Small Coast Live Oak

 

20170104_141334

Oak trees are characteristic of California. Abundant and easily found, they decorate the landscape from the highway shoulder to the beautiful canyons and hills. They’re long lived and stand with powerful trunks–it’s that same heft that weighs down their branches giving them qualities unique to themselves.

20170104_141338

Yet despite their seemingly rough appearance the grey bark and dense evergreen foliage lends some grace collectively producing an elegant, proud tree.

As a native tree they excel in my hot Mediterranean climate. Fed well and allowed to grow freely, it will even rival a trident maple in growth. Their foliage is easily reducible and branching can be highly ramified. Definitely one of my favorite trees, both in landscape and bonsai cultivation.

In 2015 I acquired a small coast live oak from Bob Pressler’s nursery (Kimura Nursery). It sat in a small nursery can and was nearly 5 feet tall. Although lacking good branching it had a nice trunk and rough grey barking.

20151126_134053

The tree was fed aggressively to prepare for the repotting and work to come in the following winter. At late winter/early spring I picked a line to do my trunk chop and cut away. Primary branches were left uncut so that they could undergo more thickening before developing secondary branching.

img_1612

As for the root mass I sawed the root ball in half and worked the outside. Being lazy I did not photograph this part.

The tree was allowed to recover and by early summer showed strong growth all over the tree. I did some preliminary cutbacks and guy wired all my primary branching into place.

20160527_161801

20160527_163157
Early Summer 2016

As you see in the previous photos I had pretty good budding around my chop with buds occurring right up to the cut line. These shoots would become the future leader of my tree.

The tree was again allowed to recover, this time taking much longer considering that in a single season it had undergo 2 major traumas. Oaks typically have a second flush of growth by late summer but this tree had already expended its reserves and didn’t do much.

After removing excess shoots the top leader began growing very fast. I carved the top cut to allow for a smooth transition.

20160902_110256

By fall the tree began thickening a lot. All the carbohydrates and sugars produced by the foliage produce new wood as well as food for next year.

20170101_151457
Wound on top of tree is already halfway sealed–impressive given that the cut was made in the same year

Bark on the trunk began to split as a result of the strong growth. A good indicator that the tree was healthy.

20170101_151446

Several weeks ago I cut back all my primary branching and top leader halfway. I still need the top leader to thicken, but had I cut all my primary branching leaving the leader unchecked the tree would abandon the lower branches and put all the energy into the top growth.

20170218_154359

The wires there were propping up a plastic bag over the tree. I don’t know if it helps but I tend to think that the increased heat and humidity will give me better advantageous budding. In any case, advantageous budding indeed. Every single branch is covered in tiny buds–secondary branching no problem!

I came back from the 2017 bonsai-a-thon today (a post to come later) and purchased a pot from Dick Ryerson. The pot is a round with symmetrical groves. It features a cream glaze with some “dirty-ness” in the glaze. There is a spill of red with a hint of some blue on the side. Although slightly big for my tree it will work great as a beautiful pot to carry it through next several years.

20170225_140713
That’s the pot right in front of me!

I decided that the tree was healthy enough for a repot and given that the root mass in the colander was a similar size to the pot I would not have to do any major root pruning. To fit the tree I cleaned out the center core of the tree slightly–mostly dead roots, organics, and some live tap roots. The edges were very lightly trimmed and the gunky soil from the top of the root ball was raked off.

20170225_151520

The tree was then wired in with the bottom and edges with new soil. The tree is slightly mounded but it can’t be helped as I want to avoid overly working the root mass. As I continue development I will be able to sink it lower in the next year or two.

20170225_16143620170225_16143020170225_16142220170225_161405

As an added precaution the tree was bagged and will be covered for the next week or so to preserve humidity and ensure the new growth and buds aren’t overly affected by the repotting.

This growing season will be used to create secondary branching as well as to finish thickening the apex of the tree.

Here is a live oak developed by Eric Schrader that’s an extremely realistic representation of what my tree will look like in 5 years or so. His tree was inspiration for mine and I hope that in time it will look just as good if not better 😀

ericoak
Photo taken by Eric Schrader

I know its been awhile since my last post but I’ve been incredibly busy with school and other work. I hope you find my posts interesting and if so please leave a comment! A subscription is great too

Julian

Japanese Black Pine

I found an outstanding deal for a Japanese Black Pine earlier this summer. The base was well developed with barking, a good candidate for a shohin tree. Buds and shoots at the base was abundant and could be selected for future branching. I decandled strong top growth at this time and thinned the shoots at the base to direct more strength to what would become branches.

black-pine-uno
Summer 2016

The long sacrifice branch was cut this fall

20170128_130313
Fall 2016

Temperatures have begun warming up and some of my elms have already begun swelling buds. For Southern California spring is almost here meaning a good time to repot my trees. Based off advice from others and what I’ve read I proceeded to repot this black pine. What I did was a half bare-root repot where only one side of the root ball is worked and replaced with new soil. Doing so allows the undisturbed side to maintain the vigor of the tree until roots in the new soil becomes established. In the following year or 2 you can than bare-root the other side of the root ball thus establishing the entire root mass in a more open “bonsai mix.” The foliage at this time is also a bit yellow. Because of the high amount of winter rains as well as the grass/moss that established on the surface this black pine has been receiving too much water. The color should reestablish to a dark green with better watering as well as feeding.

