How to lose a trident in ten days

Last year, about this time I guess, I chronicled a nebari improvement technique that my friend, Ed, was trying with some trident maples. 

It involved taking seedlings and passing them through a CD and allowing them to grow. The full technique is explained in this post if you’re really interested. Here’s the tree from that post as we left it. 

As it is now 

I think I’m going to chop it here eventually. 

But today, in this lightening quick post, I wanted to show you this other tree from the same batch. 

Isn’t that a cool wound on the trunk? 

And the roots are wonderfully radial. 

It’s pretty much destroyed the disc. 

Like a hand clutching and crushing it in disgust. I wonder what’s on the disc….

“How to lose a guy in 10 days” 


No wonder, I’d be crushing it myself if the tree wasn’t already doing it. We need to extricate the disc before the tree begins to speak in a lazy southern accent and tries to sell me a Lincoln, not because it’s being paid to do it but because they’re just cool. 

I swear the roots on a trident are like iron. And with the disc removed, look at how cool and smooth the underside  is. 

That last bit of plastic ain’t coming out; hopefully it’s not the scene where they’re playing that ridiculous “Bullshit” card game. It could have been such a better scene but it turned into a cliché, much like many of Hollywoods efforts these days. 

You may notice that there aren’t many fine roots, just a couple coming off of each big root. As long as you have a few left, that root won’t die. A trident is pretty tough that way. Those big roots with very few fine hair roots is the result of how coarse the soil it was growing in. I’m putting it into some regular bonsai mix, it’ll promote finer growth, both on top and on bottom. 

Here’s the finished tree. 

Just kidding. That’s a big trident I got at a nursery that was going out of business after the death of its owner. It should be a good tree in time. 

Here’s our tree, recently emancipated from its chick flick bondage. 

I buried it deep to keep the roots from drying out in the unforgiving Florida sun. 

The next technique I’m going to try with my endless supply of little tridents is trunk fusing. 

There’s a technique I’ll be stealing from Suthin where you take two or three littler trees and tape them together to make one fat tree. Stay tuned for that. I’m so excited. 

The next post though (and I’m about to go outside to do the work) is a radical redesign on this elm. 

Time to get my hands dirty. Tee hee!

Posted in rare finds, tips and tricks | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Rusty Bonsai Tools and Tiger Stripes

Do you guys remember the tool from this post? IMG_0869
Well, I got some advice as to how to get rid of the rust on it from a reddit reader (/u/TotaLibertarian) using an uncommon (and when I say that I mean totally common) substance.
It is suffice to say that my curiosity was piqued.
I did some investerating and research.
I combed over blogs and forums.
I wiki’d and googled until my eyes were crossed.

Then I experimented. First I sanded all the rust….

…. Both off the knife and also on a pair of root cutters. 

Knife above, cutters below. 

The rust on the cutters wasn’t too bad, it just kept coming back no matter how much I oiled it.  

Next, the chemical….

After making a salad (with a little oil, salt and pepper) I put the two tools into a glass container (glass is important, so you don’t have any reactions with a metal container) and soaked them in straight vinegar for 36 hours. 

What TotaLibertarian told me to use, which was not vinegar, has vinegar as an ingredient. But it’s not vinegar, per se, that is the desired chemical. It’s an acid that I needed. 

Let me start at the beginning (and you thought I had done that already) and give you an idea of what I am doing. 

First, go to your set of bonsai tools (not the stainless ones) and look at them. Notice the color: kind of a black color (except at the sharpened edge).  We should all be aware that steel, or, more precisely, carbon steel, is generally silver in color. The problem with carbon steel is that it has a tendency to interact with oxygen molecules in the air and combine to form what is called…rust. We shall call it “red rust”, for reasons that I’ll explain in just a second. 

There is another kind of rust that can affect carbon steel. It can be called “black rust” because it turns the silver carbon steel, well, black….ish. Sometimes it’s darker than other times (like my soul…..). 

The acid combines with the steel in a similar way that oxygen does and could eat away at the steel the same way that red rust does. But you remove the corrosive chemical when you’ve achieved the desired effect and you end up with blackish steel. And the neat thing is, this coating prevents oxygen from getting to the clean steel and making red rust. Mostly. 

