When you have a lot of larches spring can be somewhat of a disaster. Pruning, wiring, unwiring, and collecting more larches (glutton for punishment) all tend to fall within a fairly short window.
That being said, here are some larches at various stages of development that I have been working on over the past few weeks of this very strange spring (weather-wise).
Here is another new American Larch (Larix laricina) forest I picked up at a recent club meeting from a friend who was selling off some trees at bargain prices.
It is not a small forest – the tallest tree measures about 70 cm. Nevertheless I can move it around pretty easily. It was assembled from young collected trees about 10 years ago. They are starting to show some maturity although it will be many more years before they start to show flaky bark.
The pot is obviously not ideal. Some sort of slab or very shallow unglazed pot would be an improvement, although it will not be cheap to find something of the right size.
Lots of wiring needs to be done as well, and the positioning of some of the smaller trees needs to be tweaked. There are 12 trees, but the planting maintains some asymmetry so I’m not sure if it is necessary to add or remove a tree. The thing that bothers me most is that there are too many trees of the same diameter in the right side of the planting.
Overall I think the basic structure of the forest is well done, and it will be fun to work on over the next few years.
This tree must be one of the great American bonsai masterpieces…. although some may not call it bonsai.
This is ‘Penelope’ by Nick Lenz. Some decades ago, Nick got the idea to plant a young larch (Larix laricina) on a cheap concrete garden statue, and ended up producing something truly amazing.
She is named after the faithful wife of Odysseus who patiently waited many years for the return of her husband in Homer’s Odyssey. Here she is lounging under the semi-shade of early spring larch foliage.
Penelope was recently on display at a bonsai exhibition at the McMichael Gallery in Toronto.I posted a picture of her in a recent post, although I feel she is deserving of a little more attention.
I know that this is a composition loved (and hated) by many, and I am fortunate that I get to see her pretty often since she was deported to a private collection in Toronto some years ago. This post is for everyone who has not seen her since she was published in Nick Lenz’s book Bonsai from the Wild (get the book if you don’t have it). She certainly has grown since then. If you can’t see her in person, hopefully this video is the next best thing.
Don’t forget to change the viewing resolution to 720p.
Providing good conditions for newly collected material is always tricky when you don’t have a greenhouse. The goal is to protect from wind and intense sun, but the trees still need some sun to recover (especially spruce and larch). I have my trees up against a fence, and a double layer of shade cloth protecting the southern exposure. As trees gain some strength, I will remove one layer. The strongest trees may be moved into direct sun later in the season. I am also misting them as frequently as possible. It has been very windy the last few days, which is not a good thing.
This year, I also gave my newly collected trees a sprinkling of systemic imidacloprid granules. This is mainly to help the larches fight off any borers they may have brought home with them. I suspect that borers contributed to the decimation of last years crop of collected larch.
Something else new I’ve tried this year with my larch is screwing the tree into the wooden box instead of wiring them in. I got this idea from Sandev Bonsai. It can be very tricky to securely wire yamadori into pots. Since larch usually come out of rocky soil with few feeder roots but a number of thick stubs where large roots were cut, it is much easier to drill in a few brass wood screws to lock them into the box. It is imperative that these trees don’t wobble to protect the fragile roots.
This ramrod straight larch has a fascinating twist in the lifeline of the tree. I saw this tree while out on a hike and was perplexed by the growth of the trees in that immediate vicinity. Many of them (living and dead) within a small area (about 100 square meters) had an intense spiraling grain for no apparent reason. It must have something to do with the way the wind howls through that little clearing… or perhaps it is something else, beyond my understanding. Nevertheless, it is interesting how such a dynamic live vein can give life to an otherwise dull tree. It would make a unique bunjin-gi. This guy was not collected, however. I don’t have permission to collect where these trees are growing, but I still like to look 🙂
This unusual but impressive American Larch (Larix laricina), aka Tamarack was grown from scratch by the eccentric American bonsai artist Nick Lenz. The tree is currently owned by a good friend of mine, who has been a student of Nick’s for several years. He estimates that it took Nick about 20 years to produce this trunk from a collected whip. American larch with taper like this are rare to find as yamadori (but certainly not unheard of).
This tree is a few years into its development as a bonsai, and still has a ways to go. The unusual “thrusting” branch inside of the curve may seem unsual to some people, but it is a very common sight in Nick’s trees.
My friend has far too many bonsai, so I am happy to help him out during the busy times of year (I feel like I have far too few bonsai!). I eagerly accepted when he asked me to wire this tree for him (as long as he provided the wire :)).
In the Toronto area, heavy freezes are to be expected until late March/early April. As a result, this tree was wired, but the branches were not set. Without winter protection, there is always a risk of freezing temperatures damaging recently bent branches (even with larch – one of the most cold-hardy species on the planet).