Generally in winter, the bonsai activities are less and I feel that I have to take advantage of the “free” time to build some of my ideas that were for a long period of time only in my imagination. The following posts will all regard the ideas that this winter became reality. I saw on Pinterest many pictures of temples that were covered by roots of ancient trees. So, this was the trigger that made me imagine an old brick abandoned house that has a tree growing over it and its roots cover the rooftop and some of the walls. So I started designing in my mind the entire project. First of all, I needed miniature bricks. To create these, I took a normal old brick and using an angle grinder with a concrete cutting disk, I cut all my miniature bricks.
The size of these is about 30mm x 15mm x 10mm. I was not interested to have all of them identical in dimensions, as by this the walls of the future house will look even more aged. To stick them together the best, cheapest and simplest solution that I found was to use concrete. However, the natural color of the concrete, that gray, was not satisfactory considering the light red color of the bricks. So, the solution was to mix concrete with red oxide pigment to obtain a red nuanced material to glue the bricks together.
In order to have each time the same color of the final mix, you have to use the same quantity of cement to the same quantity of oxide and water. As you will see, the project cannot be done in one day, but it took more than a week to complete the entire house.
After mixing the concrete, the fist step was to lay a base on which the future bricks were to stay. Normally this base would be under the soil level in the future pot, so it will not be visible but ensures a good stability of the walls.
While the mix was still fresh, I placed the first row of bricks, trying to keep them as leveled as possible in order to be able to easily place the future rows on top of the first one.
After finishing to place the second row, I had to wait for a day in order for the concrete to dry as the second row was already moving freely and could not support the third one.
Next day I continued and this way, I practically applied about two rows each day till it reached the desired height.
After finishing to build the walls, I realised that there was a challenge to build the cover of the house. I preliminary considered using some wood insertions to keep the top in place, but considering that this will be a future bonsai landscape, by watering the wood would rot away and create further problems to the plants. Finally, I found the solution. I covered the entire top of the house with plastic used for covering food for refrigerators. I strengthened it with an elastic rubber around the walls and started placing the bricks one near the next one. Before I placed the bricks into position I added on all its sides fresh concrete. When placing it into position I pushed it gently towards the rest of them in order to create a good contact area.
This way I built the entire cover in probably half an hour. I left it to dry for about 2-3 days and after that I removed the plastic that was between the roof and the walls.
As you can see in the picture above, the entire roof became one plate of solid bricks. More, using the plastic it got the perfect shape to fit on the top of the walls, and in the middle it has a small hole that will be perfect to fit the tree. The small gaps that remained between the bricks of the roof will became drainage holes for the future planting. After removing the plastic, using a small amount of fresh cement I fixed the roof to the walls and let it dry for another 2 days.
In the end, this is the final product of building the abandoned brick house that will be covered by the roots in a “root over house” project. I hope that by late spring or early summer I will be able to continue this project, placing on it the tree. At this moment, the future tree is kept only in water in order to promote growth of long roots that will cover this house.
Hope that my work inspired you!
Thanks for the visit
The previous post was entirely dedicated to the Carpinus species because I have many Carpinus trees in my collection and some are in very early stage of development, and are not yet published on the blog, others that already prove potential as you were able to see visiting my last article. However, my collection has a variety of species and as follows I will post pictures of their pruning process adding also some comments about decisions that I took.
The Wild Cherry below was collected in Autumn of 2017. It grew well in 2018 but it branched only on one side of the trunk. So, the solution was to prune and wire it to mimic the wind blown bonsai style. I left the branches at about 7-8 cm long to obtain ramification distant from the trunk to be able to continue this style.
Another Wild Cherry with “elephant” style nebari. It grew some branches lower than expected. However, I left them longer to develop ramification. If in 2019 it will not bud for new branches from the main upper trunk, in Autumn of 2019 when pruning I will carve the trunk with an electric carver.
I found in the woods last year a nice slim, tall and feminine moved trunk Wild Cherry. I collected it and left it tall in order to create a literati style tree. It grew nicely long branches from the top that I have wired according to the style’s approach. I will cut back to two after bud-break in order to create dense ramification as pads on the tips of the structural branches.
Another fruiting tree is my Cornus Malus. It has a dead wood part in the middle of the trunk covered by live vein. In the future I will carve the deadwood to increase the character of the tree.
A multi-trunk Cotoneaster collected in fall of 2017. This tree had an awesome progression in 2018.
And a second Cotoneaster, this is more shohin style.
