Collecting from the wild (actually, my nursery) 

I have this tree that I’ve been growing out (well…..I have many trees, but this one is in the ground, it was a volunteer, maybe deposited by bird trying to poop on my head, a southern hackberry, a name I prefer to sugarberry, which sounds like some special technique practiced on a sugar daddy, ummmm…..anyway, it’s a celtis lævigata that has grown too big, much like this sentence) that needs to be collected. Like I said, big, and in the ground. I meant to dig it out about two years ago. I got sick though, and that’s all I have to say about that. But this isn’t about collecting it. Maybe soon, but I’ll need help with it. Today’s post is a quick one, easy peasy, with only a few big words and two or three diagrams and illustrations. What I’m after today are called “suckers”. No, really, suckers. I think that they’re called that because it’s believed that they “suck” the energy from the main tree, growing off the roots as they do. 

There are different names we could use, adventitious shoots, basal shoots, root sprouts, water sprouts, but I like suckers. Who doesn’t like a good sucker, huh? A tree that does this is called surculose. Whatever that means……..ok, I had to look it up, it’s root (heh heh) is Latin for sucker- surculosus plus the ending ‘ose. Which doesn’t help much, does it? Anyway, I thought the Latin word for “sucker” was “fellator”? 

Let me explain what I’m actually doing. We have a southern hackberry. Oh, by the way, here’s a “fact” that most people are taught in school that is untrue (like the one that human blood is blue until it hits the oxygen in the air). We were taught that a trees roots only grow as wide as the canopy. 

The real fact is that the roots grow 2-3 times as wide as the canopy. This is important on our hackberries. You see, on the roots (and many other trees, like elms or bananas) are buds (technically meristems, cells which can differentiate into various organs, like more roots or shoots) that will sprout into new trees. In this way, one tree can create its own thicket or stand or forest even, without having to produce seed. Which might explain the low fruit production on many celtis; it might take less energy to reproduce this way than making fruit. A stand of trees like this are genetically identical and the actual term is a “genet”. The most famous example is the quaking aspen colony (its called “Pando”) in Utah that is sometimes considered the largest organism (by mass) on the planet with 47,000 individual trees connected by one root system. It covers 106 acres (43 hectares). The scientist believe this colony is anywhere between 80,000- 1,000,000 years old  That’s right, a million years old! 

The problem with the trees being genetically identical is that if something external affects one tree (say, a bug or a disease) it could wipe out the whole colony. Which many people believe is happening to Pando. It’s dying. They just don’t know what the cause is, whether it’s drought, insects, or disease. Or a combo of all three. Sad really.

How does all this relate to bonsai? We can collect these “root suckers” and make bonsai of course. 

They grow like this in the ground. 

The idea is to pick some of the better ones and cut them out. 

Hopefully you have some more roots….…..but they’ll still grow from the cut ends. There’s a rock embedded in the base of this tree. 

This one is just cool. Good movement. 

But the best use of small ones, like I’m collecting today, are for making little forests or groves, with connected roots. For those so interested, the soil is 1/2 perlite, 1/2 pinebark. Nothing special except it’ll grow roots. 

It’s almost like a raft, but the idea behind the raft is for a fallen tree to grow roots where the trunk is touching the ground and the other side to grow new trunk from the branches. 

I’m not sure where the front is yet….

It’ll be cool. Very natural looking. I’ll probably add more when it goes into a proper pot, I have plenty more trees to choose from. 

Not bad for a backyard nursery and a “weed” tree. Generally, you want to pass up collecting small trees like this for unless your plan is to grow them larger (a good ten year project) or if you want to make little forests like this. Or if you want small trees I guess. What you generally want are bigger trees with character and movement. Like this one-which is going to make a fantastic tree, can’t wait to work on it. 

One last aesthetic tip. When making a forest or clump, the fattest trunk should be the tallest tree. It’s “older” and therefore should be taller. 

Get out there now (or when the ground thaws I guess….) and find yourself some root connected trees and put together a cool little forest. Make sure you get permission first though. 

