Friday, 19 April 2013

It's been a long time coming!

Following on from yesterdays blog, I would like to say a little more about the pines that I have wrapped in polythene. In simple terms it is a way to increase the heat in the substrate to stimulate root movement (growth). It is not to force root growth or to produce roots rapidly on mass.
I see many times talk of hot beds and such and their use for months on end. Which is simply forcing growth with the associated problems. It is important not to push trees like hot house flowers, as this simply means you are generating rapid but weak growth. We want to stimulate our trees to perform naturally not force them, and their is a big difference.

This technique is not something that I would do necessarily with all of my collected trees. This treatment is problem specific. In the case of these Mugo Pines we a have a little root/no root scenario and unusually very low seasonal temperatures. Trees are stimulated by temperature and lengthening photo period. Here we are experiencing the longer daylight hours (lengthening photo period) but not the associated warmth. So one of our triggers for normal growth is currently missing.
It is important here to mention that the polythene should be removed to remove condensation build up and that of stale air. These are good growing conditions for less desirable things like moulds, fungus etc. So it is important to monitor what you do.

 It's been a long time coming but we are at last experiencing some sun. Or should I say, we are where I live.
In this photograph taken yesterday 18/04/2013 
you can see how the moisture evaporating from the substrate due to the warmth of the sun is trapped inside the poly bag.
This means that humidity will be higher than outside the bag. However it must not be allowed to become stale. High humidity and non circulating air can work against you.

Using a laser thermometer I can at a glance check/record the temperature of the tree. A probe thermometer can record temperature deep into the substrate. Over time with practise you can quickly ascertain not only what temperature the tree is at but also what is a good range for your needs depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Here the trunk was reading 73F in the sun, the substrate surface was 97F, the internal temperature of the substrate was 68-69F. The most important temperature however was the surface of the needles, these were around 58-59F, so much cooler even though in the sun. This is what I wanted. It is important when acclimating or in this case re acclimating pines, that the needles are cool. WHY? Well if they are cool then it means that transpiration is taking place which of course cools the needles. The same would apply to taxus or junipers in fact any non deciduous conifer. So it is a good indicator at that given time, that the trees system is functioning. With the pine in the photo, had the foliage been up in the high 60's or worse 70's then you have an indicator, thanks to Mother Nature, that all is not well as the tree is struggling to transpire. When the tree is operating as it should, water should be evaporating from the needles of the pine. It is this water leaving the needles through evaporation that keeps them cool.
One of the greatest things about nature that I have found whether growing trees, breeding birds of prey or parrots, breeding reptiles or whatever. Is that nature provides all the clues, the signals and all the answers. You just need to be receptive, because it is all there in front of you. 
Having an empathy with nature is a great asset. 

The Mugo Pine here in this wooden box has had the polythene removed for an hour to allow fresh air around the tree and to dry off the polythene.

Here you can see that the wax coating of the bud is breaking down and that the bud is swelling. This action is stimulated by warmer temperatures.

This past week I have done my fair share of driving and flying. Last weekend found me in South Wales. On Saturday I had the pleasure of staying with Jeremy and Emma Wheeler as Jerry had booked my for a One to One workshop. We had a great time and it was nice to see that Jerry was ready to get back into bonsai in earnest after his long commitments to his studies. As usual with Jerry there were lots of questions. We had a great time talking about everything from bonsai and collecting trees to reptiles, parrots and keeping Sloths as pets?

Yes we covered some varied topics during our discussions which went on late into the evening. But what do you expect in a house where there is a Leopard Tortoise using a dog bed in the kitchen. I was in my element !

I can highly recommend Emma's chicken dish too. So an all round good experience for me.
Thanks Jerry and Emma for your hospitality and for making me feel welcome.

Sunday morning saw me at Dragon Bonsai based at Chris Thomas's nursery. This was my first time at Dragon and so I was interested in seeing how the day would unfold. Chris has got a great group down there, not too big, but with everyone committed.

On the left, you can see some of the 'Usual Suspects'.

