Friday, March 31, 2017

worlds biggest bonsai

I thought that this was an interesting piece of news. Why? Because the biggest bonsai sounds like an oxymoron. I am not sure if I would consider this a bonsai. Yet, bonsai (盆栽) means tray planting. However, The underlying uniformity of bonsai lies within the miniaturization of said plantings. This is Literally a full grown tree whose roots have been encased in ceramic. Is this Duchampian art created to push our notions of what bonsai is?

Honestly, I for one have not made up my mind. I do not want to be quick to judge. I do want to trust my instinct and perhaps reconcile both.

Let me know how you feel about this. True bonsai? Or bonsai monstrosity? Cheers.

Biggest bonsai

April fool's. Cheers.

Air layer to create a more aesthetic root system

What if you were developing a bonsai but all the roots are growing to one side? What if you find a tree with lots of potential but the soil has left many of the large roots exposed? I had this problem with a Japanese boxwood and a cotoneaster. Now that spring is here I decided to air layer the tree. However, I am not going to separate the tree from its original roots. What I am going to do is encourage new roots to grow from a better position near the base of the tree.

This is the cotoneaster That I am working on. I bought it last year. I rooted some of the cuttings from this tree. It is a fighter.

The problem is that all the roots are growing in one direction. There will never be radial nebari (roots). Problem number two is that the soil line has dropped causing the fine roots to shrivel and die. The main roots have hardened so there is a very minimal to no chance of growing fine roots. I am going to help this tree overcome its challenges.

First, I am going to remove a ring of bark from the two main roots. I need to remove the cambium layer as well. Second, I remove a patch of bark and cambium right under the trunk where the roots start bending away from the tree. I want roots to grow from there especially as there are none.

I apply rooting hormone to the open wounds with a small paint brush. You can actually see the severity of the problem from this angle. I need roots to grow like the rays on a painting of the sun.

Finally, I add this superfine coconut husk medium. It retains water but does not stay too wet. This is experimental as I have never done this with coconut husk. It is fairly inexpensive, It is very compact when you buy it and it seems to retain just the right amount of water. It sold as soilless seed starter in the shape of a brick. Just add water.

I am going to leave this alone through August. How will you know if your plant is ok? When the leaves turn brown I know it was a failure. When there is new growth then all is working fine. That's it for now. I have some updates for some of the other projects that I started last year coming up. Cheers.

Update 07/14

It has been two and a half months. We passed through some heat waves. we passed through time. I felt that it was time to review the root progress.

Everything looked normal until I popped the tree out of the pot. There I saw big new roots growing from the coconut coir down into the sandy soil. This was a very good sign.

I dug around and removes the coconut coir. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a thick root mass growing right at the air layer.

New roots on top mean I can slice off part of the root system at the bottom. But best of all the new roots will cover that ugly tap root that was keeping this tree from reaching its full potential.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Juniper cuttings, we were cloning before we knew what cloning was

Have you ever pruned a tree and wish you could do something with the pieces that were cut off? Have you ever wished you can make a clone of a favorite tree? Well, People have been doing exactly that for over a thousand years.

This year I bought my first shimpaku juniper. I was very excited. It was late winter/ early spring (Los Angeles winter). I bought a few shimpaku for a great price. I pruned a couple of trees and I decided to save the cuttings and try to root them.

I have tons of experience rooting ficus. Heck, ficus roots almost by accident. There is no challenge in that. I have rooted rosemary, cotoneaster, and Japanese boxwood. That's the extent of my experience.

The following pictures are of a Hollywood juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa'). These junipers grow tall and thick. The point of interest are the branches which grow like the conifers in Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. However, I made shimpaku cuttings earlier that week.

I needed coarse sand. I have looked high and low for coarse sand. I even went to some mountain rivers to collect it. That sand turned out to be decomposed granite which is great but it takes a huge effort to collect. I found a bag of sand used in construction at a big box home improvement place. I sift out the fine sand and keep the large stuff. I think i paid $3.00 U.S. for a 50lb bag (22kg). I would say that about two-thirds of the bag is coarse sand.

sand after sifting
I mixed perlite with that sand. I need the soil to drain quickly and retain some of the moisture. I did not sift the perlite.

