Red pine air-layer on old wood.

subject tree
second cut
vertical slits
powdered rooting hormone applied
finished air-layer
Today after the usual weeding and pruning, I decided to work on a project that I had wanted to do for awhile.  That is to air-layer a pine on old wood.  Most articles tell you that it is difficult or can not be done.  I started this with the same method that I use on regular Japanese black pine air-layers.  The red pine that I chose has a really nice branch structure, but the tree has a really long trunk.  I thought this would be the perfect candidate to try and air-layer.  If I get this wrong, I will be very sad because this tree took about 15 years from seed to get to this point.  I first started by making a cut around the tree where I wanted the roots to come out from.  Then I made a second cut about 3/4 of an inch below the first cut.  Then I removed the bark carefully.  I then placed 8 vertical slits around the tree.  This is to create a flare at the base.  I also dusted the area with rooting hormone.  I used a make up brush to dust the area.  I better put the make up brush back before my wife notices it missing (just kidding!).  I keep a make up brush in the jar of rooting hormone.  I use a make up brush because it picks up the powdered rooting hormone gently and released the powder gently.  Then I put a 6 inch cup around the base of the cut and filled the cup with green moss.  I have included pictures of the whole procedure.  I figure it will take a year to fully root.  I will revisit this article when the time comes.  I hope this works or I will have a dead tree in a few weeks.  Click on any of the photo's to get a closer look.

Preparing for the summer pruning of Japanese black pines

We have several customers that have purchased black pine landscape pines from us.  They are quite nice and some of them quite large.  Many of these customers do not know how, or do not want to learn how to prune their pines.  We have about a dozen customers that call and have us come by and prune their pines.  The only reason we do it is because they bought the pine from us.  The problem is that many of them recommend us to prune.  The problem is that we do not have the time to prune.  Many of these other customers we have to turn down.  I tried giving high price quotes on pruning, but that doesn't really work because many of the customers are willing to pay the price.  On top of the customer trees, we have over two thousand black pine in the field that we have to cut.  We also have about two hundred red pines.  Then we have the smaller black pines in nursery cans, about 400 and then we have the pre-bonsai pines that account for another 100.  Now you know why we do not want any other pruning jobs.  We use the once a year method of pruning the candles.  We prune and thin the trees at the same time.  Last year I tried something new with the field grown pines.  A few of the rows I purposely did not prune.  This gives them a chance to grow faster to thicken up the trunk.  The downside is that you have to be careful not to let them get too out of hand.  What I mean is that if a branch starts to take off and gain strength, all of the energy goes to the growth of the end and the interior does not have many shoots.  If that happens, it is very difficult to get the interior to reshoot.  This year I think I will let half the field go and only prune the other half.  Then I will switch off.  That way I get the best of both worlds, faster growth and tight growth.

Update on new air-layering method.

new air-layer

close up of new air-layer base
The original post to the new air-layering method was done on September 6 of 2010.  That was quite awhile ago.  Today, I cut one of the air-layers off.  There are a couple of differences.  The first is the amount of time it takes for the air-layers to root.  Using the original method, I can make an air-layer in the spring and remove it in the fall(about 6 months).  Using the new method(which uses wire to girdle the air-layer), it took about 21 months.  Time is the great disadvantage of the new method.  The advantage was that the base became much bigger using the new method.  In the picture that I have included, you can see how wide the base is.  The air-layer is in a 4 inch cup.  The base is over 1 1/2 at the base!  What I might do is a few of each type.  One for speed and one for the larger base.  Only time will tell on how I will be able to develop the tree in the future.  I have considered combining the methods.  What I mean by that is the I would take a small band and girdle the tree with wire just below the cut.  That way the cut can start to callous, while the wire starts to girdle the trunk to fatten it up.  I will try the hybrid method this fall and again in the spring.  Hopefully, I will get the advantages of both methods.  I will keep you posted on my new trials.  Click onto any of the photo's to get a slideshow and a closer look at the two photo's.  I also thinned out the air-layer and planted it into a six in bulb pan to give it more room to grow and to speed up its growth.

Update on airlayers.

cork oak

cork oak 2

pine close-up

pine close-up 2

trident maple update
Today I took pictures of the air-layers that I did a about 6 weeks ago.  The trident maple is pushing growth like crazy.  The shoots are popping from every where.  The cork oaks are growing vigorously.  The pines that I air-layered are producing shoots.  Almost all of the needles will push growth and make the top of the air-layer look like a pin cushion.  Go back to my earlier blogs about 6 weeks ago and compare pictures. I will try to continue and update the photo's of the air-layered pines so you can see how the progression is on the growth.  I have uploaded photo's to help you grasp how the growth pattern is on the different types of air-layers.  Click on any of the photo's to see a slide show of the pictures.  Also by clicking on the photo's, you will see a close-up view of the pictures.  Please comment on what you think about the progress of the trees.  Thank you!  George

Old School.

The internet is a powerful tool, but the older generation is not comfortable using it.  I suppose I would have to include myself as part of the older generation, but I like to keep up with technology.  Today an older gentleman came to the nursery to purchase some bonsai starts.  I asked him how he found me.  He told me that he found me through the phone book.  I recently pulled my yellow page advertisement out of the phone book.  I was paying nearly $400.00 per year and the amount just kept going up.  I do not think that I recouped that amount back in sales.  More people tell me that they Google bonsai nursery, or punched it into their smart phone.  I also put an ad in the GSBF magazine.  I think this is cost effective, because the people who look at the advertisements are interested in bonsai.  I am really going to have to rethink advertising in the yellow pages again.  My son suggested twitter and facebook as good sources of connecting to customers.  I have a facebook page, but I am not using it effectively.  I think the best way to be effective would be to have a smart phone to tweet and keep up with facebook.  I know of other businesses that have used twitter successfully.  As an example, my wife and I went to a wine tasting event.  There was a food truck there that had excellent food.  The truck drove down from L.A.  I was talking to him about how he drums up business.  He has quite a following on twitter.  He tweets where he will be parked for the day and his loyal followers seek him out.  He has been so successful with this concept that he is thinking of expanding with different types of food trucks and doing the same thing.  I think that the younger generation has an advantage in technology.  I think I will try to come up with an idea to repeat this gentleman's success.  First things first, I will need to get a smart phone.  I do not know what I will come up with, but I will come up with something.  Young people have an technology advantage, but old people are too stubborn to give up.

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