Posts tagged “Canada

Toronto Bonsai Society Show and Sale

Always a great event, I hope to see you there.

TBS Show Poster


Major Changes for Big Larch Forest

I bought this tree in December 2012. Being an established forest, it had some nice character but also some major challenges. Besides the unsuitable pot, the forest had far too much symmetry and the branches were too “stubby”, for lack of a better word. The variation in the trunks (diameter and height) is limited,  Some of these things would be easy to correct, but others more difficult or impossible. The year 2013 was spent just growing it out and lightly pruning to develop a more elegant branch structure.

As a side note, this tree spend the entire winter out on a bench completely unprotected. This was the coldest winter in southern Ontario in over 20 years with many days in the -20 Celsius range and a few in the -30s. Fortunately there was a lot of snow and this larch was right at home.

The tree as purchased.

The tree in Spring 2013, as purchased. Some trunks are not fully visible from the original front.

The first step for this year was to wire everything. This probably took 12 hours, spread out over several days. Conifer forests just take so much wiring, it can be overwhelming.

After wiring. No branches have been placed yet.

After wiring. No branches have been placed yet. Note the number of new branches compared to the Spring 2013 image.

The next step was to plant it in a more suitable container. This slab was custom made for the forest by local potter Geoff Lloyd. One thing we neglected to think about was the front of the slab. The slab was designed for a forest pointing to the right, yet this forest obviously points to the left. As a result I ended up using the “back” of the slab as the front. It is still an attractive side, but has a slightly less interesting profile than the other side.

Intended front of the slab.

Intended front of the slab, best suited for a tree moving strongly to the right.

Back of the slab, which will actually be my front since my forest moves from left to right.

Back of the slab, which will actually be my front since my forest moves to the left.

The next step was removing the tree from the old pot and raking out the perimeter of the root ball. The bottom of the rootball was not touched at all. The perimeter needed to be raked out quite a bit so it would fit within the boundaries of the narrower new slab.

Removed from the old pot, before raking. Sorry, no post-raking pics.

Removed from the old pot, before raking. Sorry, no post-raking pics.

A muck mixture was made to mold the rootball within the contours of the new slab. The mixture was something like 2/3rds humus, 1/3rd chopped sphagnum, and a cup or two of akadama dust, plus water as needed.

Muck mix.

Dry muck mix.

After mucking the perimeter, the rootball was completely mossed. The purpose of this was mainly to prevent erosion of the freshly worked rootball, but of course there is an aesthetic benefit as well. Besides the muck, no new bonsai soil was added. The roots still have plenty of room to grow in the original root mass. Larches are perfectly happy with dense matted root balls with scant amounts of soil. It will be a long time before I need to refresh the soil again.

This picture shows the mucked perimeter (left) and the slowly progressing moss job.

This picture shows the mucked perimeter (left) and the slowly progressing moss job.

 

After repotting. Still no branch placement.

After repotting. Still no branch placement.

Now that the tree was in its new container, the branches could be placed. Many guy wires were used to reposition the trunks. Again, the goal was to give this tree a definite leftward movement. This was accomplished by pulling most of the trunks to the left and extending out the leftward growing branches while compacting those growing to the right side. I find forests to be immensely challenging as there are so many design considerations. The branches and trunks were adjusted again, and again over several sessions. I am still not 100% happy with the design but I think it is the best I could do without removing or adding trunks. That is still a future option, but for now the work is done.

Final image of the front. The farthest trunk on the right really bothers me. At one point I was very close to ripping it out. But I will take some more time to think about that.

Final image of the front. The farthest trunk on the right really bothers me. At one point I was very close to ripping it out. But I will take some more time to think about that. The tallest tree is 74 cm and the slab is 80 cm long.

View of the left side.

View of the left side.

Back.

Back.

Spring 2013 vs. Spring 2014

Spring 2013 vs. Spring 2014

 

Thanks for reading. Don’t acquire too many forests if you value your sanity!

 

 


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!


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.

IMG_20140218_202512

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.

pkg2

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.

IMG_20140223_154337

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.

IMG_20140223_154420

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.

IMG_20140301_103314

 

 

 


Ice Storm

DSC_0996

 

">IMG_20131222_153905 ">IMG_20131222_155810 ">IMG_20131222_155850 ">IMG_20131222_155652 ">IMG_20131222_155821 ">IMG_20131222_155854 IMG_20131222_155636


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!

DSC_0992


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

DSC_0969

Tamarack

DSC_0937-web

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.

DSC_0949-web

Tamarack

DSC_0944-web

Siberian Elm

DSC_0932-web

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

 

 


Ginkgo Winter Image

Ginkgo biloba “Chi-chi”, originally from Japan as an air layer from a specialist Ginkgo nursery.

">DSC_0927-2 DSC_0926-1


Larches Cutting Through A Dreary Autumn Day

The other deciduous trees have already lost their leaves, but the tamaracks are just reaching their peak. They produce the most incredible golden yellow, which my cell phone camera cannot even come close to reproducing.

20131102_101252


A Few Images from the Toronto Bonsai Society Show

Despite is being a less-than-stellar year for fall colour, TBS still put on a good show. Unfortunately I didn’t bring the correct lens for the job so I wasn’t able to get far enough back to get most trees in frame. So here is a small sample of some trees that were on display at TBS.

I’m very proud of myself that I didn’t buy anything in the sales area, despite there being some nice trees that got snatched up pretty quickly.

… well I did buy 10 bags of lava rock, but soil doesn’t count 🙂

Very nice chuhin Japanese maple, trained by one of TBS's senior members for years from either a cutting or an air layer.

Very nice chuhin Japanese maple, trained by one of TBS’s senior members for many years from either a cutting or an air layer.

Very interesting pot by (I think) Horst Heinzelreiter. A creative pairing with this tree that I think works extremely well with the fall image.

Great pot by (I think) Horst Heinzelreiter. A creative pairing with this tree that I think works extremely well with the fall image.

It wouldn't be TBS without some Eastern White Cedars.

It wouldn’t be TBS without some Eastern White Cedars.

Shohin English Oak, 12 years from seed.

Shohin English Oak, 12 years from seed.

 

 

 


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.

Capture

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.