Birch "The White Lady"

This spring more guy wires were applied and then later in the season I added a couple of metal screws and washers to weight down the branches. Today I cut off some of the foliage to let the light reach the inner parts of the crown. 

Juraj Homola pot

Mushroom season 
Robbed the hardware store

Picea abies No.2 after editing

This Norway spruce collected from wild back in April 2010. Now the tree was considerably overgrown so it was time to trim it back to induce back budding during the summer. It was repotted into current pod last August so I was a bit afraid how it will handle it this season that you can see for yourself on "before" picture it produced a decent amount of vigorous growth this season despite being cramped into the much smaller pot than its predecessor. Honestly, this is most vigorous spruce this season in my garden. Wires stying for now. A lot of editing and removing of the unnecessary parts was done this week. Still, some 2-3 main branches will go next year. I did not want to disturb it too much. 

On development of deciduous naturalistic bonsai

There are a lot of topics I keep thinking about. They are coming back to my mind during many occasions when I work on my trees when I'm trying to sleep, or during my long distance runs. 
Especially my ideas from my running are great, sometimes I'm able to put complete novel texts in my head when on run. 
The bad news is they are gone at the moment when I reach doorsteps.

When I was beginning with bonsai, about ten years ago, I started collecting trees from wild. I remember at that time I thought correctly collect the tree, and establish its survival is the hardest part of bonsai making. 
After a couple of seasons, starting with designing newly collected material, I started to think collecting is not that complicated bud engraving some kind of reasonable design to the tree itself is the hardest part. 
I think I went through more stages like this. And up until now, my opinion evolved. 

Currently, I do not think hardest is collecting, nor elementary designing and positioning branches. I think the hardest part is maintaining design I have chosen for the tree. 

Avoiding diebacks of the branches, not letting the tree outgrow its shape, keep the believable shape of the structure for a longer period of time. 

Why I do think it is hard? According to my experience when trees reach more-less final silhouette you must work hard to let sunshine reach inner parts of the crown to avoid diebacks of the weaker branches. 

Once you fail to defoliate the tree on time, either fully or partially, and some of the smaller branches are lost. This is resulting in long branches without or with a minimum of tapering, with ramification only on very ends of them. Sometimes those branches are several centimetres long, on my size of trees 5-10cm easily without forking into sub-branches. 

This is the branch on Hornbeam "Yossarian". In red, you can see where on one of the branches were smaller branches but were lost due to lack of the sunlight reaching inner parts of the crown. Picture was taken from the top. In blue back-budding due to cut back of the small branch and defoliation of the entire space above the spot. 

Shortly after this picture was taken a majority of the ramification in yellow field was removed due to the discussed problem. 

Repairing the damage is really hard. In my experience, you can promote back-budding on prolonged branches where dieback of sub-branches occurred. But back-budding will not happen without light reaching target spot. So you have to clear the surrounding area of the foliage and shorten sufficient amount of branches around to avoid shading weak branches. So, sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot of the "finished" structure to promote new growth. And it is really hard. 

I think it is more valid when naturalistic design if the trees are used. Why is that so? Most of the naturalistic trees tend not to have one single trunk, but rather trunk splitting into sub trunks along its movement up. So, at the level of apex, it is normal to have several competing sub trunks. And they are competing to gain a maximum of the light exposure and usually, a growth of the foliage is concentrating at the top of the crown. 

It is almost never triangularly shaped crowns like at the traditional designs. With the triangularly shaped crown and well distributed negative spaces between branches, one can obviously better manage the light distribution for the tree parts. 

Honestly, sometimes I think that prevalence and popularity of such shaped crowns is more result of horticultural and economic reasons than artistical or design needs. 
My point is, if you are the professional grower of the stock in Japan you will try to use shapes which will avoid diebacks and consequently costly and timely repairs of the lost design of the crown.  And triangularly shaped crowns with well defined negative spaces give you just that, hmm? 

One more thing, I would like to mention here is the Bonsai Mirai podcast, specifically the episode where Ryan Neil is discussing the development of deciduous bonsai with Dennis Vojtilla. Worth listening for everybody who is interested in deciduous bonsai design. One of the questions which Ryan addresses to Dennis how to develop branches on deciduous bonsai. His answer is all at once if I remember correctly. And if you fail at that correction of the problematic parts are very hard. Take your time and listen to it during commuting, as most of the podcast it is fun and pure gold regarding interesting information. Definitely better stuff than listening to a majority of our radio stations. If I can recommend you anything from their archives to start with I would say episodes with Peter Warren are particularly good, and one dedicated to John Naka. But, as I wrote earlier all episodes are fun to listen. 

Anyway, I would like to read your opinions and discuss interesting points related to this topic in a comment section. 


Acer campestre No.2

You can see the actual picture of the Field maple. It looks like it was defoliated and new leaves are just emerging. Well, it is not the case. I will come to this later. Let me just quickly recap its history during last few months. 

The tree was repotted in March and from the rather large plastic bowl, it went into much smaller one. In case there was any ceramic pot at hand at that time it could go into one, but there was nothing suitable. During the repotting, I did quite a lot of root work on it.  A lot of clay like soil from original collection site was removed. It was substituted with a much lighter mix of pumice, lava rock, zeolite and rough peat with the addition of Osmocote fertiliser as always. 