My best Fagus Sylvatica that is in between shohin and medium sized bonsai.
Last year I got a Pyracantha, about 2 m tall and potted in a very large container. I have repotted it and pruned drastically. It grew nice this year and now I pruned it for the first time to start it’s canopy.
A Linden tree that I love just because it keeps creating the branches exactly there I need them. This tree was collected in fall of 2017, and it was nearly parallel to the ground and I had to plant it vertically in order to have a correct position of the trunk. Using wires I already succeeded in creating the structural base of the tree.
To have more flowering trees, I collected a Rambling Rose last year. This grew all 2018 season vigorously. I let it run in order to make sure it will gain a lot of strength to develop strong ramification in 2019. However, all my Rambling Rose trees will be kept over winter in the basement as these are highly susceptible to frost. Using wires I have given drastic movement to the main branches. In spring I will remove the wires as the shape is already established.
The last tree I will post is an European Elm, collected by a friend of mine in spring of 2018. This as well grew vigorously all 2018 season.
Hope these will inspire you in your future work.
Thanks for the visit,
As the cold days of November reached us, the trees drop their leaves and slightly enter into winter dormancy. The temperatures are not yet at freezing point so it is a good time to do structural pruning and wiring where it is necessary. It is up to your to do this operation now, or in spring just before bud break. Personally, I choose to prune now because I own about 90 trees at this moment. My philosophy is to perform deciduous pruning now, before freezing temperatures are reached because the trees are still able to seal the wounds after pruning. However, if you do this too late in winter, the trees will suffer frost on the cutting locations and they will suffer dye back on the branches. The second option, to prune in spring is legitimate, but it leaves you a small window of maybe 1-2 weeks just before bud break. It depends on how fast the warm days of Spring will get installed. For me, as I have to prune 90 trees, in Spring it is quite difficult to sync my activities with the warm temperatures if I only have a window of 1-2 weeks. So I choose to prune now to make sure that the work is done in proper timing with the outdoor temperatures.
It is also important in this case to ensure a winter protection to your trees that will not cause damage to the trees. I will shelter all the trees that had a difficult year in 2018, or those that will be repotted in Spring and all the shohin ones in an unheated basement. There, the temperatures varies between -1 and 8C. All the larger trees that had strong growth in 2018 and that have larger containers will be left outside. However, these too will be placed on the ground level and grouped. Smaller trees with medium containers will be placed in the middle of the group and towards the sides of the group will be placed the trees with large containers. Around them I will have a 50 cm high plastic foil just like a fence to weep the cold wind away of reaching directly the edges of the containers.
Mainly all the trees were structurally pruned. This means that the branches developed in 2018 were now cut back to the desired length. A misconception is that you always have to prune back to 2 buds. Yes, it is true if you are in refinements with the trees. I am now in development phase, so if I cut back to two, I will obtain in 2019 bush-like trees instead of nice branching. So, pruning to 6-8 buds now and wiring into shape and position will give me the secondary branching. In 2019 probably in May or June I will start pruning back to 2 buds, to start the refinement phase.
All the pictures below are before/after shots of this November’s pruning. You can as well see in my older posts of 2018 how these trees looked in Summer of 2018.
So let’s start with the Carpinus species.
This tree was collected in 2016 in Autumn. It is a large one and it is highly vigorous. In 2019 in Spring I will repot it and it will enter in refinement with the next pruning in Summer.
Another Carpinus collected in 2016 Autumn with very nice branching that will also be reported in Spring.
A semi-raft Caprinus collected in 2018.
A feminine movement Carpinus collected in 2018.
This tree had an interesting growth that facilitated the wind blown style, so this is what it became:
A lovely small semi-raft grown Carpinus, highly vigorous and evenly branched around the main trunk.
The Carpinus with awesome nebari, very nice side branching and trunk movement.
My beautiful raft Carpinus. Awesome growth this year and good looking branching so far.
Hope you find my work inspiring and thanks for your visit.