After care for something like this: no fertilizer until new growth hardens off, but plenty of water (hence the heavy organic component). I also tend to keep them in the shade and protected from the wind to minimize water loss due to evaporation. I’ll keep you up to date, cross your fingers, hopefully I get good results (that’s the cue for the Perpetual Intermediates out there to tell me that they’ll all die because I didn’t get a “proper” root ball. Go ahead, say it, sign your name to it, though, and own it. I’ll publish your reply) 

Next time, a small cypress forest and a Chinese elm or two. 

Posted in Horticulture and growing, rare finds, roots, tips and tricks, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Scissor and the Wire

Here’s an interesting ficus. I got it from my oldest son’s 7th grade teacher, Mr. Myers. That was a few years ago and it’s finally ready. It’s taken a little while to get it to grow. He had nearly killed it and that’s why he gave it to me, to revive it. I did some serious branch work on it, you can tell by the, almost, healed scars on the main branches. 

It’s an interesting shape, very low and squat. With really quick taper. 

The first branch does break one of my “rules” though. The first bend goes back instead of forward. But that’s because, as you see by that half healed scar, the “forward” part of it died back. But there is a reality that over turns rules, “one must do what one can with shohin trees”. Meaning, there’s so little space on a small tree sometimes you have to “cheat” to get branches where you need them. 

I’m calling this a tiger bark ficus. It’s also known as “golden gate” for some reason. It’s a good, if not the best, ficus microcarpa varieties (don’t call it retusa, please….) the internodes are short, the leaves smaller, and the bark has that cool texture. Like a, well, tiger…..bark. A quick aside: I see this on the forums and pages all the time, do you see the white, chalky looking stuff on the leaves? That’s just water, usually it’s calcium or lime or some other dissolved solid. It just means that the water you are using is hard. If it bugs you, you can use a soft cloth to polish it off, use that “leaf shine” stuff on it, rub it off with your thumb. And try not to get the leaves wet when you water. That last bit is actually a good hygiene practice; wet leaves invite fungus. I see this more in the winter and spring (the dry seasons) because I’m having to water by hose more often (as opposed to watering by hoes, which adds so many more complications…..sorry, I know. Bad Adam). Therefore, using deductive reasoning (as opposed to inductive reasoning, which is what makes an electric motor work) it’s deducible that it, is, indeed, the Winter when I am doing this work. What can I do to this poor tree now, eh? It’s a tropical, do I want it to live? Thrive? Continue to give me pleasure? Well, how about a partial defoliation of the older leaves? I think I can do that. Look at all the branches! That is a bonsai artists wet dream (hence the “give me pleasure” line above). That means that, one: we have something to work with and, B, it’s healthy. Maybe “B” should come before “one”. Meh, it’s just bonsai, right?  How do you achieve branching on a small tree that doesn’t really get as dense as you’d like? 

Style it. Let it grow. Then, topiary trim it. Or hedge prune,  but it’s the pruning that causes ramification. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just prune it like you’re using a hedge trimmer.  You can’t be afraid to cut. In bonsai we have two tools to shape a tree. The scissor and the wire. Prune and bend, cut and shape. Which brings us to the wiring. 

A little loose. That will be a problem in a second or two. 

I had removed wire just a few days ago, which you can see some of the newer scars on the top branch. It amazes me how torqued people get at seeing wire scars. It’s either horror or a holier than thou response. But, and I’ll say it again, on a ficus (and many trees), if you don’t let the wire cut in, the wiring job will be inneffectual. It will just mice back to the original position. 

One branch. 

Oh! Here’s what happens when your sloppy with the wire coils. Tsk tsk tsk!
Wired, before placement. 
Wired, after placement. 

You’ll notice I’ve started the second level of ramification (as outlined in This Post)

On wit’ it, den!

If’n you’re paying attention, you’ll see that I haven’t trimmed the tips yet. If this were a colder winter, I may keep it this way, to minimize dieback. But, since I’m such a rebel, an iconoclast, a loner, and just a plain contrary ass, I’ll prune it too. Just so your eyes aren’t so fixated on the  out-of-sorts leaves. Which, truth be told, aren’t going to help much, photosynthesis-wise anyway. How’s the sun gonna hit that? 

