Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Post 183 Tanuki No 4 update

In June ( Post 155 ) I posted an update on this tanuki which I got started in October 2013 ( Post 126 ).

In spring I repotted the tree in a bonsai pot with plenty of room. Summer is with us now and the tree has a head of steam up and growing vigorously. It is time to give it a first shaping and little trim, especially to keep the top under control. Here are front and back pictures before the trim, or actually just after I started and thought about taking some shots.






As you can see I had left a number of branches on the tree simply to thicken up the trunk and ensure it was secure within the channel in the ceramic tanuki. I've taken a couple of these off this time and left one or two on that are still likely to come off later.




The trim will no doubt encourage some back budding and multiple leaders to emerge. The plan is to grow it on, get some extension in a couple of the lower branches and fill out the profile more. Then in spring next year put it in a more appropriate pot and it should be ready for display.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Post 182 Zeolite

Finding the right inorganic components for a good bonsai growing medium is challenging. Size range is critical as is the absence of very fine material. The physical nature of the particles is important too. Sharp surfaces make for much better root development too and with that comes trunk flare. It is possible to buy all sorts of crushed or decomposed rock products but to get them ready for use demands a lot of sieving and washing; hard work and what do you do with the 30% of the material you don't want.

Diatomite is a product sold as an absorbent because of its porosity and as such it is processed and screened to a sizing that is good for bonsai use. It is also readily available in small bags. Diatomite is a mined product but is the remains of marine organisms and is totally a silica material and can be quite soft.

Another mineral product that has wide use as an absorbent and filtrate (filter bed material) is zeolite. It is a hard volcanic rock, typically alumino silicate like the rest of the crust and is also very porous like diatomite. The interesting thing about zeolite is that it is cationically active forming weak bonds with positive nutrient ions like ammonium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and various metals that are useful as trace elements. So zeolite can act as a reservoir of these essential nutrients and TEs for the plant to access over time, as well as the water that it can store in the minute pores in the rock.



I searched out a supplier for Castle Mountain Zeolite this week and managed to get my hands on some of their product. It is sold as Booster Crystals!

 This one is screened to 1 to 3 mm in size and has almost no fines at all. While 2 to 4.5mm would be ideal, as it will be very useful. The rock is crushed so it is very sharp and will be a very valuable additive to my bonsai medium. I can easily see this taking up a 20% position in my mix.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Post 181 Celtis stumps development

In August I pulled up all my Celtis stumps and put them in ploy boxes and other large containers to make it easier to work on them. With our first day in the mid 30s and afternoon thunderstorm, spring is well over and summer is now with us for the next 5 months. Not so good for human comfort but think of the cut and grow cycles that can fit into all that time.


Until just last week this is what they all looked like with the spring flush extended out a good 750 mm in many cases. The early lengths of these shoots has now hardened off and it's time to shorten them back and develop some more close ramification option value.

The pruning of this season's growth to date takes the leaders back to about 25 to 30 mm length and after a week these are shooting abundantly. As is the case with any defoliation of a deciduous tree to develop ramification and structure, the tree will generally produce more new shoots than you might want and not always where you want. It is important to choose which ones to let grow and remove the rest to avoid clutter and to focus the tree's resources where you want results.




 


So each of the first cycle stubs now have two or three new shoots. I'll let these run out to that 600 to 750mm again, building the bulk  of the primary branches, building taper and a higher density of branches. This cycle two will be for about another 7 or 8 weeks before repeating the process again. It is likely at some time in this cycle that I will tip prune the more dominant vertical growth and allow the lower more horizontal branches to continue and catch up as much as possible. Within a week or two the new shoots will be wired into growing position.

The pot hoops around many of the stumps are to contain potting medium which covers surface air layering that I've done. I used the same technique as in Post 175 on the Ficus with a ring of holes drilled where I want a new flaring root structure to replace the few major dominant roots that came with the original dig.    From past experience I'm expecting to see a mass of new fibrous roots develop all around the circumference so that before next spring I can cut off the old root structure and plant the trees in more shallow pots when the time comes. With plenty of growth momentum it's a good time for this essential step.
There are a couple here that are looking quite prospective. It's good to start many and keep a few, just like new shoots.