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BC Collecting Trip #2 For 2020

Our second BC collected trip for 2020 happened yesterday. As often happens, the weather did not cooperate. On the plus side, the rain was not Noah-worthy so we plowed through and got the job done.If you’re into big classically styled Bald cypress bonsai, this is the sort of specimen you’re after. Beautiful flaring, buttressed base, great trunk taper, chopped at just the right spot to grow out and finish up around 40″. This one is just about a perfect formal upright, which for the trees I collect is very unusual.
Here it is in the pot, shown from what should be the best front. The root base is buried, of course, to keep the roots from drying out.
Here’s another one the same size (5″ trunk), but more along the lines of what I usually find. This one will make a superb informal upright BC bonsai of the classic pyramidal style.
And in the pot. I love the fluting of the trunks of these trees, don’t you?
Here’s an unusual specimen. The trunk is the same size as the ones above, about 5″ across (that’s measured up the trunk about 5″ above the soil level once it’s potted), but I ended up chopping it lower because the trunk lost taper above what you see as the chop point. That means this tree will ending making a “stouter” bonsai when all is said and done. The two trees above are chopped at 26″; this one at 19″.
Here it is in its training home.
This is the most unusual specimen I brought home this trip. The trunk is not all that thick, but the flare at the base is just massive and in the final potting of the tree I plan to expose most of it. I’m confident it will make quite a statement!
All tucked in and waiting for the weather to warm up.If we get mild enough temperatures, I expect to see budding on these trees in early to mid-February. At that point or soon thereafter we should know who made it and who didn’t.Let me know what you think of our latest haul.

BC Trees With Knees Are The Bee’s Knees

Well, there’s nothing like Bald cypress collecting season, and there’s certainly nothing like a collected Bald cypress featuring a naturally occurring knee. This is a very substantial specimen, as I’m sure you can tell (the tub is 24″ long). Something ran over this tree decades ago, so it just grew the best it could. The trunk has rooted all along its length, so my plan is to attempt to create a raft BC from it. I don’t recall ever seeing one, though I’m sure someone somewhere has done so.

But check out that knee! That’s what sold me on this specimen. It sits right on the recumbent trunk, and I’m confident that once I get some new trunks going it’ll make for quite a composition.

The small tree to the left may or may not be part of the recumbent trunk. It appeared to have fused at some point, but as I worked on the tree it seemed to want to pull away. Regardless, it’s kind of cool for now and I may leave it even after I get the new trunks going. It’s got a fat root crossing over the main trunk, which I like.

So today I really scored. This specimen has two knees growing right on the trunk near the base. I wasn’t expecting them to be connected, but they are. So for my first time ever, today I collected two BC’s with knees. And that’s the bee’s knees!

The trunk on this one is 5″ 5″ above the soil, with a terrific flare. Very nice tree.

This is one heck of a BC specimen. The trunk is 5.5″ about 5″ above the soil, and that fluting and slight twist to the trunk just do it for me. An outstanding piece of material.

I really love the elegant “feminine” BC specimens I often bring home. I’m thinking a flat-top is in the cards for this one. The base is 4″ 4″ above the soil and it’s chopped at 29″. So the tall slender model is what I have in mind.

And lastly, this is a smaller specimen, with a base of 2.5″. But isn’t the taper and movement just awesome? I’m also thinking flat-top for this one, but it could just as easily be trained in the more traditional informal upright style.

So that’s it for my first BC collecting trip of 2020. Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for more posts over the next few weeks.

Harvesting A Hefty Huckleberry

It’s Huckleberry collecting time, and today I harvested a hefty one. Here it is, right out of the ground with the roots washed off. The trunk base is 2.5″ above the root crown. This is about the trunk size limit for the species, as near as I can tell. I’d estimate the age at 25-35 years.
Those of you who have followed my work for any length of time know I’m a firm believer in chopping roots hard. Why? It’s all about the bonsai pot. If you can’t get the roots you’ve chopped into a bonsai pot, with some room to spare for the new roots that are going to sprout from the cut ends, you’ve just handed yourself a big future headache! Yes, I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and more than once. But I do learn, even if it’s sometimes a slow process.So these roots are cut back enough to comfortably fit the bonsai pot this tree will go into. Is the tree at risk? Absolutely not! When you collect deciduous and broadleaf evergreen trees, you’re removing not only most of the root but also most of the branching as well. This balances the tree perfectly, so when new roots and shoots get going there’s no undue stress. The tree “wants” to live, and it does what it has to in order to live. (Note: Boxwoods are a special case among the broadleaf evergreens, in that you have to leave foliage on the branches or you risk losing them; you can thin the branching, just don’t cut back to a bare trunk or branches.)
Here I’ve reduced the trunk to its proper line. I’ve also turned the tree. Is this a better front? It does have something going for it.
This is the better front. If you compare this photo to the one above, you can see the trunk has a little curve in it from this angle and that’s definitely better. There’s also a good rootage presentation from this angle as well.

