Trip through the nursery.

white ume

pink ume

San Jose juniper

Yatsubusa black pine
Today I continued transplanting trees.  I placed several 2 and 3 gallon trees into 5 gallon cans.  Part of the reason for doing this is to use up the nursery mix.  After using up the soil, I weeded the area and used my torch to burn away the fine weeds and the weed seeds.  Now I am ready to get 6 yards of fresh nursery mix.  After all of the hard work, I walked around the nursery and took a few pictures.  Two of the pictures are of the ume.  The white one is extremely fragrant. The pink one barely has a scent.  The white one is almost completely flowered.  The pink one is less than half flowered.  I also took a picture of our San Jose juniper.  The juniper has a diameter of around 6-7 inches.  This juniper started out as a bonsai that was given to an elderly lady by her daughter.  When she received the tree, she was told it was around 35 years old.  When she moved from Los Angeles to Santa Maria, she didn't know what to do so she planted the tree next to her garage.  She planted the tree about mid way along the wall of her garage and planted the tree about 18 inches away from the wall.  There the tree sat for about 20 years before she called me.  I get this call from the lady and she asked me if I could help her shape her bonsai.  I was relatively new to bonsai at the time, but I decided to go to her house to try and help her.  I asked her where her bonsai was?  She told me that I was standing next to it.  What I was standing next to was this rectangular juniper hedge that was yellow from neglect.  Yep, that's my bonsai she told me.  This hedge was 4 ft tall, 4ft away from the garage and about 12 feet long, (almost the entire length of her garage!).  I told her I could work on it but that I would have to come back with a chainsaw.  A few days later, I fired up my chainsaw and began to work on the tree.  After a few hours, I was able to see the trunk.  Since the interior of the tree did not receive any sunlight there was hardly any foliage.  Just a few small shoots near the interior of the trunk.  When the lady came out to see the progress, she gasped!.  " This tree looks awful!"  I told her that it would look bad for about 3-5 years until it filled in.  She asked me if I could remove the whole tree.  After an hour of digging, I was able to remove the trunk.  Now I had my full size pickup truck completely full and about 3 feet above the cab.  I tied everything down and went to asked the lady if I could keep the trunk.  She said that I could and she paid me $300.00 for my work.  I took the trunk home and put the tree into a 25 gallon can with washed river sand.  There the tree sat for about 15-20 years while we worked on the tree.  I wish that I had taken a picture of the tree when I first got the tree. I would still like to wire some of the heavy branching and make the tree look fuller.  The other tree is a yatsubusa black pine.  This is a tree that my Dad bought from a local wholesale nursery over 20 years ago.  This older Japanese nurseryman had 4 of them and my Dad would always ask if he would be willing to sell one.  Finally after about the 5th trip, the owner said yes.  My Dad paid $300.00 for the tree.  We have been using it as a Mother tree for our grafts.  My Dad began working on the tree many years ago.  The person that grafted the tree did a poor job of grafting and the tree had horrible reverse taper.  The large gouge you see on the front of the trunk is an area that my Dad carved out to improve the taper.  If the wound heals over, I might have to gouge the tree out again.  I am also thinking of doing grafting some young saplings to the base of the tree and to let them grow uncontrolled to fatten up the base to balance the taper.  Hopefully we can correct all of the trees problems in my lifetime!

Transplanting cuttings.

