Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Benefits of the Sun

In only about a week the benefits of that glowing ball of fire in the sky we call the Sun can be seen all around us.
The birds are singing, insects are emerging, flowers are pushing through and buds on trees are opening. Just look at these;

Japanese Katsura Tree
Cercidiphylum japonicum

Flowering Currant Bush
Ribes sanguineum

Winter Hazel
Corylopsis spicata

This morning I took a look at one one of the Mugo Pines that is receiving the poly treatment, to see if there were any signs of root activity on this particular tree.
In the following photo, you can see new roots around 3 inches long (7.5 cms) emerging from the trunk where I have teased the substrate away. This Mugo Pine is one that arrived having no roots earlier this year which I mentioned in my post "My last post for a few days".

Here is how it arrived (image right).

As you can see great care had been taken to ensure the tree had a good root ball to sustain it after collection. NOT!
This tree had just been ripped off the mountain 

And here are the new roots (below) indicating that this tree may now be on the right path. There is still a long way to go just yet, as these may be being generated by residual energy in the tree. However one thing in my favour, is that from my experiences with working with Mugo Pine over many years, is that I know it is the easiest pine to air layer or make roots as a raft' of all the pines readily available to me i.e. from Europe, UK and Japan. So from this I know they put out root readily and hopefully this may be the species specific attribute of this tree that saves it.

Image left; 
Only small beginning's I know, but it is a start.
However it is important to not get too carried away at this point because the residual energy in trees can be quite amazing. I have a lot of experience with Mugo Pine and they can do things that are unreal!.
As an example I have removed a major branch on a Mugo Pine during a One to One workshop held here in September one year. The branch was put on my compost pile along with other plant cuttings. In March the following year, when I went to add some more trimmings to the pile, I noticed the buds on the amputated branch extending. Now that is residual energy.
It also goes some way to explain how unscrupulous collectors can collect a Mugo Pine, and give the potential customer the sales talk it was collected threes years ago. When in fact it has not even been collected a year. The problem is, the tree looks healthy and if you are not experienced you are not to know!  
I think I can confidently say that I have learned so much from working with ancient yamadori than any other aspect of bonsai, although I continue to learn in all areas and it is this constant learning that fires my interest. Working with regular trees, by that I mean 20 year old imported White Pines or trees collected in forestry plantations etc can only prepare you so much for working with ancient collected trees. At the end of the day all the theory in the world can't beat hands on experience. And it is amazing how much information in print is actually wrong. This is possibly due to people generalising when imparting information, a blanket statement covers all idea. E.G. pines retain needles for three years. Some species for 5. From that  you know they have never studied Mugo Pines centuries old.
In the days when I bred and lectured on breeding birds of prey, artificial incubation and artificial insemination, similar things occurred. Over night experts would make sweeping statements on various topics immediately labelling everything similar. If they succeeded at something once, they thought they had it in the bag and if they couldn't do something then it couldn't be done.
However my way was if I have done something and been successful, then I needed to do it again and again to prove it to myself before broadcasting it to the world. And likewise if I failed to do something I would not say this or that can't be done. I would 'say as yet I have not been successful at this'. And I would persevere.
Something like this happened when I introduced Taiwan Junipers to the UK. Nobody could maintain the adult foliage on them which looks just like chinensis foliage. People would treat them in ways not suitable to that species and so they would revert to juvenile foliage rapidly. Because of this, many people in possession of Taiwan Junipers could be seen on various 'tinterweb' forums extolling the virtues of the deadwood and decrying the quality of the foliage. Many well known names have been party to this declaring that they will have to graft their junipers with Itoigawa instead. Well they grew well in Taiwan and for me in the UK, so why couldn't these guys just say ' do you know what, I really struggle with those Taiwan Junipers'. But of course it saves face to say they cant be grown in Europe.
If I can impart one piece of advice today it would be try to learn about the characteristic's or idiosyncrasy's of the species you keep. By that I mean Itoigawa Juniper, Sabina, Taiwan Juniper, Blaaws Juniper look similar. There are some  characteristic's which they share and where they are similar. But there are some characteristic's that are species specific.
Likewise Mugo, Scots, White Pine, Black Pine, Red Pine etc are all pines and therefore some characteristics they share or are very similar and some characteristic's are species specific. And remember, a 25 year old tree is not a 525 year old tree.

On the subject of ancient trees here are some images of some old Scots Pines I have coming. ENJOY!

Fabulous bark quality.

Nice powerful and compact tree with great bark quality.

Interesting movement!

And finally this Sabina Juniper.

This one is a little different from many of the other Sabina Junipers I have sourced as there is not at first glance any obvious movement or lots of natural deadwood. 

It is the power and compactness of this tree that interests me. It is different!.
In this close up you can see that actually there is movement and I think this will be something a bit different when it is styled.
I wonder what surprises are hidden away waiting to be exposed.


  1. Hi Steve have the trees arrived yet?

  2. Yes 'Anonymous' the new trees are here plus a second lot. Steve