This process here has a few names: bluing (in a professional capacity, like on a gun barrel), forced patina, poor mans rust preventative, experimental, blog subject process (I made that last up just now). 

In industrial situations they can use, depending on how much money they want to spend, about 15 different chemicals and about the same amount of processes to achieve the bluing (how it went from being called black rust to blue I don’t know). They also use different temperatures, depending on the chemical used. 

Since I’m a poor man, I shall use the chemical that is sitting on top of my refrigerator: vinegar. When a poor man does this to steel, they (of the ubiquitous kind) call it: forced patina. 

Patina sounds better than black rust I suppose. 

The simplest way to force a patina is to use an old chefs trick; say you have a hundred dollar, high quality and high carbon steel paring knife. Take a potato, stab the potato, and leave the knife stabbed in the potato overnight. You’ll get a nice charcoal colored patina the next day, and the resultant red rust protection. Some chefs will cut some lemons (or onions) and not clean their knife until the next day and get the same darkening. 

It’s like science or something. 

I decided to use vinegar because, like I said, it was sitting on my fridge, and I wanted to watch what was happening. 

I like to watch…..

Can you see the bubbling?

I left the cutters in for the full 36 hours. The knife was only in for about 12 I think. I had other plans for it. 

Wearing a “size-too-small” vinyl glove, I removed the cutters and wiped off the excess rust. 

You can see the dull color above. 

Below, the handle on the left has been wiped. 

Then I washed it with dish soap and used some acetone to dry the water. 

Not too bad, right? I’m not done yet. 

The last step is to oil the tool to fix the patina and make it all glossy. 

A wet, oiled-up tool looks so much sexier, right? 

Here’s a comparison, an old knob cutter that’s almost at the end of its life and my newly patina-ed root cutter. 

Don’t worry, I treated the old knob cutter as well later.  

These root cutters came out nice, right? 

There’s nothing like having a freshly oiled, 11 inch tool in your hand. 

Makes you proud to be a man. 

Anyway, back to the knife. 

I wasn’t very happy with how light the patina came out on it, so I decided to use what TotaLibertarian originally said to use (before I got all clever and everything). He said to coat it in mustard. 

Yep, mustard. 

That’s my son Logan filling in as hand model. Look how dirty his hands are, I’m so proud. I had to wash off the bottle after I was done with the photoshoot. 

I only took 15 pics to get the right lighting and angle. He was not pleased. 

Go to the top of the blog, all the way to the title, read it. 

Tiger stripes. 

Oh yeah buddy!

Knife, patina forced, not very sexy. 

Paint brush, mustard.  

Some artistic brush strokes. 

And, after only about four hours, and some scrubbing  (mustard dries hard). 

Cool!  Way cool! 

Now, it’s important to oil your steel after these processes. It stops the corrosion and fixes the patina. 

And it keeps water off. This process makes the steel resistant to rust, but if you get water on it, it will still rust. 

Water is the great equalizer: it wears down mountains, breaks levees, finds its way into any crack or crevice in a roof. Frozen water once covered 2/3rds of the world during the ice ages, grinding the land flat and scouring the soil away. 

And i,t too, has oxygen (that’s the “o” in “h2o”)  and will cause the dreaded red rust we’ve been fighting the whe blog post, like some creeping virus infecting the world, causing the zombie apocalypse and ending civilization as we know it. 

And, after all your hard work, don’t forget and leave a tool out in the rain. 

That’s the knob cutter I had treated. 

And before you say, 

“It was the cheap vinegar you used and your incompetence that caused the rust” 

This is a “professional ” bluing job on a Japanese tool, left in the rain at the same time:

It’s almost like I was testing them or something. 

I also experimented with boiling the vinegar on some other tools and got a somewhat darker patina. There are all these little tricks, different chemicals, different temps you can use to achieve the desired look. Play around with it. I had fun fooling around with the tools, annoying my family with the vinegar and mustard smells, especially when I was boiling it, and it gave me something to do while it was raining. 

And just so I don’t get sued: use plenty of ventilation if you choose to boil your vinegar. Tools can be sharp, don’t cut yourself. And vinegar in a wound is not pleasant, or in your eyeball either, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

And, one last bit of advice: Oil your tool before you use it, it’ll be a lot more pleasant experience. 

