mindGrazing

chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Posts Tagged ‘Bonsai’

Bonsai Non-Failures!

Posted by Jason on March 18, 2009

Ok friends, spring has sprung and it’s time for me to show you some trees I haven’t killed. I’m so stoked at these trees especially, because I tried some things without the immediate help of any mentors, and they’ve all worked out well so far.

First is a couple pictures of a little elm tree that I dug out of my in-laws’ yard (with permission) and unceremoniously plopped into a pot with some potting soil. I pulled all of the leaves off that were on the thing already and cut it back a bit. It was originally about 3 feet tall with a trunk about as thick as my little finger. So it kinda sat around and didn’t do anything while the weather was cold (ya know like 50’s), but in the last couple weeks, the buds have started to swell and voile! Little baby leaves all over the place!

Full shot

Full shot

 

Buds on the Trunk

Buds on the Trunk

Branch Buds

Branch Buds

The next two trees are California Sycamores and they were both stuck in the same 5-gallon pot. I’ve been working the fatter one, chopping it back and trying to make some sense out of it, but I haven’t worked the skinny one at all really. A month or so ago I decided to dig them out of the 5-gallon pot and separate them both into 1-gallons. I found they were joined at the root system, so I basically butchered everything under the soil to get them to fit into the little pots. I wasn’t sure if they would survive, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the little red buds popping off from the trunk. They have and now they are turning into little green leaves. Wahoo! I’m so excited that things are actually working the way that I’ve read they’re supposed to work!

 

Tall and skinny

Tall and skinny

Baby Leaves

Baby Leaves

Now for the fat sycamore.

 

This one has potential!

This one has potential!

Sprouts all over!

Sprouts all over!

They all have several years to go but they’re alive for now!

Posted in Bonsai, California Natives, gardening | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

February 2009 UPDATE: Coast Live Oak

Posted by Jason on February 19, 2009

I cleaned out some of the little branches I know I won’t need later on. I got rid of some of the real strong upper branches in hopes that the lower branches, which need to be thicker and longer, will start growing more vigorously in the coming spring. We have maybe a few more weeks of possible raininess, but it’s already starting to get warmer. New buds are already starting to pop out from the ends of branches, so it’s a good time to do a little bit of selective pruning. 

 

Oakie, thinned out a little bit.

Oakie, thinned out a little bit.

If you click on the picture and view the larger version, you’ll see that some leaves are brown on the edges. I’m not too worried about this. I think the young leaves got scorched when we had a real hot spell in November/December and they didn’t have a chance to harden off before the heat. 

I also removed a lot of the moss around this tree to aid with better drainage and to allow more of the water to be directed to the actual tree. Coast Live Oaks really don’t like to have too much water around and the drainage has to be very good. The moss kinda messes with this and eventually I’ll get rid of it all.

In a couple months, there should be a whole lot more growth and you’ll have another update. Until then!

Posted in Bonsai | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

New Acquisitions in the Bonsai World

Posted by Jason on January 6, 2009

Over the Christmas Break, I got a chance to work for my new buddy Dave and help him trim his hundreds of trees that he’s been propagating for quite a few years now. He’s got a great collection of “real” bonsai in addition to his many starter trees. I got to work on a little bit of everything. For my efforts, Dave hooked me up with some real nice material to augment my collection. The olives are in 1-gallon containers, while the pomegranate and and the big juniper are 5-gallon containers. Click for enlarged pics!
Check out the gnarly base!

Check out the gnarly base!

This olive tree has a really cool base on it. We trimmed him back pretty hard, but he’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure the base gets all giant and gnarly like that from letting some of the suckers grow wild from the bottom, and then chopping them off after they’ve been growing for a while. I still have to do some wiring of the branches and stuff like that, but there’s no big hurry.

This has some cool movement!

This has some cool movement!

 

This olive doesn’t have as cool of a base, but its shape is totally awesome and twisty. It’s a little closer than the previous one to actually deserving a bonsai pot, and I’ve pulled the top left branches down a little further so that they’re actually horizontal now. Dave picked this one out for me and wanted to see what I could do with it. I’m tempted to allow any suckers to grow out of the bottom in the spring and thicken up the base over a couple years. We’ll see. Both of the olives are about 6-8 inches tall with maybe like 3/4-inch trunks.

Wait till spring!

Wait till spring!