Over the last several years I have been taking cuttings from different nursery stock to propagate. I do this because many varietals are no longer being sold in the wholesale market.  Also  I propagate items that I purchase at other nurseries as potential bonsai material.  It is always fun to see if a certain type of plant can be propagated by cuttings.  Junipers are quite easy.  You can take cuttings from the tip, but also larger branches can be propagated just as easily. I looked at my bench and I have square trays that are about 11 inches square.  They each contain about 50 cuttings each.  I have about 30 - 40 trays.  That comes out to about 1500 - 2000 plants.  Since I started them on different dates not all of them are ready to transplant.  Over the last few days I have transplanted, San Jose junipers, prostrata junipers, shimpaku junipers, itogawa shimpakus, boxwood's, dwarf ivy's and ume's.  I am trying to use up the rest of the nursery mix so that I can order another load.  After I order the nursery mix, I will order a load of my special bonsai mix.  My bonsai mix consists of scoria, pumice and sharp sand.  The plants love the mix.  I do add some plant mix when I transplant certain plants into a bonsai pot, but when I transplant into a bulb pan, I use the mix straight.  I went over to a friends house to pick up his bonsai's.  I will be caring for them while he moves.  He used to have a small nursery and has thousands of nursery cans laying around.  I picked up as many as I could put into my van, but I did not put a dent in the stack of cans.  Tomorrow I am going to clean up the area where I am going to get the nursery mix dumped.  I have to move some nursery cans, clean the weeds and use a torch to burn the weed seeds.  That way I will have a nice sterile area to put my nursery mix.  The next step will be to upsize the trees into bigger nursery containers.  I am sooooo behind that there are many 1 gallon and 2 gallon size trees that should have been transplanted into 5 gallon containers.  If you are interested in buying plants, now would be a good time before I get to upsizing the trees.  I also have to dig out all of the volunteer plants that are every where in the nursery.  Some start from the roots escaping the cans, some start from birds burying acorns and others start from seeds that fall from the trees.  Digging out all the stray plants around the nursery could take me days.  I also have to start transplanting my personal collection of bonsai trees and also some of my Father's trees.  (Doesn't it seem that we always do our own trees last?).  In my spare time I have to start making bonsai's to fill my bonsai benches.  I think I better stop writing because the more I write, the more I realize how really far behind that I am........

Grafting pines.

shoots that I removed

shoots after needles have been removed

soil removed to place graft low onto plant

cut made on plant

seine wood being placed onto plant

lining up seine wood to one side

seine wood wrapped with grafting tape

soil added back to can

plant watered well, marked and dated
A few days ago, I gave myself time to graft some Japanese black pines.  The reason I graft is to produce different cultivars that can only be achieved through grafting.  Some of the varietals that I grafted are: cork, yatsubusa, banshoho, Kanemi and tahei.  The first step is to prepare the seine wood.  Cut off one year old shoots from the desired plant.  Then remove most of the lower needles.  Then take the soil off of the pine onto which you will be grafting.  Make a diagonal slice toward the trunk in one cut.  Take the seine wood and cut at an angle to match the plant that you just cut.  Take the seine wood and line up one side of the cut to the same side of the seine wood.  Wrap with grafting tape.  Water tree well.  Cover with one gallon freezer bag.  Mark the type of tree and write date on bag.  Place bag in area out of direct sunlight.  Now all you have to do is wait a few months.  Check on the graft periodically to make sure the soil does not dry out.  You may only need to water once or twice in the next few months.  When you see the shoot pushing growth, you can remove the bag.  Later in the year you can remove the host plant when the graft is strong enough.  Be patient and you will be rewarded.   I have included pictures of the steps that I took to graft the trees.  I have added captions to each of the photo's to show you what steps I took.  I hope this inspires you to try grafting on your own.  These grafts will be for sale, but not for at least a year.  Click onto the photos and you will see a close up of the process.

Needle pruning pines.

nice short, fat pine

pine with very nice taper and movement

pine before removing old needles

pine complete, after removing needles
While I was listening to the NFL playoff games, I was needle pruning some pines in the patio.  Every time there was an exciting play, I would go into the living room to watch the replay and them go back outside to work on the pines.  We have been having very cold mornings around here for quite awhile, but the afternoons have been gorgeous. I have included pictures of some of the pines that I have been working on and also a before and after shot of one of the pines.

Winter Wonderland!

frosted junipers

picture of ume in flower

close up of blooms

frozen ground
Today was another cold day. It started with a very hard frost.  We have had frost on most mornings in this New Year.  I thought last winter was cold, but this year is giving last year a run for the money.  I have included photo's of our frozen bonsai nursery.  When the temperatures drop below freezing, our galvanized tub full of water freezes over.  Yesterday, the sheet of ice was over 1/4 inch thick.  I have been prepping some trees to ship over the past few days.  Soon I will be ordering a load of nursery soil to transplant trees.  I will also be ordering a load of bonsai soil to begin transplanting a lot of trees.  Because of the cold mornings, the ume is behind in flowering.  About 1/4 of the tree is in flower.  It will probably take a few more weeks for the tree to be completely in flower.  That is about 6 weeks later than usual.

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