This big Thuja was collected in Fall 2010 and had its first serious root work just over a month ago. It is growing very nicely now, and I moved it into full sun the other day.
As soon as possible this tree will need some major thinning to prevent weakening of the interior growth. Probably 50% of the foliage will need to be thinned. However, before that I decided to cut back some useless branches at the top of the secondary trunk.
This tree actually seems to be two trees/trunks growing together. The main deadwood trunk, and an apparently younger but still interesting trunk behind it. They could work together for a final design, but I think I would prefer the simplicity of the main trunk alone. However, I need to be sure that I can kill off/separate the second trunk without harming the living part of the nicer one. And I am still not 100% convinced as I saw some root fusion when I repotted it last month. The entire deadwood trunk only has one live vein.
I’ve been developing this carpinus from a neglected stump for about 6 years. Most of the primary branches had died back under the previous owner. I have been trying to build a new tree from thread grafts. It is coming along, but slowly.
Korean Hornbeam need to be cut back later than maples, otherwise they won’t backbud well. Usually this mean late spring, once the new growth has hardened off. This is also a good time to send through some thread grafts as defoliated branches will bounce back quickly, and smaller holes can be drilled since winter buds have not yet formed.Thread grafts can also be sent through in the late winter, but larger holes need to be drilled to get the branches through without rubbing off the large winter buds.
Ginkgo have a bad reputation for developing ramification, but that doesn’t mean they don’t ramify at all – they just need some encouragement! Unlike other deciduous species like Maple or Elm that will develop some ramification even with improper cutting techniques, Ginkgo will barely ramify at if they are not cut properly. Still, even in the best of cases, Ginkgo ramification cannot hold a candle to that of maples… but that is just the character of the tree. They are still a great species to work on.
This post outlines the pruning techniques I use on my Ginkgo in USDA zone 6.
Really, the pruning techniques for Ginkgo are very similar for most deciduous trees. The development is just much slower and the end result less ramified. However, I’ve found that by using the above strategy, I can increase the twigginess of the tree by about 50-75% each season.
Siberian Elm are very strong growers. Despite having 95% of its roots cut off, crammed in a small pot, and being roughly wired in March, this tree grew very well this spring.
The other day I cut back the upper branches. This process will probably be repeated two or three more times this year. The lower branches need to grow wild for most of the season to allow them to thicken.
Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is rarely seen as bonsai because good material is hard to find. They bark up slowly, and grow in shady protected environments where exciting stunted material is rarely found. I’ve only seen two really good pieces of Eastern Hemlock yamadori that impressed me. One is dead now, and I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to buy the other one for awhile. I’ve never seen a mature and refined T. canadensis bonsai.
This Tsuga was one of the first decent trees I collected, back in 2007. It was growing in a dark understory near a trail were it was getting battered and bruised by passing vehicles. It has the beginnings of mature bark which is a sign of some age. Ring counts on a cut branch lead me to think the tree is 40-50 years old.
It had a shallow root system growing in mostly leaf mold, and I took home a mostly intact rootball. It grew happily in the moldy compost for 3 years, sending out 3 extensions every season. The tree seemed very strong.
Then, I had the bright idea to try and get it in a training pot and some coarse bonsai soil. The tree HATED it. Its growth slowed down, and the apex started to die back. It almost looked like a fungal attack, but whatever it was I am convinced that it was a symptom of a more fundamental problem – the soil mix.
The lesson here it to grow T. canadensis in a fine, organic mix. It may be the low pH that they like. Many people know this already (see Nick Lenz Bonsai from the Wild 2nd Ed.) but I was stubborn and in a phase where I though “bonsai soil is better for everything”.
So this spring I raked about 80% of the bonsai grit out of the pot (without removing the tree). The root system looked pathetic. I packed in sifted top soil and hopefully this will help the tree to recover. If it doesn’t help, I am about ready to throw in the towel with this one.
As a side notes, T. canadensis heals over wounds incredibly well. For such a delicate conifer, you would not expect it. This makes them suitable for grafting. The first branch on the right near the top of this tree is a successful one-point graft.
