Monday, June 10, 2013

Time is on your side...if you can slow down

Being able to think about time in a different manner than most people is an essential skill in bonsai.  The payback on some actions often will not be evident until some time down the road.  I think part of this skill is gained once you realize that you are working within a bandwidth dictated by the natural pace of growth and no faster.  Once you can settle into the seasonal rythm of the way trees grow and really understand it...progress comes quickly, relatively speaking ;)  Learn to let your trees grow and adjust your thinking to the pace at which they grow.  Slow down your pace to make quick progress.  In many ways bonsai has some benefits to other parts of life.  Not being reliant upon instant gratification can have many benefits.

Besides that, just letting a tree grow takes discipline. Doing NOTHING is tough and does require some restraint and self-discipline. In the end you can accomplish more by doing NOTHING.  For me...a slightly OCD and task oriented person this was hard to grasp. Now that I have it, its wonderful.

Below are a couple of my trees that can illustrate this point.  I call it the three year rule.  I think at a minimum it takes three years to begin seeing the fruits of your good decisions.  I've had each of them for about three and a half growing seasons and have patiently applied a solid seasonal regimen and its now paying off with strong healthy trees that are reaching their potential.

This is a fairly old Japanese black pine.  It was loose in the pot but had terrible drainage, dull needle 
color and no back budding.  I repotted the tree and found poor roots.
I left the tree to grow wild for a season with no work.....just let it be a tree.  I fertilized heavily and gave it plenty of full sun.

Below the tree is growing vigorously and growing new roots and gaining strength.  

That was two years ago.  Below is this years crop of new shoots. Healthy and green with twice as many growing tips as before.  Next year I will repot and figure out the new planting angle.

Below is a kishu shimpaku which was in horrible soil and had been kept primarily in the shade for years.Gradually it had declined to the state you see below. Pale gray/green and leggy foliage.

The tree had some remaining potential to be rescued in the trunk line.  The first priority was to take the time needed to improve the tree's health.  Fora juniper this involved  getting oxygen and air exchange wihtin the root ball and  getting the tree some much needed sunlight.

The second year I did some basic wiring and compacted the trunk further to reduce the height.

Below is the current state and the tree is on it way 3.5 years later with a brighter future in sight.

Thats it for now, hope you enjoyed and this was some vale for you.

Happy growing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Collected winged elm bonsai development

So, I have now moved both family and collection from Illinois to Indiana.  Its nice to be in a state with a handle on their fiscal affairs and a sense of responsibility towards its citizens.  With the move behind us, and repotting of deciduous trees completed I can make time for a quick post.

This post focusses on the basics of winged elm bonsai.  Below is an article I put together for the most recent Indianapolis Bonsai Club newsletter, along with some photos of a couple of my winged elms.

Hope you enjoy.  By the way...please check my for sale page.  I've added new material and I will be rolling out a new site soon with more content and photos.

I honestly cannot think of better native deciduous material than the winged elm.  They are tough as nails and develop quickly, as you will see in the photos.

The first tree featured spans about 3 years of work.  I will be removing the highest section of deadwood and shortening the canopy this summer.

The crazy root at the left will be coming off.....just in case you thought it looked out of place.

The next tree is truly a beast.  It required 5 hours to collect.  Its been thriving ever since.  I have finally located a decent large pot.  The ree is +/- 40 inches tall and weighs a ton.

As you can hopefully see, these are great trees with loads of character.  I hope you find the article below helpful and possibly applicable to other species of deciduous trees.

