little cornish trees

little cornish trees

A group re-build

leaves and buds - deciduousPosted by marcus watts Sat, March 24, 2012 18:29:30

Its funny how a day at the British shohin exhibition at Willowbog this month spent looking at a hundred or so little dinky trees lead to the purchase of the largest material I've bought to date ! The material that caught my eye was an old imported Japanese white beech group a meter tall and a meter wide.

The tree was imported about 10 years ago and to be fair has been caught out a few times by the late hard frosts that can occur in Northumbria, and I suspect when it was imported it didnt have a very healthy root system. This combination had lead to a few entire trunks dying off so the material had a very fair price tag to reflect this, so the tree booked a seat back to Cornwall to see if the milder weather down here would be more to its liking.

We wrapped the pot very tightly in clingfilm to keep the soil in place as it had to be layed on its side to fit in the car, and I bound the longer branches upwards so they layed flat and didnt snap off. Once unwrapped i gave the tree a misting off and took the first pictures.

The first job was to pluck off all the old leaves to see the branch structure and then study the live trunks to find the better angles. I planned to cut out the dead trunks and try to seperate some sections of the planting to re-design the group. The trees would be totally impossible to seperate individually as many roots were fused together and the trunk bases were moulded into each other in places, but I could see a way of sawing the mass into 2 or hopefully 3 pieces.

Here is the group cleaned of old leaves, but with the dead trunks still in place

And with the dead trunks removed - now we can see what there is to work with

Out came the saw and the group was sectioned up into three bits so the dead roots and trunk bases could be removed. This let me rotate the main tree 90 degrees to show the root flare and trunk base much better. I seperated two of the smaller trees with as many roots as possible as they were in the wrong places.

This was the first replant of the sections and I'm happy with all bar one trunk, which needs moving back

Now I let the tree rest for a few weeks, treating the soil with canna rizotonic to promote root health and growth. Then we will use guy wires to lower the main branches, try to strike some hard wood cuttings from the extensions and wail for the leaves to open.

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Kyohime going forward

leaves and buds - deciduousPosted by marcus watts Sat, February 04, 2012 09:10:54

The repotting of the kyohime triggered the coldest frostiest weather of the entire winter ! Luckily I had the garage ready (as the tree has broken dormancy in January 3 years running now) with a low bench and a 400w halide grow lamp & reflector rigged up ready.

As the tree was indoors I thinned the dense twigs that made the tree look like a birds nest, pulled down the main branches with guy wires then took a picture

The tree was too wide already but now it was 4" wider ! at a whopping 44". While corresponding with Dan Baton about making a pot for the tree in the future we have arrived at an ideal design where the growth is pushed back in with very hard prunning, getting the tree down to 28" wide with the current height or 30" wide if it gets taller. With this in mind I spent an hour on photoshop and produced the size we are aiming for

Now we are talking ! As you can see from the two pictures this is an easily achieved design, no artistic licence was taken moving trunks or adding mature new branches !, just a reduction of width, an increase in ramification and a nice outline. This also shows how much smaller the final pot design can go.

Now we have the plan, Dan likes it too, so I popped into the garage and pruned all lower branches back to an inner shoot. This will drive a new burst of buds on the inner bare branches in the coming weeks. The apex of the tree is a weaker area so the hard pruning lower down will strengthen the top too, helping to increase the ramification further up the tree.

This shows the reduction needed, and where to do it

This work is a perfect example of needing to make a tree look 'worse' in order to make it better in the long term. The very best way to get a potentially fantastic tree without paying silly money is to buy trees that have been neglected a little or lost their previous form. As long as a tree will make inner buds on old wood you are laughing.

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January 21st - Repotting !!

leaves and buds - deciduousPosted by marcus watts Sat, January 21, 2012 19:25:05

I've been checking the acers every day for the last 2 weeks and today the kiyohime started bud break. This hasn't come as a surprise as we are 11 - 12 degrees in the garden nearly every day and have not dropped below 2 degrees at night all winter.

I had the soil ready - akadama, black 'superlight' pumice type stuff, kanuma, chopped bark, chopped sphagnum, dust sieved out and nothing bigger than 8-10mm. (just click the pics below to enlarge them).

