Acer Kashima bought from Lee  Vehorevoort at Swindon Show Feb 2016 has gone through a range of colours this year and there may be just a few more days left looking like this before the gales or frosts denude it. It was leaf pruned at the begining of June by the way.

Pot by Somerset potter Anne Whitlesey  more information avaiable about Anne’s pots on this earlier posting, Bonsai Pots. someindividual pots may not still be available now 


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Autumn Colour


I know I have featured this only a few weeks ago but what a difference now. This photo was taken on Oct 8th and it is still looking radiant today the 15th.
Between these dates it was voted Tree of the Month ( Autumn Colour Theme) by members in our Club’s Advanced section but I hasten to add that there were very few entries, I think the gales had blown most members autumn colours away.

The trees are Acer Purpuream purchased for a few pounds from Morrisions Supermarket three years ago, I think the reason for their brilliant display this year is that throughout the hot summer weather they were well sheltered from any direct mid day sun, in fact most sun during that very hot spell so I lost very little by scorching, three watering a day helped.

The pot is one of my own home made slabs.

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Jack’s Beech.

With bonsai trees of any age one can only ever be the guardian of that tree for some years and try to care for it, refine and improve it whilst it is your privelidge to do so.

Sadly one of our members at Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club passed away recently and  his wife Pat asked that the last of his trees be auctioned with the proceeds being split between the Club and a charity of her choice.

I first saw one of Jack’s trees, an aged oak, at a Club show when I first joined a few years ago and he had captured the natural character of a larger oak so well it was the tree that made the most impression on me. Now as  John Trott our Club President, profesional bonsai grower and winner of nearly one hundred RHS Gold Medals together with  Howard our Chairman set about selling Jacks remaining collection  I saw another tree that caught my fancy, a Beech of quite decent maturity.


Beech bonsai are most often group or forest plantings as it take many years to to get a single trunk specimen with good ramification so this was a good  opportunity to acquire quite a mature tree for my collection.

Jack had been unable I believe to give his trees the care he may have wanted during his ill health so it is now my task to restore it with some TLC to the standard that he would have liked it to be.

The one slightly awkward and unsightly bit of the tree was the nebari.dav

Perhaps at some time or other it had been trained over a rock as one great sturdy root crossed over a large gap and on the other side it was sort of undershot below a swelling of root. Jack had wedged a couple of sharp edged small rocks into some of the space but they looked quite out if place.


For the moment I have filled that empty space with some local stone, Blue Lias a Jurasic rock, from our garden which is full of it, and also used other pieces to surround and hold back the substrate backing it upto the roots in a more natural way which will look even better if some moss gets established as well.


Now I have until the spring to ponder on this problem and then look forward to using the Welsh bonsai wizard Chris Thomas pinching out regime to try and get two complete growths of foliage next year. Since his talk to our Club I used his  method with my little Beech last spring and got a good second growth.It will be a different task on a tree of this size covered in buds, might ask Adrian round for a day to give me some support, check out the Juniper project and pop round to the Ashcott Inn for a quick bite.

The pot by the way is a 15″ pot from Erin Pottery, the father and son team of Glyn and Vic Harris.

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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Crab apple
I have just seen how long it is since I updated my own blog, I’ve been busy doing the Somerset Crafts Facebook and the Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club website as well as a few health issues,at they say, to deal with. Now at last I have a little while to record the progress of some of my own trees, mainly for my own records but if anyone else likes to look at them you are very welcome.

The root over rock Cotoneaster which originally came from Morrisons plant shelves for a

Cotoneaster root over rock

few pounds in 2015 and shows what can be acheived for a modest outlay. My group planting of Golden Dream Acers from the same source has lost a couple of trees in the last

Acer group 1




couple of years but by taking care to protect it from the strong sun I have at least managed to preserve a quite decent display of foliage this year.

Acer Kashima





At a different investment cost to those supermarket bargains the Acer Kashima that Sue gave me for our golden Wedding Anniversary is still putting on a good show ,adding some trunk thickness this year and improving it’s ramification. I did completely leaf prune it at the begining of June.

