The Delusion Continues: Create Old Bonsai from New
Once upon a time, along a poor and dusty roadside far away, a sapling, admittedly a skinny orphan, grew lazily by the wayside, sneezing heartily from the dust.
Few branches he had, for he was but a poor sapling, indeed, born in soil naught but unkind, sharp pebbles and sorry, salty road dust.
In spite of his poor start in life and being blessed with few branches and sparse roots, he remained eternally hopeful, dreamed of greater things and stood proudly, waving happily at passers-by.
He was finally chosen by little more than fortuitous luck, rescued he was, carefully lifted and taken to a strange land by a lowly woodsman seeking to rescue such an imperfect tree.
Rather than being freed, he was bound firmly to a venerable piece of silvered wood named Grumpy, and planted somewhat strangely in a pot.
He was not unhappy, for the new soil was good, the water delicious, and he was not alone. There were others to befriend; curious, small trees that lived contentedly in pots big and small.
His lot in live was to wait five years through snow, rain, storm and sunshine to learn his destiny.
At first, he stubbornly refused to grow up, the young always expecting more out of life and being rather impatient. The other trees whispered about it regularly among themselves, he duly noted.
As time went on, he accepted his fate, settled in and began to grow as one with Grumpy, who clung miraculously and silently to the outside of the pot. They watched the world go by for the longest time as they surprisingly grew ever closer together, until it seemed they must be one.
"Oh, what shall we call you? the master asked, one day as he watered the soil carefully and nonchalantly spoke to chickadees flying past.
"You mean me?....
Alas, I have no name", the little tree offered bravely, " for I was but a seed dropped by a sparrow in the wind."
" ---But I had nothing, no hope, no heart, and no life! Grumpy spoke up suddenly, yawning.
" You bravely gave me your friendship, your heart and a new life too", , ----"so I must share my name with you, dear friend, for Grumpy I was without a heart, without life itself until we became one."
"Then Grumpy shall you be" the master said, smiling wisely.
"We shall give you a suitable new home immediately!"
And that is how our friend Grumpy the Bonsai came to be....
Remember? You might even want to revisit
We originally rescued our little hero, the spindly white spruce sapling free of branches and little crown --from along a roadside and certain doom. It was fitted it into a groove carved in a trunk-shaped, silvered piece of driftwood, and the live root system was planted in a deep pot of rich, free-draining soil.
You'll recall small wooden blocks and wire were used to retain the tree in the groove until growth of new wood filled the space. It took a few years. That makes sense, doesn't it? If a live trunk is not retained in the desired position adequately, expansion from new growth can actually push the live trunk out of place.
As you can see, Grumpy's new trunk had to be mounted outside of the pot for several growing seasons to prevent contact with potting soil while the tree came back to health --and the spindly trunk expanded. It seemed to take forever, but it was only 5 short years!
The tree crown is coming into it's own and is as healthy as a weed. Good thing, too. It needs to be healthy, because Grumpy's next operation is a major challenge! He has to be tough and in good condition!
In this photo, notice the live sapwood and trunk have now pretty much filled the groove, securing the trunk in place. Additional growth will continue to occur in the narrow visible live strip as the tree grows, but even though future expansion of girth will take place outside of the groove the live trunk will now remain locked in place.
You can see Grumpy's face on the left side on the lower half of this photo. Pretty cool dude, isn't he?
Adequate development of the root system and improvement took several years because the sapling chosen was really a rescue tree from very poor roadside soil--not ideal, and perhaps a bit stunted and too spindly for the job. The root system was minimal and poorly suited with a single, long taproot.
In the spring it was time to prepare Grumpy for his new life. A major operation was necessary which involved pruning of the tap root, branch pruning, trunk preparation, and finally, re-potting and securing into a much shallower training pot.
- The tree is removed from the deep training pot and carefully prepared to fit into a shallow, simple training pot .
- The long tap root must be reduced (pruned off) substantially to allow the fine, healthy root growth already developed to be arranged directly under the pseudo-trunk. New growth of fine feeder rootlets will quickly replace any large roots or tap root removed.
- The old soil is soaked and washed off of the roots rather than just broken off dry, to minimize damage to the delicate feeder rootlets. Pruning is completed, and the newly-prepared root mass is protected with wet peat moss so it will not dry out while other preparations are being made.
- The new trunk is treated with lime sulphur to preserve the deadwood. A solution is mixed and applied with a suitable paintbrush. Lime sulphur is excellent for this purpose, preventing mould and decay, and smells terrible --but does not negatively affect live trees.
- Surprise! *I followed the instructions on the product, there's a first to be sure! Two coats are applied, paying particular attention to the bottom of the driftwood piece which will be in constant contact with damp potting soil and mosses.
- When the lime sulphur is dry, the tree is established in the new pot and supported with plastic-coated guy wires to hold the trunk securely in position. ( I use #14 copper wire.) The root system is arranged directly underneath the large new trunk. With time and growth, the enlarged root system will eventually support the tree without help.
- New, free-draining potting soil is tamped firmly around the roots to eliminate air pockets and ensure excellent growth will continue.
- Several varieties of moss are added to the surface of the soil immediately to replicate the natural symbiotic environment of the Boreal forest and minimize moisture loss. The soil is thoroughly soaked and will be watered carefully each day. The recovering tree will be kept out of direct sunlight for a week or so to minimize stress.
- The crown ( top) must be reduced (pruned) to compensate for the reduction of the tap root thereby reducing excessive demands on the downsized root system. Branches and twigs not needed for the final design are carefully removed first.
- Minor branch wiring is also conducted where branches need to be adjusted as they grow, only because the timing for growth was correct to do so. Normally one would try to avoid repotting, extensive pruning and wiring a tree all at the same time to minimize stress, but Grumpy was strong and healthy, growing very rapidly.
All of the remaining branches will be left intact for a couple of growing seasons to ensure the health of the tree, thickening of the trunk and stabilizing of the root structure.
|Introducing: Grumpy the Bonsai|
The lime sulphur coating changes colour as it dries and will end up almost waterproof. It becomes a pleasing shade of light silver-gray.
Now Grumpy gets to put in a lot of camping time on the benches to grow, develop a much larger root system. The crown will fill out, hopefully where required.
Certain branches are also wired and temporarily but slightly over-bent for rapid spring growth.
I use brightly coloured plastic-coated wire that is quite noticeable to ensure the wire is not forgotten and will be removed when necessary.
Some of those wired branches too, may eventually be removed in the design process, but only long after the tree is fully recovered** from this stressful day .
We are one.
Grumpy is smiling, complete with bold heart and trunk. He gets to schmooze for a very long life.
Is that incoming I hear?
**Note: Avoiding instructions may not have been the only problem we have run into.
Since Grumpy was re-potted, an undetermined, wide-spread major event occurred that affected a large majority of conifers, primarily White Spruce and Balsam Fir trees in Northwestern Ontario. Major needle drop, bleaching, browning,and drying occurred erratically within sometimes as little as two or three days; some areas were untouched --at times adjacent trees were badly damaged while some are totally unscathed.
Sadly, our bonsai collection of indigenous species was not exempt from this serious problem.
Grumpy suffered some minor browning damage, but at this date, looks like he should survive. We shall keep you updated.
Many trees both in our collection and out in the wilds will not be so fortunate, some are already developing new buds and will grow, others appear to have dried up completely --and are unlikely to recover.
The cause of this damage is unknown at this time but correctly or not, has been attributed by foresters to the early, unusual spring weather we so enjoyed earlier this year!