Then I mixed peat moss. The ratio was about 1:1:1.

one gallon pot
I grabbed the juniper branch that I collected. I chose some branches that were not too big or not to small.

hollywood juniper cloning

I trimmed all the needles and smaller branches that have been growing near or at the bottom third of the cutting. Then at the bottom, I scrape off a piece of the bark. See the light color tip near where I cut the branch off? I should have scraped twice that amount or even more.

hollywood juniper cutting

That is where the roots are going to grow. I added rooting hormone and placed the branches as far down as the lowest needle. Then I watered the pot trying to thoroughly soak the soil.

Left Hollywood juniper, right shimpaku

That is it. I hope they root because I already have plans for all these baby clones. No, I am not building a clone army. I buy bonsai pots that I like then I make bonsai for them. I have a set of three bonsai pots I think should be for conifers only.


Update 06/05/2016

It's been three months since I potted the juniper cuttings.

Many people are tempted to tug on the cuttings to see if they have rooted. This is not such a good idea. If you tug you may break the roots that have already grown. You just have to wait it out. If the cutting turns brown it has failed. New growth means that the cutting has taken.

New growth means new roots

I noticed that the thicker cuttings had more and longer roots.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ikea training bonsai pots, how to

I am always looking to improve on what i use for my bonsai. I use a lot of plastic pots for growing my bonsai. However, when my trees start to develop but are not yet ready for a bonsai pot I like to use terracotta pots. They are heavy, they lose more water than plastic pots, and I like the way they look. The problem is that I could only find tall ceramic pots when what I needed was low wide ones.

My wife dragged me to Ikea one day. I hate going there. I feel like a lab rat running through a maze. At Ikea you start at the top floor. You walk around what seems like a maze picking up items as you go. To be honest my favorite level is the bottom one. It's not my favorite because it's the end, or because they sell food there. It's my favorite because it has all the gardening stuff.

So, one day my wife drags me down to Ikea. I am bored beyond belief. Finally, I see that we are about to go to the register. I spot orange in the distance in between the indoor palm fronds. I go there and notice a pot with a tray. The best part is it is only 3.00 U.S. I leave the pot and take the tray. The cashier tells me that I have to buy both. O.K., whatever. Ill jump what ever hoop I need to buy the tray.

The one negative is that it is a drainage tray so it had no hole. Well, that's easily taken care of.

For this demonstration my beautiful daughter will be assisting me.

As you can see the problem is that there is no drainage hole.

pot saucer

A masonry bit will do the trick. When you make a small hole you can see through turn it around and finish the job.

There you have it. One hole in one pot. Now you can grow and develop a bonsai tree in it.

All done

The pots come in three sizes. The one that we used as an example is the smallest one. I do use the bigger original pot. I grow seeds in them. I hope this helps further the art of bonsai in some small way. Cheers.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Rock over root planting

Do you like to grow things? Do you like rocks? Let me show you something. At the bonsai club that I joined last year, they have a raffle at the end of the meeting. One meeting I won a carved rock. I knew what it was for but I had no interest in rock plantings.  Some months later I remembered this nice Chinese elm from the National Bonsai Museum. I thought it was a very interesting piece.

I thought why not? Why can’t I make one of those?

I grabbed the rock, three Ficus macrophylla trees, some black lava rock, perlite, and composted dirt. I mixed it all together and put it in an Ikea pot.

I Imagined the way I wanted the trees to grow and placed the trees accordingly. Then I added a bit more dirt.

That's all I am going to do until mid-March. I want the roots to grow. That will anchor the trees. Then and only then will I start positioning the trees exactly how I want them.

The rock is buried deep enough to be able to stand on its own. It will be interesting to see how this project will develop. Go forth and rock out. Cheers.

Update 04/28/2017

I gave the ficus' time to grow some roots. New leaves are coming in so it is a good time to start phase II. What I want is for the trees to follow the contours of the rock, and for the tree's trunk to grow and brace itself on the cracks. The problem is that whatever I use to bind the trees with will only hold to the peaks of the rock and not the valleys. It's in the valleys that I want the trees to grow. What I did was add pieces of foam over the tree until it became a peak and was held by the raffia. I am thinking of reinforcing the raffia with some wire.

I will wait to see how thick the trunks get before I think of pruning the trees. Why would I prune the trees? to make it grow branches, of course ;). Cheers.

Update: Feb. 13, 2018
The trees grew to about a foot and a half. I added a little curve to a couple of them. I was happy with the trunk thickness to rock ratio. So, to promote branches I chopped off the tops. Four weeks later buds started to pop out. These I will let grow for another year before I chop them. I will wire the branches for shape before the chop.

future bonsai

future bonsai