Some scissor discipline…..

Try to leave the leaves that are horizontal with the maximal surface attitudinally adjusted for optimum photosythnthetic effect…….don’t you hate it when people use 25¢ words?  Make sure the tops of the leaves are on top. Now then, that might be all you poor people in the frozen north should do now, with your tree inside under lights. 

But….of course, I’m in La Florida, and I’m going to go just a bit further. 

Push the envelope, so to say. 

Let’s see if good ol’ Ma Nature slaps me down with a cold front. 

Yup, I full out defoliated and pruned. 

You can really see the structure this way, and the taper too. I’m doing it for you all. No, really, so you can see. And I’m trusting in the magic of the Internet to keep this tree growing.  

It got fertilizer, of course, I used Martha Goff’s Tropical Green brand. It’s my first time using it so we will see how well it works. Now, let’s see how the weather holds…..


I did the work about Christmas time and I’m writing the post on January 12th. We had two cold nights, one at 37f and one at 40f (2-4c).  Let’s see what havoc I’ve wrought. Was Mother Nature kind? Did she smack me up side the mouth? 

Naw. I won’t learn that lesson today. Fully emerged leaves. I fixed that wiring by the way. 

There’s even budding back!I count four new buds, do you see them?

Sometimes you just need to thumb your nose at convention and do what you think will work. 

If it doesn’t work then, well, they say that it takes a person killing about a thousand trees before they can become a Master. 

Looks like I need to prune it back on the left…….
Now, seriously, don’t do this to a tree unless you can provide proper conditions essential to growth. I knew that I would have them (above 60f nights, adequate light, moisture etc) and if you are keeping them inside, just invest in some indoor growing stuff like full spectrum lighting, a horticultural heating pad, a humidifier etc. You can push the envelope too, as long as you pronounce it the douchie way, “aaahnvelowpe!”  

Posted in Advanced basics, branch placement, philosophical rant, rare finds, refine, wiring | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Winter Silhouette Experience 

As promised, here’s the “story” post of the trip to the 2016 Winter Silhouette Expo. Let’s start with the view from the second floor, above the exhibit room. It’s always best to start at the top. But maybe not in order. I don’t remember things in order, it doesn’t seem, sometimes, so maybe I’ll write this post that way. Or maybe it was the coquito. And beer. Memories soaked in spirits. Nestor supplied the cocquito. Chris poured the beer. 

Some of these pics aren’t mine, some are Nestor’s (above left), some are Cullen’s (from AB Tools) and some I just outright stole from the Facebooks. Let’s start in the middle somewhere. 

My buxus microphylla being photographed by the amazing Joe Noga. If’n you’re wanting a true professional photo of your (your club, Society, or regional group’s) exhibit trees, I suggest You hire Joe. He took, I kid not, at least thirty photos of my buxus here. It’s a difficult tree to photograph I guess (the light bark seems to reflect the lights and it causes really bright hot spots) but he finally got the photo, with the help of holding up two blinds blocking the lights and handheld spots and all kinds of tricks that only a pro could think of. Here’s the result (photo by Joe, obviously) 

Thank you sir, for all the hard work. Next year I’ll enter an easier tree to photograph, promise. 
The show had four demos during the weekend, we had Owen Reich ( 

Rodney Clemons (All Good Bonsai in Atlanta) Rodney’s Virginia Pine demo tree. Rob Kempinski on the left and Rodney on the right. 
Bill Valavanis and his demo tree.  

And the last demonstrator was this long haired weirdo who’s writing this blog, yours truly. I’m looking over my shoulder, wary of the snipers. 

I’ll show my demo trees a little later in the article. 

If you remember last years coverage (click  here) James, Rob’s sister’s boyfriend’s son, and Rob had collected a pine tree. Surprisingly, it was still alive and flourishing. We are thinking it’s a loblolly pine. 

Here’s Rob and James weeding it and plucking the three year old needles.   If James keeps up with the tree, in 20 years (he’ll be in his thirties) that tree will be a masterpiece. 

