Sunday, February 28, 2016

Part 3 of the national bonsai and penjing museum tropicals

Please excuse all of the shadows on the pictures but there was no way to avoid it. Even though they had a few different species of bonsai I mainly focused on ficus microcarpa. I want to remind you that it would take two people to carry these Bonsai,  they look small in the pictures but they're actually pretty big.

This first Bonsai had a really great looking trunk; it looked like a very old tree almost in the kapok style.
National Penjing and bonsai museum

This ficus microcarpa was more like the Banyan style. It had some aerial roots.
National Penjing and bonsai museum
What was amazing about this tree was the size of the leaves. They are tiny.

Well that was my adventure at the National Arboretum and National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. It was amazing, it was fantastic, it was great. I wish I had time to go back and see it again. To see so many trees and so many species is very inspiring.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The bonsai of the national bonsai and penjing museum

This is a picture of the entrance to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum (NBPM), I forgot to include it in my previous post.

The Bonsai at the NBPM varied in shape and size. Most of the Bonsai would take two people to carry. Some of them measured two and a half feet in height and one was I believe a good four feet tall. The bonsai shown below is a mix of Chinese elm and white Japanese pine. Notice that the silhouette of the whole forest looks like it is a single tree?
A trident maple root over rock style. This tree was about one and a half feet tall.
The following is an amazing example of an upright formal bonsai; it is a white pine. The tree must have been at least 2 feet tall. This is definitely an incredible looking tree with plenty of Japanese sensibility and style.
National Penjing and bonsai museum
 This next bonsai is in the slanting style. The trunk pulls your eyes to the left but that first main branch balances everything by pulling your eyes to the right. This is an incredible example of asymmetrical balance.
National Penjing and bonsai museum
I recommend that you view the following picture in a high-resolution format, you will be able to see the branches curving to the left in greater detail. It looks like nature has pummeled  it and beat it into submission
National Penjing and bonsai museum
 What are Juniper's famous for? Lots of Jin and Shari or deadwood. This tree is great because of the rolling deadwood that goes up the tree.
National Penjing and bonsai museum
 Atlas Cedars are one of the most beautiful kind of Bonsai out there this one is a cascading Bonsai.

 Maple root over rock.
 This Bonsai I was about 4 feet tall it is a red pine.
National Penjing and bonsai museum
 This next tree is in a bunjingi or literati style. Bunjingi means scholarly man's tree, in Japanese. This style is probably one of the oldest and most closely related to Chinese penjing.
 One of the most spectacular bonsai was this bald cypress, it was about 4 feet tall and I can only imagine what it looks like with the green foliage.
National Penjing and bonsai museum


These were some of the highlights from the Chinese pavilion. They are incredible specimens of different species of bonsai and different styles. Of course there were more bonsai there but these are the trees that stood out to me. Many of these trees have been trained for 50 years or more. The key ingredient to great Bonsai is time and patience. Next time on Bonsai misadventure: tropical trees in the NBPM. Cheers.

The bonsai and penjing Museum at the National Arboretum Washington DC

My wife went to a convention in Washington DC and I was lucky enough to tag along. I wanted to see all the usual stuff. I saw the war memorials, and the museums, and even a trip to the National Archives and Library of Congress. It was amazing. The icing on the cake was the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum.

White Pine, Goyo Matsu
I stayed at the Gaylord resort which is in the National harbor across the potomac south of Alexandria which is about 25 minutes from Washington DC by car. However I didn't have a car and I had to rely on public transportation. The National Arboretum is east of the Mall. To get there I had to take two buses and go on the subway. Travel time was about 2 hours, the temperatures for the day was a high 44 degrees and super windy. One thing about Washington DC is that in the winter there fixing everything up perhaps because there's less tourists. So, they take the time to make things better for spring and summer. This was so at the National Arboretum and the bonsai and penjing museum. To my surprise the museum was under construction. One more thing that you need to know about visiting the bonsai and penjing museum in the winter many of the trees are not on display. True enough many of the tables for the bonsai were empty. So, to sum up my experience at the National bonsai and penjing museum is that, IT WAS AMAZING!

I don't know how much time I spent at the BPNM, but I loved every moment. I was the only person in the museum. It was all mine and I didn't have to share it. There wasn't even a curator to be seen. I felt like I owned the place.

Cascading black pine Koru Matsu at the entrance of the bonsai and penjing museum
Even though they didn't have all the trees that they usually have out, they had a great many trees on display. They had Pines, Elms  chamilias, junipers, and a bald cypress. They had a great variety of species and they had tropical bonsai in a green house.

The Bonsai were split into two sections. One was the Chinese pavilion and the other one was the tropical conservatory aka the greenhouse. To see the Bonsai in the Chinese pavilion you have to go through the gate and through the circular path door.
National Penjing and bonsai museum

Once you go through that circular doorway there is a door to the right. Before you even walk through it you see the first few bonsai. It is an amazing feeling because I was the only person there and I could take all the time in the world.

National Penjing and bonsai museum
Sheilla P. does this Bonsai look familiar?
One thing that happened while I was at the museum is that I decided that my favorite type of Bonsai to look at is the goyo Matsu the Japanese white pine. Needles of the goyo Matsu is what you see in some ukiyo-e that depict bonsai. The color is beautiful, the needles are compact, and in tight bundles. When the bundles are all positioned up it makes the Bonsai look very beautiful and textured. I have one white pine seedling. They are very large compared to the black pine, but I'm definitely going to focus on growing many more white pine.