The idea behind my visit was for members to bring trees along and for me to answer any questions they may have and also to give my thoughts on each tree, almost like a critique. After lunch we touched on how I develop and prep a tree ready for exhibiting. Due to time constraints it was difficult to go into great detail here, but I hoped I gave them enough to go away and think about. It was an interesting experience for me, as the group has both Japanese imported trees and native species and there is a lot of collecting of native species going on within the group which is encouraging.

On the morning I arrived at the Dragons Den', Chris had put on a display, I am not sure if it was for my visit or something that happens whenever they meet. But it was a nice Larch planting on a slab in three pieces which Chris puts together for display purposes. But which breaks down into three more manageable pieces for transporting.
The slab/slabs were created by ceramic artist Dan Butler who is a young member of Dragon Bonsai and I am sure a welcome member and asset. One to watch for the future!

Can you tell from this photo that the the slab is in three pieces.
All the Larches were collected locally and developed by Chris.

I hope everyone got something out of the day and hopefully people got to see or got a feel for my approach to bonsai. Hopefully feedback will be favourable. If nothing else, everyone made my first visit very enjoyable and I was made most welcome. This is a group that has great potential and I really enjoyed myself.

I left Dragon late afternoon and made the long, nearly three hour drive home. It helped that it is a lovely scenic route starting through Llandovery, touching the Brecons and then the book town of Hay on Wye. With mountains, rivers and trees on route and glimpses of Red Kites and Buzzards adding to my enjoyment. I would be touching base at home only for a few hours before another three hour drive to Gatwick Airport in the early hours and then off to Spain to visit friends, reserve new yamadori, to check on trees reserved last year and to relax. I have to admit I slept the whole flight there and missed breakfast.

Spain this trip turned out to be very hot in the high 20'sC. However I had been pre warned it would be hot. So did I go in tee shirt, shorts and sun glasses. No! I roasted.
When you are confronted by lots of yamadori, it is difficult to focus on anything else. Well it is for me! But I did mange to turn around on the spot every few minutes to make sure I cooked evenly all over, shit it was hot! I felt like a McDonald's quarter pounder without the bap!

It was great to catch up on what is happening in Spain which is a very bonsai active country. And of course it is very nice to see how your trees are doing that you reserved the year before. Spain of course has it own set of problems for growing trees and specifically for establishing collected material. Strong winds can desiccate foliage, high temperatures coupled with low humidity are a big problem and of course they have low temperatures in winter. Also a big problem in the area that I was in is that the water from the tap is very hard. So when misting collected trees they soon get covered with calcium deposits, which although may look attractive on the pines with their newly acquired silver bark. But it also clogs up pores slowing transpiration. Rain water if possible, is the best way to go.

The bark quality on this Quercus faginea is undeniable.
However it is not silver naturally, this is build up from the hard water.

Compare the bark on this Oak right, to the one above left. It has the same fabulous character and quality but this one has its natural colour.
Quercus faginea is great for the UK as it  tolerates freezing conditions much better than it's more popular cousin Quercus suber the Cork Bark Oak which is more tender in winter and must be protected far more. The Portuguese Oak has a great future in the UK for anyone interested in deciduous trees with 'real' age, character and potential for great bonsai.

On my last trip I secured a lot of top quality Sabina Junipers and it was good to see them all growing strong. There were only two which looked slightly pale green in colour and so obviously not fully established yet, and so these will be left at least one more growing season to give them time to pick up.  Here are just a few images of some Sabina's that will be arriving soon.

This juniper is a nice compact chuhin size. Lovely natural deadwood.
This will make a superb powerful little bonsai of great character.

Great natural movement is just one of the qualities of these junipers.

Again, compact movement and fabulous deadwood in a nice chuhin size.

Here is a more elegant juniper juniper, with graceful movement but again characterised by wonderful deadwood and fabulous compact foliage. Think European Itoigawa and your close to the mark.

For those of you who prefer deciduous trees or who simply love to see flowers, these Malus 'Evereste'  would be a lovely addition to any collection.
Enjoy this close up of the flowers.