In case you didn’t guess, this year I drove with Rob again, along with my good friend Dustin Mann. This is after they defoliated Rob’s tree, The Kraken (a ficus microcarpa) mid show. It was a dramatic move and surprised a lot of people. The before/after shots. 

Rob is pushing the envelope when it comes to bonsai display. I think he’s having fun doing it too. 
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Rob and his sister and her family for putting up with Dustin and me and letting us stay with them for the show. 

Last year I talked a lot about my prep for the show, the stands, the trees, etc., but this year I’m going to go quickly over it. 

I had made the stands previously, I just needed to clean them up a bit. A little rustyI knocked off the big chunks and sprayed clear coat on the steel. 

That stand is very similar to the one I used last year, but it’s a shohin stand for multiple trees. 

I went through too many configurations for the tree placement. I’m not sure I got it right in the end, but I enjoyed the challenge. It’s all about flow.  As it was presented in the show:photo by Joe Noga. 

The trees mid prep. 

Ulmus parviflora. 

The boxwood mockup. Notice the lack of green moss. 

Barb provided the moss this year, which gave rise to the above companion, some reindeer moss (lichen) growing out of regular moss. She really came through for me. Her sea grape and shimpaku juniper. Along with her sweet companion plants. Thank you ma’am! 

The boys from AB Tools were in the house: I’m very fortunate to have them as friends. Thanks guys! 

One of my favorite people, who just moved from Florida to North Carolina, was in attendance, No, not Alex Jones, that’s Mr. Mike Cartrett. He was doing what he does best, selling bonsai and bonsai related sundries. He gave me this cool Hawaiian rock.My original idea was to carve it out a bit more and drill some drain holes. But Rodney reminded me that I should leave it alone, else I’d feel the wrath of the Hawaiian volcano gods. Mike promised me that it had been blessed and any curses removed. I might just be careful, this time. I don’t need any more curses chasing me around. 

One of the great things about shows like this is you get to meet many new people and renew old friendships. You see, bonsai is little trees. But it’s also big friendships, good people and great art. I’m grateful to be a part of the community.  

Ok, now for some (if you’ll forgive me a little) shameless self promotion. 

My demo trees. A ficus salicaria. 

And a green mound ficus. 

The ficus salicaria was just a gag demo. I trunk chopped it. Ruthlessly. Here it is today. It’ll be a fine shohin in a year or two. 

On the green mound, I did some actual work. And hammed it up as best I could. 

I got Nestor to defoliate for me. 

The theme of the talk was, believe it or not, “Why tropical bonsai is superior to classical bonsai”. Maybe I’ll write a blog post using that theme soon. Post it on all the forums and stir up all kinds of trouble. Maybe…..

Anyway, here are some, like I said, shameless self promotion shots. It was all about the point this year. My orange Nikes were a hit too. 

I really had fun, doing what I do best, talk bonsai. Me and my Vader-Helmet hair. Dumm dumm dumm dum tee dum dum tee dummmm….

And here is a shot, back home in The Nook, of the finished tree. And that’s all. There were some stories that will stay at Winter Silhouette. 

Thanks to the man with the plan, Mr Steven Zeisel, for again putting on a great show. I will be there next year, definitely. 

I hope to see some more readers of the blog next year, too. We need a contingent, a movement. A mob. That’d be cool. Take over the joint. 

As a parting shot, this is a photo that Dustin got of a random girl taking a pic of one of the exhibit trees, it looks like Rodney’s kingsville boxwood. 

That’s what bonsai is about. Not the awards, not the egos, the cliques and politics. Not the money or the trappings or the hubris. Bonsai is this. That girl is seeing the tree and was so inspired by it that she stopped to take a pic. Simple.  And that makes me feel hopeful. 

Posted in goings, philosophical rant, pictures | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Winter Silhouette Expo, 2016

I think I have enough pics to to write at least three posts on the Winter Silhouette Expo but I’m not sure if I will. I could do one on show prep, one on the demos and extracurricular adventures and, of course this one, on the exhibit. Not sure if I want to though. We will see what the response is. Anyway,  there are a lot of pics coming up so I’ll be brief as to the descriptions. This year there were something like 74 trees and I think I got them all but, if I missed any, and you have pics, I’ll add them in, send them to 

Also, here is a Link to a live Facebook feed I did, for those so interested. 

