Tag Archives: Bonsai

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…

IMG_5098
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.
IMG_5101
IMG_5100
IMG_5102
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.

IMG_5109

IMG_5110
Packing in the sawdust for a final time.
IMG_5111
After packing and before adding another bag on top.
IMG_5107
After adding and wetting the top layer of sawdust.

IMG_5113

After securing the tree in, I went to further inspect the damage.
IMG_5117
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.
IMG_5119
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.
IMG_5121IMG_5123
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.
IMG_4932
As I’ve spent time watering and caring for it I’ve noticed an opportunity to add an artistic aspect to it.
IMG_4928
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.
IMG_4929
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.
IMG_4930
IMG_4934
IMG_4935
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!

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

Design and Critique #9 – Chinese Elm

DSC_0516 (2)

Masculine vs Feminine:

This tree is very feminine in many ways. The delicate branching with movement complements the movement in the slender trunks. A rounded canopy is the crowning feminine characteristic that pulls everything together.

Design:

The trunks all fill their own space that is designated for them. This is an easy thing to venture off from with multi-trunked trees or forests. The pad formation seems to be more distinct on the left side. I’m not sure if that was intentional or part of the development of the tree.

Comments:

I would love a pot that is a bit more shallow and feminine to fit the feeling of the tree. The pot being a bit oversized might have to do with it being displayed constantly and not being able to have a huge amount of personal attention.

I’m not really a fan of the stone it is shown with or how close it is displayed to the tree.

I think a few of the branches when viewed up close look unnatural in the ways they bend.

Next Up:

Larch

larchmtcdluzcput21bonsaitickler

 

 

 

 

 

Fundamentals of Bonsai – Pruning

There are hundreds of questions on bonsai forums, at clubs, and across the globe about pruning. What to prune, when to prune, why we prune, which species can I prune now, how often do I prune, etc. I want to help clarify these questions.

 

I’ll start with explaining why we prune. There are 3 main reasons to prune:
  • Cleaning
  • Controlling Growth
  • Improving Structure
     We clean to improve airflow and allow sunlight to penetrate into the interior and lower branches. This is also a precursory action to wiring and styling the tree. Trying to wire a tree without cleaning it first can be miserable, especially when doing it on a needle juniper.  Cleaning consists pruning off weak interior growth with little to no ramification and  clearing any foliage in the crotches between the trunks and branches. This includes leggy branches that are not developing in the desired direction.
     Pruning is the way we control growth on our trees. This is how we tell the tree to direct more resources towards a specific branch or section of the tree. This helps to keep your branches a specific length or thickness and give them directional movement to draw interest. This is also the technique we use to gain width in certain branches and keep others from thickening too much. I will go into more detail later on how to do that.
Structural pruning is the way we improve taper, inverse swelling (taper), direct the line of the trunk and branching, and remove flawed or unnecessary branches. Being able to prune effectively is the foundation of successful bonsai practice and design.

 

Before we go pruning anything we need to step back and observe a few things about the tree we’re about to prune. We need to identify:
  1. What species is the tree?
  2. What is the tree’s current health?
  3. Did you repot the tree within the last few months?
  4. Why am I pruning?
  5. Is the ______(tree, branch, etc.) that I’m about to prune in refinement or development?
  6. What season are we in?
  7. What is the effect on the tree’s energy and health if we prune now?
1. Some species hold significant amounts of energy in certain parts of the tree. Junipers hold significant energy in the foliage. When someone interested in bonsai buys a juniper and then prunes a lot of the foliage off they frequently die, this is why. Pines hold their energy in the roots. Deciduous trees hold theirs throughout the tree. Other species have certain timing for an additional flush of growth (Japanese Black Pine) or timing to prune for flowers.
2. If the tree is not healthy, don’t do any work on it unless it involves solving the health issue.
3. If you recently repotted the tree you should avoid pruning so that the foliage mass can help restore the root system that you worked on.
4. The purpose of pruning can include any of the aforementioned reasons – improving structure, controlling and directing growth, or cleaning.
5. We need to understand the stages of bonsai. If you’re not sure what stage your tree is in do some research before.
6. What season we are in can be a great factor in determining if we can prune without damaging the health of our trees. With most coniferous, deciduous, and broadleaf evergreen species the seasons function in the same way. Winter is a period where the tree doesn’t metabolize freely and we often refer to it as dormancy. Spring is a period of heavy growth. There are several periods of using the trees resources to produce more growth, then gaining those resources back through photosynthesis. In Summer some trees can go into a Summer dormancy if the temperatures get above 90° regularly. If you are in a more mild climate your trees may not slow down growth completely. Fall is a time where the trees save energy and focus on thickening branches and roots to help with Winter hardiness.
7. An example of a bad time to prune would be in Spring right after your tree has pushed out a ton of new leaves. If you prune the branches off before the leaves have been able to form a cuticle (finish growing) and reaccumulate energy, then you’re weakening the tree by taking away its ability to gain energy back.
A generally safe bet is the prune in early Spring before buds pop open or additional candles / needles start growing.
I’d like to also state that you can operate outside of these general guidelines, and depending on how you care for your tree afterwards, you can prune at almost any time. However, I would not recommend pruning whenever you please without extensive knowledge and experience.