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.
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
‘Bout that base
‘Bout that base
Adam, next time you are this way, we’ll go visit the Frank Ghery designed Ohr-O”Keefe art museum that is based on the concept of the buildings “Dancing with the Live Oak trees”. Keep taking your medicine and get well!
Thanks for the post Adam.
It’s always about the base……………….
I’m curious if you could have used an approach graft to add a branch in that empty spot?
It’s such a small tree and a small area it would be tough. Not to mention the scar tissue issue. I’m not worried, not every tree needs to fit a cookie cutter stereotype.
Happy to discover your site! I only started late last year and I’m trying to document everything like you. Biggest problem: getting my phone all dirty because of taking photos in between gardening. 🙂 Thanks, man. You’re helpful and encouraging.
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I love the way you write. I’ve never meet you in person, but I can imagine that you talk in the same manner as you write. Real, down to earth. One day, when I go back home to south florida, I’ll try to stop by.
It’s really interesting how you can plan ahead, and make a really radical change to a tree that makes it really cool in the end.