Here we go, in no particular order but with (as always) my commentary. I’ll start with my trees, get them out of the way. 

The main tree is buxus microphylla, a Japanese boxwood. The companion is a nandina domestica, heavenly bamboo. It was loaned to me by the Knowlton’s, the Mr. and Mrs. Presidente of BSF. 

My shohin display: from top, clockwise, ilex vomitoria “schillings”, portulacaria afra, defoliated for the show, ficus salicaria, and ulmus parvifolia. 

The next tree is a Japanese maple. Unfortunately I don’t have the cheat sheet they passed out so I’m not sure which variety. There were probably at least 4 or 5. I think it was a stroke of genius keeping the leaves on it. 

Another Japanese maple (acer palmatum, for your files) 

A great kusomono display. Very topical with the berries. 

Love the next tree, a chrysanthemum grown by Bill Valvanis. 

He had printed up a full history of the tree. 

At the end of the show he pruned off all the leaves and flowers. 

A juniperis sargentii. Shimpaku I guess. 

This is a Japanese maple called shishigashira. 

A Japanese winterhazel I think. 

A big bougainvillea from Florida. 

Japanese maple. 

Planted on a rock in a bronze suiban

Chuhin sized Japanese maple. 

This shimpaku won best conifer. Very deservedly. 

I apologize for the bad pic, it’s a screen shot from the live video, but it shows the bronzed foliage that is typical of a winter look to a juniper. It is a winter show after all and it was the only wintery looking conifer in the exhibit. 

This one is cool, it’s a ficus salicaria, defoliated to mimic a winter silhouette. 

This bougie was misunderstood. Everyone was amazed that it was blooming at this time. If you come to Florida, we are exploding in color from all the bougies blooming now. Winter is one of the natural times of year for them to bloom. 

A shohin display with ficus microcarpa on top and….……willow leaf ficus on bottom. 

I love this tree. The scale is near perfect. 

And this willow leaf has the best ramification, for the size, I’ve ever seen. 

Again, as I’ve said, I don’t have a cheat sheet, but I’m guessing some type of beech. 

This was a giant display of kingsville boxwood. Very well put together. 

Ficus microcarpa belonging to my bud Dustin. 

And his bougainvillea “pink pixie”, defoliated of course. 

I might guess a trident maple or zelkova 

Japanese maple

Japanese white pine 

The next three pics are a juniper procumbens nana. The brown things are cones

Nicely done deadwood

And the whole tree. 

This is where the winter season should really be shown in an exhibit, on the companion plants. 

Ficus salicaria, the willow leafed fig. 

Root over rock trident maple

Two mixed plantings representing deadfall and reforestation

This next pic is a screenshot from the live feed. I just missed a few trees I guess. I apologize for the bad quality. 

Another screen grab. I can’t believe I didn’t get a pic of this tree, it’s a masterfully done winged elm clump. Nice. One of my favorite. 

A maple 

Rocky Mountain juniper. 

This tree won best in show. My favorite too, a Japanese beech forest. 

People didn’t like the stand, it being made of plexiglass,  but most people didn’t see this, I don’t know if it was serendipity or planned but, look under it, at the trees shadow. 

The next tree, a juniper, had very nice deadwood and twisting live vein. But…..(and I apologize to the artist/owner) You couldn’t see it from the front. It looked like a bush. Were it my tree I would have that twisting, tortured deadwood as the focal point. 

View from the 2nd floor down the venue was beautiful. 

Another screen grab. Again I apologize. I think it was a kingsville boxwood. 

Japanese black pine. Really well done. 

Here is Rob Kempinskis ficus microcarpa. It went into the show and on Saturday it was in leaf. But that night we defoliated it and Sunday it was naked. It surprised many attendees. I think it’s what made it win the best tropical award. 

