Sunday, 25 April 2010

WIPs: Pseudocydonia and a Malus

Well... if you could see them, these are a couple of trees that TOH has been working on for years.  Both of them sit side by side in front of our patio doors and are protected somewhat from the worst of the weather.  Not that we think they particularly need the protection.  It's more a case of finding enough space to fit them, as they both have quite a spread when they are in leaf (and flower, as we just found out).  As it is, the trees don't look like much but their flowers do, so that's what you're getting.

The Pseudocydonia sinensis has been a Work In Progress for at least 10 years and last spring was only the second time it was re-potted since we've had it.  The first time, it was planted into neat akadama, I think this time some black (Fuji) grit was added into the mix.  It must have liked the root intervention work because it's never flowered so profusely before.  Either that or it was thinking of flowering big time this year anyway and the root work just shocked it into doing something.  Either way there are about 15 flower buds in various stages of opening.  This picture was taken a week ago and the warm weather has caused it to move on a bit since then.
It's actually a rather large tree (nearly 3 ft / 91 cm) from the base of the pot so you can understand why I didn't lift it out of its space to take the photo.  When the branch work is looking better (which could take years so don't hold your breath) I probably will, as there is an interesting hollowed-out feature in the trunk.  TOH discovered that when it was first repotted about 10 years ago, and finding tons of rotted trunk was not the best surprise at the time.  We don't know much about the habits of Chinese Quince and this guy has sort of been our guinea pig for the species. 

I can't say Pseudocydonia is the Speedy Gonzales of flowering trees but it does seem to be a fairly forgiving tree in terms of neglect (i.e. tough as old boots).  The flowers take weeks to open, so you do get a fairly long display season.  Getting good ramification is still a bit of a challenge for us, so I can only imagine how long it's taken for the guys who get to show off their Chinese Quinces at the Kokofu-ten, for example.

This Malus has been with us for about seven or eight years.  It's possibly a halliana or something similar and is also what I would call a butt-ugly tree at the moment, so it could be a WIP for a looooonnng time.  You can see the Chinese Quince's bright blue pot just behind it, and the legs of a couple of chairs as well, through the patio doors :D
As usual, we've lost the label so positive ID is a bit of a challenge.  Similar to its neighbour, this is the first year since we've had it that it's flowered as heavily and the flowers are rather pretty (which is why we got the tree in the first place) and a slightly stronger pink than the photo would suggest.  If only I could focus my phone properly.

I don't recall ever re-potting this tree, and it is in a rather boring unglazed dark brown pot which will get changed at the first opportunity as far as I'm concerned.  Our focus for the past two years has been to get it as healthy as we possibly could, so I've been more cautious with the watering and it also got fed heavily (like way heavy) last year.

Apparently the flowers are scented as well, so I guess I can't focus my nose either.  Hurrr.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Small Bonsai, Small Work?

TOH and I were recently talking about the amount of maintenance needed for shohin and mame bonsai, and this particular case came to mind as being a good illustration. 

This is one of our shohin Cotoneasters that has quite a history.  It started its bonsai life as a cutting, given to us by a former club member around 1998.  TOH put it into a shallow training pot in akadama and then... bear in mind that we were just starting to seriously learn about growing trees in pots back then.... horror.  The roots had somehow rotted out and the whole thing fell out of its pot, practically rootless.  Emergency situation: TOH wrapped up the whole thing - plant, pot and soil - in a clear plastic bag, stuck it in the greenhouse and left it there to recover.  It was a much smaller plant then, the trunk measuring about 3 - 4 inches in length (8 - 10 cm) and already trained as a semi-cascade but sort of in a straight line rather than with the downward arc that you'll see in these photos.

Evidently the plant recovered, our watering skills improved and the Cotoneaster has even been deemed worthy of living in this Japanese pot with a vaguely celadon-ish colour and a lovely crackle glaze.  This is one of the earliest trees I practised my wiring on, which is how the downward trunk arc was induced.

But this is one bonsai that still needs a skillful hand with the watering as it is prone to the annoying condition that I call frickenmossalloverthefrickentrunkandbranches-itis.  And it is a right bugger to de-moss the trunk, believe you me. And conversely, it can be easy to underwater this one as well, given the shape of its pot. 

