Bonsai and Friends

That last post got me thinking about not just the progression of my trees but where I got them and from whom.
And also the friendships that have come about from this hobby (passion and avocation for me).
Let me introduce some trees:
From the left, ficus salicaria, conocarpus erectus, forestiera segregata, ficus Burt davyii
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And another ficus salicaria.
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I got all these trees from friends I’ve met along my bonsai journey.
These people have been confidants, teachers, drinking buddies and mentors.
I’ll tell each trees story and a little bit about the friends I got them from.
Don’t worry, there’s one re-styling for your amusement.
Lets start with the first salicaria
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This tree was from Rick. The Old Wise One.
Rick is a retired firefighter and teaches at the fire academy. He always has a smile and a joke.
We conned him into being the president of the Central Florida club a couple of years ago and that’s the first time I saw him frown.
I count him among my favorite people in the club.
Whenever he puts a tree up for sale at our auction I try to get it.
This was his tree too
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The ficus has a magnificent root spread
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Which never looked good in any pot I had. Until I tried this rock.
I think they match well.
Next we have this cute ficus Burt davyii
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This one was from Jason Schley (www.schleysbonsai.com) who I’ve learned a lot from.
He just moved to a new location with lots of space for trees. Give him a visit. He is a terrific stylist (especially small shohin) and if you can get the chance to watch him work you’ll absorb more knowledge than any formal demo or workshop you might pay $500 to see.
The Burt davyii needs some wire but I’ll do that later. It’s a weird tree to work with; if you’re not cutting it,it doesn’t grow.
The next tree is a buttonwood (conocarpus erectus)
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I got this from Mike Cartrett.
He’s a good friend who’s taught me some of the tricks in the trade. When we are vending trees at shows together he always has a beer for me and a deal on his table. He likes to think that he sells a lot of junk trees but some of my best ones have come from him.
The buttonwood’s old bark and subtle movement give this tree it’s charm. I prefer very little foliage on my buttonwoods; I believe that an old, crusty tree shouldn’t have a lush, vigorous (young) canopy on it.
Next is this Florida privet (forestiera segregata).
This one needs work.
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I got this tree from Paul Pikel (YouTube channel OrlandoBonsaiTV).
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Paul and I go back a long time. We’ve had many differences but we’ve worked them out and we’re good friends now. 20130704-134356.jpg
He gave this to me when I helped him out giving a demonstration at a community gardening club (those are great because you can say anything and they believe you. Not anything like giving a demo to a bunch of jaded bonsai-ist where the guy in the back says “why are you keeping that branch?”)
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I’ve had the tree for a few years now and it’s not grown much.
I believe it’s the soil. I put it in a shohin mix a few years ago.
This tree has a big chunky mess that I’m going to do something with
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Of course the foliage hides it: how’s this?
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I’ll lose some branching
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But I think I’ll get better growth this year.
Ready?
Carve!
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It visually reduces the blocky chunkiness but I can just tell that you’re wondering about the health of the tree after that wound. It won’t hurt it. I won’t go into it here but the next post I’m planning deals with the persistence of not just the deadwood but of the living parts near the deadwood.
Here’s an example
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Kinda amazing.
You’ll have to wait for that one though.
Anyway, like I said, the soil this one’s been in was considered a “shohin mix”.
I was, at one point, espousing this idea; that a tree in a small pot would benefit from smaller particle sized media by not drying out as quickly.
After several years experimenting with different trees and getting no root growth and minimal top growth I have since changed my mind. Some trees even had branch dieback.
Wetting and drying are a natural and necessary process that encourages healthy roots. If they stay wet all the time the roots don’t have a reason to search out water. If they aren’t searching out water they’re not growing, and not growing means they’ll be dying soon. Also, if the roots don’t grow, the top doesn’t grow, and no development.
Which explains why, with wire on this tree for two years, there’s not a single wire mark.
So, in switching to this soil:
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it should grow now.
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I’m changing the angle and position in the pot, just to make it interesting.
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Looks odd there, right? Trust me.
I do love that little pot belly.
How about you?
One reason I’m changing the angle, the carving looks better at this angle
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And now for some wire
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A little unconventional but I like it.

And the last tree in this post is one I got at the BSF convention that was held at the Morikami Museum.
Toby Diaz was the man I got it from.
Toby is, in my opinion, one of the best artists and stylists in the state of Florida.
If it wasn’t for his “regular” job taking up so much of his time he’d be internationally famous.
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He is a student of Mary Madison (you should hear his story of how he first started in bonsai) and Carlos Consuegra.
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Here’s a story from one of the conventions:
I was having a buffet lunch with Toby, Louise Leister, Mike Rogers and a few others. On the buffet were crab legs.
If you remember from the nematode post, my wife is the crab leg cracking master. At this point in my life, I couldn’t quite master the cracking art (I’m still an amateur compared to my wife).
Toby saw my difficulty and he actually cracked my crab legs for me. Talk about a swell guy. (I still get picked on for that by my friends and the story is told at every convention).
Anyway, Toby is one of my inspirations and main influences in wiring and branch placement.
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This one might be a little tall for him though.

So next time you come to my nursery and ask me how much for that tree, keep in mind I might be giving you a price that includes the years of bonsai friendships I’ve nurtured in the growing of that tree and I might say $500 just so you don’t ask to buy it again.
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About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in maintenance, philosophical rant and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bonsai and Friends

  1. Rick Jeffery says:

    Nice post Adam….in the end bonsai is about friends. Building relationships. I look forward to a trip to the Noname garden soon……..I certainly have lots of tropicals that need work…..been a bit remiss…..Cheers

  2. Rick Jeffery says:

    3 years and I still have some repotting to do!

  3. granolagirlatheart says:

    Wonderful post

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