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New Pot for Potentilla fruiticosa

Quite a flamboyant choice. Perhaps too flamboyant? Well, it technically is a flowering tree… although it certainly doesn’t carry that presence.

Regardless, I find it a fun change.

New pot by Heian Kosen

New pot by Heian Kosen

 

Old Yamaaki pot. This pot couldn't handle the winter and developed some hairline cracks.

Old Yamaaki pot. This pot couldn’t handle the winter and developed some hairline cracks.

Perlite is good (but that doesn’t make it pretty).

I’ll keep this brief because soil discussions are not exactly exciting.

This is the first tree I’ve repotted since I started putting all my collected trees in 100% perlite two years ago. The root growth has been excellent and I was glad to see that there has been no noticeable decomposition of the perlite after two winters.

There are probably a million other substrates that larches grow equally well in, but you would be hard pressed to find one that is as inexpensive and lightweight as perlite.

So perlite is good. Not exactly revolutionary.

/end of soil discussion.

Collected with a weak root system in 2012.

Collected with a weak root system in 2012.

Now it has a strong root system.

Now it has a strong root system.

The red stuff you are seeing all over my trees is coloured mulch. I got it for really cheap last autumn but now the damned stuff is everywhere!

Small Larch Forest Wired

This is a busy time of year. Once the ground thaws the larches start to move almost immediately. Then, you only have a few of weeks to get all the wiring done. This is a main disadvantage of wintering larches in the ground.

This small forest and a much larger one have taken up a lot of my free time over the last week or so.

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Japanese Maple

This spring I acquired my first Japanese Maple. After ten years of bonsai, what took so long? Well I suppose it was a combination of finally having safe overwintering conditions and, more importantly, finding a good one that I couldn’t refuse.

It originally came in a lovely textured unglazed John Pitt oval. Great for a larch, but maybe not for this maple. I wanted something a little more flamboyant, so I planted it in a pale blue glazed custom made pot by local potter Geoff Lloyd. Geoff has only been making pots for a couple of years but he is making serious progress. I own several of his pots and he even made me a large custom slab which I will be planting a larch forest on in a couple of weeks.

If you need a bespoke pot and want to support your local artisan, shoot me an email and I will put you in contact with Geoff.

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A washed out picture of the tree as purchased March 15th in it’s original John Pitt container.

Besides the repot, only minor work was done. Some branches were wired, pruned, and the moss was brushed from the nebari after killing it with vinegar.

Today in it's new pot by Geoff Lloyd.

Today in it’s new pot by Geoff Lloyd.

Fellow Ontarians are probably wondering “how the hell is that thing already almost in full leaf?” Everything else around here won’t start moving for at least another two or three weeks. Well, you may have guessed that this tree came from southern Pennsylvania.

Repairing a Broken Bonsai Pot

I’ve been buying a lot of pots from Japan over the winter so I suppose it is inevitable that one would arrive broken (although it could have been prevented with better packing). Fortunately I didn’t pay a lot for it, but it is (was) still a valuable pot. Instead of tossing it, I took it as an opportunity to experiment with repairing ceramics. My goal is to make it usable which, in my climate, means it will need to stand up to constant moisture and freeze-thaw cycles. I love this style of pot and actually have the identical one in a smaller size, but it doesn’t have nearly as nice patina as this broken one.

You might be interested in the excellent articles and videos that Lakeside Pottery has on repairing ceramics. Some really great tips in there.

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Broken Keizan pot, 16.5″ x 12.5″ x 4″

After asking around and doing some research, the general consensus seems to be that epoxy is the best adhesive for repairing broken ceramics. I purchased some water-resistant marine epoxy for the job. An experienced potter and bonsai artist warned that epoxy will degrade after constant exposure to moisture, but more on how I tried to address that issue later.

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Water resistant two part epoxy.

After cleaning the broken pieces and doing a test fit (the order of assembly is important) I glued the pot back together in two stages. Excess epoxy that seeped out of the joints was wiped away with rubbing alcohol.

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The assembly was done in two stages, with the largest piece being glued on first, then the two smaller pieces the next day. The missing chips had been ground to dust during transit, so those areas were filled in with epoxy.

The goal was of course to get perfectly flush joints, but I found that  the quality of the joints decreased as more pieces were added. This is because as more pieces went in, the space taken up by the epoxy became incresaingly significant. This problem was magnified by the fact that there were so many joints. Removing some ceramic material from the joining surfaces might be a solution but could affect the final fit.

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One of the better joints.