For some reason or other we've not really paid a lot of attention to this guy's pruning recently.  He's not gone out on show for about 2 years now, so I'd say the last time he was re-potted was at least either 3 or 4 years ago.  Water still drains freely so he'll just have to let us know sooner or later if his roots are in need of a soil and refresh jobbie.

So anyway, here is said shohin before its first spring clean, note the moss growing on the trunk and rear branches.  I think we also missed summer and autumn pruning last year, which is why the branches are rather overlong.  The one good thing is the pot is a doddle to spruce up.

These photos were taken about 3 weeks ago; the new leaves had only just started showing themselves so I'd not pruned as heavily as I would've liked, erring on the side of caution.  I did thin out quite a few branches and had shortened the rear considerably.  The moss was removed with a dry single-tuft toothbrush, which I get from a periodontist (and is also available online).  Here we are about three-quarters through the moss-removal + pruning process, the birds-eye view giving a better look at the branch structure:

We are still going to have to work on improving branch lines and acquiring tertiary branch structure. Hopefully the long branches can be shortened even further by this autumn.  And I will have to get rid of the old leaves at some point.  I'll either be lazy and wait for them to fall off, or I give it a couple of days and see if I'm feeling industrious.  Hmmm....

Now I may have implied that this shohin is larger than when it came to us, and indeed today it stands about 6 in / 15 cm high from the feet of the pot.  But getting a toothbrush, much less a finger between branches is still not a job for the fainthearted, as sometimes the gap between branches is practically millimetric.  And it requires a relatively steady, un-rushed hand to remove the moss without damaging any new shoots.  No shoot casualties when this was done, I'm happy to report. 

So despite being a small-ish shohin, the little bugger still took over an hour to prune and clean up:

Again with the ubiquitous moss thimble accent plant to give an idea of scale.  The sticky-out branch on the upper left will go once I'm sure there are more shoots that have backbudded behind it.  I tend to leave a minimum of 3 shoots (not leaves) when doing spring pruning.

At some of the shows in the past, people have judged this tree in the mame category, but really TOH and I think of it as a shohin.  I suppose it is smaller than a lot of the shohin that go on display, but it is still way larger than the stuff we grow and consider as mame in our heads.  (Please let's not get into the sizing debate here since that is just an old, boring story as far as I'm concerned.)

Because the point I'm trying to get across is that, for all that they are small trees, shohin and mame do require a lot of attention to detail.  The upside of their small size is that they are easier to lift, carry and display.  They take up less room in the garden.  On the other hand, they are a bugger to transport over long distances unless you are kitted out properly.  Losing (or having to retouch) your top-dressing can be a nightmare.  Cleaning limescale off the smaller pots is not a fun job, particularly when you have a lot of them to display.  Then there is the daily maintenance - keeping them alive and watered properly throughout the year does require a keen eye.  Over the 10 years or so that we've been growing shohin and mame, we've developed a rhythm and a system that seem to have worked for our lifestyle and growing environment but that has also meant a lot of trial and error.  Possibly more of the latter. 

Our bonsai are checked twice a day in the summer; on really hot days I will arrange to work from home so I can water thrice in a day if necessary.  Most of them are in pure akadama, except for some of the fusspots that like a bit of organic matter thrown in - big trees or small.  The shohin, mame and thimble pots are placed in the shadier parts of the garden or greenhouse but on the other hand, I don't run out there to check on them specifically during the day.  The day job has to come first, unfortunately.

TOH started growing tiny trees after seeing one of Gill Taylor-Duxbury's displays in the late Nineties, and took it on sort of as a challenge rather than as a desire for respite from bigger bonsai.  I sort of picked it up by default.  But if ease of life is the primary moving factor, I'm not convinced that specialising in very small trees is the way to go.  My choice would be the medium-sized trees as the simpler compromise.

So. Fast forward to yesterday.  After a bit of warm weather, this is what the cotoneaster looks like after another clean-up.  It's still hanging on to a lot of last year's old leaves, but it really is too much of a pain to remove them all as there isn't a lot of space between branches to get cutters in there.

