Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hot hot hot

So we are heating up to the nineties today and tomorrow. I hope junipers respond well... Time to water heavy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


 My junipers and yew have really been suffering. We've been having a cold spring to make up for our warm winter. I've decided that they were not positioned optimally in the back yard so Matty and I moved them to a corner of my yard where they SHOULD receive better sunlight. It's the one area of my yard that I can't keep grass on without irrigation. I think they should thrive here. I threw 4 baby shimps in the ground to grow. This area must have been a bed at one time because the soil was excellent. I'll lift them in 2 years to do some root work and plunk them back in there.

Roy Nagatoshi

Here's an awful picture of two amazing people. Randi and Roy at our last meeting. I have a youtube video to follow... promise.

Been a while

Last night I thinned out the shimpaku I made at the Valavanis seminar to make it more suitable to be a literati. It's closer and I think more elegant. Here's a peak.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Just to document where I can find what constitutes decent soil in the area:

Turface MVP:
About $11 for a 50lb bag
76 & 288

Gran - i - Grit (Grower) - Southern States on Alverser Dr off of Midlothian Tnpk

Permatill - Strange's on Broad St
$3 for 50 lbs or something ridiculous. It comes out of NC

[edit: 1/23/13]
Pumice (Dry Stall) can be found at Southern States off of West Broad also.

Organics can pretty much be found any old place. Looking for soil conditioner and then sifting the bark is best.

I would like to add this article for information also:

Yamadori Hornbeam

During the "winter" this year, I snatched a hornbeam from the woods nearby. My picture dates tell me this happened on the 27th of January. The temps were so warm it felt closer to late February or early March. I didn't know if I took enough roots as the root ball ended up being mostly from other trees nearby. A tangled mess I tell you. I bare-rooted it and potted it up in mostly turface and a bit of pine bark. I had written the stump in the corner of my deck off as a lost cause until this morning when I noticed it had been pushing buds all over the place. And especially close to the top where a new leader is already forming. Success! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yews Guys

I don't like it when people use 'yew' as a pun in topics on forums. I did so as a satire. And I feel awful about it. Finally got around to taking the truck to the Great Big Green House (GBGH) and picked up my taxus baccata.

It's a beast. Can't believe they had it in the "TLC" section. It was pretty healthy over all and had a lot of feeder roots close to the trunk. I probably could have squeezed it into a smaller pot but I wanted to improve the overall health of the tree before cutting them back any more. I didn't remove any roots but I did rinse off the mud from the roots and reduced the foliage by about 40%. I'm pretty excited about this one:

Monday, March 26, 2012

RBS Meeting 3-26-12

Bring a tree workshop. I brought my literati but was more interested in looking at others' pieces and listening to their methods and so forth. There are new people signing up every meeting. It's my goal to get them to stick around. I think it's important to engage the new folks and get them involved. Randi, Thomas, Nguyen "Tommy",  and Jonas were all selfless. I noticed them spending the entire time assisting others. That's exactly how I imagined a bonsai club to operate. Here's Tony presiding over the largest meeting I've yet seen and some other candids:

Also picked up a couple small pots from the $5 raffle. Not that I need them, but I like to donate to the club:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nursery Crawl

Went to the Gardener Nursery for the RBS event. There weren't too many people that showed up; 5 in total. In fairness, the day was a pretty rotten one to be outside searching through 1000s of potensai. I only picked up an azalea which has since been chopped down. It had a 'meh' trunk but the nebari was interesting. I'll update when it starts to break buds back.

Thomas had a bit more to pick up. He went home with a truck FULL of materials. At least a few of which I was jealous. If not for my budget and desire for larger material, plus all the junipers I have in my back yard, I would have picked a few more up. Here's the nursery crawl winner:

I left this nursery to pick up my yew when it started POURING! Another time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mame Juniper

The chances of me keeping this thing alive are low. But it was spotted in a parking lot and would have surely been mowed down. Wish em luck.
Needle Juniper?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Hinoki

Sleep was scarce so my words will follow suit. Picked up a Koster's False Cypress. Also labeled as a Hinoki Cypress. It was a clusterfudge of tight pillows of the most luxurious foliage. I could really get into hinokis if it wasn't for the copious amount of pinching required each season. I hacked away quite a bit and still think it could be lighter. This tree is definitely one that does not translate well to a 2D picture. 


