This post is just going to cover all the stuff I’ve been working on the past week. I’m going to New York in 4 days so I wanted to get my plants worked before I left. Let’s look at some pictures.
A Buttonwood. Its finally warm enough at night to defoliate these trees and I’ve been itching to start. Here it was when I received it; a year ago.
It was repotted, and the angle slightly changed to make it more of a semi-cascade. The soil it was in was very degraded, and it really badly needed to be repotted into new soil. The mix used for Buttonwood, well this one, is the standard FL mix (red lava, Turface, pine bark 1:1:1) and Miracle-Gro potting soil 1:1.
Buttonwood grow in and near water, primarily on the shores, and they root directly in water. Its impossible to over-water a Buttonwood, so the more moisture your mix holds the better, but because its in a pot we still want to develop fine roots, and that’s why the bonsai soil is added.
As always, defoliate first. Normally I would just pull leaves off but some of these smaller branches would break if I didn’t use a scissor.
The leaf stems are pretty thick. Plus using the scissor was pretty relaxing. It took the “chore” feeling of pulling leafs and added that sense of calm and relaxation. But it did take 3x as long to defoliate. But when you’ve got beer and nowhere to go, who cares.
It has an odd branch structure, but it looks natural. If this was seen in the wild, I would imagine it sitting on the edge of a canal hanging down towards the water. It would make sense that the branches on top grow up, and as they aged fell over. The cascading side was growing down the canal edge and when it met the water it started reaching back up for the light. You’ll see this all the time along the shores of rivers.
After a little bit of wiring and some pruning. I kind of used most of my wire on this tree. It looks a little funny now, but this is the first time its been wired and it will be continued to be worked on this year. I’ll sort it all out once its grown some more. Hopefully I’ll get some buds that will give me new options. Here’s a shot of the shari.
Its very natural looking, but it could use some lime sulphur but I don’t have any.
My post about my cuttings being developed for Mame talked about Fuller’s Earth. This is a product called ThriftySorb which is Fuller’s Earth and had been soaking in water for 4 days.
That is what it will do inside of your bonsai pot. And to further my point I will make my hands messy and show you how mushy this stuff becomes.
And this is Turface that was soaking just as long. Unsieved.
But people will tell you online that Turface breaks down too quickly and do what the Fuller’s Earth did. I don’t buy it. I also tested Oil DRI with these but didn’t mush it up in my fingers because I already know it breaks down. It did hold up slightly better than Fuller’s Earth though but I still would never recommend it to anyone.
This is the NAPA Floor Sweep which is so coveted by those who do not like Turface. Stark white, very powdery out of the bag, says Diatomite Absorbant right on the front and very lightweight. I have been after it for a while because I have a hard time finding Turface locally, I haven’t found it anywhere outside of bonsai nurseries. The nearest NAPA store isn’t too close either, but the bag costs $7.49 or something like that, so I picked up 5 bags to compensate for the half hour drive.
And I incorporated it in my newest batch of soil mix. Its Turface, DE, Red Lava, Soil Perfector, and Pine Bark. The Soil Perfector is an expanded slate product made by the Espoma brand. If you want a bag of it ordered through Walmart, you’ll be spending $36 for 27lbs. There’s a BWI depot in Apopka that sells the bags for $10, so I plan on making a trip to pick up several bags. I also want to pick up some expanded shale. The slate is more of a blue-gray…slate….color and the shale is more of a purple.
I think the whiteness is toned down by the Soil Perfector and Turface. Adam calls it “The Superman” mix because of the red and blue.
While I let the mix dry after washing it I decided to work on my little Brazilian Rain Tree.
Its been growing a lot this year. I’ve already defoliated and cut back once. It needs to be repotted.
The roots are so dense that I needed to use this little tool. Idk what they call it but its shaped like a sickle. Maybe they call it a root sickle.
After cutting around the pot and prying the tree out.
That’s a lot of roots.
Its not a Ficus so I’m going to keep some roots.
And this was the front. Not much movement or spread.
Looking for a better base.
I like this but it presents problems with the original design, which was nothing special anyhow. So I decided to go with this and restyle the tree.
The real problem is the apex is running away from the front and the branches are out of whack. The first branch is too far in your face and covering the trunk and the branch on the right is now too far back.
