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Welcome to my bonsai blog!

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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hang on, spring is coming!

Happy Leap Year Day! Today was one of those foretastes of spring (or teasers, take your pick.) The sky was clear after some morning rain, and the temperature reached 64° F (almost 18° C.) Even the gusty winds couldn't stop people from getting out in shirtsleeves!

We will still get subfreezing temperatures and snow for another month or so, but winter's grip is loosening. The local flora think so too. Here are a few pictures I snapped today.

Daffodils in bud, outside Lincoln Elementary School.
Crocus in bloom, also at Lincoln Elementary.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nine Minutes Well Spent

Bougainvillea. Best of Show, Mid-America 2011.
Ryan Neil startled me at one point, during the Exhibit Critique at the 2011 Mid-America Show in Chicago. Pointing to the bougainvillea to which he had awarded the "Best of Show" award, he said, "This would not be considered ready to show, in Japan." Huh? 

He went on to explain. The bougie has a very good design, that design has been established, and the tree's structure has been set. But, he said, while the primary branches are fine, the tree lacks much secondary and tertiary branching; the foliage mass needs to fill out further, to balance the visual weight of the trunk; and the layers of the

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"This means WAR!"

OK, the title of this post is a bit exaggerated for effect. But some critter has definitely worn out whatever welcome it once had.

I discovered yesterday that some marauding rodent has been lunching on the bark of one of my Japanese maples. The tree was under the rack in the side yard, with the rest of my fully-hardy trees. (See this post.) At first look I thought some fungus had attacked the maple's trunk. Then I pulled the tree out into full light, and realized I was seeing chewing damage.

Rodent damage to a Japanese maple.
From the size of the tooth marks, I'm sure the culprit is either a fox squirrel or a chipmunk. A chipmunk is more likely: one has been living in a corner of our side yard, tolerated until now. That tolerance has ended. I won't kill it if I don't have to, but I will do whatever it takes to drive it off. (For those outside the US, this is a chipmunk.)

There are cans of mothballs under the rack, to discourage just such depredations. But this maple was right next to one end of the rack, just inches from the cover; and it was apparently a little too far from any mothballs to deter a snack-minded furry raider. Add to that the fact that maple bark is a familiar food to local wildlife -- two native maples are very common here -- and perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that this happened.

I checked for damage to other trees, and found tooth marks on a spiraea and a shimpaku. As far as I could see, no pines were touched. Not

Thursday, February 16, 2012


     Part of the fun of growing tropicals comes from the fact that, if conditions are right, they keep blooming and fruiting thruout the winter. One of my veldt fig bonsai (Ficus burtt-davyi) has just produced a couple of new figs! (A picture of the same tree sits above the list of blog followers, to the right of these posts.)

The fig on the right is as large as a large pea, and is full-sized.

A diagram of a syconium.,
For any who don't know, the fruit of a Ficus is an unusual structure called a syconium. A syconium is what is called an "inverted inflorescence:" what we think of as the flesh of the fruit forms a closed receptacle with the flowers inside, surrounding a central cavity and facing inward. (See diagram.) Pollination, in almost all Ficus species, depends on a tiny wasp, the female of which enters the inner hollow thru a stoma in the distal end of the fruit. As she rummages around laying her eggs, she gets pollen on herself. When she leaves the syconium, she carries that pollen with her to other trees of the same species, and the stoma in the successfully-pollinated fig closes behind her. The tree pays for her pollination services with food for her larvae, and a sheltered place for them to grow to maturity.

(The common fig, Ficus carica, is one of the few that don't require pollination by a wasp. So there's no need to
worry about finding a baby wasp in your fig bar.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fukien Tea: A More Subtle Show

     Fukien tea (Ehretia microphylla) is another species that bears tiny, pure-white flowers. (To my lovely wife's great enjoyment.) The flowers are followed by berries a little smaller than a garden pea, that ripen to a rich red.

Neither the flowers nor the ripe berries last very long, so at any given time when the tree is bearing, what you're most likely to see are a lot of green berries with flowers and ripe berries interspersed. This makes for a subtler, less exuberant show than that of a serissa (especially a 'Snow Rose' serissa,) but still a show that is quite satisfying and enjoyable in its own right. The deep, rich green of the leaves makes a great backdrop, and is something I enjoy for itself.

Blooms, and berries both green and ripe. The white "hairs" on the leaves (trichomes) trap moisture in the air.

Typical sight: plenty of green berries, and deep-green leaves.

As received in August 2010.
I bought this tree in August 2010 from Wigert's Bonsai in Florida. (Click here for their website.) In the next year-and-some I spent time studying it and letting it adapt to my locale. At the beginning of November 2011, I repotted it into a cut-down 1-gal.-size Rootmaker ®. At that time, I found the nebari and leveled it, which resulted in a new planting angle and new provisional front. (Yes, it was late in the season, but the tree went straight into the Bonsai Crate in the

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Frosty Morning

We had heavy frost this morning. Before the sun burned it away, I got out and snapped a few pictures.

Frost like this still strikes me as something of a wonder. We never saw it in Ecuador, where I grew up, except  at altitudes above 12,000 feet (about 3,650 meters;) in Ecuador, that's above