Winged elm:
The Winged Elm aka Ulmus Alata is a deciduous species native to the United states.  It ranges from the upper Midwest (Central Illinois/Indiana) into the south and southeast and as far west as Oklahoma.
Aside from the common Chinese Elm, most elms are not typically considered optimal species for bonsai.  Although readily available they are considered a “pioneer species” rife with problems such as branch die back.   When trained properly native elms can be very rewarding.
Placement  & Watering:  Winged elm thrive in full sun but also will tolerate almost any growing condition.  My own winged elms receive full  sun in the heat of summer from sunrise until evening.   Well drained soil and attentive watering are essential.  I generally water only when dry or almost dry.  I water in the morning hours or mid-day primarily because the trees need access to moisture during the hottest part of the day.  If the tree is somewhat dry in the evening I will not water until morning unless it is windy.
Soil:  I prefer a mix free of organic material (turface or akadama or a 50/50 mix).  My “elm mentor” Mike Flanagan has collected this species for 30 years in Central, Oklahoma.  He has successfully relied upon a mix of composted pine bark and haydite.   I also use a top dressing of moss or milled sphagnum moss.  This aids in not only reducing evaporation, but protects the upper +/- 30% of the soil from drying.  This provides a greater volume of growing area within the pot for roots to colonize.  Without the top dressing, that area  would have been unavailable to the root system and likely been home to weeds.
Fertilization:  Winged elms are strong growing and require generous feeding, I use a basic 20-20-20 for developing trees and an organic cake/fish & seaweed for trees in refinement.  The most important feeding is during late summer and Autumn.  Trees build strength and set buds for the next spring.   Fall feeding is especially important if you plan to repot the following spring.
Repotting:  This species needs repotted every 1-2 years.  Failure to repot after 2 years creates the risk of branch die back.  Although I am unsure of the exact horticultural issue, I have learned from experience that branch loss typically occurs in underfed trees and or those that have gone past 2 years without repotting.  I presume that as the roots are constrained, the tree sheds branches that it may not be able to maintain with a restrained root system.
Collecting:  Winged elms can be reliably collected from Late winter through mid-spring with little set back.  Collecting should occur when a hint of  green begins  emerging from the buds at the branch terminals.    Although elms can be pruned hard at the time of collection, its generally better to leave branch terminals intact for 1 year after collecting.  If the tree is responding well it can be pruned and basic styling performed during the summer.  An alternative to pruning at the time of collecting is to hard prune the tree 1 year prior to removing it from the ground.  This gives the tree 1 year to regenerate foliage.  An important concept to remember is that foliage = root growth in deciduous trees!  I have also learned that the winged elm requires light immediately following collection.  In the warmer climate of Oklahoma, elm can be left out doors after collecting.  However in the Midwest they require some shelter from excessive cold.  For many, that is a dark cool garage.   Success is limited in this scenario.

Other techniques:  With proper feeding partial defoliation can be carried out 3 times each summer.  Wiring is generally done in early fall just as leaves have turned yellow.   If pruned & wired in fall, branches will have set by late April.  In order to facilitate  wire removal,  I partially defoliate in May. In June the tree can be rewired & partially defoliated.  Generous feeding, partial defoliation, and a  second wiring allow the grower to rapidly develop their tree to an image of maturity.

With the above techniques very fast progress can be made in development of winged elm bonsai.  The attached photos of these two elms were taken approximately 3 years apart.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year & Welcome Back

Those of you that maintain blogs will understand when I say that it takes some discipline & a little effort to stay current.  I have not been very disciplined to say the least!  To those of you that have followed me, please accept my apologies for my negligent blogging.   

While negligent in my posting, I have been working very hard to improve my skills & build my collection in both number of trees and quality level.

I won't get into "why & how" I became involved with bonsai here. Bonsai provides a literally endless pursuit of excellence, learning, "artisan-ship" & a very unique opportunity to connect with nature in an extremely personal & inspiring way.

A quick Introduction
I've been active in bonsai for approximately 7 years.   For the past 6 years I have studied & worked diligently at Keade Bonsai-En under the direction of my good friend Matt Ouwinga.  Matt is widely considered one of the top bonsai professionals in the US and very likely the paramount expert in Trident Maple culture.  Many people are unaware that Matt also maintains a very sizable collection of specimen quality shohin conifers as well a few flowering and fruiting varieties.  Also found at Kaede Bonsai is very likely one of the best & largest collections of antique Japanese bonsai pottery in the US.

Below are a just a few of my trees pulled randomly from winter storage today for photos. For a close up of the photos just click the picture.

Thanks for looking & please stop back often!

Japanese Black Pine's

A Powerful Little Shohin Trident Maple

One of my oldest winged elms...Ulmus Alata  The absolute best deciduous native species in the my opinion.

Our "Family Tree"  Bougainvillea Glabra after defoliating last year  (Best in show Mid America Exhibiiton 2011, 3rd place Professional Division Mid America Exhibition 2012, Exhibited 3rd Nat'l Exhibition).


Last but especially not least, a photo of one of my ume in bloom.

It takes time to "put one's finger print" on a tree.  When you do, it elevates (hopefully) the tree in both uniqueness of character & in quality.  I hope you enjoy what I'll share with you as I continue to post.

Check the list of links to the right, as I will be offering select items for sale from time to time.