Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kapok Ceiba Pentandra, separating seedlings and removing tap roots

A few people have been planting kapok seeds. Last year I planted a few. The growth rate of these trees was phenomenal. I forgot exactly when I planted these seeds. It was sometime last month. As you can see the first true leaves are pretty big on some.

silk tree Ceiba pentandra seedling

I soaked the seeds until the water started turning cloudy. I have grown kapok seeds in only water before. I kept them in a little saucer and made sure the water stayed clean, and that the water only came up halfway to the seed. For these seeds pictured below however, I planted straight in a one gallon plastic pot.

My hand for scale

It is easy to break up the individual plants at this stage. The roots are growing long, but the fine roots have not grown enough to tangle themselves with each other.

ceiba pentandra, silk tree

I prune the roots of my kapok. Why? I do not want a huge tap root. I cut the lengths according to the size of the tree and the amount of fine roots. The longer and the more fine roots the more I cut.

This was one of the bigger seedlings and I cut just above the halfway point of the root.

I potted the plant with a blend of coconut husk, peat moss, and some soil with coarse sand.

ceiba pentandra seedling

The big trunk in front is approximately one year older than the seedlings behind it. Cutting roots stunts development for a time. Yet, you can see that the kapok is an aggressive grower. I have been working on these trees this last year. If you want to see my expiraments check out my other post:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Are we refining bonsai trees, or are bonsai trees refining us?

When I was learning about art the professor said something that made me contemplate. I forget why he said it, I think somebody was trying to make some kind of excuse for weak work. My professor said something like It doesn't matter what you use an artist makes art with what he has. I am sure that it sounded so much more poetic when it was said. This little bit of philosophy I have carried with me since.

We collect materials from where we can get them. Anybody can make a bonsai from a tree that already looks like a bonsai. Where is the challenge in that? There's more satisfaction in creating a bonsai from material that you would not imagine would become bonsai.

This six inch lantana has been on a rollercoaster. I have nearly lost it twice to heat waves. I have hard pruned it three times. Now, a year later it is finally starting to show promise. I have more affinity for the trees like this one that have taught me the most about bonsai.

Easy trees teach little. Hard trees refine the the horticulturalist. Cheers.

Friday, June 17, 2016

a ficus for you, a ficus for me, a ficus for everybody in this room

Hi everyone, I found an amazing tree this week. Yes, it's another ficus. I love these trees. They are oh so resilient. This one in particular has a very good skeleton. It has a wide base. The base tapers into four branches of varying thickness. I cut the branches down to what I thought would give me good results as far as new branch growth.   Because this is an epiphyte it has many aerial roots growing from the trunk. I see a bright future for this little tree.

future bonsai

I know, I talk about ficuses all the time. To tell you the truth like many other tree species i could have cared less for any ficus. What happened? Well, instead of the usual potted ficus benjamina common to any home or office, I saw on the internet what a ficus could become. I saw twisting trunks, large buttressing aerial roots, and miniaturized leaves. I saw Jaw dropping beauty. I was amazed at the growth rate and sheer will to live.

A ficus is a tropical plant. When I see ficus bonsai i think of hot steamy jungles. I think of Angkor Wat, I think of mayan ruins.  I picture India and monsoon. I can have all of that in a small little pot holding a small little tree.

Ficus are easy finds for me. I work in the middle of the city. However I am surrounded by hundreds of species of trees and plants. From conifers to azaleas. cork oaks to moreton bay ficus. There is a specific pattern as to epiphytic ficus. There is a relationship between Italian stone pine and ficus microcarpa. Ficus microcarpa seem to thrive in the crotch and cracks of stone pine. The crevices and crotches of stone pine hold needle deposits which for the most part lay untampered (the exception is when I snoop around looking for epiphytic ficus). The needles collect dust and dirt, and though we do not receive much rain here in southern California the thick layers of needles hold moisture. The gardeners do turn on the high powered sprinklers who splash the pines from time to time. Birds, i guess eat figs from the many chinese banyan (ficus microcarpa). The birds then deposit their waste when they sit on tree branches. Although we have many trees I only see epiphytes on Italian stone pines, and palm trees. The ratio of pines to palm trees is vastly disproportionate something like 5:1.

Enough about the ficus. I still dislike ficus elastica the so called rubber tree. Although, I have seen one variety with interesting colors and patterns. I have tried to grow ficus religiosa with no success. I have purchased seeds from various sources. I would have bought a young f. religiosa, but the the specimens I have seen are just out of reach as far as price. I also am in search of ficus nerifolia. That ficus also has been out of reach.  I could keep going, but I won’t. Cheers.

Update 07/01

15 days later and little buds are growing out of the cutting. Which means that the cutting has roots. Now that it has roots I will fertilize and being a ficus it will grow exponentially. Yay!

Update August 26:

One month and ten days later the ficus has branches big enough to wire. I still will not prune until the branches are at a desirable thickness. I have noticed that if the branch lignified that it will grow new branches from different places on the branch and not just where a leaf grows.  

chinese banyan cutting pre bonsai

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

developing refinement, the tree, me and my daughter

Last Christmas I saw some beautiful holly decorations. So, I set out to look for holly. Last week I found what to me was a holly with great potential. The pot was not priced however, and it was sitting next to 35-40 dollar plants. I went home without purchasing it. When I got home I was unloading the car when I saw a green flash against the yellowing grass (we are conserving water here in southern California). It was a $20 dollar bill. Hooray, I was going to finally buy my holly. The nursery sold me the tree for 20 dollars even. I was giddy with delight.


Some people do not like variegated plants for bonsai. They say that they are weaker than the common varieties. I was willing to experiment. This holly looked well aged yet had new growth.

For this project I was going to have My daughter whom I lovingly call Monkey do most of the work. This would be an exercise in guiding and teaching my daughter.

What we set out to do is remove unneeded branches, reduce the overall size of the tree, and set the trees skeleton by lowering the lower branches.

We chose to cut the branch at this point because it was just above a growth of younger branches. These newer branches will become the apex.

It was somewhat difficult for my daughter to cut the branch. First, the places where her hands could get leverage where directly in the path of the saw. Second the cut was at an awkward angle. It was difficult for her to get a rhythm with the saw. We lost a few of the young branches.

After, the branches were cut to size relative to the new apex.

And finally the lower branches were wired and placed where they needed to be. What will become the first or lower branch (the big one moving left) was not pruned so that it can grow relatively undisturbed. The other lowered branches were thinned a bit to promote back budding.

The stage is now set to develop this tree into a bonsai. Of course I might have been frustrated at moments, but I never said a word. The key to my daughter appreciating this hobby and maybe sharing it with me is positive reinforcement. She puts up with my eccentric hobbies because she likes spending time with me. I would not want to discourage her by micromanaging or scolding her. Like a bonsai I am trying to develop my daughter’s potential.

Well, enough about that. We’ll keep you updated on the Ilex. Cheers.

Update 06/29

Well, it's 21 days later. My daughters work is coming to fruition. The tree has a lot of new growth and plenty of back budding. All those reddish brown spots are brand new soft supple leaves.

New Growth

This is going to be the lowest branch. it was long and only had leaves all in a clump at the very top. Now many new leaves are growing from the bare branch. The Holly is next to a stone pine. That is why there are needles in the pic

back budding ilex