I have some Ficus Benjamina cuttings that rooted in water mixed with some liquid rooting hormone. For a long time I was thinking about what new design should I approach with these in order to do something different. As I visited Greece this summer, I collected some interesting stones that inspired me for this project, so I started building my design as soon as I returned. So, the new project was established: root over rock of Ficus Benjamina. Usually, all the bonsai masters all over USA and Japan teach that root over rock projects start with adding wet sphagnum moss around the roots till these are established and reach the soil. However, I have a different approach. As usual, we learn from mistakes or from coincidences. I have a root over rock project with a Lonicera tree. At that moment, the rock was too large and the roots of the tiny tree did not reach the soil. I was in a hurry to leave so after I fixed the tree to the rock, I wrapped the rock with the small roots with an old t-shirt that I watered just enough to keep the roots wet. The idea was to continue the next day the work with sphagnum moss. Next day I was busy again, and then the next day thesame … so the tiny tree’s roots on the rock remained wrapped with the t-shirt. I just added water daily to make sure that the roots are wet. In a few weeks, I saw an increasing vigor and the tree started developing new foliage and normally new roots. By the middle of summer all the roots reached the ground and due to the t-shirt that was tight to the rock, these ran in the close proximity of the rock, following its shape. Today they look awesome, these are thick, shaped just like the rock and again, due to the t-shirt it did not develop any feeder roots, tempted just to grow fast down to the ground. This is how I developed my approach and I will share it with you all as follows.
The rocks that I have collected have many crevasses and these look just perfect for such a project.
These are the rocks that I have collected. They are pretty tall, so I had to fix them to the pots. In the pictures below, you can see the slim pots that I considered to use in order to put the accent over the tall rocks and their future trees.
In order to fix the rocks to the pot, I found the best place in the pot that advantages the design. I drilled two holes that will allow the wire to pass via the bottom of the pot and the lower side of the rock to make sure there is a strong bond between the ceramics and the rock.
In the same way, I drilled a hole in the rock and cut away the bottom side of the spikes of the rock to ensure a straight contact surface between the pot and the rock.
After fixing the rock to the pot, it looks like in the pictures below. Now you can understand why I chose a slim pot and why tying it strongly to the pot is mandatory.
In the same way, I fixed the second rock to the second pot. There are several good reasons why you have to make sure that the rock is not moving, the roots can grow with no danger of braking and when building the upper part of the design you will have a good and solid base to work.
The next step was to fix the trees to the rocks. For this, I use natural rope because it will keep the tree in position for a period of time till it will develop new roots to establish the position and in a few months it will rot away. Using a chopping stick I also arranged the roots in the desired places. When placing them, always think of the way where these will grow as the roots are tempted always to grow downwards and try to find the shortest path to the soil.
I added the new soil and the roots that were long enough, I placed them already to reach the surface of the soil. I know that as soon as I will start watering the trees, the roots will find their way into the soil. If you push them down into the soil there is always a risk to harm them with the force you use to push them in.
In the end, I added parts of another old t-shirt, tie it with the same natural rope and add some soil mix in the areas where the distance between the rock and the textile remained too big. In case you consider that the textile will dry out too fast, you can use a plastic transparent bag or kitchen wrapping plastic to create a closed environment that will retain the water. However, you have to leave the upper part opened to be able to water and to allow oxygen circulation.
I hope that by Spring of 2019 I will be able to remove the textile and give you all an update on the two Ficus designs. Normally, by then, the roots should have reached the ground already. Just as last mention, I already stated this in other posts. I do not like using sphagnum moss because it tangles between the roots, it never rots away and it encourages developing feeder roots close to the rock and not pushing the elongation of the roots down into the soil.
This is my approach that I found to work quite fine, so be my guest and try it on your own.
Thanks for the visit,
At the moment I own about 70+ trees that mainly are deciduous collected in 2017 and 2018. As it was exposed in my previous posts, I own several tropical ones as well. However many of the deciduous ones collected this year responded well for the collection and re-establishing process. I usually organize one shooting in each season for each tree and in case I do some major work on them I shoot that operation as well. As follows, I will present the progression of some of the trees that developed nicely over the spring and summer of 2018.
My largest Carpinus in April, then May (before and after), pruned back to two leaves and in July
Another Carpinus that grew well this year and I think I will repot it by next spring. The pictures are taken in April, then May (before and after), pruned back to two leaves and in July.
A flat Carpinus that just loves the new soil, still pictured in April, then May (before and after), pruned back to two leaves and in July.
As they call it in France, “le pièce de résistance”, my raft Carpinus in the wood box. Pictures are taken in April and July. This was not pruned at all this spring.
I bought from a local nursery in June 3 Junipers to be styled in shohin cascade bonsai. After the first prune and reduction of nursery soil, these responded well developing new growth. In spring 2019 I will repot them into their ceramic containers. The pictures were taken in June and July.
I will end my post today with a tree that I collected in spring this year from my father’s garden. In fact it is a grape tree that seems to grow just lovely and it already has grapes on it.
Hope you enjoyed visiting my blog and hope to see you back soon.