Last Sunday, my friend Barb came over to have me help her work on some of her trees.
There was a tamarind, an ilex, a sweet little green island ficus and others.
We did quite a bit but what I thought I should show you (considering the recent portulacaria post) is the work we did on her portulacaria afra.
It was a tree that was purchased from Allen Carver of Jupiter Bonsai when he was here at my nursery for the NoNaMé Studygroup a few months back.
I should have had more foresight when I started but I didn’t get any before pictures, so here we begin with my hands already in the dirt.
I’m obscuring the base to show you what Barb and I saw before I started removing the soil on top.
The dwarf jade hasn’t been styled yet so that’s why Barb brought it.
I asked her what she thought the front should be.
She didn’t know it, but it was a trick question.
She had chosen a front but hadn’t dug down to look at the nebari (the root spread).
The pic above shows her front with my hand at about where the soil level was.
-shows the nebari exposed.
Not very impressive.
If we turn it around 360 degrees it’s still kinda lame.
But…BUT.. if we only turn it 179 degrees the nebari is almost like a 180 degree difference.
The proposed front is, in actuality, the most expeditious back, and the previous back is, aesthetically, the more virtuous front.
With that done, I can really get my hands dirty now putting the tree into some bonsai soil.
The basic technique is to massage the roots and comb them out of the soil.
With ficus or deciduous material I’ll go get the hose and wash out the dirt.
Well, it’s not really dirt, it’s a specifically made mix for Florida, but it’s not bonsai soil.
If you remember the last post on dwarf jade, you’ll know that I don’t want to water the tree for about a week after repotting. Keeping that in mind, and since I need to get as much of the old soil off the roots, I can’t use the water hose to clean it up.
What’s a guy to do?
You know those little, almost useless, coconut fiber brooms that come in the tool kits?
They work perfectly in brushing off that offensive dirt. Like dry cleaning.
Unfortunately, on my trip up to Ohio, somewhere around Tennessee or Kentucky, I threw mine out the window.
I had to use a whisk broom.
It worked though.
The jade had been in a three gallon container, which means about 2 gallons of potting soil left over.
Pretty rich and fertile looking, maybe I’ll grow some turnips.
The roots are pretty nice except for these two, one on top of the other.
I could try to bend the top one down but it will never look quite right.
Ah, much better.
Into a pot.
Eventually it could go in a more shallow pot but I like the deepness this pot has, which will improve drainage. After the operation when you switch from “potting soil” to “bonsai soil” is when a dwarf jade is most often going to have root rot.
Therefore, let me repeat, don’t water for at least a week.
All the leaves will fall off (don’t be alarmed) and when you see new, little leaves start to grow you can begin watering again.
Now for some wiring, and bending techniques.
Wire as you would wire any tree but you can use 1/2 to 1/3 smaller wire than you might think you need.
It’s a little more flexible but in the same way that celery is flexible.
If you bend it too much and too fast at one time, you may end up with an opportunity to experience the joys and miracle of vegetative propagation.
I had Barb wire it……heh heh, barb wire…get it? Tee hee!
I also believe in using two smaller wires as opposed to one larger wire.
Especially on tender barked trees like the jade.
Heavier wires present more situations where wrapping the wire could damage the bark.
And two wires will help diminish the risk of breakage when bending the branch.
Especially if you do something like this.
You’ll notice that in places I didn’t place the wire in the dogmatically approved, side-by-side, attitudinal persuasion.
The wire acts as a brace and prevents (to a certain degree) breakage. Rob Kempinski has the most erudite explanation of the physics involved, especially when using raffia in the same way.
I haven’t decided if I’m going up or down with the above bunjin jade. What do you think?
Getting back to Barb’s tree, and the lesson, when bending you have to look closely at the segments.
The jade will bend between segments, if they’re long enough, but the stress is at those nodes.
You can go too far.
The above pic is unusual, a break like that will usually just cause the branch to dry up and fall off.
After a little bending, tweaking, and sweating, here’s the finished tree.
Kinda a bare-bones look.
When I am done with a tree that’s been cut back hard (I’m a bit notorious for hard pruning) I don’t see the naked branches or the sharp sticks.
I see the tree filled in, like this.
I recently attended a demonstration by the classiest man in bonsai, Master Ed Trout.
One thing he said to the audience, and it struck a chord with me because of all the drawings I do, was that it’s hard for the audience to see the future look of a tree after you chop it back.
Early on in my blogging experience I had a reader complain that he couldn’t see where I was going with a tree, much in the same way Ed was talking about.
That’s when I started showing sketches and photo doodles.
The last word (and lesson) on Barb’s portulacaria, the tree’s trunk and nebari will improve in the pot we selected. The deepness will allow the soil to dry more quickly, pushing the jade to grow faster. The principle is this: as the roots grow, so does the top, if the roots have to search for water, they have to grow to do it.
That’s why a bonsai is easier to keep small in a more shallow pot, the water is closer to the roots and they stay wetter, longer, and there’s no reason to grow. They are happy and lazy, with no need to grow.
But don’t go killing your plants by withholding water. It’s a process of drying and wetting that works, in conjunction with proper bonsai soil, good drainage in your pots, proper lighting and heat, and strict observation of your trees needs.
The next post will be on my trip to see Ed Trout and the tree he worked on.
Look for it soon.
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- March 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
It looks like the WordPress site URL is incorrectly configured. Please check it in your widget settings.