Another very cold day for us–only 25* at 12:32 p.m. Colder than yesterday and the weatherman promised us a warm-up! I hope you’re all staying warm and safe through this cold snap, I shudder to think what real winter is going to be like now. I’ve got two trees today with rather short stories, so I thought I’d lump them into one post. Both are pines, one a ponderosa given to me this summer and the other a lodgepole I collected from the Washington Cascades sometime around 2008. The ponderosa was purchased from Andy Smith and collected somewhere in Colorado, I was told. The first shot up is of the ponderosa pretty much as I received it. I didn’t care for the pot it was in nor the planted angle, plus the soil it was potted in was Turface, an artificially produced product developed for golf courses, I believe. It’s a fired clay particle of very small size–1/8″ and less. And because the particles are so small the amount of water they retain is a lot. So the soil stays wet for a really long time and most pines don’t like that, especially if they are in a container of some kind.

pondy

 

This is a small tree, chuhin size, which is slightly larger than shohin and smaller than medium size. I could just call it a small bonsai, I guess ūüėČ It has nice bark and small needles for a ponderosa. The previous owner did a great job caring for it in spite of poor soil. He didn’t know any better and there was a time when I was tempted to buy some Turface but ¬†fortunately had a source of pumice instead. He also used bat guano to fertilize it with which may explain the needle length being kept short. Organic fertilizers promote slow, steady growth as opposed to mineral salt based fertilizers like Miracle Grow and Peters, etc. Please don’t get me wrong to think I don’t or never use products like Miracle Grow. They certainly have their place and are good substitutes when you need to give a weak tree a little boost now and then. I find the organics to be easier than the liquids because you just place the organic on the soil sufrace around the pot and a little is released every time you water. I say use whatever works for you and your lifestyle and if you can remember to mix up you liquid every two weeks and apply it, you’ll be golden. I get busy and forget, so I use the organics.

As I mentioned above, I did not care for the pot the tree was in or the angle it was planted, so the scope of the work I did recently was very light. Plus it allowed me to start to exchange that nasty Turface for pumice, which is a much better ‘soil’ to use for pines like ponderosa that like really good drainage. The pot in the photo is tilted at an angle for a reason–that was ¬†what I saw would be best for this little tree. I did not take any pics with the pot level, so just imagine the rim of the pot being level for that. The one nice point about that pot is that you could balance it up on its feet like that ūüėČ So, early in November I saw a possible replacement for the funky pot I had sitting around that was given to me by a friend. Probably an inexpensive Chinese pot would be my guess…and a pretty, red-violet glaze that seemed a little challenging to pair with anything. Its shape and form ¬†calls for a tree that would be a semi-cascade or a cascade style and the trunk a little on the masculine side. The glaze kind of conflicts with that though and seems to call for something a little more daring and playful. So, I took the plunge and did the deed anyway. It’s a bit unconventional for a pine to be in a glazed pot but the square form seemed almost perfect for it. Here’s the result for now:

pondy

 

I had to tilt the tree quite a bit to get the position right as you can see by the mound to the right. When I got the tree out of the turface, all the feeder roots were at the bottom of the pot, so nothing important is higher up–for now. My plan is to place fertilizer cups with organic fertilizer on that mound. This will encourage the tree to throw out roots closer to the base of the trunk where we want them as well as the rest of the pot. I was also able to carefully remove a fair amount of the turface without disturbing the roots too much. So, this was really just a slip-potting as opposed to a full-on re-pot. There was plenty of room to work in a fairly coarse size pumice particle all the way around the pot and I included a drainage layer of it as well. The improved drainage was immediately noticeable when I watered after potting up.

Next, I’ve got a ‘before’ photo of the lodgepole mentioned earlier. Before is in quotes as there has been a significant amount of work done to this tree prior to the photo. I put the tree in a plastic kitchen colander when I collected it and last spring it went into the pot you see it in now. I wasn’t able to get the tree into the position I wanted but that was where I left it and will adjust it when it’s ready for another re-pot. And most likely I’ll have a better pot for it then also. This tree was also approach grafted during a study group led by Michael Hagedorn. I think that was in June of 2010…kind of fuzzy there. Suffice to say that I cut the ‘mother’ branch to the graft after two years and it was obvious the graft had taken as the branch in the graft area was thickening and beginning to bark up, ¬†just like the trunk. A ‘before’ pic for you:

lodgepole graft

 

The above photo was taken in October and the one below early November after some wire:

grafted lodgepole

 

Great care must be taken when wiring grafted branches so that you don’t rip the branch out with the wire and since I had to use six gauge copper wire on the thickest branches, this was especially true. A ¬†shot from the back:

grafted lodgepole

 

It’s possible to see the graft union area from this ¬†shot–look above and to the left of where the branch emerges from the trunk to become the upper trunk of the tree. You can see where the callous tissue is beginning to ‘bark up’ always a good sign your graft has taken. and below a shot after the tree was ‘roughed in’. I say that because there are some smaller ¬†branchlets that need to be wired and some of the needles could be pulled off to give it a more refined and finished look. Since this is the first work done to the tree, I will let it rest and wait to see how the tree responds. I don’t think there will be any problems given the way it went.

grafted lodgepole

 

And I’ll leave you with a final shot against black velvet and uncluttered:

grafted lodgepole

 

The bird netting is there to keep the birds from rifing through the soil in the pot. They also peck away at the bark looking for insects. A perpetual problem the bird netting  has solved for now.

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