Posts tagged “tamarack

Larches…

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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).

This sinuous larch was styled a couple of weeks ago. A massive root was further reduced and it was planted in its first bonsai pot. Collected larches usually come with one or more massive root(s) which fortunately can be reduced over successive transplants. This will need one more big root operation in a couple of years.

This sinuous larch was collected in 2014 and styled a couple of weeks ago. A massive root was further reduced and it was planted in its first bonsai pot. Collected larches usually come with one or more massive root(s) which fortunately can be reduced over successive transplants. This will need one more big root operation in a couple of years.

This big larch was collected in 2014 and transplanted this year. It also had a massive root cut back closer to the trunk. It has a wild character and will take some pondering to find the best front and planting angle.

This big larch was collected in 2014 and transplanted this year. It also had a massive root cut back closer to the trunk. It has a wild character and will take some pondering to find the best front and planting angle.

The same larch from another intriguing (but still challenging) angle.

The same larch from another intriguing (but still challenging) angle.

This stout little shohin was divided from the root system of the previous larch. After a year or two for root development, it will be planted at the correct angle and will be pretty easy to make into a nice little tree.

This stout little shohin was divided from the root system of the previous big larch. After a year or two for root development, it will be planted at the correct angle and will be pretty easy to make into a nice little tree. Without the old bark, this would not be worth much, but it is old and therefore has some good potential.

This tree was styled for the first time last spring and is developing quickly. This year the wire was checked and the branches were trimmed.

This chuhin-sized larch was styled for the first time last spring and is developing quickly. This year the wire was checked and the branches were trimmed with the aim of further developing the ramification. Can you see the single cone on this tree?

Last year this tree only produced one cone. Fortunately it happened to be in an ideal position and has reached maturity.

The one cone this tree produced last year happened to be in an ideal position and managed to hang on over the winter. The cone is about 1 cm tall. 

This tiny larch is notoriously difficult to photograph. Besides pruning, this tree has never been styled. It has been set back due to falling off the bench twice (once my fault, the second because of racoons). The bark, taper, and trunk movement are ideal. Next spring it will likely be wired. This year I just transferred it into a Nick Lenz pot.

This tiny larch (collected 2013) is notoriously difficult to photograph. Besides pruning, this tree has never been styled. Its development has been set back due to falling off the bench twice (once my fault, the second because of raccoons ). The bark, taper, and trunk movement are ideal. Next spring it will likely be wired. This year I just transferred it into a Nick Lenz pot.

This tree has taught me that larch are not as easy to thread graft as I would have thought. Nick Lenz estimates a 33% success rate. I have a 0% success rate. I am trying bud grafting on some larches, and (fingers crossed) seem to be having some success.

This tree has taught me that larch are not as easy to thread graft as I would have thought. Nick Lenz estimates a 33% success rate. I have a 0% success rate. This year I am trying bud grafting on some larches, and (fingers crossed) seem to be having some success. I will also give summer thread grafting a try.

Pruning and wire removal were the normal spring chores for this little forest.

Pruning and wire removal were the normal spring chores for this little forest.

This tree was collected in 2012 and had major root operations in 2014 and again in 2016. Finally, it fits into a bonsai pot. Last year some rough structural work was done. This year will focus on pruning and developing branching so it can be styled next spring.

This craggy tree was collected in 2012 and had major root operations in 2014 and again in 2016. Finally, it fits into a bonsai pot. Last year some rough structural work was done. This year will focus on pruning and developing branching so it can be styled next spring. One thing I’ve learned with collected trees is that not rushing them will often help you achieve your goals faster. 

Old larch bark.

Old larch bark.


Larch Thread Grafting Woes

Most of the old crusty larches I collect need grafting. It seems the older they are, the farther the living foliage is from the interesting part of the trunk. Three thread grafts were started on this larch in spring 2014 and all three of them failed this summer (despite not yet being separated from the donor branch).