Posted in maintenance, tips and tricks | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dancing live oak

Here’s a sexy tree.
It is a quercus virginiana, a live oak.
It has a really strong leader that is suddenly taking off.
Bizarre, I haven’t repotted in maybe 3 years. Something is not right (or, more precisely, something is right)
It’s has a unique trunk character, as you’ll see.

The reason it’s called a live oak is because the first European to see it, the Duke a la Comté de Chateaû Massimorro, named it after his third cousin, Olive de Fleur de la Tromper, who also happened to be his lover. He would shorten her name to ‘Live because he felt his existence was grey and lifeless when parted from her. Somehow, going from the French to the English, the pronunciation went from live to live.
And we all know that “oak” is the Welsh pronunciation of the Latin word “quercus” . The Welsh used to call their first dynastic king (and only dynasty, the Welsh have been conquered many times) Ian the Oaken Member, which in Latin means, John the Little Tree, as oaks tend to grow short in Rome.
Funny how some trees get their names.
Oh, also, the live oak will keep its leaves throughout the winter and, come spring, will drop all its leaves, put out flowers, and, within a week, have all new leaves. Hence, and more probably, the “Live” part of the name.
The leaves above are ready to drop, they’re old and worn out.
I think I know a way to help them out.
But I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.
My wife finally found out that I was using her toothbrush for this operation so I had to go buy me this nylon brush.
I should’ve gotten this brush year’s ago, it works way better than an old used toothbrush. Sorry dear.
My task:
Remove the moss from the trunk.
Hmmmnn……what is this?
Interesting, this could be a clue as to why it has that big shoot.
Let me weed the damn thing and see what we have.
Don’t be fooled by this, all these fine white roots are from those weeds on top.
And with that pic, I’ve given away why the tree is suddenly throwing up that strong shoot.
All the white, fungus looking stuff is actually a fungus called mycorrhizae. It is a beneficial organism that lives in symbiosis with the tree (any plant really, 99% of plants have a mycorrhizae that is paired off with it.). In exchange for sugars, the fungus helps the tree take up water and nutrients, giving it a better chance of survival in times of drought or stress.
In bonsai, most people are concerned with pine trees and mycorrhizae the most, so when you research it, that’s what will pop up.
This is a good thing. Oaks need mycorrhizae just as much as pines.
In order to ensure that I reinfect the new soil, I take some of the old soil and sift out the fines (as best I can, this soil is wetter than the pastors….nevermind, but it’s best to sift with soil bone dry)
Then, add new soil to the pot.
And put the old soil on top, and gently fold the old soil into the new soil, like your adding chocolate chips to whipped cream. Stiff peaks my friends.
Now I need to choose the front.
This was, at one point, the front.
But I prefer this, which was the backside.
It’s a little more, ah, irreverent.
Next, as seems to be another theme in these recent blog posts, I’m going to redress this chop wound.
An oak should be able to heal this small a wound, I’ve seen them heal cuts as big as basketballs in the landscape.
Then, to speed the natural leaf drop process along….
I cut off all the leaves.
Now we can see the structure.
And the major flaw.
Oaks are funny about not back budding where you want or need them too.
This gap here:
won’t, in my opinion and experience, ever put out buds.
I hope I’m wrong but there are scars on it (which new buds won’t grow on) and no apparent latent buds that I can see. So if I try to chop it I could end up losing the whole top.
That’s ok, this is where we must use artful deceit to hide the flaw. I will cut the top back and hope for some secondary shoots to cover it up.
Ready for wire now.
The top needs more branching, needs more work, but I’m happy with the rest.
From the sides.

Some virtual foliage.
Looks like a tree.
The title of this post is “Dancing Live Oak”.
What dance do I mean?
Why, twerking, of course.
‘Cuz in bonsai…..
“We’re all about
That base
‘Bout that base
All about
that base
‘Bout that base

Posted in branch placement, rare finds, redesign | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

