Archive for May, 2012

diVine Maples

I never thought I’d find myself saying I’ve had enough rain given my history of spending fifteen years in the desert! I distinctly remember fantasizing about living somewhere that it rained when those hot, dry winds blew for days on end. I remember one stretch of drought while living in Tucson it did not rain for four months. Great place to get good photos! I  seized the opportunity the other day to get some shots of my vine maples, Acer circinatum, that do especially well in our moist climate. They are mostly an understory tree in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, eeking out a living in the shade cast by towering douglas firs and other large conifers. They have become one of my favorite native species to work with because it’s possible to find great trunks with lots of character. The leaves are a bit large but reduce with time being grown in a small container. First up is a large tree I collected in 2008. The roots were growing along a crack in rock, so the grow box had to be fairly long to accommodate them. The tree gained vigor enough that I was able to get it into the mica pot you see in the photo this spring. Its dimensions are:  5 1/2′ wide, 32″ tall with a trunk diameter at soil line of 5″. This is by no means a finished tree, so these dimensions very well may change. I’ve already got a place in mind to chase that really long branch on the right back to…what do you think? Would you shorten it?

A detail shot of the trunk:

I love the rough, cracked bark and you can see an area of shari that was created by borers. Next up is one quite a bit smaller I collected in 2007. It spent three years in an eight inch plastic pot and in 2010, I put it into this Michael Hagedorn pot I commissioned for another tree that seemed to be a good fit for this maple as well:

I’ve done minimal pruning on this, cutting back the branches with too-long internodes. There’s an area on the trunk in the center that died back because two large branches died. The tree is slowly callousing over the area on all sides–I’ll show a detail next of that:

How about a close-up of Michael’s pot?

I really like the crackle glaze on that one! Coming up is another one about the size of the last one, again in a Michael Hagedorn pot that was broken and repaired. I lost a piece and I think the fact it’s missing only helps tell the story of a hard life on the bench. You can see some bare leaf petioles near the top; I did a partial de-foliation of the tree earlier this month and there are already buds forming inside each of the cut petioles. The benefit of doing this is we get a new shoot that will develop into a new branch where once before there was a single leaf. This is how we develop more twigs to make the tree appear older and fuller. The new leaves will also be smaller and the internodes shorter. Such a deal!

The trunk was shaded by the canopy so another detail shot is in order. I really like the unusual branching habit of this tree and have only pruned away inward growing branches. The multitude of branches emerging out of the trunk are not causing it to swell and they only add to the informal broom style feeling of this tree:

How about some small ones? I found a group of these maples growing in a circle and came to the conclusion this was a rodent’s cache that had been forgotten and left to grow. There are eleven little trees all under six inches in height. I think I collected this  either 2007 or 2008. Either way, it has decided to stick around and I look forward to seeing its development over the years:

Last not least is another small one from the same collecting trip in yet another Michael Hagedorn pot. By the way, the little rodent’s cache above is in a pot by another friend, Mardella Brock of Bozeman, Montana. I really prefer using handmade pots and would have everything in a handmade pot if I couild afford it 😉

The leaves on that little tree have got increasingly smaller over the years; I also don’t re-pot this every year. Every other year seems to be the way to go with this tree. I’m going to leave this post with a kusamono I collected in February 2010. In it are a cottonwood, St. John’s wort, hot springs orchid (not blooming) grass and moss. I pried this little kusamono from a crack in a rock and placed it into this pot right away; it has never been repotted and seems to thrive on immersion watering in a rain barrel. All the little ones love this in the hot summer. Harvesting rain is one way to help me feel better about living in a place that has such an abundance of it. I don’t think I’ll be going back to the desert for anything but a visit 😉

Wild Rose

I moved to Montana in 1999 to help my Dad with a few things and while I was there, I collected some wild rose plants for use as bonsai and because they are one of my favorite natives. The Latin name for this species is Rosa woodsii and is quite common in southwestern Montana. The ones I collected were growing at the 7,000′ elevation but they also grow in the valleys along rivers and streams. The planting I’m featuring in today’s post was grown from the seeds of one of the collected specimens. It was really the by-product of puttering around the garden one day, spying a rose hip (fruit of the wild rose) ready to drop and ‘rescuing’ it by squishing out the seeds, popping the fruit in my mouth and planting the seeds in with one of my trees that was in a grow box. I forgot all about them until they sprouted and let them grow a bit before moving them to their own 4″ pot. I let them stay in that small pot for three years and they had totally colonized it to the point where I had to transplant them. So I put them into a shallow oval bonsai pot two years ago, which they quickly outgrew.

When I was in Montana, I was fortunate to find a source for the steel discs that are used by farmers to break up the clods of soil after plowing their fields. The ones I found are 16″ in diameter and have a square hole in the center, perfect to function as a drain hole for a pot, if one chooses to do so. This proved to be just the right size for my rambunctious little rose planting and that’s what you see it planted on in this posting today. The first photo was taken around the time of the new year and you can see the buds beginning to swell:

We had a pretty wet and cool spring this year in Portland and this planting flowered a little later than usual–around the first week in April. It can be challenging to get a good shot of a wild rose as the flowers only last one or two days if you’re lucky; rain spoils them quickly, so there’s two strikes against you before you even start 😉 Here are some shots of it at about the peak of flowering:

Gilding The Lilies

Pouring rain in Portland just now and decided to try another post that ties my experience as botanical model maker and the grower of the specimen plant; like my earlier post on bird’s foot violet. The subject(s) of today’s post are The White Dogtooth Violet (not a violet but a lily) Erythronium albidum, and The Oregon Trout Lily, Erythronium oreganus. I did the model of the White Dogtooth Violet around 1990 while I was living in Cedarcreek Missouri and placed it in the habitat group pictured a year or so later after re-locating to Tucson, Arizona. This lily is native to southwest Missouri and has pale lavender on the outside of its petals–quite stunning. I included  a wolf spider model as they are quite often seen in the same habitat and to add some interest. Let’s start with a shot of the habitat group first:


Another view of the habitat group:

Can you see the wolf spider front and center? How about a detail shot:

I’ve kept this piece in a glass vitrine I made especially for it and it’s looking pretty good after twenty two years. It hasn’t changed a bit as far as I can see.

If we fast forward twenty two years, I find myself living in Oregon and my focus has shifted from making replicas of wildflowers to growing actual specimens in bonsai pots for use in displaying them with trees to give a sense of the season of spring or whenever it is they’re flowering. We have a very elegant version of the White Dogtooth Violet here in the Willamette Valley–The Oregon Trout Lily, Erythronium oreganus. I potted a nice clump late last month and got some pictures of it in its peak. The flowers are not very long lasting–about a week and it was a challenge to get a shot between downpours and hail and all else the weather could throw at us 😉 This plant is called a ‘trout lily’  for the similarity of the leaf markings and those of the brown or brook trout. And without further adieu, I present the Oregon Trout Lily:

The leaf markings are very faint in the photo as this was growing in semi-shade. The markings can be quite pronounced if the plant is growing in full sun. And another shot, slightly different angle:

And a close-up of the flower in the foreground:


I apologize for the soft focus as the breeze was moving the flowers around quite a bit. Lilies have a bulb that can be six to eight inches below the ground, which I hope explains the mounded look of this planting. It would have been nearly impossible to try and reduce the rootball to fit in this shallow pot so I decided to embed it in pumice, which will retain a little moisture and keep the planting healthy and well. It required watering twice daily when first potted up but now that it has established, I’ve got that down to once a day. I’d also like to find some appropriate moss to place over the rootball as this will help retain moisture as we go into the warmer summer months. I might eventually remove it from the shallow pot and put it in a deeper pot until I want to show it again next spring as these lilies are perennial. Please feel free to leave a comment!

May 2nd and it has been a real challenge to get a photograph in this changeable spring weather we’ve had recently! I wanted to show the cottonwood in full leaf and the day finally came that was dry and sunny. This tree came through being styled earlier this year and re-potted without losing a single branch. I’m very pleased with that! I will fertilize lightly with organic cakes once the leaves have stopped growing and have ‘set’. Then it’s a matter of pruning long shoots through the summer and watching the wires to see if they’re digging in. I will probably also have to do a little selective defoliation to allow light into the interior of the tree so the inner branches don’t weaken. The other thing to stay on top of with this species is the watering as they can get quite thirsty during the hotter summer months.