20170128_13061420170128_131234

20170128_132948

The tree was then potted in a mix of scoria, pumic, diatomaceous earth, and some zeolite.

img952492

The longest branch will take over as the new sacrifice and will remain for the next 3 years if not more. After the tree establishes itself I can begin successive stages of refinement and branch selection. I will need to read up on decandling practices as well as the decandling timing specific to my area. In time, this should be a pretty nice tree.

If you like these posts, you can subscribe on the home page via email. Thanks!

 

 

 

Clump Japanese Maple

About 2 years ago I acquired a “forest” planting of Japanese maples. The health was questionable but it looked like a nice planting at a reasonable price. At the time the planting was composed of 2 main groupings with 8 trunks. The tree was planted in a dense mucky soil and from information I found online I thought it would be best to immediately repot it…..only that it was past bud break. Being ignorant in repotting practices I bare-rooted and repotted the tree in April. For Southern California that’s about 2 months after the ideal repotting window. What health it had began to decline further and for the remainder of the growing season I had unsightly and weak foliage.

japanese-maple-group
2015 Late Spring

Thankfully the tree did not kick the bucket. This is a photo early on after repotting but the tree was looking pretty grim by November. Being more knowledgeable the following year I repotted the tree during the appropriate window. Additionally I chose to separate the forest planting. With poor branching and not the most convincing arrangement it would never look really good. The planting was separated into 3 groups: the clump, main tree, and a small but well ramified tree. Here is the clump after a really solid growing season without any significant problems:

20170101_151321
2017

The tree was repotted last week and underwent a basic styling. Trunks were positioned with guy wires and the twigs wired out. All coarse growth and branching was pruned off. I am hoping for good ramification and branching this next season so that I can really begin getting this tree into shape.

20170107_104722
2017 post styling

There are actually 5 trunks in the group instead of 4 when originally purchased. The 5th trunk appeared over the last year and I decided to keep it. The lateral buds should give me branching to play with and help it fit in with the other trunks. The base is fused together well and the nebari is developing well with currently hidden, but nice radial roots. I think over the next few years it will start looking pretty nice. I may allow some whips to grow so that I can approach graft them where needed and rework some of the apexes which have larger internodes. Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading and if you like my posts, subscribe on the home page.

Why I Love Bonsai and My Trees!

20161210_155000
My favorite bonsai nursery, ie the enabler

I started bonsai as a hobby 3 years ago. It wasn’t over an awe inspiring tree or most famously, with Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid but rather on an impulse. I was hitting the Southern California surf but instead of pulling out a new PR catch I found a large rock, reminiscent of mountain, stuck in the white water of the falling tide. I pulled it out and almost immediately I thought, “wow I bet a tree would look cool on this.” The following day I surfed the net looking how I could put a tree on a rock and I was introduced to bonsai. Right then and there, it clicked and I knew “bonsai” was something I wanted to do.

10672036_10202496860814881_4337497382755347215_n
2014 Southern California Surf

Fast forward 3 years I still love it and pursue it with ever increasing interest. Despite my love for this art I cannot concisely describe why I enjoy it so much. At face value, bonsai could show an artfully crafted tree–perhaps something nostalgic of an ancient mountain juniper:

Or what we idealize a tree to be:

20160324_144331

Beyond the appearance, especially since I don’t have any trees nearly as nice as the ones I’ve been posting 😀 , bonsai provides me with perspective. In many ways they resemble people. Like people, they take many years to cultivate. And over the course of time, they change. Struggles and hardship can become their defining characteristic or something that is overcome. Although a “perfect” tree is admirable in the meticulous care or growing conditions needed to develop it, the ones with “flaws” often show the most character and capture the most interest:

oaker
Richmond Park, courtesy of Bobby Lane
mach5-maple
Japanese Maple, image taken by Sergio Cuan

And while the trees don’t give a damn about what we think, we impose our beliefs on them and in turn the many years of horticulture and artistry needed to craft them into bonsai. Ironically they end up becoming their own entity all together instead of a reflection of the people who worked on it. In some cases they even become a legacy, living past a human lifespan:

hiroshima
400 Year White Pine that survived Hiroshima: US National Arboretum

If anything bonsai has taught me–rather, forced me to accept that anything good in life takes time to get. I enjoy slowly developing my trees as much as I  e̶n̶j̶o̶  am developing my own life. On both ends, I hope for the best and will continue to do the best I can do.

Thanks for reading my post and what you’ve been waiting for, my own trees! I will slowly give my various projects designated threads and fill them under the “Tree” submenu so that you can easily find them and check on their progress. If you’ve enjoyed my posts please subscribe, leave me feedback, or share it to others.

20170101_154642

20170107_104722

20170107_105341

20170107_105045

20170101_155754

20170107_105718

20170101_155344

20170101_155110

20170101_154005

20170101_153319

20170101_152415

20170101_151010

20170101_151436

20170101_15192720170101_152236

20170101_152659

20170101_151647

20170101_154848

That’s it! These are most of my trees but I still have other projects in the works as well. Progressions and more projects to be posted in the future.