Monday, May 23, 2016

Where every body knows your name, I joined a bonsai club

I went to my first meeting this past friday. I joined a bonsai club. I have been reluctant to join a club because I did not want to dedicate too much time to it. I think we can all relate to this especially if you have a family. Families and bonsai are similar in that you have to dedicate time to nurture them, you have to make sure they are growing healthy, and occasionally lop off some unneeded branches. This particular club meets once a month which is great for me.

My daughter holding a micro bonsai pot

First, I would like to say that I had an amazing time at the meeting. The people were friendly. The orator was an expert in his field. I believe the format was somewhat different for their usual meetings.  The speaker was Michael Ryan. This was Michael Ryan’s first of a three part seminar on bonsai holders. Mr. Ryan talked about the early history of bonsai pots. An interesting point he mentioned was how Tokoname in itself is not valuable. What makes a tokoname valuable is who made the pot. I have found this to be true. I have sold various tokoname pots and the price they bring vary dramatically. What I liked the most about Mr. Ryan’s presentation was his explanation about the cities in Japan where pottery is made, and the styles that come from those respective cities. Over all Mr. Ryan was friendly and charismatic. He has expert knowledge in his chosen field. I was not able to attend the other lecture but hope to if he returns to L.A.

As for the club in general I would say that there is a very friendly feeling. I talked to a few people and they were very nice and accommodating. There was about about 40 persons as varied in backgrounds as is possible in Los Angeles.

I am not sure what to expect from future meetings. I am sure it will be interesting though. Sharing ideas and learning from others is always a good thing. I took my thirteen year old daughter. Although the lecture was two hours she enjoyed most of it. Her favorite parts was the raffle. She was able to take some things home with her. Cheers.

Michael Ryan's website: He is more than willing to ID Marks, chops, and hankos.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Afghan Pine, a desert star

Los angeles is at the edge of a desert. At first glance it does not seem like it is. Many neighborhoods have lush green lawns. The streets are lined up with pines, ficus, and oaks. If you have lived back east or in a place that gets consistent rain you start to notice that the places that are not manicured is the true Los Angeles. That is a dry desertlike chaparral. Enter the afghan pine. Pinus eldarica is the latin name. This pine loves heat, it loves dry places. This plant is a survivor. It prefers to not be watered to often.

I have been working with three afghan pines this year. Two of them have shape and are in pots. The Third looks like a lollipop and I am unsure what to do with it. Suggestions are welcome. The truth is that i have not read or seen too much about this pine as a bonsai. However, from what I have seen it grows needles year round. I have not seen any candles growing from any of the trees in my collection. I have to remove wire about every four months as it begins to bite the tree. I have fertilized with blood meal and a little bone meal. I have also fertilized with liquid fertilizer as an experiment. I did not see any adverse reactions from using a liquid fertilizer. I have read that young trees do grow fairly fast 12-24 inches per year.

This Afghan pine has had minimal shaping. It is my control subject. I will compare it to the other tree I have. I will be checking for growth, ramification, and trunk thickness.

Pinus eldarica

This tree was wired and as you can see given more shape. I have noticed that the branch thickness are very uniform. I will not trim the lowest branch in the hope that the branch will thicken faster. 

Afghan pine bonsai

Something else that I have noticed is that it will back bud on the trunk. I have no ramification yet. I pruned it last year to encourage new branch growth.

Another note of interest is that up to now i have mostly seen juvenile needles. There are a few adult needles but it is the exception. As you can see these trees don't look half bad. I rather like them quite a bit. I actually got them for $5 U.S. at a home improvement center ( Like always I will keep posting updates. Cheers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Desert rose, succulent bonsai. adenium obesum

Hello my friends. As bonsai has become popular the quest to make many different plant species into bonsai has also become popular. The pursuit of bonsai has led many away from the realm of woody plants into succulents. Many of you already know this, and to others this may be very surprising.  A very popular tree to use a s succulent is the Crassula or jade tree. I have no experience with those. I do have a desert rose though.

desert rose bonsai

adenium obesum is native to sub Saharan Africa. Its range extends to parts of Arabia. It loves warm sunny places and can tolerate drought. One thing of note is that if the temperature drops below 50F then it will lose its leaves.

Some people love the flowers on this plant. Some varieties do produce amazing colors. I however dislike the flowers as they remind me of Oleander. That is probably so because both plants are in the dog bane family. What I find so pleasing about this plant is that it has an incredible trunk and exposed roots, it is fairly simple to maintain healthy, It has incredible growth rate, and it is easy to clip and grow.

The trunk of this tree is like a barrel. It will be thick and if it is pruned correctly it can have a very nice taper. It will grow roots from the side of the trunk. These roots will also grow and thicken giving the plant nice character.

 I found baby adenium obesum at a big box store. They could not have been bigger than four inches. I bought one for myself and one for my mother in law. My mother in law loves plants. I potted my desert rose in turface and volcanic sand. She potted her plant in potting soil. In two months my plant had grown nice branches . Hers had rotted away. I kept my tree moist in my potting mixture. She had kept her plant wet. I water my desert rose everyday during spring and summer months and it has grown exponentially. The key is to keep it in medium that stays moist but not wet. Turface is great for this (see:

During the spring and summer months I fertilize with liquid fertilizer every week to every two weeks. It's amazing, three days after applying fertilizer you can see the new growth.  Since I bought my plant last year it has tripled in size.

