Sunday, March 23, 2014

Korean Hornbeam Catkins

I've been growing this species for a number of years, but I've never had one that produced flowers.  The crown of one of my trees is just filled with them this year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Signs of Spring

We are experiencing very warm temperatures as of late in southeastern Nebraska.  Pictured is a piece of deadwood that I collected in Wyoming last year.  It's over a foot wide.  I believe it's an old section of a Rocky Mountain Juniper trunk, due to the fact that the area where it was collected is covered in this species and there were many RMJ's still struggling for life with similar twisted trunks.  I thought the snow melting from the deadwood into the natural looking section of ice resembled a mountain/stream scene.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Yamadori Korean Hornbeam #4

At the beginning of the incredible story of Shinji Susuki, Bonsai Works of Divinity, it was said that, "a bonsai has a universe within itself."  I think that analogy really fits this old, collected tree.  I purchased this material from Bonsai West in the winter of 2009.  I was just enamored by the enormous, melting base, however, the apex was too straight and lacked taper.  In the winter of 2010, I removed the apex and most of the original branches were cut back to a stub.  With assistance from local bonsai artist, Haidar Kazem, the rotting section near the apex of the tree was carved out.  Over time, I realized this section could make an interesting focal point and the small tree growing out from the base could also be part of the composition if this side was made the viewing front.

The tree in 2009 at Bonsai West

A year later, before branch trimming and carving...
After pruning and during carving...
and today...




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oak Leaf Hornbeam Air Layer (cont.)

As promised from my previous post, I've included photos of the top section of the Oak Leaf Hornbeam and what remains of the bottom section. 
The bottom will make a nice formal upright/broom design and has developed a nice flaring nebari in only a couple years while growing in a shallow wooden training box.  Branches were left to grow freely over the last few years, but were cut back to a stub to develop two, even three additional branches from that location this past summer.  Primary branching is now in place for the most part, although, the right side needs to thicken next year.  The tree is chuhin height.

The top section is a fine example of the unique twists and turns that can develop naturally at the apex of a tree, which is precisely why many of these top sections make such interesting bonsai material.  Most of the branching already has movement and is well refined, so I don't expect to wire the entire tree, but will make every attempt to accentuate the natural appearance. 


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oak Leaf Hornbeam

During college I served as a volunteer for the American Bonsai Society (ABS) for several years, mainly editing articles and writing the ABStracts column.  During that time period, I was fortunate to visit the beautiful Oregon Coast town of Sweet Home and interviewed one of the owners of Cascade Bonsai Works, Dan Zwierzyna, with the intent of writing and publishing an article for the ABS Journal.  At some point after my visit, the nursery unfortunately closed, but their material was purchased and made available by Wee Tree Farm.  It was at Cascade Bonsai Works that I encountered my first Oak Leaf Hornbeam.

I have always admired Carpinus as followers of my blog know, so I was especially intrigued by this rare form of European Hornbeam.  It was labeled Carpinus betulus ‘Quercifolia’ at the nursery, but my recent research indicates it is now referred to as Carpinus betulus ‘Heterophylla’.  I had originally purchased several larger trees from Dan, but eventually sold them during a time that I wasn’t akin to having any trees larger than chuhin size.

I was fortunate to acquire one again in 2010 from Wee Tree, although I have never seen the leaves on this tree revert to the oak like structure, as I saw on a few of the specimens at the nursery.  I’ve been told that the oak like leaves on this species do not form immediately and generally come with age, but I have yet to see any on this tree.  They do turn brown and hang on to the tree during dormancy, similar to many oaks, but this is also a characteristic of many hornbeams.  I purchased it with the intent on air layering the top, unsure as to what may come of the bottom portion. 

My first attempt in 2012 to air layer this tree was unsuccessful.  Upon inspecting the location of the layer last year, there was a slim portion of the cambium – no more than 1/8”, that managed to successfully transfer enough nutrients to keep the top section alive on the existing root system.  This year, I used the same location, paying special attention to removing all signs of living tissue and girdled the top portion of the layer with wire to further discourage the cambial tissue from forming again.

The layer was successful and removed in September of this year.  I plan to further develop the bottom section, possibly in the broom style.

By the way, that article was published in the NBS, but the wrong author was listed, believe it or not.  I’m sure that person has gone on to have a successful writing career! 

The tree in 2010
The tree in 2013

The air layer

I will post some photos of the potted layer and bottom tree once dormant.  We are experiencing a long, warm fall here in southeastern Nebraska and many trees are just turning.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alaskan Yellow Cedar

I had the pleasure of participating in Dan Robinson's workshop on Alaskan Yellow Cedar a few weeks ago at the Visions of the American West convention in Denver.  Enrolling in this workshop was a bit risky since I wasn't familiar with this species, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to work with Dan.  The taxonomy of the Alaskan Yellow Cedar is seemingly ever changing as described here.  In fact, its Latin name was changed yet again as recently as 2002.  Dan digs these from an alpine bog on Vancouver Island, where the acidity level of the soil is so high, it's hard to imagine life existing at all.  Along with each workshop tree, we were given a portion of the trunk to determine the age of the tree.  These trees continually layered, producing new roots as the ground level raised, so each had a portion of the trunk that was underground.  The growth rate is so slow, I will need to have this examined microscopically.  He estimated the age of his demonstration tree at 600 years. 

I did not capture photos of the other trees from the workshop, but most were slanted without much movement in the trunk line.  Dan mentioned that he was tempted to air layer many of these trees since the tops had such interesting deadwood and the many of the trunks lacked taper.  The tree I chose was the only one that was relatively columnar, but yet, it seemed to have some movement in the trunk when viewing from a certain angle.  Most of the four hour workshop was spent on carving using a Mikita die grinder - Dan's weapon of choice.  I spent the last half hour or so wiring the foliage.  Dan and I disagreed somewhat on the front, as he felt it was best to expose as many gnarled dead branches as possible, whereas, I preferred to expose the most trunk movement and taper, as seen here...

Many older trees, especially yamadori, have a main point of interest.  As bonsai artists, it is our objective to first see this, but then also to accentuate and draw focus to it.  This tree on the other hand seems to have many areas of interest, from its hollow trunk, to the gnarly jin at the base, which at one point was a root, to the intense dead, gnarled branches, to the beautiful array of colors seen when exposing the inner bark.

The tree seems to be adjusting fine to Nebraska, despite our very hot and humid conditions as of late.  It will be interesting to see how the tree reacts to transplanting and adjusting to a less acidic soil.  More photos of the convention and workshops, including some of myself and Dan working on this tree can be found here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Larch Hybrid

This collected larch came to me from Alan Adair.  A Japanese/American hybrid.  This is the only photo I could locate of the tree at the time of purchase.

Last spring, I changed the planting angle to expose less surface roots and began the makings of a semi-cascade style bonsai.  I wired it this past week.  The base has definite interest, but so does the trunk that seemingly twists towards the sun.  I believe you can appreciate both with the new front.