Author Archives: Nate's Nursery

Emergency Repot

I recently watched a Bonsai Mirai video about post collection care with world renowned collector Randy Knight. He spoke frequently about his sawdust bed that he uses to heel in “danger trees.” I got the opportunity to try that myself as I came home to what I’m pretty sure was a great lizard chase by my dogs…

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Randy discusses that he uses coarse sawdust, not small particles. I happened to have a friend that uses a lathe and has been giving me black trash bags full of sawdust for awhile now.
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A couple of tips when using sawdust:

  • Make sure to wet it REALLY well. The first time you soak sawdust it absorbs a ton of water and has a hard time getting everywhere, so make sure to be liberal with the water you’re using.
  • Pack the sawdust in good and chopstick or poke around to get the sawdust into whatever root system is there.
  • Layer several inches of sawdust on top of what would be the rootball. This helps to keep any major fluctuations in water or temperature from the rootball.

Here are photos of me digging down and checking the moisture after watering for awhile.

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Packing in the sawdust for a final time.
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After packing and before adding another bag on top.
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After adding and wetting the top layer of sawdust.

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After securing the tree in, I went to further inspect the damage.
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I pulled out portions of the leftover root system to see how the roots were doing before the wild lizard chase. I was mostly pleased with what I saw.
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Plenty of capillary roots growing. Randy also mentioned that new roots almost never grow in the leftover field soil, but in the pumice immediately around the field soil.
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While I had to experience this sad destruction of my collected California Juniper, I’m glad I was able to see that I was having success with what I was doing. Hopefully I don’t have another casualty on my hands.

Pomegranate Bonsai

Pomegranate Plans

If you refer to my Pomegranate Splitting post you’ll see where this little guy came from. Initially I planned to do a twin trunk style with the two main trunks you see.
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As I’ve spent time watering and caring for it I’ve noticed an opportunity to add an artistic aspect to it.
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In this photo above you notice the not-so-great-for-bonsai base it has, combined with the charred look of the bark. I’m not sure what the previous owner of this entire pomegranate was doing to it, but nonetheless.
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This base became significant to me as I noticed that a piece of completely charred deadwood was creating a wedge between the two main trunks and affects every single trunk coming from the base. I was able to identify with this images. It reminds me of the effects of my struggles with addiction and how they affect my family. It creates separation within the family and scars everyone in their own way. This could also be synonymous with divorce, mental illness, or other forms of addiction or abuse.
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As you can see in the previous photos, how this traumatic event affects each person is different. Some almost completely fail, or cease to grow, and others overcome and continue to develop. The “father” trunk in this case, has it continue on and affect the entire structure of the branching and canopy.

I’m not 100% set on how the rest of the smaller trunks will play out, but this tree has plenty of refinement to go and I’ll study and decide as I go. If you have any techniques or artistic ideas of how to bring this story to life, please do leave a comment!

Why Topping Your Trees Is Harmful

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This is what your tree should never look like. This is the result of the abysmal practice of topping. Other names for topping include: heading, tipping, hat-racking, and rounding over. Besides the ugliness of the topped tree and the cost of having someone come do it every year, there are other reasons to not ever do this to your tree.

The International Society of Arboriculture states: “Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet, despite more than 25 years of literature and
seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice.”


There are several things that topping your tree does to harm your tree:

Stresses the tree – Making large cuts can remove more than 50% of the leaf bearing crown of the tree. In an effort to recover, the tree produces rapid growth of new leaves. As a result you leave a weak tree with large pruning cuts which provides a perfect situation for diseases and pests to attack the tree.

Decay – Correct pruning of a tree allows the tree to compartmentalize the wound and close it. Topping leaves no way to close the wound created by leaving no branches nearby to carry resources to the point of the cut.

Weak Limbs – Due to the stressful production of new branches after topping, the newly formed branches are much weaker than a properly formed branch. This increases the risk of breakage through windy conditions.

While topping is still commonly practiced, it is not necessary. If you need clearance from utility lines you can prune in a responsible way to satisfy clearance and still provide a way for the tree to heal itself. Proper planning of tree species and placement will help you to avoid these problems in the first place.

Fruitless Mulberry trees have a lifespan of 50 years, but generally only live for up to 25 years due to topping. Topping is much easier than properly pruning a large tree and provides yearly income for those performing it, but properly pruning your tree will result in a healthy tree for much longer.

Redwood Remodel

While picking up trees for a client I saw a neglected semi-dying redwood tree on the end of a row. I asked about a discount on the tree for the condition it was in. They responded by letting me know that it was going to be thrown away and that I could take it for free.  IMG_4903

I couldn’t see much of the base as it was buried inside the container, but once I cut down the sides I was pleased with the interesting base it provided. IMG_4904IMG_4905Reverse taper, yes. Nonetheless this is something that can be a fun project from here on out for free. Here are a few more photos of it: IMG_4906IMG_4907IMG_4908IMG_4909

Gopher Plant – Euphorbia Rigida

This plant has many names. I can be known commonly by Gopher plant, Milkweed, Gopher Spurge, Spurge, or Upright Myrtle Spurge. Incase that isn’t thorough enough, it has two scientific names as well: Euphorbia Rigida and Euphorbia Biglandulosa.

I recently had a client order 100 Euphorbia Rigida plant from me. I had to do some solid searching to be able to find them in Southern California. The color and growth habit of these intrigued me so I decided to do a bit more research on them. After learning that they self seed freely, are very drought tolerant, flower profusely, deter rodents, handle almost any soil, attract bees, and are being researched as a form of biofuel, I was floored that they aren’t being used more.

Xeriscaping and drought tolerant plants are being more popular for varying reasons. This plant fits in a category that few other plants do, the “What can I plant that I don’t have to water and keeps the weeds away and looks nice?” category. I have come to the conclusion that people only don’t have it because they don’t know about it.

This plant has a fast growth rate. The follower plant was grown from a cutting in just 2 years. It fits perfectly in USDA zones 7-10 and has no problems with the wild fluctuations that the High Desert typically deals with.

If you’re looking for a drought tolerant plant that thrives in the High Desert and fits perfectly into your xeriscaping project, look no further.