 

This pomegranate (I hope it’s a pomegranate… I can’t tell that well with no leaves!) has a trunk width of about 2 inches, and I’m working it into a nice-ish broom style bonsai. Pretty much all of the branches were growing straight up before we pulled them down to resemble an actual tree. This one has quite a bit more development of secondary and tertiary branching on the branches that come directly off the trunk. Dave said this one doesn’t produce a lot of fruit, but it does produce quite a flower show each year. Sweet!

This is a big one!

This is a big one!

This big juniper is awesome. Dave wanted me to find something in the growing yard that could be showable within a couple years. This guy is very cool. There is a big shari or deadwood strip going from the base up to about that first branch on the left. The vein of living wood runs up the back most of all. The trunk on this guy is about 3.5-4 inches at the base. I’ve cleaned it up a little bit and will make some more jin or deadwood branches on some of the smaller branches on the right side. This is a very cool tree! Check out the detailed pic of the trunk below.

Soooo cool!

Soooo cool!

Anywho, thanks again to Dave for all his help and guidance. I helped him a tiny bit, but he’s been more than generous with his knowledge and material. I think the best thing in working all those trees is that I’ve gained like 10 or 20 years worth of tactile experience under my eyes and hands. If I only had one or two olive trees, it would take me forever to muster the experience in number of trimmings that I enjoyed in these past two weeks!

Posted in Bonsai, plants | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Additions/Subtractions in the Bonsai Family

Posted by Jason on December 25, 2008

Partially from the Christmas holiday and partially from me helping out a maestro grower, there have been some changes in the bonsai family. It’s been real rainy and ugly out, so I haven’t really had time to get pictures of some new trees that have made it my way. Super-cool grower-man Dave has hooked me up with a couple more olives and has told me to not buy any more trees… 

I gifted the Big Ollie and Nano the little Juniper to my mother-in-law, who has been very interested in my newfound hobby. I figured I’d give her some forgiving trees to take a crack at, and she was so thankful to me. It was sweet. If she kills them, no biggie. It’s not like I gave her two puppies or anything…

I’ll post new pictures and remove some other pictures on my bonsai page soon.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted in Bonsai | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Xmas UPDATE: Bonsai, Coast Live Oak

Posted by Jason on December 21, 2008

So Christmas will be my two-month anniversary with Oakie. We’ve had some rough times, but it’s all good and he doesn’t resent me for chopping his head off. Here’s some pictures of the progression:

Freshly Butched

Freshly Butched

 

3 weeks later

3 weeks later

 

2monthspostchop

Two Months Post-Chop

I’m stoked that I did something drastic and it’s working! I’m not sure if any of my other major operations have been successful yet. We’ll see come springtime! 

With Oakie I’ll now have to work on getting the lower branches to grow out and thicken up while keeping the top branches small. Trees naturally want to grow the most at the top and outsides: that’s how they compete for light and ensure airflow around the trunk. I’ll interrupt this growth pattern of apical dominance by pinching off new top growth in spring. When you pinch growth on the top and outsides, it sends chemical signals down to the rest of the buds and branches that it’s ok to grow. The same thing happened with the trunk chop, just on a much larger scale. I chopped a huge portion of the foliage off of the top, and this sent the signal down to dormant buds all along the trunk that they could grow. That’s how we got the explosion of new growth from places where there weren’t any leaves of branches before.

Pretty cool, eh?

Posted in Bonsai, California Natives | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bonsai Blunder…

Posted by Jason on December 10, 2008

Wifey let me purchase a real nice pre-bonsai juniper at City Farmers Nursery, and I’ve been seeking opinions on it and doing a little work. Mostly I’ve been doing a lot of planning. The soil from the nursery wasn’t that great. In fact it was pretty much hard as a rock. So I decided that I would repot my new big juniper and get it in some better soil, in addition to changing the potting angle to make it a cascade style. Basically I wanted to turn the tree on its side so that it would look like it was growing downward off the side of a cliff or what have you. 

I went to Home Depot and bought a couple bags of what I thought was normal soil, with no additives. I spent a couple hours teasing the old soil out of the root ball and repotting my plant. I secured it in place. I tamped all of the soil in so that there were no air pockets under the root ball. I soaked it in a tub of water for a while, just like we’ve done in several beginning bonsai classes. I did everything right.

My hands smelled like soil, but it was all good, and I accomplished everything just before dinner. The next afternoon, I went out to check on my trees and notice an awful smell (worse than the previous afternoon) and a dark brown ooze seeping from the bottom of my freshly repotted baby. I felt the soil, and the top felt dry and spongy. Weird. I decided to water it a little bit, but the water just pooled on the top of the soil and took FOREVER to percolate through. 