Next, Rodney Clemmons awesome kingsville boxwood grove.  

The pot is more than three feet across. 

This winged elm belonged to Rodney as well. I would have chosen it as best deciduous. 

A scroll by Stacy Allen Muse. He’s a phenomenal artist. 


A sea grape by my friend Barb Hiser. Amazing ramification and it’s in a Jim Smith pot. 

A wonderfully fat acer palmatum

A shimpaku juniper 

Not sure on this tree. 

Another shimpaku
This was my favorite kusomono. That trailing, dead stalk is brilliant. 

I kinda enjoyed this JBP exposed root too. 

And I loved this zelkova. It was a part of this display. The root stand on the left was carved by Sean Smith. 

That pine is great. And Another Stacy Allen Muse scroll. The shohin companion is a trident maple. 

This “scroll” had watercolor representations of the birds that eat the holly berries for the next tree…..….a native deciduous holly. It won best fruiting tree. 

Another Japanese maple
This display was well thought out. I’ll probably steal the idea. Those verticals pieces are cold rolled round metal stock. They are supposed to represent a deciduous forest in the far background. 

The tree is a hinoki cypress. It is, believe it or not, only 14 months from its first styling. 

A Chinese elm 
And another favorite of mine, a larch. Serious zone envy. 

This next display was by Arthur Joura from the Asheville arboretum. A Japanese maple. 

A native planting, can’t recall the species. 

The whole display. Arthur painted the piece behind, a mixed media collage. I think it all works together. 

Another great scroll by Stacy. 
And that’s all I have. I’m pretty sure I missed at least two or three. Send me those pics! 

Like I said, I could write a few more posts on the show. Maybe.

 In the meantime, the parting shot, that awesome beech forest planting. 

Look for a new video next over at the adamaskwhy YouTube channel. 

See ya’!

Posted in goings, pictures, refine, yamadori | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Brazilian raintrees and senescence

Here’s the word of the day: senescence. Here’s the tree of the day: Brazilian raintree. 

When we think of senescence we usually think of deciduous trees. Not huge, tropical canopied, thorny and dangerous Brazilian raintrees. Senescence happens to all trees. Even junipers and pines. Those third year needles that you clean off a pine? If you left them they’d turn brown and fall off. That old browning scale foliage on a juniper? Same thing. 

What a trunk huh? 

And those thorns I was talking about. I have to stick my hand in there. 

Here’s another BRT you should be familiar with. 

It’s got some yellow leaves too. And no matter how much water I give it it seems to be droopy all the time. 

Sad looking. 

But it’s not sick. See that new bud? Some trees, both tropical and broadleaf evergreen, have a hard time shedding old foliage and you have to help them out and defoliate them.  

Some wire and I’m all set for the holidays. 

Oh, wait?! Did I mention that it’s December? But….aren’t we NOT supposed to be working on tropicals at this time? Sorry, you’ve never heard that from me, my friends. Especially on BRT’s. 

Here’s a third tree to throw into the mix. I like it. It makes me smile. 

Let’s discuss the tropical legume we call the Brazilian Raintree (chloroluceun tortum). In Brazil it’s called tataré, and it’s native to the coast of Rio de Janero, in an area called restinga, a wet coastal stretch that goes from tropical to  subtropical areas on the eastern shore of Brazil. It’s home to a broadleaf forest that has sandy soil that is both acidic and nutrient poor. A good place for a legume, which has the ability, working in symbiosis with a nitrogen fixing bacteria to, amazingly, pull nitrogen out of thin air and fertilize itself.  The BRT is also a type of tree called a monsoon or drought deciduous tree. The restinga is a biome (an environmental designation) called a tropical/subtropical dry forest, bane forest or just monsoon forest. It is a place that gets a lot of water but also has a dry season, where the trees have adapted by dropping their leaves, just like deciduous trees in the northern climes do in the winter. 

This is senescence in BRT’s. Droopy, off color, wimpy looking. Like some bonsai artists I know. Senescence is an adaptation by plants, in response to drought or low light levels, that, using the hormone abscisic acid, puts a tree into dormancy. It is the act of abscission, dropping leaves, that gave the name to abscisic acid.  

