Six trees. I’ll be brief (tough for me in text form I know, but if you meet me in person I am actually very quiet and of few words). I’ll try to be informative at the same time. I also need to warn you; there are no pretty “after” shots either. I apologize to my Instagram buddies as there’ll be no photogenically acceptable posts forthcoming. Not to mention the light was terrible for this photoset. Sorry. Let’s start with….. A very bushy ficus salicaria. I would say it’s filled in well. The pic above was from this post which was published on August 16 2013. This bushiness is very typical behavior for a willow leaf ficus. It can be daunting. This pic below shows an area I had to shave: In that little band (about 1/4 inch thick and a little more than an inch wide) there were more than 30 shoots. Inconceivable. Can you imagine if the Japanese had this species a hundred years ago? In a way I’m kinda glad that we have it now because it’s up to us to figure it out. And we growers and artists in Florida are at the forefront. One of those artists is Ed Trout. He is touring the country this year giving demos and leading workshops. If he is close by your town, and you get the chance, go see him. I highly recommend it. This is one of his trees: And here is the man himself: Always a smile, a joke and a kind word. He is one of the true gentleman of bonsai (unlike me, I’m gruff and taciturn at best) He will be at Wigert’s Bonsai’s open house this year (November 2-3 www.wigertsbonsai.com) And I am excited to say, one of the headliners for the 2014 Bonsai Societies of Florida annual convention, alongside Peter Warren and Enrique Castano. More on that as we get closer but mark the calendar; May 23-26 2014. So here’s the tree with all of the unnecessary growth pruned away (like a bikini wax almost). Then a topiary trim except for this apex branch- And these back buds- The new branches are too young to wire, so that’s it. There’s a definite improvement but it’s not pretty. This is the theme of the post. Next tree is the ficus triangular from this post The progress on this tree is the improved health, the wire has set the main branches (which I removed about a month ago) and the shorter internodes. When last you saw it it looked like so- You may think I’ve let it go, but no, I’m letting it grow……get it, go….grow…? Waka waka!! Seriously though, I’m not sure how winter will treat this tree here in Orlando so I’m being a bit cautious with it. An abundance of leaf surface area will make for better transpiration (the process that ultimately leads to water usage, which is something I’m concerned about in this shallow pot. Shallow pots don’t drain as well as deep pots. Don’t believe me? Look up “perched water table” in containers). And more leave surface area means better photosynthesis, how a plant makes food (and you thought you were “feeding” it with fertilizer. Nope. Think of fertilizer loosely like vitamins). Lookie here! Them’s look like fruit. They ain’t …um, they’re not. Those are ficus flower bodies. The unmentionable bits are inside this little hole on the end: And it takes a specialized wasp with a long, thin, thingy to pollinate it. I don’t think those wasps live in Orlando. They might though, every thing else is an import. Even Walt Disney was from Chicago. The next tree, or trees, are Chinese elms from this post. I do believe these trees have stopped growing mostly. A quick trim- Yes, I think it’s time to sacrifice the, uh, sacrifice branch. And after a quick trim- Now for a (partial) failure report. The juniper from this post. How we left it: How it is today: Two dead branches. The top is growing well though. When I wrote the original post I had warned that the bark and cambium were “slippery” in the summer in Florida. And that wiring and moving branches was sometimes risky. I proved my point I guess. I didn’t kill the whole branch back to the trunk; these two secondary branches are the dead ones- But this third one is healthy and growing: You could say it’s the main branch even. The rest of the tree is pushing growth too- The only thing to do is….snip! On to the last tree! This is the ilex from Walmart (this post) What has gone before… And now- Whoa! Don’t you ever trim that bush. It’s like a 1970’s…….never mind, I won’t go there. Let’s talk fungus on ilex vomitoria. One of the biggest contributors to black spot fungus on ilex is reduced air flow. The canopy on this little tree is just too dense (like me, sometimes). The ilex will almost self-prune itself when the canopy is this thick, which the brown tipped leaves represent. The leaves with the black spots on them are, duh, black spot disease. I use this product normally, with this active ingredient- But I couldn’t find it so I got this one- Which has the same active fungicide: Just not as high a percentage. First, trimming (it’s not very healthy to touch a recently sprayed plant. And it makes your tacos taste funny) and then spraying. Half trimmed: And all the way trimmed. Side view: And the front: I tipped all the branches except the apex (again) And that’s all. A totally un-glamorous post on maintenance that no one hardly ever shows in these progression pieces. I hope it was informative. And the last bit of advice: Keep those bushes trimmed, ya hear?