A few of my long ago efforts at Bonsai include my Silver Birch from a seedling in 1987 which is starting to turn to it’s autumn golden hue now and the Pyracantha from 1988 which is covered with berries. I know it is rising up out of the pot,that will be dealt with.


And from the same period two Ginkos, which have always been rather boring, so last spring it occured to me to plant them together for a twin planting and it’s certainly made them justify their space of the shelves now.
Another 1988 acquisition was my rather scrawny Scots Pine which was


the most ugly shape at first, totally symetrical looking like an ‘H’ television aerial and now it is well aged and putting on some foliage and looking like some lone blasted tree on a windswept heath.

One of the dissapointments this year has been my Fuji Cherry which always greets the spring with such a display of blossom, a month or more back I was so worried when I saw that all the leaves looked severley burnt black around the edges and some totally. In a fit of panic as I had lost a Pyracantha to Fireblight once I took perhaps over hasy action and cut off all the


branches back to the trunk.
The stage it is at now looks quite hopefull though as it is putting out some very healthy grown and reminds me of Harry Haringtons Fuji progressive article on his website Bonsai4me.There he drastically cut one back by air layering it to style it more from a shrub into a thicker trunked tree, so possibly I did the right thing but I will have to wait and see.
Bonsai4me Fuji progressive

One tree that looked very pleasing this week was my little Mulberry which has a little story to it.. My wife Sue gave it to me as a memory of the days when trying to make a living as an artist was hard going and we had to live and work on a farm, Mulberry Farm. There I used to rise in the early hours and work making Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese untill lunch time before painting in the afternoons.


Sue bought a first Mulberry for me from All Things Bonsai near Sheffield and frankly after a month or so it looked rather sick. I contacted Adam there and assured him that I was not an novice who had sited it indoors, away from the light near a radiator :-).
He gave me some advice as how to revive it and I hoped for the best.Then a few weeks later he contacted me to say that he thought he should have been more helpful and that a replacement tree was on it’s way. Now that is what I call service, all businesses have things go wrong with sales sometimes but it is how they handle a complaint that matters. Well done
All Things Bonsai

Before my more than semi retirement I had a studio gallery in a busy outlet shopping centre, now though I don’t pickup my brushes anymore I do still sell my prints at a gallery situated amid the nature reserves on the Somerset Levels at The Avalon Marshes Centre and they have just put on an exhibition on the theme of An Ode to Autumn inspired by JohnKeat’s lines.
As I was the only member of the group who had no new work I asked if I might take some trees along for the preview and first day which would bring a little bit of natural autumn into the gallery and they leapt at the idea.
Somerset Crafts Gallery
The Avalon Marshes Nature Reserves

Cra in gallery2

star of the show


Foot note:dig

Not a very recent photo but one taken in the summer as a quick update on my Juniper project.

A slight improvement on it’s discovery at the
back of an old nursery in February 2017.

Juniper 2 colectedBLOG

That’s it now folks, don’t forget that if you can the best way to learn more about the art of
bonsai is to join you local club and listen to the old hands. Actually I’m the older one here hanging on for the words of advice.

Bonsai fb cover pic

Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club

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Customer from the past cheers old artist up.

Meare rd

Received this  most cheering email this week from  Nichaolas Earley a voice from the past when I was first selling my work in my first studio up forty odd steps of the stairs at Crispin Hall in Street