This one was repotted back in March and since then produced 2-5″ extensions, which were cut back today.
Also, some significant branches were removed from the apex. A new, lower apex will be built over the coming months.
Usually when you collect a tree, you have a rough idea of the final image you wish to achieve. Other times, you just see something interesting and decide to “collect first, ask questions later”. This Potentilla fruticosa was one of the latter.
This one is going to take some more thought. I have some ideas, but nothing solid yet. For now, I will continue to let it grow, hacking it back every couple of weeks.
When I told of of my bonsai friends that I was planning on starting some larch from seed, he looked at me like I was dense and asked “Why?”
It is a fair question since we have access to very good wild larch in this part of the world. However, the good larch grow in rocky soil and larch in rocky soil send out just two or three large roots, therefore almost always having a bad nebari. Furthermore, collected larch have a rough and wild appearance. You will never find a collected larch with the features needed to make a “softer” classic upright bonsai. I’m not saying the classic look is better than the wild look. They are just different… and different is good in a bonsai collection.
The question still remains – why larch? Why not something more classic like maple or black pine? There are three answers for that: 1) I see larch as one of the most beautiful species on the planet, 2) Larch can growvery fast in my climate when you want them to, and 3) Larch are bomb-proof and idiot-proof (so long as they are established). I am very lazy and hate dealing with exotic species that require special attention in the winter.
The only drawback I see in American larch is the slow bark development. For that reason, I am also growing some Japanese larch as apparently they bark up faster.
Basically I just want to produce some very nice shohin larch and also have some larch to plant in the ground as longer term “bigger” projects.
The process starts by making seedling-cuttings. The idea is you remove the taproot a few weeks after germination to promote lateral root growth early in the life of the tree.I’ve never done this with larch, but don’t see why it won’t work.
We are finally getting consistently warm temperatures, so my trees are really starting to move. Looking at them gives me a reminder that I have a lot of work to do 🙂 Sorry for the busy background… bad camera settings.
Mother nature has done a nice job on this little cedar. It was collected in April and the shallow, dense root ball allowed it to be planted right into a bonsai pot. The shaggy growth hides much of the details, but this tree has excellent movement and taper. Not only that, it has perfectly placed branches with lots of interior growth. If it grows well this year and next, I would expect this tree to be show ready in fall 2013.
Marco has been coming to Toronto pretty regularly for a number of years. This year he did a demo on a less-than-stellar collected Thuja, but as usually he was able to come up with something pretty impressive. His discussion focused on preparing material to become bonsai material, with an emphasis on Thuja.
This is the first spring where I am having trouble keeping up with the needed work on my trees. I am planning on doing some (more) culling on my collection soon, but much of that depends on the survival rate of my newly collected yamadori. I don’t have a huge collection (40-50 trees), but giving every tree the attention they need really takes a lot of time.
In the meantime, I am busy as hell. A friend was nice enough to remove the wire from my Ginkgo for me 🙂 As a side note, this guy also has an amazing collection of fine mame and shohin sized pots and is always selling/buying. If you are looking for nice small pots, check out his website: Mame & Shohin Bonsai Pots.
As for the Ginkgo, many of the branches sprang back once the wire was removed. Kind of expected. Ginkgo is tough to wire because it scars so easily. Last year I wired it in late October and took off the wire yesterday (April 30). The branches seemed to have set better than in the past where I have wired it in March and had to take the wire off by early June.
I have a friend who lives in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (British Columbia) who occasionally sells me some of his newly collected trees. This is the third RMJ (Juniperus scorpulum) that he has sent me, and the largest. It is a pretty nice tree with a powerful presence and some nice deadwood. The tree was growing in a rock pocket and the rootball is outstanding, and I think this tree has an excellent chance of survival. Sure, the 3,600 km bus ride might have stressed it out a bit, but I still think the chances are good 🙂 The tree still seems to be dormant, so that helps the situation.
Based on my experience, RMJ grow well in the Toronto area. One issue I have encountered with my RMJ is the alarming and persistent Cedar-Apple Rust (Gymnosporangium)… but more on that later. It should be exploding on one of my trees any day now.