But enough of that, how does all this relate to doing bonsai on a BRT? It means that we must be the stewards, the midwives, the facilitators, of the tree. Time to defoliate again. Before. Like they say, you can prick your finger but you can’t finger your pri…..Ouch, right in the cuticle. 
Here’s a quick pruning lesson. The red and blue arrows are pointing to nodes. The node is from whence the new leave or branch emerges. The space between the nodes is called an internode. This is true of all trees. Learn the words and you’ll be thought smart, like me. Or just be called a smart-ass. 

On the BRT this is important because of a process called dieback. 

Again, the circle is encompassing the node and the internode. Dieback can be significant on a BRT, it’s the process during which the tree compartmentalizes a wound so that it can heal. To be precise, if I cut here at the red line…..the branch will die back to that main branch. Which is fine because I would want to remove the branch to there anyway. The problem is that it is taught to prune flush with the branch on most trees. If you do that on a BRT, the dieback will go like so:and you’ll lose that whole branch to the next node. Therefore, you will see that I leave nubs on all my pruning points; it’s not lax scissor discipline but an understanding of the horticulture of the BRT. Does this mean that we can’t prune flush? No. Once the branch dies back, you can then do a flush cut. 

Let’s get some wire on it. 

You’ll notice that the pad isn’t flat like this:but rather on an angle so you can see the back branch. This helps to show depth in your trees. Now for the finish. 

I’ve broken a few rules I usually insist upon but I will always listen to what the tree is telling me. 

You’re wondering about the very first tree, aren’t you? We haven’t seen it for a while have we? Don’t worry, there will be a YouTube video on it but, to hold you over, here’s the after pic. Lots of work. 

Stay tuned for the video, I think it’s gonna be a cool one. 

So, what did we learn today? We learned about senescence, about nodes and internodes and dieback. We learned about fingers and pricks. And that’s all I have to say about that. 

Posted in branch placement, Horticulture and growing, philosophical rant, rare finds, refine, tips and tricks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Bunjin or literati, what do you call it? YouTube video 

New video is out over on the adamaskwhy channel. 

Click here to watch

I have a bit of fun in this one. 

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The trees of the Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida’s annual show

This year, I had the privilege of being one of the artists for the Bonsai Society of SW Florida’s annual show. I gave a demo and a workshop but I was also honored to give out two awards in the exhibit; the BSF Presidents Award (no, I’m not the prez yet but the current one was on his way to Japan and couldn’t be there) and the Best Display. I’m not sure I’m worthy enough to be a judge yet but I tried my best. 

Let’s start with the trees, I’ll comment where appropriate. 

A nice portulacaria afra, pretty well developed.  

An ixora with a good trunk. That’s hard to find, even here in Florida where they are common landscape plants. There was discussion about a concept called nitrogen locking, as this one is a little yellow. Nitrogen locking happens when the ph is of the soil (or water) isn’t in the correct range and the plant can’t uptake nutrients. In this case, an ixora needs an acid substrate and many wells in Sw Florida are very alkaline. Coffee grounds are a quick fix for that or switching to kanuma (an acidic pumice from Japan) works too. 
This was one of my runner up choices for the Best Display award. The tree is a green island ficus. 

I liked the idea of the scene but, to be nit-picky, the figures weren’t in scale with each other (which one could argue that it was a dream scene with the inclusion of the head-as-stand) 

But what didn’t work for me was the placement and attitude of the figure and the screen. Go back to the first pic and you’ll see that the man, although facing the tree, is actually in front of and, therefore shielded from the tree. When doing a display like this it’s important that small details of composition be perfect. 
This is a divi divi, and it’s flowering too. 

This was another contender in the best display award. The tree is a premna microphylla. You are seeing correctly, it’s sitting on bricks, which I thought was brilliant. 

The accent was planted on a piece of a broken concrete ring. Again brilliant. 

