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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?

Fall Color, Pseudo Fall Color, And An Early Hard Freeze

My venerable old Crape myrtle bonsai was challenged this year. After I repotted it in spring, it started to bud out just in time for a good freeze. I mistakenly thought that, since Crapes are quite winter-hardy, the new buds would be likewise. Well, they froze and so the tree had to marshal its resources and produce a second first round of spring growth. I did very little to it this year, just letting it recover.Our heat finally broke a couple of weeks ago. Then following a cool night, I suddenly had a nice show of color. Nice end to a less than ideal growing season for this tree. Next year I’m sure we’ll be back on track.
The fun continued this week when got a hard freeze, down to about 22F. That’s very unusual for November – in fact, I can’t recall a similar event over the past three decades or more. We typically get our coldest weather in the early part of the year.I did my bonsai prep for it, putting on the ground many trees I knew would not stand up to the cold and a number of others I wanted to be sure and protect, given the circumstances. This Cedar elm was not one of them. Cedar elms, like Chinese elms, are very hardy and won’t blink when temps get down close to 20. So I left this one on the bench. I got rewarded with a few lingering leaves turning yellow-orangey.

My big Riverflat hawthorn had mostly green foliage last weekend, with just a hint of yellow on a few leaves. Though they are very hardy and this one was on the ground, the foliage most definitely did not like 22 degrees. So I got what I guess you’d call pseudo fall color, a bronze set of leaves. It’s actually pretty attractive, though I’d have preferred it if the weather had been more cooperative.

We’re now into the latter stages of fall, which means winter will be here soon. That also means collecting season, which I’m really looking forward to. I expect to have a lot of great new material come 2020. If there’s something you’re looking for, feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to put your name on my wish list.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Hawthorn, Water-Elm, Trumpet Vine

Today I did a one on one workshop with a new bonsai enthusiast. One of the specimens we were worked on was a three-tree Parsley hawthorn composition, very similar to this one. I love bonsai forests. The three-tree planting is the smallest expression of this style of bonsai. While this may seem like a real challenge, you can evoke a great deal of emotion in a very small space with just a few items. In this group there’s dramatic tension, complementary movement, depth, and perspective. It doesn’t get much better than that.
(This specimen is available at our Hawthorn Bonsai page.)

Here’s a Water-elm that we collected last August. It had a great trunk, with an unusual secondary trunk in a strategic spot. I saw a great upright bonsai in the making.
What did I tell you! We also studied potting bonsai today, and this tree was definitely ready for its initial styling and first bonsai pot. It turned out even better than I thought it would.
I was clearing an overgrown area near my garden and ran across a few nice Trumpet vines. This one has a trunk base of 1.5″, some nice shari and wonderful movement.
Plenty of new growth, just as you’d expect from a vine,
Well, most of that had to go. I see a semi-cascade specimen in this one, so a little wire and some man-handling and it’s going the way I want it to. I’ll leave it alone for a good while now; it’ll probably grow six or eight feet of new vine before it annoys me enough for another pruning.

Sunday Evening Hawthorn Notes

Yesterday was my first one-on-one workshop for 2019.  We got a lot of work done, mostly on three large BCs.  This is a great time of year to do just about everything bonsai.  Problem is, it’s hard to get it all done!

Right now in my garden we’ve completed first flush, and than invariably means trees that need a first trimming for the season.  Below we check in on my big Riverflat hawthorn (I really need to name this tree).

This tree continues to rock along.  Last year it got a new, larger home that suits the tree perfectly.  And it’s clearly happy; the elongted shoots tell the tale.

A couple minutes of work later, here we are.

This is one of those trees I could study all day long.   I never get tired of it.

Spring is also the time for making new bonsai.  I had a great time today putting together a couple of new three-tree Parsley hawthorn groups.  These smaller specimens naturally lend themselves to this style of bonsai.

And one more.  There are two things to remember when you’re creating forests of tall trees: one, be sure that your tallest tree(s) have their foliage concentrated in the upper half to third of the trunk; and two, don’t let the branch spread get out of hand.  If you observe these two rules, your trees will look quite mature and believeable.

All in all, it was a great bonsai weekend.  The weather was great, and the trees even better.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Some Evening Shots

I took a few minutes this evening to do some quick trimming on a couple of trees, including this Chinese elm.  Most of you are familiar with this specimen.  It continues to fill out and get nicer. 

I liked the lighting as the sun was going down, so took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

I recently potted this American hornbeam that I acquired from a fellow collector.  As the tree put on its first flush of growth I wired it out and positioned the branches.  American hornbeam grows all year long, so this specimen will make great progress in 2019.  The trunk is 3″ across, and the tree stands about 20″ from the soil.  The pot is a lovely custom round by Lary Howard.

This Parsley hawthorn group was featured in a recent blog.  After I created the composition, I set it aside in a nice shady location and just waited.  Today I noticed new growth on all the trees, so it appears the work was successful.  Soon I’ll be able to do some more detailed work on the branch structure of each tree.

And that’s how I spent my Sunday evening.  I hope yours was as pleasant.

There’s Design, And Then There’s Re-Design

If you grow bonsai for any length of time, it’s almost a given that you will be compelled to re-design some of them along the way.  Stuff just happens to our bonsai.  Maybe a storm comes through and something large falls and breaks off a branch.  Maybe insects do some damage.  Maybe dieback happens.  You just never know.

This Mayhaw, Crataegus aestivalus, was collected sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe and I’ve been working on it since.  One of the techniques I had to use in creating the design was thread-grafting that first left-hand branch.  The thread-graft took about four years to get established, at which time I removed the entry connection.  So my design was established.  But there was more to this tree than met the eye.

When I collected the tree, I was able to chop off the main, straight trunkline of the tree to a smaller sub-trunk that provided me with the taper I needed.  This is a common way to start off a collected tree.  Unfortunately, the surface root feeding this section of trunk did not recover sufficiently from collection and ultimately died.  When that happened, the entire part of the trunk fed by that root dies as well.  In this 2016 photo you can already see the effects of this event.  The entire front section of the trunk, up to the original chop, is dead. 

That’s where re-design comes in.  I’ve been watching this tree for the past couple of years as the dead wood of the trunk dried out.  And now was the time to take action.  I first used knob cutters to take out all of the really punky wood – and there was a lot of it!  Then I fired up the Dremel, and in relatively short order had found my way down to the more solid interior wood.  The work went surprisingly fast.  Then I treated the carved area with lime sulfur, which should prevent further attack by nasties.

To finish up the day’s work, I top-dressed with soil and added fertilizer.  Though the tree looks good, it does have some health challenges that need to be addressed.  I frankly don’t know how well the tree will do; only time will tell.  But it certainly makes a fine illustration of the concept of re-design in our bonsai.  Sooner or later, you’ll likely be faced with the same need.

Let me know what you think of this specimen.  And just so you know the stats, the trunk base is 4″ (that’s about as big as collected hawthorns come), and it’s 28″ from the soil.