Three dead grafts. The middle one was the most important as that was to become the new leader of the tree. The one above that... well it was too high i.e. a mistake.

Three dead grafts. The middle one was the most important as that was to become the new leader of the tree. The one above that… well it was too high i.e. a mistake.

 

I’m not sure why they failed, but I think it might have had something to do with long period of time elapsed. Ideally, once started, a thread graft will grow rapidly and then take within a few months. Unfortunately, these grafts hardly elongated last year therefore they had no change of reaching the thickness required for fusion until they really started to take off this year. But in July of this year when they should have been fusing, they were instead girdled and died. This is purely anecdotal, but I believe that the callus that formed around the edges of the drilled hole was somehow too hardened-off or otherwise too old to readily form a graft union with the threaded branches by the time they were thick enough to do so. Or maybe the drilled hole didn’t form a callus at all.

Anyway, they failed and I needed to re-graft. Late summer is not a good time for thread grafting larch, so I tried a traditional approach graft instead.

I'm not sure what these nails are really meant for, but in Japan they are commonly used for grafting. Here they are not going through the branch, but are just adjacent to it. With thicker branches it is OK to hammer them right through the branch.

I’m not sure what these nails are really designed for, but in Japan they are commonly used for grafting. With this graft they are not going through the branch, but are just adjacent to it. With thicker branches it is OK to hammer them right through the branch. They do an outstanding job of creating a very snug graft junction.

And now we wait...

And now we wait…


Larch Madness

If you follow the traditional guidelines, the best time to wire and repot Larix laricina is when the spring buds are just starting to open. This is usually the most practical time to unwire larches too, because around here it is the only time they are without needles and not frozen in the ground. This “spring buds just starting to open” window can be very short – often just two weeks in mid to late April. Needless to say, if you have a good number of larches like I do, spring gets pretty busy. Add to that repotting a couple dozen more trees, building a new bench set up in my yard, and a couple of collecting trips, and you have an insanely busy last few weeks.

Here is one larch that I recently worked on. This tree changed hands a couple times in the last few years, and I snatched it up almost exactly one year ago as soon as I had the opportunity. I was collected about 20 years ago yet has spent most of that time in bonsai limbo, without a coherent design. Most of the finer tertiary branches used to create this structure were grown last year.The tree was also gently repotted into a simple Yamaaki container that suits the semi-cascade style pretty well.

After a few more years of ramification development, this will be a killer chuhin sized larch, and I am proud to be its new caretaker.

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Larixi laricina, approximately 25 cm from soil line. April 18 2015.

Winter 2013 as acquired.

Winter 2013 as acquired.


Stolen American Larch Bonsai

This old American larch (tamarack) bonsai, along with two others, was stolen from a private collection in Toronto on June 23rd, 2014.

If you have seen this distinct bonsai, please call your local police department and/or contact the owner Elisabeth Leslie ewleslie[at]icloud.com

The bonsai community is tight not only in Toronto but worldwide. Hopefully we can use this to our advantage to help get this lovely tree back to the owner.

Stolen American larch bonsai.


Some More Fall and Winter Images

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Tamarack

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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.

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Tamarack

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Siberian Elm

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

 

 


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.

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Toronto Bonsai Society Show/Sale + Larch Needle Plucking

The Toronto Bonsai Society Spring Show and Sale is being held June 15 & 16 at Toronto Botanical Gardens in the Garden Hall. This event has been happening for decades and is surely the largest and most consistent annual exhibition of bonsai in the GTA. The sales tables are a great place to pick up pots, bonsai, pre-bonsai, tools, and books. I’ve bought several trees from TBS shows/sales, including the one below which I am currently prepping for the show.

With their vigorous summer growth, larch develop needles in all sizes and all directions, and the same goes for shoots (although less-so with mature larches). Two simple things can be done to minimize the wayward bushiness of a summer larch – reducing spring fertilization, and needle plucking. Reducing fertilization is pretty self explanatory – if you are trying to “bonsai” your larch (instead of develop the branches/trunk) don’t fertilize it until the spring growth hardens off.