“This is totally messed up,” I thought. And I went to check the bag of soil, reading the fine print. “DO NOT PLANT SEEDS DIRECTLY INTO SOIL.” “YOU MUST MIX SOIL WITH YOUR GARDEN SOIL FIRST.”

So basically I had just planted my pre-bonsai tree in mostly manure/fertilizer and a little bit of soil. I hope I didn’t burn the roots and otherwise kill the damn thing. I made an emergency run to Home Depot and bought some “POTTING SOIL” with no additives or anything nasty. Seriously, I didn’t think it would be so hard to find soil without fertilizer or other crap (literally) in it. We’re all so damn lazy and I paid the price. I’m too lazy to read a label well enough. I repeated the entire potting process, and now I just hope all the giant fertilizer/manure runoff won’t kill my native plants in other parts of the garden…

Here is the big juniper, imagine it on its left side… Let’s hope he survives!

Let's hope he lives!

Before Potting Angle Change

Posted in Bonsai | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Symmetry vs. Asymmetry in Bonsai

Posted by Jason on December 5, 2008

I’ve always been a fan of symmetry throughout my entire life. I love things that are equal. Here’s an example: there’s a six-pack of beer in the fridge, with the short end facing me. There’s one beer gone from the front left slot. Where do I take my next beer from? The left middle or the right front? I MUST take it from the right front to make the two lines even and preserve the symmetry. In bonsai, and I suppose all of art, symmetry is boring. It’s static. It doesn’t show movement. It’s cookie-cutter.
How do we NOT be boring and static in our art? A triangle with 3 unequal sides (scalene for you geometry nerds) can help us. If there are no sides that are exactly the same, then there is said to be visual tension which causes the eye to move from one part of the subject to another. In bonsai, the scalene triangle rules the world. The outlines of the triangles should enclose the foliage of each branch, the entire foliage mass, and the branch/trunk structures individually. So it could be said that there is an overarching scalene triangle that encloses the entire tree with pot, as well as several smaller scalene triangles that give each component of a bonsai  the feel of movement and dynamism.

This article by Ron Martin explains the whole process much more than I just did, and with pictures. Check it out and then go to my bonsai page and see if  you can find the triangles (or lack thereof) in my trees. I’d love any comments, good or bad on my artistic design (once again, or lack thereof). 

Go find triangles!

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Bonsai and Healing?

Posted by Jason on December 1, 2008

I saw that somebody reached my blog by searching for “Does bonsai have healing qualities?” in their search engine. I’m not sure how that all worked out but whatever. Since I didn’t talk to this person, I have no way of knowing what they were really looking for. It could be two different things… well, that’s what my imagination came up with. Either the person was looking for any medicinal uses for bonsai trees, or he/she was looking for the spiritual healing because it’s an old Japanese tradition and they are the masters at spiritual healing and stuff, right?

So my answers to both of those questions are YES and NO, not in any specific order. First off, could bonsai be used for medicinal purposes? Well, if you used a species that had medicinal properties like aloe-vera, willow, or something like that, I suppose someone could get a teeny tiny bit of medicine from the teeny tiny tree. But really that’s silly. Bonsai are just trees, people. All different species, all different regions, all different styles. If you were to make an aloe-vera bonsai (why in the hell would you?), why not get a big aloe plant to harvest for medicinal purposes (the more I write “medicinal purposes,” the more I wonder if someone has made a marijuana bonsai…I wouldn’t put it it past some toked-out hippy)?

Second possible version of the question: Are there spiritual health benefits associate with bonsai? I think there are. It’s relaxing for a ton of people, and I personally love to work with plants and see how these things work. I guess this does help me better understand the nature of Creation and how God put all this stuff together, but I definitely don’t get a spiritual high or “mountain-top” experience from working with my bonsai trees. I also don’t feel like I’m “with nature,” either, since bonsai is about the most unnatural eco-system there is. Whether or not it hones my chi or any of that stuff generally associated with Asian philosophy and homeopathic medicine, I have absolutely no clue. I do know that people who are generally more relaxed have less health problems overall, so it could be the chi or the chakras or whatever, but I just call it relaxing.

So does bonsai have healing qualities? Yes and No, directly and indirectly. Yin and Yang, baby.

Posted in Bonsai | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »