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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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

"A Heat-Tolerant Leafy Green Vegetable Disguised as a Flower"

     That is how a writer at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange described "Jewels of Opar," Talinum paniculatum, also known as "fame flower" and "pink baby's-breath". The blossoms certainly bring jewels to mind: they are a deep carmine-pink, less than 3/8 inch across (.8 cm or less), and carried on panicles so delicate that the slightest breeze makes them dance in the air! 😊

This picture doesn't do the blossom color full justice, but it's about the best my small camera can do.
The strand of spider silk in the picture was left when I removed a small web.
Talinum paniculatum is a member of the purslane family, Portulacaceae; it is native from the Gulf states of the USA well into South America. Sources I checked differed widely in regard to its cold-hardiness, giving minimum survivable temperatures from 35° to 20° F. (I'm going to keep mine with my serissas in winter.) The plant is apparently tough, tolerating heat and fairly dry soil. The leaves are said to be a good substitute for spinach, especially since they don't wilt in hot weather.

Darlene Kittle, current president of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club, gave me a seedling after the club's Fall Show last September. (She had sold several and didn't want to take the last one home.) I have it in a small pot for now, but it will need a larger one sooner or later; the species grows to 18-24 inches (45-60 cm). 

Here's a picture taken a few days after I got it and after I potted it up.

Talinum paniculatum, September 27, 2016.
When Darlene gave me this plant, I thought the yellow-bronze globes were the flowers. Now I'm sure they are seed pods. (You can see one peeking out from behind and below the blossoms in my first picture.) That conclusion is supported by the seedlings that can be seen coming up in the substrate in the next picture, taken nine months later. (Five days ago.)

"Jewels of Opar" with new growth, a new panicle developing, and babies around the base!
I'm sure I'll try a leaf or two sooner or later, maybe in a salad. But for me this plant will always be a "leafy green vegetable disguised as an accent!"

:-)  :-)  :-)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pedestals and Hot Dogs

     Almost two years ago, the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club took a tour of Michael Himes's bonsai garden. Mr. Himes is CEO of one of the USA's largest gasoline and diesel fuel wholesalers, and his collection is housed on a specially-built deck on the second floor of his company's office building. I wrote about that visit in this post. (The link will open in a new window; when you close that window, you'll be returned to this page.) At that time Mr. Himes's trees rested on temporary bases made of stacked concrete blocks surrounded by narrow bamboo matting. 

One of our members, Ryan Wilmer, has a small concrete business. Some months ago, he and his crew replaced the trees' temporary bases with permanent concrete pedestals. Last weekend we paid a return visit to Mr. Himes's collection to see the results of Ryan's efforts, as well as to visit the bonsai again.

For any who don't know, a bonsai is customarily displayed on a stand. These pedestals function as all-weather outdoor stands. Each one is designed to harmonize with the bonsai it supports, just as a stand is chosen to complement the tree it holds.

In my opinion, Ryan Wilmer and his crew did a very good job. Congratulations, gentlemen!

A yamadori ponderosa pine on its new pedestal.
"Littlefoot," a Ficus microcarpa var retusa and Michael Himes' first bonsai.
The low, wide stand matches the low, wide design of the tree.

No pedestal was made for "Bigfoot," another F. microcarpa var retusa and perhaps the pride of Mr. Himes's collection. That's because, at roughly 5 feet high from the soil surface and weighing hundreds of pounds, "Bigfoot" sits permanently on a wheeled metal cart that is also a humidity tray. No other arrangement would allow it to be taken out to the deck in spring and back inside in the fall, given the layout of the building.

"Bigfoot," easily the most eye-catching tree in Mr. Himes's collection.
Bigfoot was putting out a flush of new leaves when we were there, and I got a close-up.

The bronze-yellow of the new leaves is set off nicely by the green of the mature foliage.

After this stop, we were invited to the home of Cody Harris, our club vice-president. Cody is fairly new to bonsai; very enthusiastic but also quite serious about the art and eager to learn. Cody's father George already uses Japanese esthetic principles when pruning in-ground trees, and it won't surprise me if he too jumps into bonsai in the near future. The Harris family's hospitality left nothing to be desired: opening their spacious garage for a place out of the sun where we could gather, and grilling hot dogs for the mob that had descended on them!

Cody's hand-built bench. Some of his selections show a good eye and some careful thought.
This bougainvillea particularly caught my eye. When it's finished, I expect we will see a great deal of character in something not much taller than my handspan! I'm looking forward to it.

Forgive the cluttered background, please. I think you can still see the bougie clearly enough.

At the April meeting of the Fort Wayne Bonsai Club, we played in the dirt - or, to put it in more dignified terms, we made clay pots and trays, many free-form, under the guidance of an experienced member, Mark Sturtzenberger. Once I have mine back (I made three) I'll write another post about the whole process, and the fun it was!

Until then!

:-)  :-)  :-)