I came across this lovely watercolour of yours during a recent house move and wondered if you remember it ?
The painting has been in storage for the past 34 years and sadly has never been framed. It has suffered a little in storage but the colours still appear bright and vibrant.
I purchased it in September 1984 with part of my Student grant for the princely sum of £32.00. 
Your workshop at the time was on the top floor of Crispin Hall in Street and I seem to recall that you had not long been there at the time of my purchase.  In later years I always made a point of looking in to see what you had been painting  when visiting Street , followed by  coffee and a big slab of cake in the cafe .”
And just to remind me of what princly sums my work went for then Nicholas also sent a copyMeare rd receipt.jpg No Address of his receipt for the deposit. To be fair it is a very minimal sketch unlike my later highly detailed work but obviously Nicholas has an eye for quality and and I am greatly flattered to think that he chose to spend his student grant on a work of art rather than drink it away in some Student’s Union bar or other hostelry.  
This is such an early one that though the picture is signed Cooper I still signed the receipt Yates. Yates being my actual name, when I first illustrated and wrote childrens books there was already a Michael Yates in the busines so I chose to work under the name of Cooper, my grandmothers maiden name.
I well remember doing this picture which is taken beside the road to Meare just on the edge of Glastonbury and also remember that one day I was showing some keen would be waterolourists that one does not have to go far to find a subject and that at that spot I could look in three different directions and see a possible picture.
Nicholas has since emailed again to assure me that the picture may now be framed at long last to remind him of his days as a student and cycling round Somerset
“Visiting your studio from time to time was a rare treat for me . I’d often cycle out from South Petherton to Glastonbury to sketch the Abbey and stop in at Crispin Hall on the way back . If I was lucky I’d also find an interesting book or CD downstairs . Your work was very inspirational and I often used watercolour in my Architectural presentations to good effect  .I have made a promise to myself to finally get your painting framed and hung so that I can finally enjoy seeing it after all these years.”
Thank you Nicholas for cheering up an aging artist, an old artist who can recall a painting done 34 years ago but has trouble remembering a shopping list of three items for more than ten  minutes.
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Larch group on the cheap

At the begining of 2016 I invested a few pounds in a bundle of bare rooted Larches of various sizes purchased on the internet from a company that is kind enough to consider very small quantities –Beechwood Nurseries in Co Down N.Ireland. Just what a penny pinching pensioner was pleased to discover.


Three of these little specimens, which cost me £1.34, were desitined to be a group planting and in April 2016 were set aside and most unimaginativley planted, looking as if they may well be pretty boring as little thought was obviously used in this arrangement.



Fortunatly I gave them some further thought when I next planted them in a rather  nice rectangluar pot that I had acquired from a fellow bonsai club member.



After the first initial wiring they soon sprung slightly upward again when it was removed ( July 2017 above left) .
A further much more extensive wiring job was under taken in March 2018 (Right). The small rocks are Blue Lias which is actually found in our garden where for years in the past it was open cast quarried for building the local Somerset cottages and walls.

This grouping had now taken into account  the perspective enhancing guide lines of placing the larger tree to the front. They were planted in Tesco Finest Lightweight Cat Litter with a little pine bark added, I now also mix in  some of the Pink Sophisicat litter from Pets at Home as it has larger granules which are the same basic molar clay.


The wire has been taken off this week in time to prevent any marking of the tree and the branches are springing up a bit already but I think that after further  rewiring later on it now has the making of an attractive group of trees. Not bad for £1.34.

The group was not the only project to emerge from the Irish purchases as I  am also training a twin planting in a home made concrete slab and a single tree from the rest of the Larches. 


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Phase 5 -Juniper Bonsai potted at last

Work in progress 5It was  August 2017 when I last posted news of my Juniper’s progress and now we have reached Phase 5 at last, when my dear Sue could say good bye to the 22inch large black pot outside our window.

It all started back in February last year when I discovered this treasure hidden in the back corner of an old nursery where it had been lying neglected for some time.




I had soon  put it in a slightly smaller pot leaving much of the peat like compost around the firerous roots alone and using Tesco’s finest Low Dust Cat Litter with some added Pine Bark to settle it down for some while aided by some regular low nitrogen fertiliser.

(OK so no one spotted this month’s deliberate error or was it possibly another senior moment spotted on reading through- it was of course HIGH nitrogen fertiliser)

Assisted by Adrian Taylor from the Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club over the next few months drastic surgery reduced it, Jinns were created and heavy wire was used to move some annoyingly straight branches.




Bonsai workers

As you can see the pot really was a bit of an eye sore so it was with great anticipation that we set about re-potting it this month. Unable to do much myself at the moment other than the important task of holding the camera to record this saga we continued after first fortifying ourselves with lunch round  the corner at The Ashcott Inn.

davWe tipped the old pot over and eased the tree out and wondered what we might find hidden in the peat surrounded the roots.dav


Adrian  scrabbled away with a root hook and exposed the peat layer with some heafty great roots in it. Fortunatly there was very little fiberous growth on these large roots which were upto ¾” in diameter which we used a big branch cutter on .