I learned a lot about Hinokis. Mainly how daunting the task of wiring them is. And my studies have taught me more still. I am most likely going to chicken out and not repot it this spring unless I read elsewhere that two major insults will not harm it. I know Vance Wood has done a hinoki workshop in the heat of summer where he reduced, wired, and repotted and the tree survived. The after care that professionals can offer is far different from those of us stuck at work and not with our beloved trees all day. 

Matty brought back a mystery tree from his vacation as a collecting experiment. It didn't have many roots when it was potted up in winter but it is actually pushing buds right now. We'll see what it is soon enough.

Hinoki are difficult to keep happy. I think the greatest quote about Hinoki is this:

"Everyone should have a hinoki in their collection. But no more than one."

-Unknown/Forgot who it was

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mugo Pine

Firstly, in an 18th century encyclopedia, there was a typo that spelled mugo as 'mugho' and from there the misspelling is still being used often..

All that aside, I did pick up a mugo recently. It is an exciting experiment. They prefer more water than most pine, have shorter needles, are amazingly flexible, and can handle lots of work at one time. Mugos are also the only pine that like to get root work and transplanting in the dead heat of the summer.

As this is my first attempt at styling a pine, I'm planning to take it to the next meeting for some ideas.

Here's some shots:

pardon the ravioli.

I don't think the picture does the size of the trunk much justice. This IS a 3 gallon pot. For only $21.99 it was a steal. I went back and no other mugo had as good a trunk. Maybe the thickness, but bone straight. I've cleaned the branches and pulled back a bunch of soil. There is an interesting knot at the base. Adds character. Since this plant loves summer work, I'll wait for now to get to heavy into it. I picked up a nursery Hinoki Cypress. That will be tonight's fun project. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Golf Course Air Layer

Check out the kotohime: I'm looking forward to bending some branches in the winter time. 

I picked up a few issues of Bonsai Today. When I was at Dan's house, he had an extensive library of articles from magazines. One that I'd like to duplicate.

Last thing is this:
Today I went to the driving range and started an air layer on a large Juniperus Chinensis Torulusa. The owner said he didn't mind if I took a branch and wished me good luck. Something tells me he knows about trees. The trees on the property are all cut up in a very japanese manner. One day I'll post some pics. Here's the lucky branch. The live vein didn't go completely around. I hope it works out. If it did, I'd have no issue in asking for more. I used bubble wrap to cover the moss but I'm not sure it'll make a difference. I'm going to try and keep it moist by visiting the range every week at least once... Darn. Pics:  

Till next time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Burnt up cuttings

Weekend update:

Every single cutting I put out burned. Next time I will try putting them in the garage and therefore avoiding such serious heat. I will also be looking into picking up some pumice. I am not sure if the 2/3 peat and 1/3 perlite did the trick... Most likely it was the random 70 degree day and the bag secured too tightly essentially baking the guys. My bad guys. My bad.

Repotted another sargentii juniper:

I have further reduced the tree last night. It will lend itself to an informal upright very nicely. In time. Right now that trunk needs to thicken so I'll be fertilizing heavy this year.

Fertilizing starts in 2 weeks from yesterday.

I ordered 8 magazine (Bonsai Today) from Stone Lantern. They should get in today. I think the detailed procedures presented in magazines is excellent and not duplicated anywhere else. I just wish there was an online database of these articles..

Last night I redid 2 of my air layers because they appeared too small.

Found a great app for tracking the sun's path for any day of the year: Sun Surveyor is free and useful in learning about sun patterns.

That's all for right now.

edit:  photo of the reduction

Friday, March 9, 2012

Random Forum Post

This is a post I really liked on BonsaiNut. It was made by one; Attila Soos.

Well said. Very well said.

Beautiful trees.
Now I put on my Dr. Phil hat, and conclude that your affair with bonsai was like a steamy love affair. They always have a short shelf-life, because they lack moderation. It grew too fast, too big, in too short of a time.

This should be a warning for the new bonsai enthusiasts. Start slow, think long-term, and don't let the hobby throw your life out of balance. It's not about trying to beat your neighbor or club member in who has the best collection. It's about playing and having fun with trees. I started 19 years ago, and took me many years before I've found that balance. But slowly it became part of who I am, and now it takes no effort anymore. It's like eating, or working out.

If your trees take too much effort to maintan (such as having to move them around in your backyard, or needing too much special treatment to keep them alive), sooner or later bonsai becomes a burden. So, one has to find a system (number and size of trees, species, watering, etc.) that makes the hobby effortless.

Sorry for the rant..
Last edited by Attila Soos; March 9th, 2012 at 01:45 PM.

And one more from Brian Van Fleet:
Advice? Read everything you can get your hands on, contemplate your trees, take your time. Think in terms of seasons and years, not weeks and months. Everyone has an opinion; listen to people whose trees you appreciate.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Office ficus

I found the blogger app and am posting this just to see how it turns out. Here is the ficus that I've been working on. It started as much uglier ready made commercial tree for hooking newbies. It worked. With pruning and wire, this is actually close to resembling a tree. Office types are always asking me about the big pot. Then they glaze over when I explain why it is not yet in a proper Bonsai pot. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

This weather...

Cold, windy and wet snow coming down outside. Nothing is sticking thankfully. Yesterday was pleasant and mild. Cest la vie in VA.

This weekend was kind of a wash for bonsai. I did get some air layers applied to the juniper. 7 in total. Probably could have done more but the branches started getting thin and straight on me. If it makes sense, I'll continue using that tree as a parent as long as I can. I left one strong arm on it and may plan to design a literati of it.
Here's hoping it'll do well in the growing field:

During this process I took a few heel cuttings, dipped them in rooting hormone and planted them in a mix of peat 2/3 and perlite 1/3. I moistened the soil and sprayed the foliage then placed them in a bag. We'll see if they decide to root for me. I won't be heart broken to lose them but it'd be nice to be able to put them in the ground later on. I've yet to successfully propagate anything. I've also yet to spend the requisite time studying the subject.

Brought in my deciduous trees and everything in a delicate state to avoid the snow/wind today.

And here's a bonus shot of the bench since I've not yet posted it with trees and without snow. I'm always thinking about the weakest trees on this bench. There are currently 3 trees that might not be long for this world. Can you spot them?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring Happened

This is the first action I've seen from any of my maples. This kotohime will be a fun project over the next decade. Why was I buying this stuff???? My commercialized Chinese Elm is also pushing foliage.

It's about to get real for this Juni

This guy.

I got this last summer from a nursery that had to import it from California. Shimpaku is hard to find around here. It was a decent price and I might actually grab another at some point. So anyways, the base doesn't have a really good trunk, no nebari to speak of, and about 9 or 10 different stalks sticking up. Didn't really see much potential to make it a bonsai after I got it home. So I've been thinking about it for months now. I think I finally have my plan. I'm going to pick one stalk to turn into a shimpaku literati and air layer the rest of them down to about 6 inches above the soil line. They are all about thick enough to be a pain in the butt to wire and add movement to but not so thick that it will take heavy hardware beyond a 6 gauge wire. Or two.

I'll be planting each airlayer seperately sometime in summer hopefully. I've read different things about how long it will take to get these to root. I'm averaging it all out to about 8 weeks. So then, I'll start the airlayer in 2 weeks and have 6-8 new junipers to start training.

I was talking to a mentor of sorts about selling trees. He suggested getting 5-10 of each tree you want to work on and keep the best one. I could sell the other 5 for about 5 to 10 times the price and use that money to reinvest. Essentially, a strategy to have bonsai pay for itself. I'm going to employ this tactic with Azaleas and this Shimpaku. I think it cost me about $35 or so. I imagine I could sell each of the air layers for about the same price... We'll see. I have to successfully root them first.

I'm going to use the remaining foliage for grafts onto my big ol' Parsonii trunks. Biting off more than I can chew is in the plans for this spring/summer.

Bear with me. :)