I love the idea of the scroll too. Maybe if it was a little more graffiti like in style though, it might have been perfect. I love the dripping. The main reason I didn’t pick it as the winner was that both the premna and the accent incorporated masonry in their individual presentations and combining them in one display there was not enough contrast. Maybe if the premna was on some rusty, twisted metal or the grass companion was planted in a broken glass bottle, then it would have brought it all together. I know it sounds like a contradiction but it would have tied the whole display together with more contrast between the tree and the companion. 

A little ficus salicaria

A big Lysiloma latisiliquum. I liked this tree a lot, but what surprised me was I heard it was much criticized. One criticism was that the branches were angled up. But the tree is a legume, and a tropical canopy tree. The branches do naturally angle up from the trunk as their first movement. The second criticism was that you couldn’t see into the tree. This was true. I think with just a few tweaks, it will be an award winner. 

I think this was an escambron (claredendrun aculeatum). I love that stand. 

This is a collection of tilandsia for the accent on the next tree. 

A parsoni juniper 

This is a brazilian raintree. 

A little portulacaria. The exhibit had an area just for novices, a good idea if you put your own club’s show on. 

Another f. salicaria. It was in the novice area too. 


This is a Turks cap (Malvaviscus drummondii or M. arboreus var. drummondii) an American native plant that lives on the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.  It’s also in the Caribbean islands. It’s planted over a rock and has a spectacular shape for being in the novice section. I’d recommend a better pot maybe. 

I really liked this next one, a bucida Spinosa (or, correctly, terminalia mollinetti, but we bonsai people are hard to change,even when we are wrong).   But this was a cool idea, a complete acacia style flattop. 

If it didn’t have this bald spot I would have considered it for the presidents award. 

I really love this neea. 

Especially the hollow trunk. Bee-eee-ay-yute-if-full!

A nice small conocarpus erectus with a rustic stand. 

One of my favourite species with carving even, ilex vomitoria “schillings”It won best small tree. 
Another fine neea. There was one neea tree that made the rounds a few years ago that I thought was the most natural looking one I’d seen. Don’t know what happened to it or the man who owned it (he probably faded away for political reasons) but I’m picking this one as my favorite now.  

A Fukien tea

I loved this buttonwood so much I chose it for the presidents award. The deadwood detail is what sold me, plus the gentle dignity. It’s not an in-your-face-look-at-me tortured tree. Don’t get me wrong, I love those types of trees, but sometimes gentle perseverance is just right. 

Look at that calm interplay with the live vein and the deadwood. 

This next Brazilian raintree is a true marvel to me. As a species it’s really apically dominant so to be able to grow it like a cascade takes some real talent. 

Taxodium distichum Love the deer. 

A pretty sweet ficus microcarpa. It looks like it started out life as a ginseng style. 

Here was my choice for best display. 
A Brazilian raintree. The antelope was just in scale for the display, the combo of the companion and the figurine works for me, especially the dried grass and I thought that the black stand under the tree set off the whole thing. Especially with the natural looking slab. This is what I mean by contrast brining a display together. 

A parsons juniper. 

The next two pics should be one. 

I love shohin displays. 

The next display is what was called a “Keshiki bonsai” 
I wasn’t able to watch the presentation by  Susan Johnson on the concept as I was leading a workshop but I think I get it. 

Here’s a jaboticaba with a good nebari and movement. A good example of the species. 

This is the true dwarf of the dwarf of the dwarf schefflera. I think it’s called “luseanne”. It won the people choice award. My pic doesn’t show the depth of the forest planting at all. One gets lost wandering inside that grove. 

This is another bucida in a different style. 

A sea grape. 

I particularly liked this Chinese elm. It won best small tree. And I think it was masterful to show it defoliated. That’s a Sarah Raynor pot. 

And a third bucida in another style. I need to explore them more as bonsai subjects. 

And finally, a parsons juniper. One of the best parsons junipers I’ve seen. Spectacularly carved, styled and developed. It won best in show, the artist is Dorothy Schmitz. 

And that’s it, I hope I didn’t miss any trees but I apologize if I did. 

What a great show with great trees, great people and good times. Thank you to Martha for inviting me and Phil for hosting me. I am looking forward to next year. 

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