American elm root-cutting restyle/repot

This write up wasn’t going to happen, but then I posted (on my various social media platforms) this pic:
Now, you’d think that people (and you Kaya) would focus on the bloody thumb, but no, NOOOO, they wanted to see the blurry tree in the background. Damn bonsai obsessed people.
Well, guys and gals, here it is:
It is an American elm (ulmus americana). I’m not sure if it’s what they call the Florida elm (which would just add “floridana” to the end of its binomial nomenclature, turning it into a, um..trinomial name, I guess) because the main distinction is…..there isn’t one.
It’s the same tree but, considering that there is a sizable population in Florida that hasn’t been affected by Dutch elm disease, it’s more and more called the Florida elm. Maybe the beetle that transmits the disease doesn’t like the smell of margaritas and key lime pie.
Anywho, it’s on the bench to be repotted and trimmed/wired.
It’s a tit-bit-nipply this morning, which calls for a fire to warm my bones, I think.
I’ll tell you what, this is such an educational blog, I learned a lesson this morning already. I shall now share my newfound knowledge with the world:
Acetone fumes are a little more rapidly explosive than gasoline when used as an accelerant in the process of lighting a fire.
There’s a word that describes the sound. It is “WHOOOSH!!!”
The hair was getting too long on my arm anyway, my wife was threatening to braid it…..wait, I was just informed, by the over-the-shoulder reader (or, as she prefers to be called, the wife) that my arm hair was fine, it’s in…other places , where the hair is too long.
There will be no fire there, I guarantee.
This is the current front.
This is a root cutting, which means that, at one point, this belonged to a larger tree but was cut off to fit that larger tree into a smaller bonsai pot. Elm’s roots will regrow from the chopped off point. I do have several posts on the subject if you’re really interested.
The problem with root cuttings is their will to grow. From the cut end you’ll get way too many new branches (which is measured as “at least three but as many as 27″. If you have more than 27 then it’s called “super duper way too many”.)
I made the decision to allow three branches to grow from the end and I’m getting what “they” are now calling (in a snooty continental accent) “inverse taper”.
I’ll deal with that later. First, I can’t get the damn tree out of the pot.
Maybe some pushing from below?
Nope, you’d think a chopstick up the butt would move it.
It would move me.
Let me introduce you to the new pot.
This unique piece is made of a highly refined, Italian clay (and, in fact, the pot was made in Italy). The clay body’s name is roughly translated as “baked earth”. The red color is the result of the high iron content found in the earth from which it was mined.
The techniques that were used in the making of this vessel predate every civilization that is existent now. It’s truly an example of traditional methods and craftsmanship.
This specific pot was customized for bonsai use (most pots like this have a mass produced elán) complete with hand drilled tie-down-wire holes and a hand chipped, artistic, leading edge.

The pot has, to sweeten its value, a patina that really shows its use and age, a detail much prized by many bonsai practitioners.
And with that, I’m ready to place the tree into the new pot.
I had said that the front was here.
The problem is that all the branching goes in the wrong direction (except the apex, the blue arrow)
If I turn it around, and use some wire, I think I can just get it to work.
Yes, looks promising.
I’ll need to remove the, now offensive, third appendage.
Some additional trimming.
Some wire.
And you now have an uncle named Robert, often called Bob.
Ok, it is just an old terra cotta pot I chipped into a semi-aesthetic shape but I think it works, along with changing the front and rewiring the structure.
I did lose some ramification in the restyling but it’ll grow back quickly. It’s an elm after all. And the taper will be improved.
And I think, if I ever display it, I’ll use the old pot as the stand.
That’ll annoy some people for sure.

Posted in branch placement, progression, redesign | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Trident maple pre-spring maintenance