And here’s the tree potted up. The trunk is chopped at 15-16″, which should produce a finished height of about 24″ or so. I love the color and character of the trunk, and I’m confident this Huckleberry is going to be a fine bonsai in three or four years.

Let me know what you think of this specimen.

More Collecting, A Couple More Examples

Here’s a quick update for today – a balmy Deep South winter day, high 75, meaning the weather wasn’t miserable for lifting trees.This triple-trunk Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, is actually a connected root specimen. The trunks are nice, with great taper, and the one on the right has beautiful movement. The small trunk in front is also pretty gnarly, but I’m not sure I can keep it considering its position and the fact that this needs to be the front of the future bonsai. But that can be decided later on.For a sense of scale the largest trunk is 1.5″, the next 1″ and the smallest 3/4″. Height of the tallest is 5″ at the chop. This one has a lot in a small package.
I’ve had this Zelkova, Zelkova serrata, in the ground for a few years now. Last year I chopped the trunk to build taper. The trunk base has reached just over 1″, so I decided to go ahead and get another specimen going for the 2020 inventory. I’ve got others still in the ground that I’ll continue to grow out.
Potted up and trimmed a little more. The tree is chopped at 10.5″, but that’s just until it buds in spring. I’ll re-chop to a leader that’s in the right spot relative to the transition point. For now, I want to protect the leader from dieback.For those of you who haven’t worked with Zelkovas, I can highly recommend the species. They grow very quickly, as many elms do, and this allows you to create a showable bonsai in just two or three years. This one already has some branching I should be able to use to create a design. But I’ll wait till spring to wire it, to give the roots a chance to firm up.

An Early Start On Collecting Season

I planted out some Parsley hawthorn whips a few years ago. True to the old adage, “first year sleeps, second year creeps, third year leaps,” this year I’ve noticed a number of the specimens have put on some heft. A few have reached my minimum for lifting, namely, a trunk base of 1″. While I’ll certainly leave most to get bigger still, it’s nice to have some smaller specimens to offer.
I’m not sure what happened to this one or when, but it’s grown itself into a raft. Nice.
Here’s the first one on the potting bench. I have to choose between two leaders, either of which would do fine. You can see I’ve got some good roots to work with. My experience with hawthorn has been that they do quite well with a lot less root than you think they need when collecting them. My survival rate through the years has been 90% or better.
Yep, not much root at all.I’m still trying to decide on the leader.
I went with the straighter one. Not sure if it would have been better the other way, but the good news is this tree will produce multiple buds where I chopped that other leader. If I want, I can grow a new leader from one of those buds. So it’s not a big deal one way or another.
And here’s the raft, all potted up. I’m thinking this is going to make a very cool bonsai. What do you think?
I lifted this Huckleberry today. I’m very excited about it. I see a round pot and foliage confined to the upper part of each trunk. It’ll take a season or two to grow the left hand trunk the way I want it, but the results should be spectacular.
I have a choice of more than one front with this specimen. Which would you choose?

Big Hoss Gets Chopped And Styled; A Brother Gets Some Work

“Big Hoss” is a really big Water-elm we brought home last summer. Recently I posted him for sale as raw material. I’ve been studying this unique piece of material since we first happened upon it. No question it’s an awesome specimen. But how to make the most of it?
After clearing out some unnecessary shoots, it was time to make a decision with regard to the fork in the trunk that’s part of the charm of this tree. This was easy. My reciprocating saw made short work of it.The bigger problem lies in the part of the tree above this fork. While it does have gradual taper, and while my intention has always been to use all of that trunk, the more I’ve looked at the tree the more I realized that this is not the answer. Why? The base of the tree is nice and stout, and it tapers pretty quickly to the area of the fork. Then, for the next 18 inches the character of the tree changes. So we end up with stout at the bottom, slender up above, with that neat fork planted right in the middle. Stout and slender won’t go together in this tree, so I’ve got to get rid of slender as a design element. The question being, of course, where exactly to chop.
Here’s the winning spot. Notice now that I’ve done away with slender and created more stout. There’s no stylistic conflict anymore.
A little wire and a little shaping. This tree has a ways to go, but the direction is completely clear and there’s little doubt the ultimate form of this bonsai will be rock-solid. The leader will be allowed to grow out untrimmed until sometime next year. I need it to get a lot thicker at the base, so callus will start to roll over the top of the angle cut. Likewise, the branch at the base of the cut will provide some callus there. In about two years it’ll be time to do some carving on the chops (both of them); by that time the result should look very natural.Let me know what you think. Did I do right by Big Hoss?
Here’s Big Hoss’s “brother,” another specimen from last year that got styled back in April. You may remember where we left off.
This tree has put on an amazing amount of growth. Notice how much the leader thickened in four and a half months. It’s been chopped back, and has grown out new shoots. I’ve also been able to cut back a lot of the other growth. Come 2020, this tree may be ready for a bonsai pot.