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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.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Flowering Palm

     A few years ago my daughter bought me a little pot of palms for my birthday. My intent at first was to create a forest planting with them; it would be unusual, I thought, but interesting. (I hoped, anyway.)

That idea had to be given up: unlike any other type of tree, a true palm can't be pruned without killing it. The tree has a single growing point (at the base of the leaf bundle) and cannot generate a new one. Cut off that one growing point and the whole plant dies.

So I decided to use them as accent plants and, as they get bigger, kusamono. The biggest one, tho, has almost outgrown kusamono status and will soon become a houseplant in the living room.

For a size reference, the bamboo support is just a bit thicker than a pencil.
The tree was recently repotted.
You may notice something else in the picture: a new flower spike is developing.   (If I understand correctly, most palms produce inflorescences, so that's probably what this should be called.)

Here's a closer look.

At this point the buds are not much bigger than pinheads.
This palm flowered for the first time at the end of 2014. The flowers are very small - dinner peas are larger -  and no fruit was produced. (I have reason to think this is a dioecious species, with each individual plant either male or female.)

But the colors more than made up for the size, in my opinion! 

By the time I thought to get a picture, more than half the blossoms had fallen. Taken January 2, 2015.
I'm looking forward to full flowering. It would be great if the tree were in bloom for the club's Fall Show in four weeks, but that remains to be seen. Whenever the flowers are mature, I'll be sure to post a few more pictures.

:-)  :-)  :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Roots!" And an Ear-Licking Grin

     As I was watering this afternoon, I noticed some brand-new needles developing on my yamadori ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa.) Since we're in late summer here, I was surprised, to say the least!
You can see the new needles, still in their bundles but elongating, right next to another bud that's ready for next spring.
(I had to take this picture from above, which is why the needles appear to be standing upright!)
A little bit later I saw something else, which I didn't recognize for a few seconds. Then I realized what they are: root tips, growing out of one of the seams of the training box! That's when I exclaimed "Roots!" and the "ear-licking grin" appeared! (I came across that phrase in a novel; expressive, isn't it?)

Besides the root tips outlined in the red ellipse, you can see others along the bottom seam.
A closer look at those root tips.
Why was I almost dancing on the deck? This tree is still in recovery following collection this spring and, frankly, I wondered how well the root system was doing. I tried to handle the roots very gently when potting up the tree, but feeder roots, especially, are very fragile. On top of that, pines are still rather exotic to me: there are no needled conifers in the Ecuadorian rainforest, where I formed my earliest impressions of how plants grow. I couldn't help worrying a little.

New root tips, vigorous enough to poke out thru the seams in the box, show that the root system is recovering, and recovering well. Not only that: when I potted up the tree, I put 3 to 3-1/2 inches (8-9 cm.) of substrate in the bottom of the box before I set the rootball in. Roots not only have been growing, but growing enough to reach the bottom of the box and start working their way thru the seams! (None of the seams are glued. The box is held together with screws; there are spaces between them where roots can squeeze thru.)

The orange-tan color of some of the tips indicates that they have gone dormant because they are no longer moist. I gleaned that bit of useful information from Dan Robinson's chapter in Larry Jackel's book Ponderosa Pines as Bonsai. Sooner or later they will die, the plant will wall off the dead tips, and the roots will branch further back along their length.

Root tips are also poking out from the bottom seam at the other end of the box, and in fact, those were the ones I noticed first. Regrettably, my picture of that end did not turn out well.

There's another needle bundle that's developing, and apparently started even before the ones I first noticed.

Another bundle opening in September.
Since this tree is in recovery, and is planted in a deep container of coarse mix, I've been watering it daily, usually with a very light dose of fertilizer in the water. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that these bundles are opening in late summer, or that the roots are growing so well.

I'm not especially concerned about the tree. In about 3 weeks, I'm going to switch to a low-nitrogen fertilizer in the water, and take the rape-seed cakes off the soil of the trees that have them (including this one.) That should allow it to harden off in good time for winter.

Meanwhile, I'm wearing that ear-licking grin!

(For more pictures of this tree, please see "I'm Back.")

:-)  :-)  :-)