We have, for your viewing pleasure, four trees that have progressed well and need a little showing off.
And this one:
I hope you guys appreciate the links I’m about to provide. Doing the research into my archives took me longer than the actual work on the trees (at least it seems that way).
I’ll start with the hackberry.
You first saw it in this post.
I’ve worked it several times this year already and last time you saw it was here. And it looked like this:
That was at the end of May, what has become of said fair celtis?
Filled in again, right?
I swear the thing starts to grow two days after I trim it.
I’ve had a serious discussion with my friend Bobby about using hackberry as a beginner tree over ficus or elm.
They are seriously forgiving if you screw up. Wait a month and it’s a new tree.
There is either a touch of fungus or the branch was just being shaded too much but there is some dieback here-
I’m not worried about it too much, I’ll solve the lack of sun problem in a minute and the fungus problem can be easily taken care of if it spreads.
The maintenance tasks I need to perform here are just a trim and wire removal.
The pic above makes the job look daunting but if you stick with the basic pruning techniques (take off the ups, downs, multiple and opposite, and those buds growing underneath and in the crotches then it’s quick work.)
This branch is buggin’ me now but will be shortened come spring.
And now the two sides and back.
It should fill in one more time before leaf drop in December (I did say December, come join us for our foliage festival. Brown is the color scheme). Maybe I’ll get some color this year (probably not).
Next, I’ll work on the one ilex I haven’t removed the wire on or trimmed yet.
All the other ilex vomitoria have been taken care of (no, I haven’t posted on all of them so you didn’t miss anything).
This tree was first seen (I think) in this post.
It has grown into a really nice, natural looking tree (as you will see, you might have guessed that I already did the work and am writing this days later).
This is how you saw it last-
Right, rear, left views:
Again, I remove the wire-
Which really doesn’t change the look:
But it does give a good starting point.
Again, looking at the canopy, you might be daunted-
You might even be tempted to hedge trim it-
Which is a valid technique, just not now.
I think a little refinement is called for.
Whoops, couldn’t help myself.
That’s ok, it was too tall anyway.
One step in refining a tree is equalizing the leaf sizes.
What do you think?
Needs something, right?
I was once told (sneeringly, granted, but that’s just how some people are in the culture of bonsai) that one should never show a bonsai, in a show or even in a photograph, without moss.
Obviously, I don’t hold to that little bit of dogma, I could care less because I’m interested in the tree more than anything. You could even pot it in a kitty litter sandbox and, if the tree is good, I don’t care.
But sometimes you just have to dress things up a bit.
Just to show that you can.
The next tree is just a before (from this post) .
And how it is now with leaves and a little trim.
The great thing about Brazilian Raintrees are, as they get older, the trunks will flatten out more and more and even get bigger.
Even a modest one like this will be a great tree in time.
On to the potato ilex.
The update on this tree was requested by a fellow redditor “amethystrockstar” (whom I thank, I wasn’t going to work on the tree this year again)
I first showed the tree in this post
And left it looking like…..I’ll leave the progression until the end. It’ll be way more dramatic that way.
The second post was here.
It had definitely made progress at that point (you’ll have to wait until the end to see).
Here it is today:
Sorry, enjoying a beverage, this is thirsty work.
Ok, I admit it, it’s just water.
I’m out of beer (send six packs, please! No light beer though).
Obligatory front, rear, side, side before shots:
This was the sketch I did for the tree:
Let’s get on with it already then, jeez!
I noticed a little structural fault on the right that needs some simplifying.
I’m not sure why I kept it (maybe I should re-read the first post) but it’s time to remedy it.
That looks better.
The ilex gets few pests (has to do with the high caffeine content in the leaves) but one it does get is called a leaf miner.
This is typically how the damage looks.
I don’t worry too much about them, I just pluck the leaf off. If you want to prevent it, the best time to spray is when new growth is happening, that’s when certain flies plant the eggs in the tender new growth.
There is a predator of leaf miners called a blue tit.
No, really…..it’s a European bird that lives on European hollies.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a blue tit in Florida. I might import some but it’s probably too warm for blue tits.
Anyway, onward and upward (I don’t think I can get any lower).
A tip on refinement; there are always branches we leave on a tree that don’t belong. As new branches grow, get rid of them.
This branch is too thick
And there are replacements all around. So…goodbye
There’s some photographic prowess for you, I focused the camera on a branch that isn’t even there anymore.
