Project Post: Zuisho White Pine. Structural Work.

Back in February 2013 during my second month at Aichien, I was given this Zuisho white pine to work on as a project tree.  I needed to practice wiring and making big bends and this was a great tree for those lessons.

Below is a baseline shot of the tree prior to any work being done.  Note the strong growth of the first branch.  I’m told this is very common on Zuisho.  Unless forced into place the main branch seems to compete for a position as a second apex!  This particular tree has never been styled.  Just allowed to grow for a really long time.  Hence the super strength lower branch.


Wild style. Literally.

This tree is pretty old and has started to develop nice bark on the trunk, however the main branch will need some more time to develop similar bark.


Note the difference in bark from the trunk to the main branch. Eventually it will look more natural and make a smoother transition.



Close up of the main branch and trunk.


Close up of the upper structure. A lot of these branches will need to go and the remaining branches will all be bent down.

Ok, now that we know what we’re working with let’s get started.  The main branch will be the starting point and the goal is to bring it down to its limit.  From the experience of  Mr. Tanaka, if the main branch is not pushed to its limit and practically broken it can re-gain strength and will begin lifting again.  Several years later, the branch is right back where it started.

The branch is thick and will require some extra bending power to get it where it needs to be.  Re-bar will do the trick.  So I set up a rig to bend with re-bar and secure with a stainless wire.



side view of the rig.


Close up of the re-bar secured to the branch. Ready to bend! This was my first time setting one of these up. There may be prettier ways, but this worked well.


Ok, everything is in place.  Lets bend!


Half way through the bend and looking good.


The above image is the bend half way through.  At this point, the branch has been broken and can now be bent by hand.  You can see where the bark on the bottom is beginning to wrinkle up and the top has started to separate. This is all still well with in the safe zone for this bend.  It’s at a pretty good angle now, but we’re going to go a little more.  As this tree continues to grow this main branch may attempt to lift back up, additionally there is often a bit of snap back when the stainless guy wire is removed.  By over bending we can compensate for both of these factors.  Lets bend it a little more.


Done. Bent to the lip of the pot. Luckily this was as far as it needed to go, so it worked out well.

Next, the same process will be repeated for the second branch.  The others are small enough to bend by hand.

setting up the second bend

setting up the second bend

After the bend

After the bend

Both of these bends where big.  So they left a large gap where the fibers of the branch separated.

Big break.

Big break.

This kind of bend at first seems like it would be too much and to be honest I was a little surprised when I was told to bend more.  This kind of bend doesn’t necessarily work for every tree, many pines can handle it with no problem though.  The important thing is to cover the wound with some cut putty to prevent water from getting in there and freezing.

Now that the large branches are done and in place the smaller stuff can be wired.

Now just getting everything in place.  Almost done!

Now just getting everything in place. Almost done!

and then, the final shot.

Job complete.

Job complete.

The above photo was actually taken about 6 weeks after the work was done.  Currently, the tree is healthy and growing.  Since this is an initial styling, it’s hard to get that nice refined look.  The tree needs to grow now, for a while.  Then the process will be repeated later, focusing more on the smaller branches and foliage.  The main thing with this initial styling is to get the frame-work or skeleton in place.

A little side by side comparison



That’s it for this one folks.  Thanks for reading.  Check out the photo blog on Instagram as well.  Usually I’m able to get something on there a few times a week.  Search @treethepeople

More Soon!