Tuesday, January 30, 2007

6 Cold Days

It has been 6 days with tempuratures from 2C to -4C, since I posted the picture of the Elm bud(last entry). The bud is fine! I expected it to be withered and dead, but the cold has done nothing to it, yet.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Official Opening of Buds/Blog

Yay! It is leaf break! This is a Chinese Corkbark Elm. My Japanese Maples are starting to go as well.

I had planned on starting this blog with the first bud break. Here we are! The reason I started the blog early was so it would have some content right from the official opening.

I got this elm from a club member. She gave it to me because I had lost a big elm that summer. I have planted this elm in my garden and I am just going to let it grow. When the trunk is around two inches I will cut it back hard, that should be in two or three years.

Grow a bonsai from seed kit

Grow your own bonsai from seed kits are ridiculous. This is because they give the impression that you can actually obtain a bonsai from seed quickly. The book which comes with the kit is very vague, an introduction to bonsai only. Seedlings don't need to be repotted, trimmed or wired.
What one needs to know about growing bonsai from seed is how to a) care for a seedling and b) develop good stock.
a) seedlings in crummy peat pellets are prone to drying out, or being drowned. This is because of the peat - it is either bone dry, or saturated. It doesn't spend much time slightly moist, what plants like. I suggest potting soil because people know how to keep plants alive in potting soil, or sand/gravel because the is what the seedling would want.
b) nebari and trunk girth are what is important about stock. The seedling has to be root trained by planting it on top of a flat surface, so its roots spread. Good nebari results in a greater trunk girth then a tree with poor nebari. But trunk girth is also obtained by unrestricted growth. This is why a bonsai from seed is a long term project.
Small bonsai from seed - 5 yrs
normal sized bonsai from seed - 12 yrs
large bonsai from seed - 18 yrs

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My List for Spring

I went to my garden and made a list of things I will need to do by the end of April. Of course, many tasks will be added and deleted from this list. But if I have no clear plan I may endanger my plants. I have to:
...make tree growing boxes, benches and tags.
...replant some trees. Some young trees need to be repotted to take advantage of their vigour. The older trees need to be repotted because the soil in the pots has broken down to a level which makes watering difficult.
...dig up some garden growing plants, and pot them.
...dig up some garden growing plants, place a tile under them and re-plant them.
...trim the garden growing plants - no bar branches; trim to promote low branching.
...wire trees!
...clean dead areas on trees - to heal over, or to apply new lime sulphur.
...take cuttings.
...do air layerings when the buds start to swell.
...cultivate mosses.
...purchase soil.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dug up trees

There is construction going on near my house. They are putting up a condo or something. They ravaged most of the plants on the lot, but there were a few left. I have looked at them every day for 3 months. I asked the foreman if I could dig up some of the trees left on the lot. He was more then happy to let me do so so long as I was careful and did not get hurt on his site.

These trees are honeysuckle. They bud back super well from old wood and hard cuts. They also shed bark like mad. Fortunately, they were planted in front of a cement wall. The roots did not have a chance to spread far, but they were deep. I just hacked at the deep roots with my shovel. I took home 4 root balls, which ended up as 6 plants. One is thick (2 1/2 inch), two have nice shape and taper, two have dynamite roots, and the third is pleasantly grotesque. On the last I had to choose between the roots which emerged from the trunk at the surface of the soil, or the the heavier roots from the bottom of the bucket the plant was grown in before planting out. I chose the thick roots, but this leaves me with a bulge where the top roots were.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Alder Leaves

Alder seem to break buds the earliest in Victoria. There was two new leaves on an alder at the club meeting today. The red alder is a native plant. It loves living very close to streams and lakes, ditches and anywhere there is a lot of water. I hypothesize that the water soaked roots warm up faster then regular dirt bound roots. If the plant has evloved to work with water this way, then it would make sense the plant would wake up early in the season even though bonsai alder are not so wet.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cactus Bonsai

I transplanted my cactus into a bonsai pot today. I haven't done any bonsai things for a while and I needed to do something. I thought it may be OK to repot because it is not zero degrees inside the house, where the cactus lives, as it is outside.

