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 😉

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