First things first, remove stuff that is growing up, down and backward.
The branch behind this is coming from the same junction as the other so I decided it should come out.
Then to address the branches on the right.
And the top. I need to find an apex that makes sense. For movement and taper.
So I am taking all of this off using my concave cutter.
After wiring and cutting back.
What’s missing is a back branch. And I’m hoping to build one from here where the little bud is.
The next project was to repot and do an initial styling on a big purple bougainvillea that has been mutilated by bore worms and has been declining. I didn’t take any before pictures because I wanted to tackle this and get it done.
Nearly half of the trunk is dead. When I repotted I found that thethere was only roots on one half. I also found out it was growing in dirt straight from the ground. The sandy dirt here in Florida if you just dug a hole and poured it into a pot. Not good for potted plants.
Hopefully the tree will continue on living and I’ll be able to do something good with it. Only time will tell.
This is a Jaboticaba I received from Jim V. The pot was the home of a lantana he had which died from an unknown virus.
And this is how I recieved the Jaboticaba.
Somewhat of a slanted literati. I let this tree grow and get healthy before I repotted it. At the same time I did some styling work.
So its done a lot of growing and so have the weeds in the pot.
Nice root systems on these weeds. Cool.
The last thing I’ll be doing is cleaning out these dead roots and some minor pruning.
This is how I’ll leave the tree. It seems to be too high in the pot and coming a bit too far forward. The organic soil mix it was in was not the best quality, so I didn’t prune the roots heavily. Once these roots get healthy I’ll manage it down into the pot more. The apex will be reduced in the future as well.
Most of my trees are project trees and I like that. I believe it makes you a better grower and artist to build a tree rather than buy and refine. Maybe that’s just me making an excuse to compensate. We all gotta start somewhere and I don’t have enough money to spend on bonsai to purchase fine trees, but I have enough life in me to grow fine trees.
This is a small Chinese Tallow, a deciduous pest tree here in the Southeast. It has beautiful leafs and a nice red color on the new growth. When the tree ages it also develops a beautiful cragged bark as well. You’ll see them fairly often as yard trees, but they’re usually quite large because its now illegal to cultivate or sell. They’re prolific seeders but mine is young and has never seeded.
The problem with this species for bonsai is the winter dieback. As far as I know, there is no way to control the dieback either. I’m going to try and withdraw water this coming winter season to see how it affects the dieback. I’m not expecting much to change.
When I first purchased the tree I potted it as an upright.
The only branch to survive the first dieback process was the left branch. The apex didn’t die all the way the the left branch, but back to the trunk line. Because that branch was the only live branch, I decided to start a slant. A year later, and one more session of dieback. I’ve again lost my apex.
Subsequently, the branch being used as a side branch near the apex is too thick and growing in the wrong direction. And another problem is that this tree is technically not shohin because the length is out of the 8 inch restriction, meaning this a pitiful chuhin. Also just look at this long empty space here.
You get where I’m going with this right?
Normally a bonsai artist would be using jin pliars, but I don’t have any. So I’ll use some regular pliars. Chomp chomp chomp.
And some wire to hold the jin in place.
Bad picture oh well.
Next up is a Ficus Salicaria clump.
The clump came to me from Ron Miller last year when me and Jim V. were doing visits to his house and working with him through his collection. The only major work that has been done to it since its been in my care was removing a few trunks, adjusting trunk heights, and wiring some trunks to straighten them. Over the winter it took some frost damage from within my greenhouse. My weatherforcast said 34°F low and in actuality it was 27°F; I didn’t turn my heater on. I also left the wire on the trees to long and a bit in pretty deep and caused some severe stress.
You can see the tallest trunk is a lot thinner than the others, it was the most stressed. All I did was defoliate and trim, remove unnecessary branches; that sorta thing. I think in the future the front may be rotated just a bit like so.
That’s a tall tree ain’t it? I like it. It was suggested to separate the trees and make a literati out of that tallest tree, which would be cool if they were seperate trunks, but it is a root clump.
The trees are all rooted together. It would ruin any sort of nebari the trunks had if I separated them. I would have to saw. Like I said though, I like the clump style and the height.
These were my real big projects but I worked through most of my stuff. Plus if I keep adding to this blog post its going to be so long that you won’t finish the sentence and on that note. Peace y’all.