Here in Romania, we had a very soft and warm autumn and winter as well. This tented me to try and collect as much material as I was able, hence starting from November 2017 till April 2018 I took advantage of the warm weekends and went out there scouting and collecting new trees. This way, I have reached a number of over 60 acquisitions some with high potential already, others considered future investments. However, all of them were collected, potted and kept until a few days ago in my basement where the temperatures rarely drop below 7°C. It is a fact that at temperatures between 7°C and 12°C, only the trunk and the branches are dormant. The roots are growing in a slow rate, but still growing. I considered this an advantage for me, giving the trees a few months to develop new roots in order to start their establishment in the new containers and the new soil, way before they get completely out of their dormancy period. Through this period I was paying attention to not let the soil from the pots dry out completely, still let them dry to the point where oxygen was able to reach the roots. This is important to offer the correct balance of water and oxygen particles around the root system. In doing so, one can make sure that the roots are being treated with proper care and the best survival condition is facilitated as well as their development.
I will not post pictures of all the 60+ trees in this post nor in the following ones, but I will present those that have quite a potential at the moment. However, future posts will slowly cover the entire collection, presenting progression from the collection moment and their development in time. So, this is the first of a series of posts that will probably last for the entire 2018 season, detailing not only the development of the trees, but their after care, handling and fertilization.
A wild Carpinus collected from the top of a rocky hill with a lot of movement and even aerial roots.
A shohin Carpinus, presenting a lot of movement, nice root flare and age.
Semi-raft Carpinus, bent into position using copper wires accomplishing nice movement over its branches.
Wild movement, wild trunk wild aerial roots, this is a wild Carpinus.
Wind blown style Carpinus.
A small shohin Carpinus with an awesome nebari and branch distribution.
Hope you find these trees as full of potential as I do and stay close as more pictures of other ones will come in future posts.
Thanks for the visit!
I continue my journey of fall pruning with other two species besides Carpinus and Fagus trees, presented in the previous post. The time came to prune my Acer Campestre, or field maple and Robinia yamadori, all collected in spring 2017. These trees grew all year round quite well hopefully accumulating enough energy to push hard in 2018. This year I let them do their think and go as wild as they desired, being the first year after collection. As they went dormant, it is about time to prune them back hard, to start their structural design.
The first Field Maple pruned is in the images below, before and after pruning with an additional bird’s eye view to see the final canopy structure. It created many buds with very short internodes, and I hope that it will behave the same next year as well. As seen in the first image, all the branches grew strait, with no movement and a too high density of buds emerging from the same node. If not pruned, these buds will swell in spring and they will create in the branches thick nodes at their base. So, I considered important to start all over the entire structure, up to an extent of thick branches.
I cleared mostly the density of chaotic buds existing all over some branches by pruning back to old wood. Doing so, in 2018, as soon as they will start leafing out, I will wait till the new branches reach maturity and apply guide wires to give movement and place the new branches in the positions that I feel like it advantages canopy design.
In a bird’s eye view, one can see that the overall architecture of the new canopy is structurally in equilibrium around the tree, giving in the same time layers of the future growth.
Another maple that I pruned has a nice trunk that I liked from its beginnings but all the side branches were too strait with very long internodes. I gave it a lot of time to figure out what is the best way to obtain a nice canopy in the shortest period of time, but the only solution I found suitable was to prune back nearly all the branches to the main trunk and practically start from scratch the entire tree. Such operations, push back 3 to 4 years of development, but at least gives you the opportunity to renounce creating a bonsai on compromises.
So I did, I cut back drastically to the trunk. I left only some thin branches that I will take advantage of when creating the new canopy. I hope however that pruning so hard back will push out new buds and I will be careful in the spring, to leave only those to develop that are in the right positions. The rest of them, will be all removed as soon as they will be visible on the tree.
In the top view of the tree it can be seen that not much of the original structure remained. Also, when collecting this yamadori, it had a strange one-sided growing root system and this is the reason why it is placed in the contained so off center. I will repot the tree in 2019 Spring and then I will start removing from the length of the long one-sided root, trying to center the tree in the pot.
The second species that I pruned is the Robinia yamadori from my collection. This species in particular is quite tolerant to human intervention, responds well to pruning and to repotting. I let it grow wild all season to ensure a good root system in the pot as I have a special plan with this tree.
I pruned the right sided stubs and worked the cut to shape it close to a natural wound. I did not apply any healing paste to it because I want to let it dry out and die back at the surface. When pruning, I left on the tree only those branches that are in right position for the new canopy and in Spring 2018 I will change the angle of the trunk as exemplified in the picture below. For this I can do 2 things: either I do a parallel to the ground cut of the plastic container in this angle, either I repot the tree. If I will repot it, I will not remove all the soil, but I will remove only from the bottom and the top to be able to give it the proper angle, then I will move it back probably in a more flat container.
Another Robonia yamadori collected in Spring 2017 has a multi-trunk structure and had a quite vigorous growth this season. Only in one season, I think that its ceramic container is already full of roots as I had to cut many of them from the tray below the tree, spread out via the drainage holes.
During 2017, one of the trunks died and I was somehow glad it happened because this was facing directly the viewer from the considered front of the tree. I cut it back to an extent to leave a stub that I worked to look like a natural branch that broke. I also burned the wood and I am sure that in a few months especially after rain next year will age the stub it will look very natural. I tried to prune the tree in order to reach different layers and cut off all the branches that were growing directly to the inside of the canopy
In a top view of the tree, the three remaining trunks are very nicely distributed, somehow in an angle of 120 degrees, rounding upt the entire structure and advantaging it’s front view.
What I love most about Robinia species is that even small trees have this aged bark and even wounds or dead wood becomes fantastic when weather conditions influence their aspect in time. One important thing I would mention about Robinia is that they love direct sun and require a lot of water. During growing season, they can consume the water from the container on less than one day comparative to the other species that stay mois for 3 to 4 days.
In the previous post I presented the process of pruning my Carpinus shohin collection. To continue I chose to prune my Fagus Sylvastica trees. All of these were collected from the wild in Spring 2017. As seen in the Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017 post, all these had a quite vigorous growth this year and all reached Autumn stabilized in their containers. When I collected these trees, I pruned them just enough to decrease their size, but I left on their branches as many buds as possible. Doing so, I wanted to make sure that when these buds will swell and open, the new leaves will promote new root growth in the pots to replace those lost during collection. Now, after a good growth season, it is time to start pruning hard to create the desired shape by going back closer to the trunk and the thick branches.
When pruning Fagus, or popularly called Beech, it is important to leave on the branch at least one bud to make sure that the branch will not die back. I was lucky with these trees, because even if small, there are many back buds on the thicker branches, so I was able to prune hard the trees.
The first tree had a very dense canopy with many buds on the new branches but too far from the thick wood. Also another problem was that at the point where the main trunk divides into two, in fact it divided into three. So, I pruned it back drastically and I created in fact two levels, one upper one that will be the new apex of the tree, and a lower one that will ensure an equilibrium over the entire structure. In a bird’s eye view it can be seen that the tree has an even distribution of the remaining branches. On their bark there are small buds that will give me next year a startup for a completely new ramification system.
A second Beech yamadori with more or less the same characteristics as the previous one needed a hard pruning to go back closer to the trunk and the thick branches. I simplified a lot its canopy and at the moment it is not so impressive as it was just before pruning. However, I will now be able to guide with wire the new growth from next year on, and by this I will take over the control of the canopy’s shape. Many times, it is needed to give up on a apparently nice design to reach a certain desired one.
The last Beech yamadori that I collected in the Spring had an up informal character or close to broom shape. The trunk-line has a semicircle shape and in my vision, I was thinking to mix the up informal character with the trunk shape, continuing it on one branch that needed to be moved in a proper position. The issue was that the branch was quite thick. Fagus wood is very hard to bent when it is thick and especially when it is dormant like it is already. Using thick wire around it is not a solution. However, I wound around this branch thick wire, but not no bent it with this wire, but to distribute the bending force evenly over the branch’s length. The bending itself was done by a pull-down wire hooked to the tip of the branch. Comparing the before and after pictures, one can see the huge displacement of the branch. If I would not apply that thick wire to distribute the bending force from the tip of the branch, I am absolutely positive that the branch would break. Doing so, I was able to displace it in a wide angle and it was a safe operation.
I kept however the general broom aspect of the branches in the canopy because I want to create the illusion of an umbrella shape apex of the tree.
As autumn is now already here for some time now, the leaves of my carpinus shohin trees got brown marking the end of this season and telling me that they went dormant till spring. Because I like to take my time when I prune my trees, I start pruning them from autumn gaining also space inside my cold shelter where I house the trees till temperatures are above freezing in spring.
Methodically I started this year with my smallest trees. These were all collected in March 2017. One season growth already established the trees in the pots and also gave me quite impressive elongation of the thin branches.
The tools that I use are classical bonsai pruners such as concave, knob, scissors and classical garden pruning scissors for very thick branches.
The first tree that I pruned is a multiple trunk with a very nice taper. This tree was extremely vigorous this year and it was mandatory to prune it in the summer too, even if this a habit that should be avoided in the first year after collecting from the wild. In the first picture is the tree before pruning and the next ones are after pruning, a front and bird’s eye view.
The real shohin carpinus trees that I have are quite small, they have a height of about 12-15cm and a diameter after pruning of about 20cm.
The next tree is my favorite one. I found it close to a field that often was visited by sheep and I thing its size is given by these continuously eating its new fresh growth year after year.I had to use thick wire to move thick branches into their final position. It was very challenging because carpinus wood is very hard to bent and I ha to put a lot of effort into it. But finally the branches reached their right position.
The last carpinus shogin is the smallest of all. I pruned it back quite hard to try and create dense ramification close to the main trunk. Hope that next year it will bud back on the remaining branches as expected.
I apply to all the cut wounds healing and callusing paste by this ensuring that water with diseases will not enter in the cut places and also this will increase the callusing process.
In January 2016 I bough from a supermarket a Ficus Benjamina Variegata that looked more like a bush at that moment. The choice was based on its multiple trunks and the final idea was to fuse them into one think trunk. I took good care of it, keeping it over the winter on a sunny window sill, fertilize it every second week, never prune it and let it elongate as wild as it felt to do so. By late Spring 2016 it grew quite a lot and probably doubled its height. I considered it is time to start working on it, motivated also by the ambient temperatures that were already increasing. Longer days with an abundance of sunlight were at my disposal now, so I had all the necessary ingredients to start the process of fusing the trunks.
Preliminary I pruned back the Ficus, and removed closely all the leaves from the branches.At that time I did not have at my disposal natural raffia so I used instead of it used hemp cord. As you can see in the picture below, after finalizing pruning and warping the tree. Using hemp cord proved to be a bad idea. At the lower side of the trunks, due to higher humidity as the cord is close to the soil, this rotted fast. Even this was no problem, but it promoted rotting of the trunks.
By early spring 2017, only one trunk remained. The rest of the rotted away and I removed them as deep as possible from the soil. One interesting thing is that one trunk fused to this remaining one. Its base rotted and now it is still there sicked to the main trunk. Details about this are depicted later in this post, just roll it down.
I was not too satisfied with the progression of the tree over an entire year. In early summer 2017 the tree looked more like a stick with some branches and leaves here and there. Far away from any of the initial ideas that I had with this tree. I knew at the moment what I had to do in order to thicken the main trunk and the side branches. I had to place the tree outside and expose it to continuously changing weather conditions such as rain, wind, sunshine, warm and colder rays. Especially wind, because it moves the trunk and the branches helps a lot in a fast thickening of the wood as it tries to repose to bending.
I wired with copper wire the branches into the desired positions and covered the soil with natural fertilizer and then with moss to make sure that humidity is kept constant when keeping the tree in full sun. This process started in May 2017. The tree was watered every other day, excepting rainy days when it was not necessary.
Wiring the branches into their correct position gave a nice distribution of the leaves both to ensure forming levels of branches with leaves and also making sure that sunlight penetrates and reaches the trunk and the leaves from all sides. A top view of the tree proves this. Too long branches were pruned to keep a nice harmonic overall shape of the tree.
Thicker branches required doubling the wire to make sure that those will stay in the desired position. In the picture below one can observe that the top branches were bent to form lateral pads. To create the force and the tension in the wire required to bend them and to make sure that aggressive windy days will not move the branches in other position, doubling the wire has to start from the trunk creating few spirals around it and only after that to be wired around a specific branch.
As expected, by early fall (September 2017) the tree had a serious evolution. The trunk and the branches thickened a lot. The base of the trunk actually doubled its diameter. As it can be seen in the picture below, the process was so aggressive that the wires cut inside the wood, in some regions of the tree they were so deep that the actual bark of the tree was maybe 1mm higher than the wire. I know, the wires should have been removed much earlier to avoid scars in the bark. My experience with Ficus species proved that such scars are many times advantageous.
On Ficus species, such scars will heal in less than 6 months completely. The nice thing when healing is that on the surface of the bark a texture remains uneven due to those former scars and this by all means adds to the value of the tree and proves to compensate the simple bark present of Ficus species. So, to be honest, I left intentionally the wire there to bite in and create those scars. I always do so!
I was writing earlier about the fusion of a former complete trunk with the main trunk of the tree. In the picture below one can see where the old trunk was cut of as it was dead and rotting. It is fused to the main trunk, it has branches and leaves and lives very well. Even more, when I wrapped it for the first time with hemp cord, I passed between the two trunks a branch and now it is growing from that fusion point, as it can be seen in the picture below.
As the temperatures outside are quite low now, the tree was moved inside. I have removed all the wires of the tree in order to start the healing of the scars. However, branches that still were not in the desired position were rewired making sure the new wire is not inside the scars created by the former wires that held the branch through Summer. In the picture below, the pads formed are already visible on the Ficus tree. Of course there is much more work to do, but comparing the overall design of the tree now, with the moment at the beginning of Summer, one can say that a big step forward was made.
From the roots there are two new trunks that I intend to use to create a new lower level of the tree. I wired these too into the right position and trimmed some of the branches that were growing strait up. All that it remains now is to winter the tree inside, keep it warm, in sunny window sill and fertilize it with liquid fertilizer every two weeks. In 2018 I will move again the tree outside and repeat the experience from this year. Doing this, I think that in 2 or 3 years I will have a quite nice tree ready to be called bonsai by all means.