The cactus is about 4 inches tall. I found it in a nursery and was attracted to its trunks. There are three of them, growing from an underground root. Honestly, the cactus's canopy is sub par. I put it in a square terracotta pot to signify dessert. I think the pot is good, it promotes mood and it has a squat appearance which seems to work with the plant.

I have no idea how to care for a cactus and to develop canopy and ramification, but I will do my best.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Pots and Spiders

It turns out I have more pots then I thought I had. I had to move them from one outdoor shelf to another and it took a long time! It seems I collect pots just as I collect trees for bonsai. The pots sometimes are used for bonsai, other times I just enjoy the empty pot.
Of course, when you have lots of pots outside, one must be careful to tidy them every so often. I found two large spider nests in my pot collection, as well as several spider egg sacks. It is possible the two live spiders were dangerous. The reclusive and widow spiders around here are dangerous. An upside down liter sized garden pot is about the perfect size and shape for these kinds of spiders; and they will also use smaller and larger spaces, like all of your other pots. Heck, just be careful!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Redwoods growing in Dec and Jan

Today my suspicions are confirmed. My giant redwood is growing right now. Some of the twigs have grown 3cm, other buds are very swollen. I know because I pinched everything back 2 weeks ago when I first noticed it. Now the back buds have swollen and the non-pinched areas are the 3cm branches.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Mr Miyogi's Bonsai, from The Karate Kid

Mr. Miyagi, of the movie "Karate Kid," is a bonsai enigma.
Mr. Miyagi gave Daniel, the hero of the movie Karate kid one, a bonsai tree. But this occurred on the first meeting of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel. Furthermore, Mr. Miyagi offered Daniel a tree for his mother, someone he had never met.
Mr. Miyagi had eight trees visible in the movie. Since he was an apartment building manager, I assume this was his whole collection. I do not understand why Mr. Miyagi was so generous with his bonsai "children." I thought he must have hated some trees and wanted to get rid of them; but he actually gave Daniel a choice of what trees to take. Whatever, Mr Miyagi.
Also, in the third movie Mr. Miyagi takes his prized bonsai and plants it in the wild, in a deep crevasse by the sea shore. Daniel tries to recover this masterpiece left by Miyagi years ago, only to drop the tree in seawater. Miyagi nurses the tree back to health, as any bonsai adept could do.
My Question is: what would you do with your best bonsai when you are perfectly healthy and have lots of time but no-longer want to do bonsai? I bet that bonsai would go to a good home and artist, and would not be abandoned in the wild.
This also shows Daniel had no clue about bonsai: a bonsai tree with 5 year wild/field growth, and it's a pine - this would not fetch a good price on any market. The branches would be leggy.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Potting/Nursery Soil Rant

Potting soil is not good for bonsai. A flower requires a good growing medium which will be thrown out in three months. Ta da, we have potting soil. It is a mix of sand and peat with a bit of fertilizer. Peat is dead moss. Roots find it easy to grow in this mixed medium, especially the freshly transplanted flowers. As moss is an organic compound and it has no cellulose structure it breaks apart over about 8 months. It breaks apart because of swelling and drying out, as well as through natural decay processes. The broken bits filter in between the sand and plug up the spaces. Water no longer flows through the soil watering the roots of the plant in it. Water pools on the top and seeps down the insides of the pot. What little water does make it inside the tight packed soil mass does not evaporate quickly and promotes rotting of the root. Of course rotting roots are bad, so potting soil is therefore bad too.
Nursery soil is about the same but the soil mixture includes a substantial portion of bark. Too much bark promotes too much moisture. As well, the high proportion of bark means a lot of organic material is breaking down at the same time. The bark is composed of cellulose, it has a harder structure which takes about 1 year to become compacted.
The solution to a plant in a compacted soil is to transplant the tree when the tree is healthy and vigorous. If it is not the right time for transplanting, the plant's soil should be fully immersed in water occasionally. Keep the plant's soil underwater until it stops bubbling.