Needle plucking is self explanatory as well – try to make your larch look like a Japanese white pine. This involves plucking (by hand) all downward growing needles to clearly define the underside of the foliage pads. Downward growing buds/shoots should be cut with scissors. Excess horizontal needles can also be plucked, although be careful not to remove all the needles from a growing center. Also, needles that are growing along the branches in between buds should be plucked, although these are usually only an issue on young (1-2 year old) branches.

Branch before plucking

Branch before plucking

After plucking downward needles

After plucking downward needles

Summer wire application on larches should be minimal unless you are something of a masochist (larch are best wired in spring as the buds start to colour up). However when prepping a tree for show there is nothing wrong with wiring  the odd branch, again with the goal of defining the underside of the foliage pads.

    Branch looking a little droopy.

Branch looking a little droopy.

After minor adjustment with wire.

After minor adjustment with wire.

After work

After work

 


Larch Borer Damage

In keeping with the larch posts, I thought I would talk about what is perhaps the most infamous pest of Larix laricina – borers. Borers are insect larvae that chew on the living tissue of trees as they tunnel around inside the trunks and branches, invisible to the naked eye. The parent insect (usually beetles or moths) lay their eggs inconspicuously on the bark of the tree and, upon hatching, the little demon-spawn chews its way in.

One interesting thing about borers is they are usually only a problem on weaker trees with a subdued systemic defense. Strong trees with a heavy sap flow are better able to restrain a potentially disastrous borer infestation. What does this mean for bonsai growers? Borers are most likely to gain the upper hand on recently collected trees, or very mature and slow-growing bonsai. In other words, borers pick on the weak and the elderly, making them complete assholes. This source says that “the chewing of some [borer] species may be heard by someone standing near the tree”. Ok now that is just scary.

Most often, a borer infestation is not identified until the damage is done. Just one enterprising borer could potentially girdle a trunk or a branch, causing the sudden death of a huge part of your tree.

Nick Lenz is a veteran of the borer wars, and describes in detail his approach to dealing with them in his book Bonsai from the Wild (2nd Ed.). If you live in the North East and grow any native species, especially larch or cedar, you need this book! Essentially, Nick’s approach is to bag and fumigate every larch he collects, assuming it is infested with borers. I have not been this aggressive with my collected larches (yet), although I have been treating them proactively with a systemic insecticide (imidacloprid). Hopefully I don’t regret my complacent approach in the future…

What Nick does not talk about in his book is perhaps the most alarming cases of borer damage – that on mature and established bonsai. My friend and bonsai mentor has experienced this problem this spring in a big way. Here are some pictures of what you hope to never see on your larches.

Cracks in the bark? Curious...

Cracks in the bark? Curious…

    Bark flakes away easily revealing...

Bark flakes away easily revealing…

    Large dead sections where the borer has been snacking.

Large dead sections where the borer has been snacking. You can even see the borer’s tunnel. Sawdust is a characteristic sign of borers.

    Another old, established larch with some cringe-inducing borer damage.

Another old, established larch with some cringe-inducing borer damage.

 

    It is difficult to see in this picture, although the borer trail extends well down the trunk leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

It is difficult to see in this picture, although the borer trail extends well down the trunk leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

 

Fortunately these trees have not yet shown any signs of branch dieback due to the borer damage, although the scars alone are rage-inducing. He treated the infected trees according to Nick Lenz’s prescription outlined in his book.

While I have not personally seen borer damage on my larches, my friend’s experience here has definitely raised my level of vigilance and hopefully yours as well.


Wiring a special Larix laricina (American Larch)

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).

After several hours of wiring (branches will not be placed until winter is definitely gone).

Photoshop: if this was my tree (which is isn't), I would seriously consider shortening the apex.