Now I don't hold any of our trees up as shining examples of bonsai perfection. As a matter of fact I showed these Cotoneaster photos to TOH, whose first words then were, 'Still got to work on that branch structure, but we'll get there....'

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Moar Pleiones? O yez, moar!

Pleiones have started becoming popular among the aficionados of accent plants in recent years, and several members of our local club have started growing and showing them in bonsai pots.  When we were members of an Orchid Society over 10 years ago, I got the impression that Pleiones aren't as popular as the epiphytes (or the equally showy Cymbidiums), but perhaps that has changed over the years as well.

For some reason, last year's Pleione tongariro post is one of the most visited on this site, but so far the lazy bugger still hasn't fully come out of bud.  Saving grace is that this year I've managed to lay slug protection down before he got munched.  Fingers crossed.  So this spring, we get piccies of other Pleiones.  These two varieties were purchased last year but we had to wait until this spring to get them into these pots by John Pitt. 

This pink-flowered one with the red spots on its frilly yellow lip is Pleione Shantung, although we are unsure as to the exact variety.  Possibly 'Ridgeway' - but I'm no expert.

We don't know which variety this white Pleione is, unfortunately.  It was also supposed to go into the green pot that the Shantung is in, but it was a tad too big.  Luckily I had picked this brown one up at a recent show.  Unfortunately the splashes of aqua and other shades of brown on the pot aren't visible in this photo.

TOH uses a mix of akadama, gravel and wood bark as potting compost for the Pleiones.  We have one variety that lives outdoors (for no good reason other than we keep forgetting to pot it up and bring it into the greenhouse), has now completely outgrown its pot and is in no growing medium whatsoever.  It's doing relatively well given its circumstances, but it comes out in leaf much later than the ones that get mollycoddled in the cold greenhouse.  Maybe this year it'll hit the jackpot....

Red, White & Blue... well, -ish.

I have bazillions of pics floating around in my Sony Ericsson just waiting to get downloaded onto this blog, so you'll have to excuse me if the next couple of posts read a bit like a text message.

Here are some pics that I took earlier in Spring but never got around to posting on this blog.

This Japanese Quince (Chojubai) is one that we've had for several years but rarely goes out on show, simply because it's rarely been in flower at the right time.  It's one that can go out on display as a shohin (it stands about 5.5 in / 14 cm high) but it can also double up as an accent plant for a larger tree.  I've seen Chojubai used in Japan as a companion (or shitakusa I believe is their term) planting to great effect.
Pot is generic Japanese, I believe.

Okay, not quite red.  Sort of red-ish (hence the title).

And although most people would say this Japanese Quince is a white-flowering variety, it actually has a sort of a greenish tinge.  Not sure about the pot of this one, I think it could be Northern Chinese.  This one is still a WIP, and is intended to be used as a mixed accent planting rather than as a stand-alone bonsai.  Again it would be in the shohin size, roughly about 8 in / 20 cm high.

Here's a closer look at the white... er, green ... er, white-ish flowers.  If they look yellow to you, don't blame me - I'd say it was the screen resolution!  Are you saying it's my lighting?  Nevah!! :D  

This one is a Veronica that came out of a local garden centre; it's a variety commonly used as ground cover for borders.  IIRC, the pot is one that I made at our local bonsai club night; we have Reg Bolton over every year to do 2 sessions on pot making.  At the first session he brings over the clay and helps us shape the pots; then he takes them home to fire.  During the second session, we glaze our pots and he takes those home again to fire.  Just a bit of fun, and one thing I'd highly recommend as a club activity.
What is nice about Veronica is the length of the flowering season.  I took this pic way before Easter and it is still in flower today.

More on the blue (although I suppose someone would qualify them as blue-violet) are these Grape Hyacinths that TOH picked up for less than a quid several years ago.  They completely filled out the pot they were planted in; I think I broke these up into 5 batches.  This batch is in a Bryan Albright pot. 

And another blue-ish guy is a Soldanella carpatica which we bought in Poland in 2006.  This self-seeds fairly freely and we had also managed to break up the original plant into two.  This is one of the offshoots.

Yeah, I know. He looks purple, doesn't he?  So I got it wrong. 