This tree is new to the blog but old to me. I’ve had it for about 7 or eight years, but I don’t think I’ve posted it anywhere on the world wide interwebs.
It’s a trident maple (Acer buergerianum), native to east China and Taiwan, and naturalized on bonsai enthusiast’s benches all over the world.
For some reason, I didn’t get a full frontal before shot. Maybe I’m being mysterious. Or maybe I was just delirious.
Too much meds?
Anyway, my plans with the tree are…
Redressing the big trunk chops wound.
The top that was cut off is the subject of this here blogpost on thread grafting. I had actually rooted it as a cutting and then thread grafted more roots on it. Cool project, I should update it.
I’ll be pruning buds and cutting back hard some of the branches.
There will be a repot.
And I’ll toy with the idea of thread grafting some roots on this tree, but decide not to because my drill is missing…
Time to play with some sharp objects.
That big trunk chop wound was covered with the putty like cut paste at the time of the chopping.
I’ve scraped off about a third of the putty in the pic above. The green line is the edge of the callous, the red double line shows the putty.
The next pic shows the putty all cleaned off.
There’s little rot at all, a little towards the bottom of the wound.
Next step, recut the edge of the callous.
This will stimulate the tree into closing the wound further.
Then a fresh application of putty.
Good for another two years. If I had been more diligent in the care of this wound, it might be closed by now. But, truth be told, I had become bored with the tree. It’s care is almost like following a scheduled maintenance routine: do this in March, this is April, this in June etc…..
Which brings me to the next task: pruning.
There are some, more experienced bonsai-ists out there who are wondering why I didn’t prune this earlier in the winter (it is February now). I’ve seen people up north pruning in late December on these.
Remember, I’m in Florida. The timing of the work I do will be different than yours (except you, and you, and especially you, yeah…you. You know who you are).
If I had pruned this mid winter it would be in full leaf now, weakened from being awoken too early from its winter nap, and it might just fizzle out in the summer. I have to be really careful with my deciduous trees, it’s too warm in the winter. Florida doesn’t like them it seems; example, our red maples only grow half as tall as ones I’ve seen up north, and they’re short lived.
I don’t want my trident to be short lived. So I wait until the cusp of spring (which is February here) to prune.
My advice, find a club, find some club members with good trees (not just the big mouths or the ones who wants
to be helpful, find the club members who’s trees look like the ones you see in the Internet) and find out what soil they use, when they repot, or prune, and how. The ones with the best trees tend to be (not always, one can buy a tree, after all) the ones who have figured out the climate they, and you, live in.
So, we have a branch.
A trident maple branch.
What’s amazing, and annoying, is the profusion of new buds that occur at the nodes.
The buds are the pointy, arrow shaped thingies on the branch.
They become so numerous and grow any and every way that one could, by pruning alone, create a curly cue branch.
If you don’t get rid of the multiple buds on the node, they will swell the node and cause an ugly knot that’s difficult to fix. Most of the time you have to prune back to the next node.
Keep only two buds per node.
Here’s the top.
The strongest shoots tend to grow here. You need to cut those shoots back to where the nodes are closest.
In this case, where the red circle is. The reason is, within the white bracket, no new buds will grow. We want short internodes to give us more choices and, therefore, more ramification.
If you go back to the pic of the top of the tree, you’ll see that I need to cut back a lot of these shoots.
It’s actually “Snip x 47″.
Here are some side views that show the pruning.

Next step is a repot.
This is the pot I’m using. I know, it might look better in an oval pot.
But I’m trying this rectangular one. I think it will work.
To the repot!
I call this song, “The repotting ragtime blues”
Maybe I’ll do a YouTube video.
Nice form.
I could make dreads out of these.
If you don’t like my chosen pot, I have this one.
I thought not.
Now’s a good time to talk about the history of the tree.
It was a field grown tree and, even though it had a mat under it to train the roots horizontally, the mat was not up to the task. Some of the roots grew sideways, some just punched through the mat.
This is the back of the tree, the roots went straight down.
When I lifted it from the ground I had to cut the roots in the back to a nub.
This would be a great time to do a few thread grafts…..where is my drill? Dammit Andrew, where did you put it? Teenagers! Oh well, next year then…
And this is the back of the tree, you can’t see it unless you’re a nosy S.O.B.
The roots are much more palatable in the front. They behaved better than the back roots.
The lesson we learn is to use a material that is less root permeable than a fabric mat.
The front roots look even better in some soil, potted up.
And here we go, the big reveal!
Wait, stop! There’s something not quite right.
It’s too long here, and lacking in taper.
No mercy.
Ah, that’s better.
If you remember from the past three posts, you don’t fertilize a newly repotted deciduous tree (in the ramification stage) in the early spring, until you have the first flush of growth harden off.
The reason is that all the work you just did removing the long, bud-less shoots will be for naught because fertilizer now will just push fast growth and you’ll be back to the beginning. It’s controlled growth we want now.
For the next post I could do a tool maintenance theme, anyone interested in that?
If not, I have a big elm to work on. I got it from Paul Pikel.

Posted in maintenance, refine, roots | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

This tree will bug a lot of people

You might have seen this tree before.
If you’re a follower of the blog you’ll remember that it made an appearance in this post here. That post was about patience, developmental steps, and beer.
This was but one of three trees I worked on in the post.
Here’s how it was left then.
I said that the last post on this winged elm (ulmus alatta) was one where the development was the main focus. I let the elm grow all year and now I think I have some branches that are in the right places and I can do a final cut. And it’s time for a nice pot too.
Look at all the branches I have to choose from.

