Archive for July, 2012

Thuja Grafting Round 2

Well, my attempt at bud grafting hinoki on this Thuja in the spring failed quite miserably. Of the three scions I grafted, only one actually started to push new green tips, but it soon fried once the heat of the summer arrived.

Here is my attempt to use an approach graft. Approach grafting on junipers is often done in the summer. I know this is not a juniper, but I think that Thuja and junipers have a lot in common in terms of their physiology. I have no evidence to back that up except for watching them grow in my garden over the years. I think the summer is a good time for grafting because this is the time when the trees are really throwing out new wood/callus tissue and wounds close up quickly. Also, sap flow is very high. I’ve done some thread grafting on deciduous trees in the summer with good success. I wouldn’t try any sort of bud grafting in the summer as the scion would probably get fried really quickly.

Here is the poor bastard, nice and healthy but dying for some foliage closer to the trunk.

Here is the poor bastard, nice and healthy but dying for some foliage closer to the trunk.\

The first step was carving a channel using a dremel set at low speed with a sharp cutting bit. I did my best to make the channel the same diameter as the scion, and the depth was about half that. The wound was cleaned up with a grafting knife.

The first step was carving a channel using a dremel set at low speed with a sharp cutting bit. I did my best to make the channel the same diameter as the scion, and the depth was about half that. The wound was cleaned up with a grafting knife.

Here is the plant that I am trying to graft to the Thuja: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’. A really lovely variety and somewhat stronger than ‘nana’.

The next step was securing the hinoki and Thuja containers together. In this case I simply rested the hinoki pot on top of the Thuja and tied the two together with three strong guy wires until they were rock solid. It is very important that they are securely mated so they can be moved around together through the seasons. Even in the best case scenario it could be a year or more before the two are separated. It would have been easier if I had hinoki cuttings in small pots, but this is the only material I have to work with. Making a bunch of cuttings of this variety for future grafting attempts is on my list of things to do.

The next step was securing the hinoki and Thuja containers together. In this case I simply rested the hinoki pot on top of the Thuja and tied the two together with three strong guy wires until they were rock solid. It is very important that they are securely mated so they can be moved around together through the seasons. Even in the best case scenario it could be a year or more before the two are separated. It would have been easier if I had hinoki cuttings in small pots, but this is the only material I have to work with. Making a bunch of cuttings of this variety for future grafting attempts is on my list of things to do.

Here is the branch to be grafted with the bark scraped off to expose the green cambium. It is probably a 2 year old branch. Before scraping, make sure you do a test fit to make sure you are scraping in the right place!

Here is the branch to be grafted with the bark scraped off to expose the green cambium. It is probably a 2 year old branch. Before scraping, make sure you do a test fit to make sure you are scraping in the right place!

I fit the scion into the channel and secured it in place with two wires with some protective rubber. It must be very tight. Try pushing on the scion - if it still flexes into the channel, it is not making good contact and must be tightened. The whole thing was then covered in grafting wax.

I fit the scion into the channel and secured it in place with two wires with some protective rubber. It must be very tight. Try pushing on the scion – if it still flexes into the channel, it is not making good contact and must be tightened. The whole thing was then covered in grafting wax.

Next, I covered the graft with a small piece of damp sphagnum moss, and covered that with a piece of plastic mesh which was secured to the trunk with three wires. The purpose of this was twofold: 1) to protect the moss from birds and drying out too quickly, and 2) to distribute more even pressure over the graft.

Next, I covered the graft with a small piece of damp sphagnum moss, and covered that with a piece of plastic mesh which was secured to the trunk with three wires. The purpose of this was twofold: 1) to protect the moss from birds and drying out too quickly, and 2) to distribute more even pressure over the graft.

Here is the happy couple. The graft is circled in red. You can see that I did some trimming of the foliage around the graft to create a nice opening so the graft will still get good sun exposure.

There are lots of types of approach grafts, but I chose this method because I like the idea of the long channel creating a lot of surface area for cambium-cambium contact. No matter the method, I think the key points are to get good cambium contact, and lock the graft into place so it absolutely cannot move.

If the grafted branch continues to grow, that is a good sign but does not mean much. It will probably be next spring before I take a peek at whats going on underneath.


Head Scratching Re: Eastern Hemlock

Happy to report that I think I solved the health issues this tree was having over the last couple of years. Replacing the bonsai soil with mucky top soil seemed to bring it back to its former vigor.

Now I’ve got a new problem – I’m not sure which of the two trunks to keep. You’d think I would have figured it out after 7 years of contemplating.

    Today before work. It is on its second round of growth which is much better performance than in recent years.

Today before work. It is on its second round of growth which is much better performance than in recent years.

    For the last 6 years I have been planning to base the tree around this trunk. I even grafted a primary branch on with this front in mind (first branch on the right). The tree would be tall and upright with long downward drooping branches. Very simple but elegant, and easy to achieve with the somewhat difficult growth habit of T. canadensis. But then the apex died setting this tree back yet again. I've wired up a new apex but it needs about 2 years of strong growth before it is where I need it to be.