And tree loved it and grew like crazy for two months. Then, as usual, bloody ants brought aphids and other beasts and start to parasitise on its juices. On few leaves, mildew started to appear to make it more fun. Since I'm not using insecticides I decided to apply some biological weapon. Luckily, I had freshly delivered neem oil product (not dedicated for horticultural use) and I decided to apply it. Made 1% solution and sprayed the tree and others as well. For first few days everything seemed to be OK. But maple started to show signs of some kind of fungal problem on the bottom of the leaves. Few of them went yellow. No big deal, I thought. They just fall off and new will emerge.  

I went for a weekend trip with family at that time.  After I came back, I did the usual check of the trees in the garden. Everything seemed to be OK, except this maple. 

More leaves were infected, white spots on the underneath of the leaves were abundant all over the tree. I touched any leave, it just fell off. Next day it was even worse. Following day all leaves were gone, even the smallest ones. It was beginning of June. 

Hmm, this is a problem. I did not know what happened, but I was suspecting strong fungal infection or mistreatment with neem oil. Honestly, I was pissed at myself. Checked the tree regularly, but it looked bad. 

After a couple of days, during a visit to the garden and checking the tree status, I heard something.

I could not recognise the sound despite I tried hard. I bent closer to the tree and listened even more thoughtfully. 

I could not believe my ears. 

I was almost sure I distinguished the sound.

And it was Santa Fe church bells ringing out...I heard them almost clearly...big bells ringing...I could not believe it. Looked around and thought maybe someone is watching Winnetou: The Last Shot movie. But no, the sound was not coming from any of the opened neighbouring windows... 

Suddenly, at that moment I realized what it meant...  

....the tree was dying... 

...I was down. Almost like Old Shatterhand was back then, when Winnetou was dying.

I knew I could not do anything for the tree anymore. I just keep watering it like I do all dead trees for a week or two, just in case miracle will happen. 

And then, one morning I saw them. New buds, typical red maple buds. It was an amazing feeling. Looked like the tree is waking up from passing and will make it. I checked it on next day, just to be sure, but it was clear, the buds were much bigger. After another two days, new tiny leaves developed. Hallelujah. It was alive. 

I was so happy at that moment.

I just could not understand those bells.
I must have had some kind of daydream or illusion ... or I thought, maybe the sound of Santa Fe bells is not messaging for those passing away...and what if, I thought ... 

...I run back to the house and quickly looked for the Winnetou book... looked up that paragraph ... but no, Winnetou was still dead. 
What a fool I was. 

But, maybe, Old Shatterhand is still living there somewhere in the West, maybe drinking whiskey in a casino in Nevada in memory of his lost brother. Who knows.

Carpinus betulus "Vincent's forest"

Forrest was repotted in spring, some old soil removed. Few roots worked on. I tried to plat it deeper but not much could have been done. Couldn't push it too far since a lot of roots were removed. Soil mix adapted with much more pumice since it is lighter than my preferred zeolite.
Now growing strongly, trimmed back ľ times already. The main tree still needs a lot of improvement in the top of the crown paradoxically.  

Prunus spinosa

Let me tell you few words about this sloe. Since deadwood was not anywhere close to being finished I was working on it during the winter. It was carved all the way up to where live parts of the trunks were starting. I was trying to hollow the trunk from inside, give some structure to the top with some detailed carving. The surface was then burned with little flame as well. For some time I wanted to try a technique I was reading about from fellow bonsai artists. I bought can of freezing gas which is able to cool the surface of material down to -40°C. I soaked the cloth with water, wrapped a wet cloth around the deadwood and let it soak for few hours. Then, after removing it I was applying gas from the can. I repeated the process several times. Honestly, I was expecting more from it. I will most probably apply it few more times and I will see. Anyway, I think weather during next couple of seasons will give better results on the final appearance of the structure of the deadwood. 

The tree was then left to recover after the winter. During repotting season in March tree was repotted, unfortunately, only back to same pot since there was no other suitable at that time. The tree was just turned by 45° in the pot to achieve better front. 

During the repotting, I found that tree after some 8 or so years in the pot does not have any reasonable nebari as expected and generally roots were far from perfect. Since last repotting tree created one long root which circulated around the perimeter of the pot one and half times and feather roots were on the end. I cut that strange roots off and hoped all the rest of the root mass closer to the trunk will keep the tree alive. 

After a couple of months, the tree is still doing well so it seems it made it. Fact is it produced almost no flowers this year, compared to last few years when it was flowering like crazy it was kind of unusual. 
Maybe it is a result of repotting or winter weather, I don't know. I will see how it will do next spring. I hope to have a lot of flowers again. 



Carpinus betulus "RUSNAK"

The tree was bit outgrown, some branches were losing inner growth so action was needed urgently. The tree was growing extremely vigorously since spring and was cut back already a few weeks ago. It was immediately clear it is not sufficient, I just needed some time to perform some more radical cutback and partial defoliation. Now, the tree will produce some new growth inside the crown as well.

Bonsai Winter Protection