Friday, March 6, 2015

Take time to make time

Why is time always such a big deal?......I often hear people complaining they don't have time to care for their trees.  Or as an excuse to shortcut a task and perform it incorrectly.  We've all done both. This post is to encourage you to make time and to take your time.  I'm up this morning before work..daily at 4:30am most days.  But specifically today to remove wire from this nice old Black pine.  It's taking an hour per branch.  Why you ask?!  Because someone wired it quickly and carelessly years ago. Take the time now or spend it later.   As time goes on, it grows in value.  Spend it wisely now or pay the price for it later.  Another time related discipline I try to observe is to work only necessary tasks and then for the higher quality trees first, and work my way down the ladder so to speak.  Subject for another day. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Out of season, but a good reference for decandling's winter I know.  But this just seemed like good info.  


People are often perexed by how to properly decandle a Japanese Black Pine.  Below is the technique I have been using for several years with great success.  It was put together by a friend of mine who no longer does bonsai but was formerly a graduate of Boons intensive programs.  Year over year proper application produces results.  It must be practiced consistently though.
Healthy pine foliage:

 Use the tip of the shear not the entire blade and make the cut level and clean at the neck above last years needles.
Timing for this work is important.  Growing season length and the size of the tree are key variables.  Do it earlier in cooler climates and for larger it later for shohin or for warmer climates.  In indianapolis for shohin I usually decandle in early to mid June.  Although this past years cold cloudy and rainy summer left me with runty needles.  

Leave a little stub of this years shoot for strong areas....cut flush in the rest of the areas.  This tricks the tree into thinking the shoot is sti there and buds will form a little later in the strong areas.  They will form faster in the weak/medium areas in response to having te entire shoot removed.

I usually pluck in mid to late winter...simply because I have more time available for this task.  But really it can be done anytime.  Below is the technique.

Here's a before and after using this technique for about 4.5 years.

The lower branch needs pluck but overall not a bad bit of progress for what is supposed to be a "difficult" species. Hogwash.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn and Bonsai...tis the season to plan ahead

Every season in bonsai brings something enjoyable.  Seasons also bring unique threats that we should understand and prepare to prevent...note the difference between preparation and reaction.  .  Activities geared toward  putting trees down for the winter successfully are essential for a good growing season next year and an enjoyable Autumn.   Activities associated with winter should begin in about September... at least for me in Indy.  So, here are  a few fall color shots of a nice root over rock Japanese Maple along with my fall fungicide/winter prep regimen complete with some whys and wherefores.

1) Fungicide: Of course I am spraying monthly during the growing season but fall is particularly cool and wet creating a great opportunity for fungus to take hold and weaken trees. Some fungi will not emerge as an obvious threat until spring when it wakes up. Juniper tip blights such as phomopsis or kabatina are good examples (copper is great but mancozeb is best).  Starting in mid September lasting though mid November I use a weekly application alternating between Daconil & Liquid Copper.   Using a 1.5 gallon pump sprayer I add 3 TBSP of either..not both.  I prefer to spray late in the day to avoid any sunburn.  Both chemicals need about 4 hours to dry.  So, check your weather.  And yes that is like EIGHT 6-8 applications of fungicide.  I am not a fan of a preventive systemic.  If something slips past my nuclear arsenal I will use propaconozol most of the time.

My last fungicide spray is with Lime sulfur/Copper mix.  This is the Bordeaux mix.  I do this when I am bringing trees in for the winter....a final time usually around Thanksgiving.

Spray the outer canopy, but do not forget to spray inside the canopy and direct your nozzle upwards to the underside of branches.

2) Fertilizing. Continue to fertilize. I use alfalfa tea with seaweed and fish which are relatively well balanced overall.  I have not read anything yet that compells me to switch to 0-10-10 for my trees in autumn.  Keep it simple.

3) Clean your overwintering area.  For some its outdoors, for others an unheated garage.  Either way clean it.  This means getting leaves, debris and any insects out of the way.  Spray the area with copper & malthion...I winter in a garage and do use a mild insecticide in the nooks and crannies.  I also wipe down overwintering tables.

4) Clean your trees.  Remove all the leaves from deciduous trees and any old fertilizer cakes from everything.  I use a toothbrush and soapy water with a little vinegar to clean the trunks of my deciduous trees.

5) Make your check list. Is there room for your trees?  Can they be accessible to you?  Is the cover for your winter home in good condition? Do heaters work?  If you winter in a garage, do you have good ventilation?  This is essential for keeping trees dormant and fungal diseases at bay.  More on that later.

So, that's it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Large Scots pine reworked

Happy 2014!  I hope everyone and their trees are coping with the weather.  Like everywhere else, Indy has been especially cold.  I call this tree my tri state pine, because in the three years I've had it, it's resided in three states.  First in Oklahoma, then to Geneva, Illinois for 2 years and now in The Indianapolis area for the last year..  I've spent the last couple weeks every morning at 4:30am working an hour at a time wiring the scots pine featured below.  Why an hour??  Well I have a day job but also because its been only 35f in my garage.  Perfect for dormant trees but not so much for fingertips. Here's a preview......

I purchased this tree in Tulsa Oklahoma in June 2010.  It had been somewhat neglected for various reasons.  The owner realized this and agreed to sell me the tree.  Soil was compacted, the pot was small, the foliage was out of balance and it had grown a bit scraggly as you can see below.  

Once the tree had been pruned selectively and fed properly for a season I moved the tree into a slightly larger wooden box.  The old soil had compacted and had large pockets of dry areas within the root mass where numerous roots had died.  I used a mix of pumice and akadama.

For my 40th birthday Jennifer surprised me with a day long 1on1 workshop with Ryan Neil.  Ryan worked all day to complete the first styling below.

After the styling with Ryan full sun and heavy feeding produced healthy growth and back budding.  I removed the wire mid winter 2012. 

You will notice that the first branch has been removed. For about 18 months I soaked on how I wanted to see the tree, and whether that branch fit the image. Then, one day I came home from work and "snip/snap" it was done.    It made an instant improvement in the tree.

So, lots more sun and fertilizer in 2013 continued to help the tree along its path of development. Below is the result of the 2nd styling which I completed in January 2014.

While in this summer visiting nurseries with friends led by Peter Warren, I found the right pot at Shunkaen, and Mr. Kobayashi made me a generous deal on it.  I wound up carrying it on the plane ride home as it would not fit in my suitcase.  The pot is an older Chinese pot, which is now beginning to develop a decent patina.


Thanks for reading and keeping up with my neglected blog. In my next post I will feature some of my observations from this summers trip to Japan...Stay Tuned!!

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.