After all this heavy manual labour Sue was very welcome when she came out with  the tea  to see how we were getting on.sdr
I had acquired the pot some months ago and was so pleased that it was large enough to take the tree. Firstly we lay down a layer of the large grain cat litter, Sophisticat from Pets at Home, it is the same as Tesco’s molar clay but with bigger granules then finished of with the smaller one both having some Pine Bark mixed in and some Kaizen No 2

Pot 17 inches long. Tree 17″ high from soil. 27″ across



Guy downOne of the last tasks was to lower the foliage pads on the left using wire guys which were sheathed to prevent damage to the branch. One can see the back budding starting in the foreground of the photo.

This whole progress has been made possible by the great help and advice given by Adrian to sdrreach this stage, thank you Ade and to Sue for her  tollerance of that blooming great black pot outside.

Now after all this time I am feeling really rather pleased with myself though I don’t expect to find such discoveries at every old nursery one visits.

Junipert May best

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R.I.P. Ken Dodd one of my old customers

Sadly passed away on the 11th March one of our great comedians who worked in the tradition of the music halls.  Aged 90 he performed from 1954 until 2017. 

Doddy blurb

Ken Dodd gave me one of his cards and I sold him one of my prints.

Doddy visited my studio in Clarks Village twice when he was in Somerset . Once when he performed at Strode Theatre and then he came back again when he was at Weston Super Mare as he had decided to buy the Land Rover print he saw on is first visit. Evidently he had a Landy many years earlier. I hope my print gave him as much value as his performance at Strode gave us.

 And yes Ken I did loose some of the weight you told me to. 

We had seats at Strode Theatre in Street in the front row, with Sue and the two boys, as they were then, Julian and Ben and the show went on for ever it seemed. For hours he just battered us with non stop jokes, his energy was just enormous, he joked of his battles with the Tax man and towards the end pointed out that all over Somerset there were baby sitters wondering where parents had got to and that when we eventually would get home we would not need a super, we would need a breakfast. 




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Last Snows of Winter 2018


Snowy seat

At the end of February I had started re-potting some of my trees not knowing that winter still had some surprises in store for us even here in Somerset. I think it was on the 1st or 2nd of March that we had the first lot. Not a dramatic amount but fine, dry drifting snow so we had to close the Somerset Crafts gallery at The Avalon Marshes Centre out on the Levels . 


I had managed as I said to re-pot a few trees before then, my little Lonicera Pileata whichlonicera I got from Kaizen in 2014. The nice little Mulbury that,Sue my Wife gave me last year that came from All thing Bonsai near Shefieldmulberry and the small Larch that I bought at Danlitle larchBartons Bonsai day in 2016.







Also the group of three Larches that I bought as bare rooted stock from Ireland  in 2016, which I think these larch groupthree cost me all of £1.34 or thereabouts. (they had thrown the two little runts in as freebies) The pot however was a different matter,  that I had puchased off a fellow Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club member and I had been waiting some time to use it to best advantage.





My little root over rock Cotoneaster had to be done as well hence the string round the rock cotoneasteruntill it setles in again and there was also my Rowan which came from a garden seedling
way back in 1987.


As you can imagine then with all this spring activity and such welcoming signs  as the blossom on this Cherry Incisa I really thought winter was over.

cherry blosom

Then blow me this last wekend the 17th/18th it all came back again, wet, sloshy stuff that obviously wasn’t going to last long but tiresome when I wanted to get on with tasks outside.





I‘m just hoping now that that is it and spring at last will do it’s work and open up those buds and awaken all my trees again. Looking forward to re-potting my Yamadori Juniper (above) as my dear Sue is getting very fed up with that great 20″ black pot outside the window.



The Larch group of three I took along to Bonsai Club the other night and it came Second equal in the Tree of the Month Competition in the Advanced Class. The judges critique noted that they were very immature and would need some years tocome to anything but did compliment the pot and as Ade our judge’s atitude to ill chosen pots is  what Judge Jefferies was to the Monmought rebels I took that as a great success.


Mind you, the number of entries at our club that night it wasn’t hard to get a place

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