Archive for September, 2013

Shohin Siberian Elm Sacrifice Branch

One nice thing about Ulmus pumila is that thickening branches doesn’t take very long, especially when the tree is small like this one. I let this sacrifice branch run wild since the summer, and it will be cut off this fall as I am hoping to show this tree. The branch is almost at the thickness I want it to be at, but I might let both the lower branches run a bit next year.

Let's go fly a kite.

Let’s go fly a kite.

Branch from above; sacrifice branch is coming out of the left side.

Branch from above; sacrifice branch is coming out of the left which is the back of the branch when viewed from the front.

 

Closer view of the branch (left side).

Closer view of the branch.

 

 


Grafting Hinoki on Thuja: Round 3

In Spring 2012, I tried bud grafting hinoki foliage on a scraggly collected Thuja, which failed. Later that year, I tried approach grafting hinoki foliage onto the same plant. Over one year later, the results are still unclear. The approach graft is alive and well, but it has not clearly fused with the Thuja tissue. I have a feeling the wounds on scion/stock both just healed over instead of grafting with one another. At this point I would say the approach graft was not successful.

Not convinced that this approach graft has taken.

Not convinced that this approach graft has taken.

Nevertheless, I left the approach graft in place and moved on with my third attempt of grafting this plant with a third type of graft: the One-Point aka Single-Point Graft.

One-point grafts are very similar to thread grafts, except defoliation is not required. This makes this type of graft a very useful tool for conifers. Many years ago, I successfully one-point grafted my Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) after learning about this type of graft from Nick Lenz’s Bonsai from the Wild 2nd Ed. In fact, Nick hints at one-point grafts as being appropriate for Hinoki-Thuja operations, but first describes them in his larch chapter:

A variant of [thread grafting] is the one point graft. Instead of passing a bald branch through a hole in the trunk, you fold over a branch and squeeze it into the hole. Before insertion, you scrape the outer edge of the fold with a thumb nail to remove the cambium. When jammed into the hole, the cambium layers of the drill-out and of the scraping will touch and merge quickly. This approach has several advantages. You can perform it at any time during the growing season as the branch does not need to be bald. This is especially useful in species that grow out but once in a season, such as pines. It also takes less time to complete. You do not have to drill all the way through the trunk, but only a centimeter or less.

The disadvantage to this approach is not great. The branch may be fatally injured when folded over. If this happens and the new graft begins to dry and brown up, you can readily pull it out and try again with a smaller branch. Despite the tendency of a branch to break (crack) when doubled over, you can always find one that will tolerate the procedure. Success is more likely on hot, dry days when water is withdrawn from the wood. -Bonsai from the Wild 2nd Ed., p. 33

A few weeks ago in mid August I looked disgustingly at my still-ungrafted Thuja and grabbed my drill. Three one-point grafts were initiated and today they all still seem to be alive. Basically what I have now are three thread grafts in my Thuja, and hopefully now it is just a waiting game.

A one-point graft that seems to have survived the initial folding-and-cramming.

A one-point graft that seems to have survived the initial folding-and-cramming. The scion for this graft was growing off the scion used for last year’s approach graft.

Another one closer to the base of the trunk.

Another one closer to the base of the trunk. All of the one points were slathered with some Japanese wound sealant which is pretty much white glue.

I'm not sure if this tree is even worth all the trouble. Sure, it will be nice if I can make it a bonsai, but this grafting project now seems more about me proving to myself that it can be done.

I’m not sure if this tree is even worth all the trouble. Sure, it will be nice if I can make it a bonsai, but this grafting project now seems more about me proving to myself that it can actually be done.

 


Do Ginkgo Wounds Heal?

I’ve heard and read several times that “Ginkgo scars never heal”. I’ve also heard and read “Ginkgo scars heal, but extremely slowly”. My experience with my one Ginkgo leads me to believe that the latter is true. Or wait. Maybe both are true?

My little Ginkgo has lots of old dime-sized wounds that were never really cleaned up. Last July I ground two down with a dremel, exposed the cambium, and packed them with the clay-type wound sealant.

July 2012. Terrible picture, but hopefully you can see the cleaned up wounds. Before, they looked like the other old wounds that are all over the trunk.

July 2012. Terrible picture, but hopefully you can see the cleaned up wounds. Before, they looked like the other old wounds that are all over the trunk.

The other day I removed the cut paste to have a look. One of them (smaller one on the top) has definitely produced a significant callus. For such a small wound, the callus is moving very slowly. A maple probably would have easily healed over this wound by now. The other larger one at the bottom doesn’t seem to have done much at all. I can’t really explain what the difference is. Maybe something to do with localized sap flow.

Smaller one beginning to callus over. Tweezers for scale.

Smaller one beginning to callus over. Tweezers for scale.

This is the larger one. A tiny callus appears to have formed around the edges, but it hasn't really moved at all.

This is the larger one. A tiny callus appears to have formed around the edges, but it hasn’t really moved at all.

I will continue to re-wound these calluses to keep it moving, and will clean up the rest of the wounds on the tree bit by bit, hoping that they respond well. Either way, the end result will look better than it does now.

 


Japanese Web Retailers

There are some retailers in Japan with an amazing selection of bonsai tools and accessories, and shipping is surprisingly affordable. In fact, I’ve found the shipping of these sites to be less expensive than what many American bonsai retailers can offer me. Two of these retailers I can recommend with confidence.

The first is Bonsai Network Japan.