Even though I don't especially like the flowers when the tree is covered in flowers it does look pleasing. I have Not had any flowers on my tree. Perhaps this is so because it is a young tree. Moreover, I believe that the flowers have not grown because of my clip and grow method. Desert rose can grow long branches. They are not really branches like a tree. They are fleshy fingers that grow out. These fingers can grow long. I cut them down to the size i like to keep the foliage closer to the trunk. I usually cut under the node. I have found that if you cut above the node the new branch will grow on the top most node  and take the place of the piece that was removed. No new branches will grow. Cutting under the node will promote branches growing from the rest of the branch.

I have re potted the plant once in a year because the growth rate was incredible. I have placed the tree in a pot that is a little too big so that it has plenty of room to grow this next year. I think I will try growing a few from seed just for fun. Cheers.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Root over rock, roots are king

Happy mother's day to all of you mothers, people born of a mother, and who know one. Most readers of this blog are male. It is Mother's day here in the U.S.

Yesterday I was at the zoo in the city where I live. It is a lovely place. The animals for the most part seem relatively healthy (i am guessing as I am not a veterinarian). I was admiring the many ficus that the zoo has. I saw large leaved ficus, Chinese banyan, port Jackson fig, and Moreton bay fig. The zoo had amazing specimens of these last figs. The roots were buttressed, large, and long.

Then I came to a bamboo grove. I saw these little trees growing out of a dead log. They looked like ficus, but I had never seen leaves like the ones on those plants. I pulled at one of the plants and the whole thing roots and all gave way. Now I was sure that it was an epiphyte. I had two choices: put it back or not putting it back. Why not put it back? Because digging up dirt and planting a plant I believe is frowned upon at this zoo. Throw the plant away much to its demise? No way.The second choice, which seemed the easiest was to take it home and add it to my collection.
Collected epiphyte

Having an epiphyte gives you many choices as to what to do with the plant, especially since the whole root system is intact. I decided to make a root over rock. The roots have great taper and are already exposed to air.

I had two stones handy for the root over rock. One had a kind of a shelf or lip so i decided on that one. 

Before I did anything else I prepared the soil. I used composted soil mixed with a ground coconut husk and peat moss mix. I believe this will be stable and it will release excess moisture.   

First, I fixed the tree where I wanted it to sit with rubber bands. Most of the rubber bands will be under the soil. That means that I can not check to see if they are cutting into the roots.

 I used rubber bands because they will hold the plant in place and have some give for the plant to grow. 

Also, the rubber bands will decompose after time releasing the roots from their tight grip. I hope that by the time the rubber bands break down the roots will hold the stone.

Now I start moving the roots to the position I want them to be in. I was slow and meticulous. The roots were rigid and I did not want them to break. I did try to use wider rubber bands for the roots so they can hold firm and not damage the roots.

I placed the stone and tree in the dirt and added enough soil to leave the top fourth exposed. Then I pressed the soil a bit.

I have had the privilege of finding an epiphyte that came out roots and all once befor. I made that into a root over rock, although it is not as successful as the latest one. 

The key to a good looking root over rock, is in fact the roots. Most plants grow long tap roots. Use the tap roots for the root over rock. In bonsai we are taught to chop these roots off. However, here in root over rock the root is gold. Cheers.  

Update: 06/10/2016

The rubber bands did not hold. I have tied the tree to the rock using a zip tie. The tree did not move off of the rock much. This leads me to believe that the roots under the ground are still attached to the rock. 

how to root over rock bonsai

Update 08/05/2016

Last week I cut the terminal bud and wired the trunk. This tree was long and slender, so I decided to give it exaggerated curves. The trunk is budding along its length, and especially at the top where the leaves have grown.

I do not know what direction the new growth will take the trees overall design, so as a rule I let them grow a good bit until I am confident of the direction the design will go. 

On another note: This tree was collected from the "wild" If anybody can help me ID it I would appreciate it. There are no indigenous ficus where I live.  

October 31

It has been five months since I collected this tree. It has grown so much. I still do not know what kind of ficus this is. 

Puppy and the tree
Update May 17

Its a a year and a week since I started the root over rock. I dug the roots out to see what had grown. I was very happy.

special guest, centipede

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Not a bad barter, or craigslist who wants my plants?

I have decided to try to barter some of the seedlings I have for tools and what have you. Growing trees from seeds has taught me many things. I know I can not treat California live oak like I treat cork oak. I learned that osange orange seedlings are a resilient plant. I learned that crab apples love fertilizer and that i need to find a better grow method for Japanese black pine.

This year the Ca live oaks, cork oaks, osage orange, and wisteria are doing pretty good. I put these up on an ad on craigslist to see if some one would barter with me. I can not sell them without a license. I have not got around to getting one yet.

In the U.S. I would guess that California has one of the biggest bonsai communities by population. I will see if the bonsai lovers of Los Angeles are on craigslist.