chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Posts Tagged ‘California Natives’

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!


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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



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 »

UPDATE: Bonsai, Coast Live Oak

Posted by Jason on November 19, 2008

So my wonderful Oakie started out like this from the Kuma Bonsai Nursery in Lakeside, CA. I got it for a great price by the way, with some free advice thrown in;-)

Pre-Chop Status

Pre-Chop Status

Then I gave him a whack with my trusty saw and now he looks like this:

Freshly Butched

Freshly Butched

Now, 3 weeks later, check out all of the progress he’s made! TA-DAAAA!!! I was a little worried since a bonsaiTALK master said he wouldn’t have done as crazy of a chop at this time of year, but he’s in Northern California and things are a bit different.


3 weeks later

3 weeks later

So I’ll let all those new leaves grow out for a while -which will fatten the trunk as well- then I’ll cut off or cut back the ones that I don’t want. I still haven’t made any big style decisions, but that will come later.

All over the trunk!

All over the trunk!

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

Contradictions, Hypocrisy, Layers of Me

Posted by Jason on November 10, 2008

My passion for native plants stems (no pun intended) from my belief in God and evolution. I believe that God created this universe, and that this Creation is governed by laws and principles that come directly from the Almighty. While humans cannot fathom everything that God has to offer, we have been able to decipher some of the laws and principles evident in Creation. Among these knowables are things like gravity, evolution, and Dr. Pepper. 

That being said, I strongly believe that using native plants in landscaping and gardens has a very spiritual element to it. Each and every plant has adapted to its particular surroundings through the systems set forth in the dawn of Creation. When we strip a plot down to the dirt and plant a grass yard because that’s the American dream, we deny the inherent coolness of the very world around us.

Wherever I end up living, I intend to use the vegetation that God, vis-a-vis the systems of evolution and adaptation, has destined for that area. Trying to keep green grass alive in the desert is just as silly and counter-Creation to me as trying to keep tropical plants alive in the arctic circle just because they’re pretty. The beauty of all plants is evident in how they came to live and thrive in any one region. I say the beauty of the system always trumps the beauty of any artificial or imported product. Cut down plants in the way of your property’s functionality, but don’t add non-native stuff just for “prettiness” sake.

SO, how do I go from being a die-hard native plant buff that wants everyone to plant their yards with only plants that are endemic to that region, to a student/enthusiast of bonsai, perhaps the most non-natural horticultural practice out there? Part of it is that I wanted to branch out (again, no pun intended) from music and literature to some sort of visual art–which is not my cup of tea–and working with plants to make art interested me the most. But once I made that choice to try bonsai, I really fell in love with it. Do all of these live miniature trees make me feel like a god who controls their every destiny? Not really…

Bonsai, especially with native species, allows me to study the natural processes in a somewhat controlled environment. Sure I can drive around the mountains and hills every week or so and see what the blooming and growing trends are in all the plants in my world. This gives me a macro view which helps me see the interaction between different populations as hillsides hand off the seasons within their plant communities. In contrast, bonsai provides a micro view that allows me to see things in a single plant that would normally be overwhelmed by the sheer number and/or size of plants in a native setting. To see how one plant heals itself after losing a branch or leaves would be nearly impossible while walking or driving though a native landscape. In bonsai, one can see the natural processes happen day by day, over a period of years and years.

In my very short time studying bonsai, I’ve enjoyed an increased connection with all plants, large and small, native or introduced. I find myself really looking at every single tree I pass, even if it’s in a silly row of young, expensive landscape plants. So, can I make a case for bonsai to fit neatly into my Enviro-Judeo-Christian viewpoint like this guy did? I don’t think I want to make that stretch. I don’t feel the need to smush everything into a neatly-packed Jesus box, especially since a large part of the world has nothing to do with Jesus. I think it’s offensive to an art or tradition to Christianize it just for the sake of making Christians feel that they’re not “straying from the path.”

For me, bonsai allows a deeper communion with nature by caring for these little trees. Yes, nature comes from God, and bonsai is leading me to a greater understanding of nature and God. However, I refuse to think that Christians cannot enjoy non-Christian art forms without first making some Biblical link between them. All Art points to God, as does all Nature. What does it matter if something isn’t mentioned in the Bible?

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Bonsai, Coast Live Oak

Posted by Jason on November 7, 2008


So this is my first bonsai post. Here goes…banzai!!! Okay that was a bad joke comparing two oft confused Japanese words. World, meet Oakie. He’s my first “real” bonsai purchase from a “real” bonsai nursery. I got him for cheap because, even though he is in a bonsai pot, he’s still considered pre-bonsai or potensai because of all the work that needs to be done developing his branch structure to produce the impression of age. Oakie started out with way too much foliage that was too high up on the tree, relative to how thick his trunk is:

Fresh from the nursery.

Fresh from the nursery.

So, at the recommendation of the nursery owner, I decided to give Oakie a whack with my handy dandy saw and cutters. This will keep the proportion of height to girth and, after several years, will help Oakie look more like a venerable old oak tree than a mere sapling. Post-chop height is about 15 inches from the top rim of the pot, so he’s not tiny by any means!

Oh the humanity!

Oh, the humanity!

Now you can’t just go around whacking trees down to 1 pair of leaves and expect them all to live. This trunk chop will be successful because I did it just before the growing season AND because this species sprouts well from new buds after trauma. Pine trees can’t take this sort of abuse. While cutting off so much foliage stresses poor Oakie, most of his energy is still stored in the roots this time of year and he’s just now getting ready to push out new leaf buds for the winter growing season. Since I limited the amount of avenues for growth by chopping these avenues off, the areas that remain will grow a ton pretty soon (crosses fingers).

At the time of this post (two weeks post-chop), there are a ton of buds getting ready to bust out into little leaves all over the trunk. Also, a new pair of leaves has developed just below the first pair. I think it’s working! More to follow on Oakie and his kin…

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