I’m excited.
I’m cold too, gotta start a fire.
Ahhhhh, that’s good. I don’t have a chair to sit on anymore but I’m warm.
Okay, I’m going to go fast now, try to keep up.
I can cut back here for taper.
As well as here.
On the cut above, you will notice that I left a nub. The reason is horticultural: by leaving the nub, there’s a better chance of a new branch budding from around the base of that nub. The genetic information for new branching occurs at what is called the branch collar, or the base of the branch.
Like here.
Here we are all trimmed.
And now all wired.
You all are wondering about this one lower branch, right?
Actually, more than half of you (I’d hazard a guess) are wondering why the whole tree isn’t in the fire.
I’ll explain the story I see in this tree.
You see, the best trees have stories they tell. It’s art, after all.
Some trees story is simply “tree” or “tree in field”. And that’s not a bad thing.
And then some trees are pure design (think some of Kimura’s more wild sculptures) and don’t have a story. Those are the hardest trees to make work because there is no reference to nature for the viewers to relate to.
That’s called abstract art.
Artists like Dan Robinson and even Walter Paul are Naturalists.
Most Japanese stylists are Idealists or even Caricaturists.
I know I’m talking Art but bear with me, I do have a destination in view.
I have an eclectic approach to bonsai styling myself, I tend to let the tree tell me where it wants to go.
So what’s the story with this tree?
Consider this: it’s an elm, which usually grow like a broom (straight trunk and a full canopy, imagine, if you would, a giant like Paul Bunyan cutting the tree down and using it like a broom. Perhaps to clean up after
Babe, his Blue Ox). So now imagine that Babe, the Blue Ox, was wrestling with Paul (they liked to wrestle, that’s how the Grand Tetons were made, after all) and he gets thrown into the tree, breaking the main apex off in the scuffle (a broom style tree tends to have two apices, one more dominant than the other) and knocks the tree over.
Well, for some reason, Paul feels sorry for this tree and kinda pushes it back upright.
Kinda upright. He is a lumberjack, after all. Maybe it was too small to harvest. Or he thought it looked better leaning over like it is. We aren’t really sure why.
Now remember, Paul Bunyan was a big man. This full sized elm would be about the size of a large-sized bonsai to him. I might even be suggesting that maybe Paul was the first bonsai practitioner in America.
I mean, he created the Grand Canyon, The Mighty Mississippi and the Missouri rivers.
Niagara Falls? Yup, him.
I’d definitely say he could have done it.
He did work with trees and knew how and wasn’t afraid to trunk chop.
So maybe he was inventing a new style of tree, one that has been lost in the oral traditions where all the Tall Tales come from.
I’d call the style: Bunyan style.
Or maybe the Ruined Broom might be better.
Or maybe this tree was growing in an open field (hence the straight trunk) and was clipped by a tornado, ripping off the main apex and partially knocking it down. But since it was growing in an ideal spot, it recovered and started growing again.
Nah, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox were roughhousing and knocked it over.
I like that story better.
Oh, why the little first branch?
Pure design, it fills the negative space breaks up the trunk line, and creates some interest and makes you ask “why”.
It has some good roots. This tree was an air layer originally.
And the finished tree.
You may not like it (like I said, probably half hate it) but I do. It’s not a cookie cutter tree and it’s not a soothing tree either.
It looks beat up and damaged and it plays on the subconscious and makes you feel just a little bit uncomfortable.
It makes you wonder why I made it, it makes you feel.
It might even grow on you, if you take the time to study it a bit more.
Ok, the next post is on a trident maple that was originally field grown.
See ya soon.