For the last 6 years I have been planning to base the tree around this trunk. I even grafted a primary branch on with this front in mind (first branch on the right). The tree would be tall and upright with long downward drooping branches. Very simple but elegant, and easy to achieve with the somewhat difficult growth habit of T. canadensis. But then the apex died setting this tree back yet again. I’ve wired up a new apex but it needs about 2 years of strong growth before it is where I need it to be.

 

To use the front above, I would have to remove this entire secondary trunk. Or, I could keep it and make this the tree. This is my dilemma. This trunk has much more movement and to many it would be the obvious choice. But something about it is awkward and unattractive to me. I don't like the angle of emergence from the soil, and I hate the upper third. Plus I'm not sure if Eastern Hemlock would lend itself to such a dynamic design. It is very difficult to get movement into the branches - they do not take well to sharp bending. The nebari is better from this side, however.

To use the front above, I would have to remove this entire secondary trunk. Or, I could keep it and make this the tree. This is my dilemma. This trunk has much more movement and to many it would be the obvious choice. But something about it is awkward and unattractive to me. I don’t like the angle of emergence from the soil, and I hate the upper third. Plus I’m not sure if Eastern Hemlock would lend itself to such a dynamic design. It is very difficult to get movement into the branches – they do not take well to sharp bending. The nebari is better from this side, however.

Both options have their merits. I’m still undecided, so for now the tree will just grow.


Rocky Mountain Juniper First Styling

This slender Juniperus scorpularum was collected in the Kootenay region of British Columbia in 2009 by a friend. The last 3+ years leading up to today were all spent developing the pre-bonsai. The tree was probably strong enough for work in 2010, but lacked the foliage density. So, after three years of pondering, branch selection, and cutting, I felt today was the day for the first real work.

About a month ago I featured this tree on my blog where it was prepped for todays work. That cutting one month ago paid off as it produced backbudding which gave me lots of new fine branches to work with.

    Today before work. Its amazing how much things can change in a month. Sometimes NOT weeding your trees has its benefits! The plants that overtook this pot are identical to those growing in a large patio planter right next to the juniper. Its as if they knew this juniper was growing in a hanging planter!

Today before work. Its amazing how much things can change in a month. Sometimes NOT weeding your trees has its benefits! The plants that overtook this pot are identical to those growing in a large patio planter right next to the juniper. Its as if they knew this juniper was growing in a hanging planter!

    Petunias and Thai Basil were the most interesting 'weeds' that had established themselves in this pot.

Petunias and Thai Basil were the most interesting ‘weeds’ that had established themselves in this pot.

 

    The Thai Basil ended up in the vegetable crisper - everything else was compost.

The Thai Basil ended up in the vegetable crisper – everything else was compost.

    Front after work. Lots of foliage was removed... probably almost 90%. The tree will probably throw lots of juvenile foliage in response to the heavy cutting. The balance of this tree is unusual. The tree leans heavily to the left, and the key branch thrusts out to the left. Although the overall movement is to the RIGHT! I think?

Front after work. Lots of foliage was removed… probably almost 90%. The tree will probably throw lots of juvenile foliage in response to the heavy cutting. The balance of this tree is unusual. The tree leans heavily to the left, and the key branch thrusts out to the left. Although the overall movement is to the RIGHT! I think?

    Fresh of the mountain in June 2009.

Fresh of the mountain in June 2009.

 


Squamata Juniper Wired

This is a Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Alps’. It is a very vigorous variety of juniper and has developed quickly since its first styling last spring. Junipers are a ton of work… I spread the wiring of this guy out over three evenings.

Before work.

Chuck Iker of Batavia, Ohio. I have lots of his pots but this one may be my favourite.">

After work. The pot is by Chuck Iker of Batavia, Ohio. I have lots of his pots but this one may be my favourite.

October 2011. This is the preferred planting angle of the tree, but I was not able to achieve it in this years repotting. Maybe next time.

First styling March 2011.

As purchased from garden center. $20 on sale!


Japanese Yew Wired

Today and yesterday I worked on this dwarf japanese yew. Lots of detail wiring was done but not every single branchlet was wired – only those that really needed redirection. Wiring every little twig may sound good but it is often not necessary. Still, this took awhile but that`s probably because I like to drink wine and watch movies while I wire 🙂

With lots of fertilizer and cutting, this tree should fill out nicely by the fall. The last major task this tree needs is fixing the first branch on the right. It is emerging at the wrong angle and is too long. Practically every branch on this tree (except the first on the right) has been hollowed from below and pulled down. The same task needs to be applied to the first branch, although the tree is not established enough right now for heavy work since it was repotted this spring. Maybe next year.

Nice and shaggy

Half done.

Done for now. Very thin, but being a yew it will fill in very quickly. More foliage will also hide the defect in the first branch on the right. The `key` branch is actually the first branch on the left. This needs to grow out and be pulled down more.

This is pretty close to the desired profile of the tree. I could have achieved this silhouette in today`s wiring, but instead I cut back most of the branches hard to work on developing branch structure.