A few months ago Aichien acquired a rather large, old tosho (needle juniper). This tree was collected from the wild over 100 years ago and has been living as a landscape tree ever since. Well, until recently that is. The piece of land that it formerly called home was sold and the tree was left with 2 options. It could either move to a new home, or get the wrecking crew treatment. Mr. Tanaka received a call asking if he was interested in the tree and he said he’d take it. Then things got complicated. The risk of moving this tree was high due to the season. Unfortunately, waiting was not an option. Mr. Tanaka was informed that this was a now or never type of deal. Despite the risk there was nothing to lose in trying if the tree was going to be demolished anyway. So arrangements were made with professionals who specialize in moving large trees. They where to collect the tree and then have a shipping company move it to Aichien.
The collection process was tough on the old tree. I was not here at the time but I’ve been told that several mistakes were made in collecting and shipping. By the time the tree arrived at Aichien it had very few remaining roots and had taken somewhat of a beating. Piggy back that stress on the already existing stress of performing such a procedure at the beginning of the summer and we are unfortunately left with little hope for this trees survival. Despite the diligent efforts of Mr. Tanaka to save it, the tree faded away over the course of a few months.
One thing I have noticed about the Japanese is their strong sense of regret when it comes to being wasteful. In such situations it’s common to hear the term “Motainai!!”. This basically translates in English to “What a waste!”. So what can we do? Make some interesting landscape art!
Tosho deadwood is incredibly long-lasting and rot resistant. So its perfect for this project. So what’s next? Lets get the tree in the workshop and see what we can do with it!
The tree is really to big to fit in the workshop or even be moved by just a few guys. So we had to make some branch choices. Many of them had to go. Mr. Tanaka decided that he really just wanted to keep the trunk and a few branches. So we began to cut, and cut and cut some more.
Next we had to free it from the soil. Since it didn’t have many roots, this was not very difficult. We pushed it over and cut the existing roots with a saw.
Now that the tree is completely free from its previous resting place we could load it up and move it. My fellow apprentices and I thought we might have to gently carry it out of the field and put it on a cart then move it to the workshop. Mr. Tanaka however, had a faster plan. Just throw it over the fence into the wheel barrow!
Even though we broke the fence and may have done some damage to the wheel barrow, it was certainly faster and easier! Luckily the fence was an easy fix. Off to the workshop.
As you can see from the picture above, we had to cut off a few more branches on the way to the workshop. The tree was just to big, it wouldn’t fit through the door and we ran the risk of damaging other trees trying to navigate this beast through the narrow paths of Aichien. Once we got the tree into the shop my fellow apprentices and I were instructed to make the tree look beautiful. Apprentice dead wood practice. Remove the bark, carve all of the branches to look naturally old, clean the tree up and give it a flat base so it can stand on its own. Get to work!
There are plenty of tools available at Aichien for this job. Hammers, chisels and pliers seemed to be our number one go to. We also spend a lot of time with the power tools, mostly for cleaning and finishing work.
The three of us spent a couple of days working on this project. Occasionally Mr. Tanaka would come in, take a look, give us some guidance, help some and then leave us to it.
Once we got it all carved up, we moved it outside and blasted it with the pressure washer. This was great for getting into the cracks and crevices. It also quickly removed any residual sap. The tree was really sticky after the carving.
The finished product is now a permanent piece of yard art at Aichien. It attracts a lot of attention and has a good story behind it. The No Show Tosho will never be forgotten. I’ll close this post out with a few pics of some of the more interesting angles of this tree.
Well, I’ve run out of pictures. So I guess that’s the end of this article. Hopefully you found it as interesting as I did. Such a great project. I feel like everyone involved learned a lot and got some valuable practice working with juniper dead wood on a large-scale. The lessons learned from this project will cross over very well into bonsai work!
Thanks for reading! More soon. Search @treethepeople on Instagram to keep up with the photo blog. More frequent posting there to supplement these articles.