Friday, February 24, 2017

Grafting a ficus microcarpa, or whittling away at a tree

I wanted to try my hand at grafting a branch unto a tree. I thought that I could try grafting a ficus microcarpa. Ficus microcarpa are resilient plants. Even if I did something wrong the damage might be minimal. Boy, was I wrong.  

Here is the trunk that I was going to graft onto.

Her is the branch. It is actually a piece from further up the same tree.

Confession time: To graft you should have some knowledge, the right tools, and a little experience will not hurt. I had none of those. Here was the result.

I took a nice size chunk of tree off. That is going to leave a very big scar. I felt sick. Why o why do I do the things I do? Ok, this was a fail. The tree will recover. So I decided to do it again.

It looked a lot better, but because I don't know what I am doing I do not know if it will take.

I think for grafting I will need someone to teach me. Cheers.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One More Time, Root Over Rock with a Twist. a chinese elm

Early in December, I noticed a small Chinese elm growing in my front yard. I thought I’ll let it grow and harvest it next year. With all the rain we have had the ground was soft. The root hairs and all just came up. I  was very pleased. Elated even.

What to do with this gift? I already have Chinese growing in pots from various seeds that I collected. This one decided to be part of my family. Ok, maybe it's not all that. However, I do need a plan for this little tree.

I have a few root over rock tropicals. Making those is like growing moss on a wet rock. It is pretty easy. Why not try something slightly more challenging and make a root over rock deciduous tree?

So here goes this story. I had this rock with a very nice shape. I went to look for my stand by rubber bands. I could not find any. I did have some parafilm I bought for grafting, though. I read that parafilm eventually deteriorates and that it breathes. I thought back to my elementary days in an inner city study hall where they taught me something that seemed contradictory in my ignorant youth. “To be successful you must be a risk taker.”

I placed the roots the way I thought would make for good composition in the future. Then I wrapped the roots as little as possible just enough to hold the roots in place.

This is what the whole thing looked like after:

I decided to pot the rock underneath the soil line. I am using some compost. It is still breaking down. The soil line will slowly drop on its own and expose the the top part of the rock. After I’ll help it a little more.

These are extra pics because I think the tree is very beautiful.

We will see how everything fares out. Cheers.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Root Ball, you need a ball to play the game

So, last year I wanted to grow my own Japanese Black pine. I scoured the internet to find information. I found a good article on That website is a great resource for all things black pine and other things. The article mentioned that he had used some methods that were found in Bonsai Today issue numbers 12 and 20 (Click on the link to find Bonsai Today 1-20 ).  I found out that Kusida Matsuo the author of the article Back Pine From Seed put pine trees in a colander. When the tree grew bigger he would leave the tree in the same colander and plant the tree, colander and all in a bigger colander. Finally when the tree was big enough Mr. Matsuo would remove the tree from the bigger colander and prune the roots. He would not disturb the root ball formed in the original colander.

I am not writing about the japanese black pine per se. I am writing about the idea of
keeping the root ball intact. Here is the idea behind that. If you think about most trees and shrubs from just about any part of the world you imagine the roots in some type of soil. I'm going to generalize here. The trees may bend and sway with the wind.  Snow may bend and breaks branches. However, for the most part the roots remain untouched. Those who hunt trees in the wild take special care of how they remove the tree from the soil. It is very meticulous work to remove a tree and for it to survive. Big roots are not the problem. The problem is those fine roots that absorb water and nutrients. They hunters try to not disturb these smaller roots as much as is possible.  

We all know that the roots are important. Some trees are not sensitive at all to having the roots moved or cut. I have cut a four inch thick branch off of a ficus and it has rooted just fine, accidentally broken the new roots and the tree doesn't skip a beat. No harm no foul. I have also killed a few pines a couple years back because I root pruned to much, at the wrong time, etc. Yet the intention of this article is not about killing trees. It is about growth rates.

This cutting has no roots yet grew new foliage

Here is the big picture, pruning roots on any tree will slow a tree's growth. A tree feeds itself water and minerals, the building blocks of the trees tissues through the roots. If a tree has more roots it has the capability of taking in more nutrients. Does it necessarily do that? I am not sure. If a tree had a big root system and it is reduced we can agree that the trees capabilities to absorb water and nutrients will diminish. The tree will start to grow roots to get back to equilibrium. This might hinder branch and leaf production.

Unfortunately in bonsai we can not avoid cutting tree’s roots. Cutting roots is part of the process to fit trees in a small pot. When a tree is old and refined cutting roots will rejuvenate the root system.

So, we have to cut roots, and we want to shorten the tree’s recovery time. We can do this by maintaining a tree's root ball. Just like Mr. Matsuo if we leave the roots close to the tree as untouched as possible then the recovery time will be quicker. The size of the root ball will have to coincide with the size of the tree.  Another factor is the pot you use to keep your tree.

Good luck and cheers.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

My brothers chinese elm keeper

Well, My brother invited me to hi house to see his new baby. While in the back yard I noticed that he had a small chinese elm growing in a planter on the side by a wall. His whole backyard is paved except along the wall. I asked him if he wanted it. It looked peculiar in its place. He told me that it was a weed and that he had hacked it many times.

I did the gracious thing and offered my services to remove the tree (my wife asks me why can’t I be normal?). He was in favor of removing it. I came back a month later and started digging the tree out.

The tree was easy to remove it was in soft soil. It had a curved tap root and two other roots that held the tree in place. The problem was that there was hardly any fine roots by the base of the trunk. All the bigger roots ran under the cement or under the wall. There was nothing to do. I sawed off the tree big roots and the tree came out no problem.

I got it home and noticed that the tree had a very bad reverse taper. Also, my brother had hacked at the tree at the same place over the last year. This forced the new growth to try and become the new leader. So the tree has five or six branches all side by side growing straight up creating a little wall.

When I got the tree home I chopped off the bottom 3 inches because the taper was grotesque. I am hoping that it will grow fine roots from there. I left everything else the same. I didn't even trim the branches down. I know that if the tree lost branches they would lose them at different heights so I was willing to gamble.

It has been raining quite a bit so I have noticed only the tip of the tallest branch has wilted. Not bad at all.

wilted leaves

right side of pic leaves ok, left side leaves dead
Wish me luck. Cheers.