These wonderful little apple trees would add interest and brighten up any garden. If anyone is interested in owning one of these, please get in touch. I think they will be a popular alternative to imported Crab Apples. I love them!

Earlier I mentioned the bark quality and temperature tolerance of the Portuguese Oak Quercus faginea. So it only seems right that I show you a couple that I have on their way to me soon.

 I think the photo says it better than I could.
Can't wait!

All of the Oaks have 'real' age as opposed to the implied age that we inflict upon many of our trees.
The bark quality speaks for itself. With a little cosmetic carving to blend in some of the cut ends, these will make incredible bonsai for the future.
This one on the right is only propped up to stop it falling over. This is not the intended planting angle. (I have to mention it just in case you all think I have completely lost the plot).

I have some other deciduous trees arriving soon which you would probably not associate me with as people tend to 'pigeon hole' me as the pine guy or the juniper guy which is a bit short sighted. Ten years ago I was the maple guy so it just shows how peoples perceptions change over time.
I have bought some nice pieces of Pomegranate Punica granatum var. Neji - Kan. which are raw material
These are not advanced trees or polished bonsai. They are raw material with great potential for people to develop themselves.

This one stands over two feet high and shows great potential.
Once they arrive I will go over them and prune for branch line and branch taper and then they will be ready to go.
I am actually very excited by some of the deciduous trees that are coming. I feel that now as more people have a better understanding of how to develop deciduous trees in the UK, that people are not simply looking for that finished tree. Instead they derive satisfaction from developing trees from an early stage up to show level.
Unfortunately I don't have the time at home to develop deciduous trees to a high level of refinement at the moment. But who knows what the future holds.
It needs someone like Terry Adams (Swindon BS) to develop one of these so that people can see first hand what can be achieved and to hopefully be inspired.

Well you all 'pigeon hole' me, so I could not really finish on a deciduous tree now could I.
So to finish, here is a .......................wait for that should be here in the next week or two.

This is a Phoenicia Juniper Juniperus Phoenicia that I have bought as a demo tree. Actually that is not quite true. Its a tree to use for a demo, but then later to sell. It is quite a large piece, at least 6 inches diameter at the nebari. (Usually at times like this when I want to emphasise the size or calliper of a tree. I say something on the lines of as thick as your wrist or as thick as a mans thigh. But I was recently asked by Dave Martin if there was some man fetish that I was hiding). So 6 inch diameter it is..............for now.

Here is a close up of the trunk.
As you can see there is a lot of nice natural deadwood thanks to Mother Nature who is the best bonsai artist ever.
The wood of Phoenicia Juniper is particularly hard, much harder in fact than Sabina Juniper. A trait it shares with a close relative Juniperus oxycedrus. For this reason, the wood will last a long time with proper care and maintenance.

Here is a nice close up of the deadwood.
Because the wood of Phoenicia Juniper is hard, branch bending must be approached with sympathy and good technique. There is no room for the macho approach.
The foliage on collected specimens is quote open and in some ways reminiscent of some of the junipers found in the USA. However good maintenance and technique will see the foliage tighten over time. But it will never be as tight as Itoigawa or even Sabina Juniper. But then Procumbens or Sargentii are not as tight either. So think of Phoenicia as offering something different. Personnally I can't wait. I have not brought in any Phoenicia Junipers for 4 years.

And to finish todays entry, here is a view of a distant mountain.
How easily it could be a Seigaku - Ishi suiseki from Dave Sampson. Enjoy!

'Malus Evereste' (correct spelling now).
On their own roots not grafted!

1 comment:

  1. Good to see the mugos pulling through, and heading in right direction
    Seems people cant co-exist without labelleing or stereotyping unfortunately that's the negative side of human nature.
    What ever they think you are a top class bonsai artist - infact one of Europes best, that goes without saying
    as for deciduous trees well they should spend more time at your nursery, clearly they have missed opportunity to buy and style some great yamadori deciduous trees with you. Anyway If they need any further evidence go ahead and show them the work you did on the hawthorn in our one to one recently. Fantastic, can't wait to get it home! Have a great weekend and birthday
    Neil M.