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They have a huge selection of Masakuni, Yoshi, and Nobuichi tools. Also available is a variety of display accessories, copper wire, and books including lots of Kokufu album back issues. To get a shipping price, you must assemble your order and submit it for a quote. To give you an idea, I ordered a large book, knob cutters, grafting tape, and wire cutters. The box was 30 x 20 x 15 cm and weighed over 1 kg. Air shipping from Japan Post was under $12! It arrived in exactly 13 days as promised, with no surprise custom fees. Maki from J-Bonsai is extremely helpful and is clearly experienced in shipping to other countries. I highly recommend this retailer.

Another great retailer is Kaneshin Bonsai Tools.

CaptureAs the name implies, Kaneshin only sells one brand of tools, but their selection is incredible and the tools have a great reputation. They sell just about everything you could want and more. A nice thing about this website is that you can calculate the shipping costs yourself based on the weight of the items ordered. Obviously things get expensive as the size of the order increases, but I would say the economy shipping prices are pretty fair, especially compared to what I’ve seen some vendors in the US quote me.

 


A Big Thuja That Was Collected This Spring

This large Thuja occidentalis was captured in April of this year. All of the pictures except the last one were taken in April soon after collection, when the tree was still in it’s dull winter colour.

The trunk is huge with some dramatic movement. The deadwood also tells some fascinating stories, particularly the massive break in the 8″ diameter middle section. One has to wonder how damage like this could be done without completely uprooting the tree.

This tree certainly doesn’t present any easy design solutions, so it will be a  challenge. Currently these are the best pictures I have of the tree as it is tucked away in the rehab area.

Hard tree to photograph as the base is covered by some branches.

Hard tree to photograph as the base is covered by some branches.

I've been planting all of my larger collected trees in pure perlite for the last couple of years.

I’ve been planting all of my larger collected trees in pure screened perlite for the last couple of years.

 

Before root washing and potting up, giving a glimpse into the massive base. This is a good example of the impenetrable root mass that Thujas are often collected with. Hosing out as much muck as possible greatly simplifies watering the containerized tree.

Before root washing and potting up, giving a glimpse into the base of the tree. This is a good example of the impenetrable root mass that Thujas are often collected with. Very little of it is actually live root. Hosing out as much muck as possible greatly simplifies watering the containerized tree.

Some details:

A more recent picture of the tree. It has been under shade cloth the entire year.

A more recent picture of the tree. It has been under shade cloth the entire year.


Potentilla fruticosa

This Potentilla is as fragile as a stained glass window and parts of it literally crumble away every time I work on it. It has undergone some pretty radical changes since I acquired it in 2011, and certainly does not look like the tree I initially envisioned it would become when I bought it. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to work with Potentilla – especially a deadwood specimen – I would say keep the trunk as clean and dry as possible. They are extremely susceptible to rot. Brush it, lime sulfur it, treat it with wood hardener, remove dead bark… all that good stuff is essential. 

The main things I did this year were to remove the last of the rotting parts, soak every piece of deadwood in lime sulfur then wood hardener, and compact the crown. I also completely redesigned the branch structure such that it is much more simple and “bonsai like”. This is contrary to the wayward, random nature in which Potentilla grow. I’m not saying the current image is better than some of the earlier ones. Certainly some incredible deadwood features have been lost.

Next step is to find the right pot, which certainly won’t be easy. I figure this tree still has a couple years of life before it returns to the dust from whence it came.

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The crown still needs a bit of filling out, but that won’t take long.

Earliest

This is the earliest image I have of the tree. I have no idea of the dates, but presumably the top left shows the tree soon after collection, while the other is the pinnacle of the tree’s development under its previous owner.

 


Sandblasting Thuja Deadwood

For years sandblasting has been used in some bonsai circles to clean up deadwood. The idea is that it will remove fuzz from carving, smooth “new” sharp edges created from carving, and strip away old dead bark while preserving the natural texture of the wood.I’ve always wanted to try it on Thuja since they have so many intricate little details which are often covered by old caked on dead bark that is extremely difficult to remove. The alternative is that you pick away at the dead bark with your fingernail or a variety of pointy tools, ideally after rain since the bark is soft. Still, it can be very difficult to get everything and not destroy the little details.

My friend has a sandblaster with a small cabinet so I thought this little guy might be my first test subject.

I've already spent lots of time picking and scraping at the dead bark on this one, but there is still a film of stubborn bark here and there, and the tiny jins on the character spire I am finding impossible to clean without breaking.

I’ve already spent lots of time picking and scraping at the dead bark on this one, but there is still a film of stubborn bark here and there, and the tiny jins on the character spire I am finding impossible to clean without breaking.

Sandblasting works best on junipers or “driftwood species” like Thuja which have a defined live vein that has been cleaned of bark. To prepare the plant for blasting, use a tacky clay like Plasticine to cover the live vein from the soil line to as far up the primary branching you can get. Protect the foliage and pot as best you can. I used aluminum foil and shrink wrap. A cloth and shrink wrap would have worked just as well. This step is MUCH easier if the tree has no wire on it (I learned that the hard way).

The sandblasting was done with a standard glass bead abrasive. I found 70 psi to be pretty ideal.

The sandblasting was done with a standard glass bead abrasive. I found 70 psi to be pretty ideal.

I was very impressed with the results. I kind of expected the small jins to be blasted off, but they were left completely intact and clean as a whistle! Some people might be concerned that the natural silver patina of the deadwood has been lost. Well, if you use lime sulfur that shouldn’t matter to you. Furthermore, I find it takes two years in my yard for this silver colouration to return. In bonsai terms that isn’t really long. Is this a technique I will start using more regularly? While I still need to spend some time closely examining the results, it seems very likely.

After sandblasting.

After sandblasting.

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