A little here-
A little there-
A lot on this branch-
Am I done?
No…do you see it?
A great tool to use when styling your trees is a viewfinder on a digital camera.
The eye gets “used” to the tree you’re styling at that particular time and by removing yourself one step, you can see flaws and out of place branches easier.
The way artists used to do this was to look at a piece of work and squint.
It serves the same purpose.
I think the left branch needs one more bit of pruning.
Ok. Now the progressions-
After the second styling and first potting:
At the next repotting hopefully I’ll be able to reduce the root in the front a bit.
Or I could just only show the tree with moss and hide it (oops, did I just give away a secret?).
Moss hides all kinds of flaws.
Don’t forget to send beer.
How many of my readers out there take the time, when going to a box store like Lowes or The Home Depot, to glance at the landscaping material in hopes of finding a bonsai diamond in the rough?
I do it every time myself.
The tree today I think came from Walmart.
It was in 3 gallon nursery container and I think I put it into this training pot last year.
I pruned it hard then, to the trunk line, and let it grow.
I didn’t put too much thought into the planting position. Either that or I was deranged at the time.
Which seems to be a theme here recently. Too many Stephen King books.
I had put this tree up for sale at Kawa Bonsai Societies Joy of Bonsai show in January 2013 and I was surprised that no one bought it. I think I only had $50 on it at the time.
Needless to say, it’s not for sale now.
Can you see the trunk?
I know, it looks like a dog turd with a Pom Pom on top.
Just wait and see
This was the “front”
Three cuts. I’ll make this tree with three cuts (some minor pruning cuts too, but those don’t count).
Let us commence
Kinda thick, huh?
And third cut
Now, I did cut the first branch back, so if you want to count that, you can. But I won’t. It messes up my narrative.
And here you go
Great little sumo with superior movement, right?
You guys know what’s coming next: this isn’t an Adam’s Art and Bonsai blogpost without wire.
And, believe it or not, only two pieces of wire.
Who says that ilex schillings have brittle branches?
This little, delicate branch is the new leader.
Don’t even breathe on it.
And the second wire
As I spin the tree
you’ll see the two pruning scars where I first made some cuts two years ago
Those won’t heal. But that’s ok, it makes the tree look older.
So now we have the tree in the pot showing the wrong front. What to do?
I don’t repot ilex in the summer; only late winter through spring.
I can move it in the pot though.
Pick it up and squash it back in
I think I’ll also clean the top soil off and refresh it with new mix.
Oh, don’t forget tying it in place; children and cats you know.
Let’s talk seasonality. It is early August in Florida. I have 4 or 5 months growing time until the tree goes dormant for winter.
I can expect one or two pruning sessions,at least, on this tree.
In Orlando, I don’t have to worry about freezing with an ilex. It can withstand any temp Orlando can drop down to. Except for new growth.
New growth will definitely freeze.
So, for me, there won’t be any pruning past the end of November.
Keep that in mind when pruning your cold hardy trees.
And…. Ta Da…the front
I may or may not try to remove the odd feature on the front that looks like a root. I think it gives it a little character.
Some fertilizer, lots of sun and this tree will be a sweet little tree next year by repot time.
I’ll post an update. If I don’t sell it.
This is that update I had promised in the last post on this big Yamadori yaupon
Here’s a much better pic of it
The original post was here.
And this is how we left it, all alone on the bench
Dramatically lit, ain’t it?
So, the dealio with this post, besides trimming it, will be a discussion on ramification and achieving it with this tree. Or, to be honest, bush.
So why did I point out that the dwarf yaupon holly is a bush. The ilex vomitoria is a tree. The ilex vomitoria “schillings” is a dwarf cultivar that is prized for its compact nature, small leaves and short internodes. A bush.
Which are all traits sought after in bonsai.
But, as with all trees with these traits, its too easy to simply topiary trim it to give it an appearance of a bonsai. Trim it like a bush, if you will.
Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly ok to use topiary trimming as a developmental tool, it increases ramification in the short run. I use it myself.
In the long run it causes dieback of interior branching, causes odd taper and knobs, and ultimately weakens the tree.
I treat an ilex as a perpetual growth engine. As long as the tree is growing with new branches and new wood it won’t have areas of dieback. If you are just trimming the tips (of any tree for that matter) the branches just get too woody to carry water and nutrients and that branch will die.
How does this apply to this tree?
Not much actually, as just about all the branches are young. But I needed to explain why this tree will look like it will at the end of the post.