National Penjing and bonsai museum
Goyo matsu
National Penjing and bonsai museum
Goyo Matsu close up
And of course they had that 390 year old white bonsai that survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima. You can read an article about that on this link:

National Penjing and bonsai museum

I do find it interesting that the white pine is shaped like a mushroom you know like an atomic blast. Also there was a stigma associated with atomic blast survivors in Japan. I don't know if all this led to the donation of the tree.

That's it for this post but I will continue with my adventure at the bonsai and penjing museum. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hinoki cypress Washington D.C.

We came upon this hinoki Cypress while walking down the mall in Washington dc. The tree was right next to the Einstein monument in front of the National Academy of Science Building. I own two very small hinoki cypresses and I have never seen one this size live and In Living color This Cypress was about a good 10 feet tall and the diameter was about 4 feet.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cuttings from epiphytic ficus for bonsai or Ficus the Lazarus tree

Epiphytes are plants that start their lives on top of something that is not the ground. Most commonly they grow on top of other trees. I have seen some grow on cracks in walls and on freeway overpasses. You might be familiar with orchids, bromeliads, and tillandsia all of which are epiphytes. This post will be about Ficus microcarpa, or the Chinese banyan tree.  Fig trees are known the world over as strangler trees. A bird eats a fig, and then poops on a tree. Some seeds germinate. The plants get their nourishment and water from moisture and dirt that collects in the crevices where it grows. They are not parasitic organisms. These plants will slowly grow a root down the tree until it touches the ground. When this happens the epiphytes growth explodes surpassing the growth of the host tree. Eventually the epiphytic Ficus will shade the host tree weakening it. The host tree eventually dies leaving the Ficus.

Here in sunny southern California we do not get a lot of rain. This keeps the epiphytic Ficus from getting to a relatively large size. The exception is this massive palm tree growing in the crotch of this blood tree.

This is not photoshop
My office faces this Italian stone pine. I have worked in my office for thirteen years. The grounds keepers will cut and poison this Ficus every other year. The branches are long and slender from last year’s growth. The trunk however is thick and covered in scars. I do not harvest this Ficus because the plant has wedged itself between the trunks and has an amoeba like shape, and that is no bueno.  

See the pruning shears?
This is my favorite cutting tool for collecting these Ficus.  It’s a Gerber saw, and it works great. Later on you will see how straight this saw cuts.

Great tool
This is the prize of the day. I noticed it last year. It is a Ficus microcarpa var. green mound. The leaves grow oval and dark green. It really is a beautiful tree. I had collected some of its branches last year. They are all doing great. Now that we have hot weather again I decided to collect this tree. Now, I call the Ficus the Lazarus tree because it is very hard to kill. I have had Ficus that I have left for dead, I stopped watering them. After it rains some months later they start sprouting green buds. I collected a ficus that was growing on a sheer granite face. It boggles me as to how it survived on smooth granite. I wonder what it clung on to. I removed it and took it home. All the leaves fell, the branches dried. I put it to the side to discard later and forgot all about it. Months later after a rain storm I saw green buds growing. It was amazing. I was going to throw it away.

Anywho, back to business. This Ficus was growing from the inside of the tree out.  I placed the saw as low as I could. The wood was very soft. The saw cut through with no problem.  I placed the cutting in a container with some water.  Notice the size of the trunk? Even at this size the tree will survive and may probably not lose any of its leaves. What other species of tree can do this? Much respect for the Ficus, Rastafari-Haile Selassie. 

See the smooth straight edge? Thank you Gerber.

This is what the tree looks like outside of the tree. There have been times when with a little pressure the whole tree gives and comes off in one piece. This was not one of those trees. 

This was a second tree harvested. It had great taper and aerial roots. 

So, cutting the tree is half of the job. Now the cuttings have to root so that they can start growing again. To do this I put them in bark. I get the bark used for planting orchids. It makes sense to me as they are both epiphytes. I tried using just water. Using just water is a slow process that results in weak roots. I have used an only perlite medium, but the results are not as good as bark. I place the cutting deep enough so that when I add more bark the tree can stand on its own. Both of the cuttings I collected had aerial roots.  This might encourage roots to grown from the bark as well as from the wound. That is totally fine with me. I love the banyan bonsai look. After topping the pot with bark water thoroughly. One thing I have never been able to do is overwater a Ficus that is in bark medium. I have watered Ficus in bark medium up to three times a day for weeks. There was no negative result. 

This is a tree I collected last year. It was growing on a palm tree. It has many scars from when the grounds keepers tried to kill it. I cut it off and brought it home. I see a lot of promise in this tree. 

See the pruning shears?
Thank you for coming with me on this adventure. I enjoy making these posts. I want to send shout outs to the reader here in the States. Also, to the horticulturalists in Germany and India, thank you for reading my posts. Cheers.

Update May 24, 2016

One of my friends said he likes it when I show before and after pictures. I do too. That was a very good idea. I wanted to show a cutting of a ficus microcarpa with a two and a half inch trunk three months after I appropriated it. 

cutting for bonsai
This is a cutting taken in December, in March it had some new growth

Two months after the picture above was taken there is an explosion of new growth.

Spring growth
I am tempted to cut it back. I want some of the branches to get pretty thick so I won't, for now.

Update:  June 22

This is my longest cutting. it measures above two feet. I cut it a month ago and it is doing great.