Just a Regular day at the nursery

This post will show some work in the nursery. The time of the year is mid-June,so the work on the buttonwoods is timed just right.

This is a giant buttonwood that was actually the top of a tree collected by my friend Erik Wigert. He took the top and rooted it in his mist house.
The trunk is about the circumference of a soccer ball (football for the rest of the world) .
The angle I have the pic tilted is the original planting angle. I then propped it up.


I had already defoliated it. Note the undulations and hollows in the trunk. This is how a mature, non-stunted buttonwood grows. It is very juniper-ish in that it will have channels of growth that go from the roots to the foliage. The advantage is, if one side is damaged, the other side won’t die. The wood is also persistent, unlike other broadleaf trees, with a tremendously dense grain structure with plenty of oils in it. It can be polished (burnished) without the use of a lacquer; as when using it for furniture and such.

The cool thing about the buttonwood is it’s ability to put out roots from anywhere on its trunk. This is how Erik was able to make this log into a viable tree. The problem is,there is no nebari (that would be the root spread to the uninitiated ). This is why I have the rock. I am literally propping the tree up with it.
With most buttonwoods the lack of a nebari is not crucial; they tend to be more driftwood than not and a bit abstracted in design. Most buttonwood are battered, naturally dwarfed little trees with twists and turns, odd angles and lots of deadwood. The hurricanes have beaten them down, knocked them over, stripped the bark off the trunk and basically just brutalized them. These stunted ones live in the Florida Keys usually. Mary Madison is the expert yamadori collector of them. She is known as the ” Buttonwood Queen”.

This is a particularly famous tree by Paul Pikel. If you do an image search for “buttonwood bonsai” you can see the progression of this tree. I believe he has done a YouTube video on it as well.
Ok, now, more pictures, less talk.

This buttonwood also needs the angle adjusted up a bit.

I will change the pot as well.


This tree has better roots so I won’t need to prop it up.


Detail of some branches and

The deadwood. It does have an aged look to it but the carving is not natural so I will re-carve it. In August. In the sun. ( maybe not in the sun but it will be in the heat). I’ll leave that for another post though.

Here it is cut back and wired a bit. What is not evident from the picture (which is why we should view trees in person and not in books) is, the branching makes it appear to fall away. Which is not good in bonsai design. A tree should appear to tower over you.
A note on repotting a buttonwood. The roots are a bit like al dente pasta. Very brittle. The repot is usually just a process of reducing the mass and putting fresh soil around the root ball. There is no “combing out” the roots. If you tried this they would probably just break off at the trunk. At least, this is my experience. They do need to be repotted though. It is amazing the vigor this will induce in the tree.
Now, to do an out of season repot.
Ulmus parviflora. Chinese elm.

This tree has been neglected a bit (Bad boy Adam!) and has not been repotted in two or three years. As a result there is no vigor. Hardly any growth.

No ramification. To develop an elm it is important to repot every year. Once the roots touch the side of the pot the top growth will slow or stop.
This tree is very chinese in approach. The movement is a little better than the the classic “s” shape. But it was a gift so I should develop it to its potential.

This pic shows the extreme root bound state it’s in. Those long thick encircling roots are the trees way of seeking for water.
I can’t treat the tree as I would in February But I did trim those big roots and scuffed the root ball.

And I did get rid of all the weeds.

As a result of being in the same pot for so long the soil level was only filling up half of the pot so I was able to add a good deal of soil in the bottom.

There it is all done. I fertilized, etc as usual and prune it. I did not wire it yet though. Thanks to Nick for the help that day. The one buttonwood is heavy.
And now, the parting shot:

A faucaria in bloom!
It looks like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
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