Here are some establishing shots
This tree is ruined! The wire is cutting in! Oh no!
I will say this again,
“If you don’t have wire scars on your trees then you’re not using enough wire”
If all a person has to say about your trees is that the wires are cutting in or that the bark is scarred then they’re not really looking at the tree. They’re just trying to find fault to bolster their own little ego.
Speaking of little egos sucking the life
Some ilex plants will throw up suckers from the roots. It’s best to remove them as they do pull energy away from the top of the tree.
Now, lets start the clock and see how long it takes me to finish this tree.
First I perform a partial defoliation
removing the interior leaves; to make it easier to see and also to unwire the tree. It also allows for better airflow and more light to those secondary branches I do keep.
Here is a leaf affected by leaf miner
I only found one on the tree but if its a serious problem use a systemic insecticide to kill them. They are literally within the tissue of the leaf and a topical insecticide or oil spray just won’t touch them.
I’ve learned that, on an ilex, once you trim the tip it begins to become brittle and hard to wire and bend.
One side down
There are many new branches to work with
Some I’ll be able to wire
Some I won’t because they’re still too green
Let’s talk about wiring and cutting back a branch.
This sketch shows a long thin branch
We wire it out and give it movement
The movement, with the twists and curves, tricks the eye into believing that the tree is older. Young things are straight, old things are gnarled and crooked.
To give more age, we need taper. A tree goes from fat to thin.
So you cut it and grow it out again.
And so forth
Until you get a truly old looking branch
What stage is this tree at?
It’s still in the first stage actually.
Here we are, the bush is trimmed
I need just a little wire. Not too much at the moment.
Left Side view
Click here for a 3D view if you’re on Instagram.
And the front
It’s coming along well, considering this is only the first seasons growth and the first trimming.
Look for an update around November or so.
And how did I do on time?
An hour and a half. Not bad considering I was photographing it at the same time.
Since it’s raining and I can’t go carve my neea from the previous post I’ll write up a quick article on these two ilex.
I haven’t shown any work on them yet but the principles here are for the creation of age in the small branches
They’re nice little trees.
Ilex vomitoria “schillings” are perfect for this style; which I shall call “Tree Style”.
They are not stylized Asian trees but have a more natural feel to them.
If they were growing in the wild these trees would be in the open (straight trunk, big rounded canopy), and fairly old (thick trunk and spreading nebari).
The goal with the wiring and pruning it to give the branching twists and turns which are indicative of old trees.
I recently read that Dan Robinson calls this process of giving the young branches as many gnarled and tortured movements as “giving them baby bends”.
He didn’t use this terminology when he was through Florida a while back but he did show us and explain why it happens in nature.
The older the tree the more it has to use gravity to get water high into the canopy.
A branch grows up and then down an up again (it is air pressure and surface tension that brings water up; the branch growing down is using gravity to move the water more efficiently) and then it’s shaded by an upper branch so it has to go right or left etc.
The older the tree, the more twists and dog legs and back tracks.
And that’s what I’m trying here, since the trees aren’t that impressive.
First tree before trimming
And after trimming
I could defoliate the tree if I wanted but I’m not too concerned with leaf size yet.
It’s time to remove some wire
That cutting in is not the end of the world. It will add to the gnarly-ish-ness.
On a tree this small I find it exceedingly difficult to (as is my want) unwrap the wire.
If you are watching me you will probably see me doing this:
using my scissors as a prying tool.
You should use needle-nose pliers or Jin pliers
I just tend to use the tool in hand. Classic “Do as I say and not as I do”. I know.
This is an example of a more than right angled branch.
And the tree all wired up
It has a nice, airy feeling now. You can almost see the birds and butterflies flying through the branches……
Next is this artistically and dramatically potted ilex
I really like the base on this one and the structure is unique. Very unconventional.
It’s grown a lot since the first pruning
I styled these in January and I’ve let them both grow out.
I have lots to work with. I’ve removed the inside leaves to show you the new branches
Which are here, here, here, here, here
To achieve my twisty, turny branching I will use wiring
Okay, I admit it, I have an ilex problem. I collect ilex bonsai the same way that some people collect Hummel figurines, baseball cards, comic books or cats. Or even ex-husbands.
What can I say? they have small leaves, quick growth, they’re able to be kept in a small pot, cold hardy in my area, and just so darn cute.
I had thought to break this post into five different posts about each tree but I don’t want to torture you with so many little stories, so I’ll just hit on the important parts of each tree.
It’s about a foot tall, really good taper…
I cut it back (blue arrow) and wired a secondary branch into its old spot (red arrow). As your tree ages, it’s important that this process is done regularly. Taper is the one of the things that give age to a tree. By cutting back and re-growing taper is achieved.
Now the roots
Pretty healthy looking, I haven’t had any health issues with this tree. It’s been 2 years since I’ve repotted and you can tell by the matting in some spots. Not as bad as the “old ilex” in the previous post by any means.
It’s always best to clean the pot, especially making sure the screen on the drain holes is clean.
I’m gonna save all the finished “glamor” shots ’til the end.
It’s important to understand that we don’t need to be repotting our trees every year. Each time you do it some vigor is sapped away from the tree. The soil in this pic above is not showing too many roots (an ilex roots will fill the pot)
In late summer I restyled the branches
And cut out the older, over lignified branches and replaced them with younger ones that I let grow long.
This is important with ilex; as the branch becomes more woody and stiff, it loses its capacity to move water and nutrients. And the result is that branch withering and dying.
This is the first step in the rejuve process. Let it grow unrestricted.
There was a nice moss layer on the soil but something removed it. I haven’t caught the beast in the act yet so I don’t know exactly what it is , but it must be faster than the cats, that’s all I have to say.
Maybe it’s the children?
If you look close you will see the fine roots on the soil surface. This happens from keeping moss on the tree. And this is why moss is a good thing on the soil surface, especially on little trees. It allows the tree to utilize the entire soil mass where, without moss, the first 1/4-1/2 inch is wasted space.
But we don’t want moss on the trunk so a toothbrush and some water and…
If you’re re-using the same pot, (which requires cleaning, installing new tie downs etc) while preparing the old pot and the trees roots are naked, put the tree in a pan of water so the roots don’t dry out.
And you get a cool photoshop opportunity too…
I don’t like fertilizer on the soil surface, it cakes up and just looks bad. I mean, who wants to see poop on the lawn?
Just tap the pot a bit and the fertilizer will disappear. That’s also why I prefer granular poop to the poop cakes.
This tree is at the end of the rejuve. Last year, I repotted it into a slightly larger pot with better drainage, let it grow without much trimming, and made sure that it stayed fertilized. It has a lot of flowers so it must be happy.
These will be quick updates as I did little to them but repot so…….
The first tree is the male ilex vomitoria from this post (clicketh hither)
It was time for a new pot.
If you remember, this is not the dwarf (schillings) but just the male (a holly is dioecious. Meaning there are male and female plants. They both have flowers but only the female can make fruit.
In this case, the male is also smaller in stature than the female.
Next we have the “old ilex” from these posts (part 1, part 2 )
If you recall, I up-potted the tree (slip potted) to increase vigor and increase growth. I recently removed all the wire and added one thin piece back (I think)
It’s a mica pot, which used to be cheap but are now more expensive than ceramic. The allure of the mica was the supposed insulating properties, the dark color keeps the roots warmer in the winter and the thick walls keep the roots cooler in the summer. And they don’t break.
Next is the potato
It’s grown this winter so much that this will be the second thinning
At this stage (and at this time of the year) I am removing the bigger leaves and those close to the branch crotches and bases. This will let the light in to stimulate more branching and it will also let more air in (which should help with the fungus)
I can wire some branches but most (the red ones) are just too “green” (I know, the red ones are the green ones. I don’t make up the terms.) and wire will just crush them. I can get a few though.
And I must address the soil.
This must be washed out as it also contributes to the fungus problem. An ilex is a drought tolerant plant and must have very well draining (read that as coarse) soil if it’s in a bonsai pot. It is one of those plants that give off an oil (like pine and juniper) from the fallen foliage that combines with soil particles and makes them aqua phobic. Which means that water and the oily soil particles don’t mix. This increases the oxygen in the root area (scientist think this, at least)
I can always change it next year.
You can see the branches I wired. I’ll have to wait a month or so for the rest.
Am I done yet?
No. One more I think…
The story of the wiring,carving and weeding of this one is here. And the stories of two other trees as well. Triple prizes!
Well, not really plunk. We must have respect for the trees. Place gently and reverently into its new home. Uh huh.
The leaves have filled in well since the trimming and wiring. I may try to enter it in a show.
Still kinda young branching but I have a few months.
As you might have guessed, I have a fondness for ilex vomitoria. Schillings dwarf in particular.
Most people think they are only good for one style- oak tree- but as you see, all four of these are different.