I use a sickle to cut the tree from the pot rather than wrestling it out risking damage, then combed out the roots, washed the root ball with a powerful hose then pruned it back by a third all round and halved the depth of the roots. The new pot is the same length - 28", but quite a bit shallower than the Walsaw ceramics one it came in last year.

To top dress the pot i used the akadama neat from the medium sieve and here is the tree repotted - No frosts now please !

Kyohime 5 trunk clump, 42" wide, 28" above the soil. Imported to Uk 1981-2 and must be 60 years old now.

Tomorrow i'll add a few new guy wires to drop some of the bigger branches and layer the left hand side a bit more.

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A year in the life

leaves and buds - deciduousPosted by marcus watts Sat, November 26, 2011 16:19:39

Here is a tree that I had been looking for for several years - a good red leaved maple.

As is the way, when you least expect it the right tree suddenly jumps out of the blue. I had made one of my trips up north to Willowbog bonsai nursery expecting to find a nice larch or scotts pine when the 2nd tree I spot was a stunning, vivid deshojo type red acer ! So taken by the unexpected find I decided to pop back the next morning with my piggy bank and the tree was soon settled in the boot of the car.

I wanted to repot it as the beautiful but small japanese pot was drying out back in Cornwall very quickly so I took the tree to the local japanese garden, where there happen to be quite a few nice pots. The garden has a huge collection of acers and the owner was stunned by the tree and was adamant it was acer palmatum beni maiko rather than deshojo due to the leaf lobes and the vivid colour, with the bright red / pink followed by a bright green rather than the duller purple / green blotchy pattern of deshojo.

The tree was summer repotted into a 28" unglazed oval pot - a lovely pot with perfect lines - made for a japanese supplier in china. Now the tree has a better reservoir of water, more humidity under the branches and a more stable appearance.

As the summer has passed the tree has increased inner twig density a lot, and these pictures show the last 5 months development

Last week the tree started showing Autumn colour

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A new forest is born

leaves and buds - deciduousPosted by marcus watts Thu, November 24, 2011 19:00:15

Last March on a local club night we made small group plantings from various deciduous bare rooted hedge material. On the night i used 9 european beech trees, and after getting home decided to repot it with some extra trees left over from the hedge we planted at the front of the house - this ended up as 23 trees in a large oval inspired by the real hill top forest down the road.

I think we all tend to be self critical and each time i looked at the group the fact they all had exactly the same thickness trunks meant I was never very happy with it - and the pot was too big for such little trees. By mid summer I knew the group needed a complete overhall so a few days while walking the dog managed to add 7 tiny seedlings to the stock of trees, then a hunt in the 50% discount area of my local bonsai nursery added a plastic box with 3 larger trees that had been rough pruned for a few years so they had some taper and plenty of branches to chose from.

Next thing was to make a pot for the group so a sheet of wire was cut to shape, a few re-inforcing metal rods were put through and floor tile cement was mixed to a wet consistancy and poured into the mesh. As it set a bit of texture was worked into it with a trowel and the drain holes were put in.

24 hours later it was set hard so small holes for wire were drilled all over and 1mm copper wire threaded through. A few hours were spent bare rooting the trees, cutting the tops and roots back and assembling the forest. The 3 main trees wers placed first, then the tiny trees, followed by the medium ones. The shape of the slab was designed to suggest a path running deep into the forest so the foreground has used the large trees and the tiny trees were at the back, giving perspective and a feeling of depth.

Moss completes the scene for now and everything will be left until bud break before starting the pruning, directing the branches so they work together rather than becoming a tangled mess.

Tree source - wild seedlings, Dutchy of Cornwall Nursery, St Mawgan Bonsai Nursery

European Beech, Fagus sylvatica, common beech

Pot - resin cement - 30" wide

I threw the tree on the mercy of the ibc forum and had some excelent suggestions of ways to further improve the planting - so a larger slab is in the pipeline and a tweak to the trees on the right is planned. - Thanks go to Robert for the skilled observations

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