I blended brown and grey acrylic paints to try and match the pot colour. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect since the patina on the old pot results in a gradient of colours. But it was an improvement on the glaring white epoxy. Many of you have probably heard of the approach of highlighting ceramic repairs with gold (kintsugi). I love this look but think it is most suitable for chips, single-line breaks, and older more valuable pots. The break on this pot is more of a “why didn’t you just throw it away?” kind of break.

Most damaged side of the pot, after touch up painting.

Most damaged side of the pot, after touch up painting.

To try and prolong the life of this repaired pot, the final step was to apply a heavy bead of waterproof marine grade silicone over the inside joints. The idea is that if I can waterproof the epoxy line that sees the most moisture, I may be able to keep it together longer (since I was warned that expoxy . Yes it looks ugly, but my goal is to make this pot usable and the inside of course will not be seen when the pot is in use.

Inside after applying silicone.

Inside after applying silicone.

Fortunately the pot still has an undamaged front which is presentable. Time will tell how well this repair will stand up to the elements. If you live in a cold weather climate and have tried a repair like this, I would really like to hear your experience.

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Ice Storm

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Japanese Black Pine Seedlings Available

A limited quantity of Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) seedlings are now available for online purchase in my For Sale section. They are available in bare root bundles of ten seedlings.

Canadians only, and shipping is free!

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My Small Garden is Ready for Winter

My yard is all cleaned up and the trees are tucked away for winter. I thought some of my readers might be interested in seeing what my tiny yard looks like when the trees are packed away.

I wrote about my overwintering strategy last year, if you are interested.

Every plant in my little backyard (except the grass) is a bonsai or bonsai in training. They are all in pots, too, except two which are growing in the ground for a short time.

Every plant in my little backyard (except the grass) is a bonsai or bonsai in training. They are all in pots, too. I just don’t have the space to grow anything in the ground since I need to reserve space for overwintering. If it wasn’t for my lovely wife the grass would be gone too :)

This is where I overwinter most of my smaller trees.

This is where I overwinter most of my smaller trees. There are 24 trees tucked away in there in this picture. A 1/4″ hardware cloth fence has since gone up. Most are buried to the rim of the pot, but many are just sitting on the soil with mulch tossed on top. As you can probably tell, this year I got a sweet deal on clearance red cedar mulch. Not pretty but effective.

This is where most of my large collected stuff goes that are still in their big boxes.

This side is where most of my large collected stuff goes. Cedar, larch, and rocky mountain juniper, all of which are just fine sitting on the ground for the winter. Burying the big training boxes would be impractical. I cover the soil surface in mulch mostly for moisture retention. Off to the right are some trees that were collected this fall. They are in a somewhat protected corner and are more heavily mulched in around all sides of the boxes.

Here are some Japanese Black Pines and an Azalea which will be spending the winter in the garage when it gets really cold. They can tolerate some heavy frosts no problem. The larch forest will sit right there all winter. I'm always telling people how winter hardy larch are but I've never actually left one out on the bench all winter. First time for everything!

Here are some Japanese Black Pines and an Azalea which will be spending the winter in the garage when it gets really cold. They can tolerate some heavy frosts no problem. In fact, this azalea saw -12 Celsius in its cold frame one year according to its previous owner! The larch forest will sit right there all winter. I’m always telling people how winter hardy larch are but I’ve never actually left one out on the bench all winter. First time for everything!

 

 

 

Some More Fall and Winter Images

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Tamarack

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American Beech (Fagus grandifolia). This species has stunning white-silver bark but it certainly isn’t the best beech for bonsai cultivation. This trio was thrown together for a demo in the spring. Not exactly a showstopper buy it is somewhat of a novelty in my garden. Needs a couple more trees and some adjustments.

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Tamarack

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Siberian Elm

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Potentilla. Not exactly known for their fall colour but this caught my eye as I was getting it ready for winter storage.

 

 

Winter Rodent Repellent

Last winter I went out to check on my sleeping trees and saw that mice were chewing the bark on one of my junipers. I went to buy mothballs as I’ve heard they are effective deterrents but the guy at the hardware store told me dryer sheets work even better. While cackling and rubbing my hands together, I thought – “why not both?” Wrapping a couple of moth balls in a dryer sheet hopefully doubles the deterrent and also makes it easy to keep track of where they are and when they need replacing.

These mouse-repellent bombs worked well for me last winter, so this year I am again putting them around the perimeter of my overwintering areas. The mice usually travel along walls and fences so I try to focus on those areas. My yard smells like a confusingly pleasant mix of grandma and freshly washed towels.

If you have a vegetable garden, you might want to keep the mothballs away from there – at least, that’s what I’ve heard.

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