Posted in branch placement, rare finds, updates, wiring | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Collected hackberry repot and revisit

Here’s the big tree I promised you in the last post.
I think I’m finally getting into the swing of things again too, this is a large tree (I won’t be doing any swinging anytime soon though, if you know what I mean, though this was a group effort).
We have before you, a celtis laevigata, or, a sugarberry, southern hackberry or just hackberry.
I first wrote about it here, which was one of the best posts I’ve ever written. There’s drama, pretty girls, intrigue, fascinating trees, and lots of smartass prose. Check it out, if for no other reason than to know what has come before.
This is how I left it, and at Epcot no less.
Since the ongoing theme of the last few posts has been repotting, you know what’s coming next. With a tree this big, I need to break out The Hook.
And, to the delight of some, I will be getting my hands dirty.
The tree definitely needed repotting, when I watered, the water would pool on top and it dried out faster than it should have. One thing to say about it, it surely has good roots.
You never know what you’re gonna find in a tree you get from someone else.
How does that saying go? Something about a splinter and a plank in you’re eye? This is definitely a plank.
Anyway, this hidden root is a good development.
I think an angle change is in order to show it off.
Nice, a little more dynamic.
In the last post I had already pointed out the need to trim some roots. At this angle it makes that need even more pressing.
Needs to be cut back at the line.
With a tree in this style it’s important that the roots have a smooth transition into the soil. It gives the tree a sense of gravitas and stability.
Sharp saw (much needed, this wood is dense)
And I get to sit back and have my brother-in-law Steve do the sawing while Evan and my wife hold the tree steady.
Bifurcating a root like this shouldn’t be done unless the tree has copious roots (a lot, many, like, mucho mondo roots).
Otherwise the surface root could just die.
Here’s how it looks, let me point out that it needs some carving.
Not only does this operation make the root look like it’s transitioning into the ground smoothly, but it essentially splits the root into two.
The root on the right in the front needs work too.
It looks like a ham bone I might throw to the cats to gnaw on.
Again, I wouldn’t do this unless there’s good roots below the cut.
Standing back and looking at the roots, you can see the improvements.
Standing way back, you can see a battle.
Looking from the side, there are two competing apices (that would be the plural of apex), even though the one on the right, which would be the rear one, is shorter.
The thicknesses of the two are too similar in size.
Where do I cut it?
Let me pot it first.
Since I’ll be asked, this mix…
…..contains red lava, pumice, expanded slate, some charcoal, calcined clay, and pine bark.
…..and done.
Ok, where do I cut it? What do you think Benjamin?
That is correct sir.
Now it’s time to go home. I’m exhausted from all that work.

I’m sure you’ve all read the article published recently saying that men who share excessive self-shot photos of themselves (Selfies) tend toward narcissistic psychopathy. It’s a good thing those two pics above were taken by Benjamin, right?
Anyway, the above surgery all took place at the last Central Florida Bonsai Club meeting, but I ran out of time and energy that night.
That was a Friday, on Sunday (it rained all day Saturday) I did the top work.
Good thing I repotted when I did, the buds are about to pop.
I must digress and mention how beautiful the sun was that day, these golden days are the why that we live in Florida. Here it is, the middle of January, and I’m out in short sleeves and basking in the sunshine, working on bonsai.
Getting back to the tree, you’re wondering where you start on a big bonsai like this. How do you even begin trimming it?
Simple. You go back to basics.
That means, this being a deciduous tree, you first remove any winter dieback.
A hackberry tends toward a little more dieback than some.
Next, trim any crossing branches, those growing in branch junctions or multiple twigs emerging from the same place. Those growing up or down, etc. You know the drill.
By practicing the basics, any tree will come into shape easier than you think.
I believe now is the time to address the trunk chop scar.
It’s kinda hard to miss, like an elephant in the room.
Or a big mouth. We all know how hard it is to ignore a bigmouth.
It won’t ever close (heal) so I’ll have to just deal with it.
I’ll drill out the middle down to the hambone root to provide a pathway for water to flow.
The red circles (with the arrows pointing to them) are pruning wounds that I will carve out to connect to the drain hole.
But not now. I’ll wait until August, after the tree has settled in the pot a bit.
With that explanation out of the way, time to prune.
The before:
And I’m done.
That’s shot is a little hard to see (not to mention the distraction that my daughter, in the bathrobe and Hello Kitty pajama pants provides. Just to give you the proper timeline, it was four in the afternoon when I took the picture. She had just turned thirteen a few days earlier and was practicing the privilege of teenager-hood by sleeping in, most of the afternoon)
This pic shows off the branching better.
What a tree!
Next one up is either an elm or a trident.
Which one do ya’ll want to see?

Posted in branch placement, redesign, roots, updates, wiring | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments