Friday, May 31, 2013

Ursula gets worked over

Ursula was introduced in these two posts previously. Originally I thought it was a carpinus but was surprised when the foliage proved otherwise. This is a newly collected tree that would normally never be worked over so early. The only reason I did this is:

1. When Ursula was pulled out, it came from a swampy area that encouraged a near "pad" of roots close to the trunk.
2. It's a maple variety that isn't the best for bonsai so I've adapted a "go hard or not at all" attitude about it
3. It's the most vigorous tree I have on my bench. 

TL;DR - don't try this at home. Let newly collected material rest for at least the first year. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ahead and break my own rules for science.

Spring catapulted this tree in to a vigorous flush:

Look how large those leaves are! I wanted to reduce some repetitive and misplaced brances. I also wanted to wire some of the lower branches into place or the opportunity would be lost forever. These bottom branches are already pencil thick and much more growth will render them immovable. 

It's tough to see what all is in there with this much foliage.

Problem solved. That straight stump on the left was going to be a part of the design but it suffered from die back and didn't push one solitary bud. It's just an eye-sore. With a little magic:

This left a big ugly flat scar that I wished to reduce and grind into a concave shape. Time to make some wood chips fly!

Mum would be proud of the safety glasses, no? In all honesty, I'm a big advocate of wearing proper safety equipment when working with any power tools. Take care of yourself, guys.

I sealed the outer perimeter of the wound with cut paste and started to reduce limbs. This is the hardest part for me because this is when we're deciding on a design within the confines of actual branch structure for the first time. It was very apparent that Ursula didn't have branches where I'd have wanted them. I wish there was a way to make branches grow exactly where you need them for the design. Wait.. wait a minute. There is. This next step took 4 hands and the camera had to take a backseat. I can share with you some excellent links to help learn about the process of thread grafting here: One, Two, Three

And that's what we did. We moved two branches into position and pinned them in place with skewers. One for the side and one in back for depth. This is my first attempt at a thread graft so let's hope I have good news to report in the future. I'll leave these in for the remainder of this season and possibly the next. 

So after this little session, here is where she's left.

 It sometimes takes a bold step backwards to inch your way forward. I've been monitoring each, leaf, bud, and graft daily and so far nothing has led me to believe we've done too great an insult. 

If nothing else, we've learned a great deal about dealing with larger maples and got to practice some grafting techniques. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Privet Hard Pruned

Picked this guy up for $5 in the TLC section of a local nursery. I reduced it from about 3.5 ft to 10 inches, reduced the roots and potted it up in this pond basket. This was all about in January and I tucked it against the house, under an overhang, protected from winds with old leaves. As the temperatures increased, it started to throw buds but mostly on on side. I don't have any shots of the bush how I bought it. Here is the earliest picture I took.

For $5 and rough care, I didn't really expect much out of this privet. That's because I had no idea how privets respond to torture. These things are STRONG growers.

Over the last 5 or 6 warm weeks has treated this privet kindly. I have learned that they tend to push  ginormous leaves when fertilized heavily but fertilize I must until I have everything in place. Here's how I found the tree yesterday afternoon.

This is what I considered the front until the foliage started to fly:

New front since it showed more of the trunkline:

Carnage shot:

After the trim-up:

I selected what branches I thought I would keep for the final design and hacked the rest. Privet are seemingly so vigorous that I expect plenty of back-budding even back to the trunk. Most areas were cut back to 2 to 4 leaves as I'll want to start the ramification process early on this shohin sized tree. 

I'll update as this responds to the treatment. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Out of Season Digs - Elm Yamadori

I was introduced to a former member of the club who was doing some clearing of his back yard. He had some elms out there that had been growing for between 15 and 20 years and was happy to have me dig them up. The reciprocating saw made quick work of the process.

I took home 4 elm: 2 chinese elm and 2 corkbark elm. There were mosquitoes bothering me while I dug so I didn't want to wait and take pictures. Just got down to business. Here's the 4 elm trees we excavated.

As you can see, 2 went into the ground and 2 went into pots. I hope they respond well and next year we'll start looking at what needs to be done. I'm content for now to keep them alive. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Got yew in my kitchen

Continuing the "bonsai therapy" session two nights ago with a mini juniper, I still needed more blood sap to get over the bonsai funk. So then, this poor yew was attacked mercilessly. I'll label this post Not Safe For Shrubs.

Picked this taxus up for about 1/3 price due to a sale stacked with an email coupon and good timing. I had it cut in half at the nursery and made the obligatory and terrible joke: "So now it's about half off right?"

It came in a burlap sack that when opened, revealed a mass of fine feeder roots in a sort of sandy clay. It was easily removed with a jet spray and I placed the yew in an Anderson Flat that my buddy Jonas picked up for me. I'm glad I found a use for one of these ten I have sitting out back... It was potted in my usual mix and top dressed with turface. Sometimes I work inside since I'm the boss now. No one gets to fuss at me for foliage on the floor. 

I didn't have to reduce the rootball at all as yew tend to throw a spongy mass of roots very close to the base.  At this point Jess joined me and we started to work our way in by clipping out branches we were sure wouldn't be useful in the final design. About an hour later we were about here before we actually chose a line for the future tree.

It's been raining which was fortunate because we intended to strip much bark in favor of future dead wood design. If we cut the bark with a razor it would peel away easily in big sheets with bare hands. The only chance to do this is when it's still living so peel we did!

This is my favorite shot of any reduction. The carnage. I think 99% of the foliage was removed last night. This treatment is HIGHLY unusual but I've actually done this with a yew before and it did just fine. While they are coniferous trees, they perform like deciduous in some aspects. My last one once budded back on a branch with no foliage like only deciduous trees do. Anyways, here's the damage:

We left it here for right now and will not touch it for the remainder of the year except to provide it ample sunlight and fertilizer (after a 2 week resting period).

I'm still working on the virtual but it may have foliage only on the left side of the composition to balance the heavy jin on the right. as the small branchlets extend, we'll have an easier time selecting a final image.Most likely it will be shorter than it is currently.

 Bonsai trees, in their early phase are much less majestic and beautiful. In fact most of the times they are downright ugly and uninspiring.  Anyone who practices, though, can start to imagine possible solutions from a trunk line. 

Thank you for your time and attention.

Post Script:

So what became of my last yew? I got pressured into doing some work out of season, I think in September of last year and because it stayed so mild, the dern thing back budded and start to push again. Because none of the foliage had ample time to harden off, the tree suffered during the first frost and perished. In hind sight I could have given it more protection but really I should have not done the work out of season. Cheers.

Killing in the name of..


I've been grumpy. In a bonsai rut. The material that I want to work with is out of my price range and the material in my price range is not what I want to work with. As I'm waiting for 10 or so hornbeam stumps to grow branches and watching sub par trees fill up my benches, my frustration gets the better of me and I start wanting to get my hands in some foliage badly.

I talked to a bonsai buddy of mine who said when he gets in a rut, he goes and buys a cheap garden center plant and puts it through some intense abuse. He doesn't care if the tree lives or dies. It's only purpose is cheap therapy. So I tried that the other night with a future-less juniper on my bench. I got it my first year in the hobby and never knew what to do with it. I pinched it in springs and it filled out with some rangy foliage that I have decided will never amount to much. Because I didn't care much for the material, I didn't even honor it with proper photography. I threw on some 70s music and attacked this poor defenseless fellow with extreme prejudice. Any mistakes didn't matter. There was no plan. Hell, I even used copper wire just to add to insult. I give this guy about a 10% chance to survive.

I actually did repot it into something an 8 inch bulb pan so it'd take up less room. That's right. 2 insults in one hour. So while this may be a waste of material. Goodness did it help. 

Edit: here's a proper photograph for your troubles.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Back at the Arboretum

Went back up to DC for the PBA show on the 3rd. Took the Friday off of work and suffered the injurious traffic of the Northern Virginia corridor accompanied by Jessica and Randi from the club. What I saw this year was similar to last year's show almost exactly.

The vendor's area is always the first stop. Perhaps it's because I'm more selective or perhaps showing up 2 hours after the stands opened was the reason, but I was not overly impressed with most of the mid range selection. There was plenty of very young and wanting material for 35 - 50 bucks and some great material north of 500 but not much in the middle which is where I was hoping to shop for raw material. I think the next time I get a hankering for new stock, like right now, and the funds to back that up, like NOT right now, I'll check out making a trip up to Nature's Way or Meehan's Miniatures. It looks like I'll have to do a bit more traveling or pay for shipping. A few snaps of the vendor's area.

Unable to find material the truly inspired, we took a look at the fine pottery that was available. One of my favorite potters, Dale Cochoy, was there in his usual spot. 

This first one came home because what the girlfriend wants, the girlfriend gets.

I've a bunch more of these but he has these posted and more on his Facebook Page.

Different from our last visit, this trip the benches were full and brimming with life! 

A few trees that stood out to me this go round:

The bark on this crabapple make it sensational.

I found this bark to be very attractive and craggy. 

Randi contemplating her favorite composition; Goshin by John Naka.

This zelkova looked like it needed some refinement, but the trunk was thick as a man's thigh. Perfect nebari.

And some very impressive PBA Member Trees!

Quite the natural Kingsville I thought.

I believe this is PBA president's Steve Miller's tree. It's their current logo and also on a tshirt he was wearing.

This was an idyllic arrangement. It looked so well-prepared that it looked plucked from a story book landscape.

A lovely weeping forsythia. Everyone stopped to admire this beauty and no one had seen anything like it before.

This shohin black pine was also a cherub that we all hoped to see again.

Always great to spend time with and among little trees and little tree people. We did stop by some demos that were mostly empty, never boasting more than 9 viewers but had to resign to hitting the highway to rejoin our families and responsibilities. The ride home was as terrible as the ride up but I plan to do it all again soon. A good day with perfect weather and excellent company. 

Till next time, I wish you plentiful back budding,