Oh well.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Trees, People, Bath and Rocks: My Day at the Joy of Bonsai

Rather than tell a story from the beginning, let me commence sort of a third through the way and wind my way back up to the start.  

The GPS (AKA 'That Biyotch' to a friend of mine) took us to Bath via the A303 which led us through some lovely scenery, particularly when we got closer to Bath.  Quaint cottages, woodland scenes - all very picture book English countryside, which made the opening vista of the city with its straight lines of limestone architecture seem extremely regimented to me.   All the creamy yellow/gold Bath stone architecture under the morning sun as you drive down the hill is impressive - but I guess it is a 'you love it or you hate it' sort of thing.

In my last post I said that catching up with people was probably going to be the priority of the day (second to getting my morning coffee, of course) but actually - despite feedback I had heard on the Saturday saying the lighting wasn't very good - I did manage to get some pics of the trees and accent plants.  I could've taken more pics, but to be perfectly honest I was more caught up with gassing with the owners of the trees.  Especially as some of their stuff are bonsai that I probably already have pics of in previous posts on this blog.

I first saw this Willow by Simon Temblett at the Swindon Winter Image show two years ago, and he says it's now starting to look more like how he wants it to be.  Pot is also by Simon.

Also by Simon is this composition entitled 'Blackthorn Juggling on a Unicycle', which is almost self-explanatory.  You also get a fairly good view of the branch wiring in the photo.

Framed in black and floating in space is John Pitt's 'Beyond the Moonshine'; no prizes for guessing who the potter is:
However you can get a better view of the entire composition here, courtesy of @ExtremeWork.

This one, called 'The Lightning through the Clouds', was one that people couldn't resist touching, particularly when they were told the tree wasn't real.
Paul Finch (UK New Talent Contest winner and UK candidate for the 2008 EBA NTC at Vienna) modelled this on one of Kevin Willson's trees.  The woody bits are out of modelling clay and the foliage is from bits of fake Christmas trees.  An excellent piece of work, IMHO.  And in case it isn't legible, the notice to the left says 'please do not touch the exhibits'.

We oohed and aahed over this little accent Contorted Hazel by Russ Farley. 
I didn't manage to get the potter's name, but if you do want to know, then you have to ask this guy here.  His wife tried her best to edge out of the picture but one day there will be no escaping my Sony Ericsson...
We have been bumping into Russ and Julie at bonsai shows here and on the Continent for over 10 years now, and I've seen their son grow up, in almost a stop action punctuated sort of way, over a series of bonsai shows.  Kinda makes you feel old, after a while.

Obviously these two take bonsai extremely seriously and the one on the left is Bob Bailey whose shohin and mame have appeared several times on this blog.
This display of bodily assault could have been a forerunner of the Karate demonstration that afternoon.  And that is really all the innuendo I am able to spread on Mr Bailey, even though I have threatened to do so several times over the past years.  That said, he has taken quite a lot of stick over the colour of his shirts....

More dirt was being dished about by the Welsh lads; here we have Chris Thomas showing off his moss....
.... and proving he can multitask by entertaining us with a lot of smutty hilarious jokes while finishing up a group planting....
.... which eventually wound up like this:

Another demo here, possibly of interest to those who want to give the root-over-rock style a go: Simon Temblett taking a tube-grown maple (to achieve the long roots) which was destined to go over the red 'pebbles' on the lower right hand side.  In the background you can see the other demonstrators at work.
I missed the rest of the demo as I went to have lunch (my next highest priority to my morning coffee).  By the time I had demolished a steak and complained about its size (on the small side) to an unsympathetic Mr Bailey, this particular demo was done and Simon had gone on to doing a Tanuki, achieving the bark colour with a solution of soot and water.  The finished root over rock maple is on the lower left hand side of the photo, wrapped in sphagnum moss to protect the roots.  Over time this will be removed once the roots have settled.

Another of the demonstrators, Serge Clemence, here doing an illustration of what will eventually be the finished image of the tree he had worked on.
We first met Serge at the EBA convention in Poland where he had displayed a large yamadori pine that took the best in show prize that year.  That said, Serge was still immersed in plans for refining the tree into the image that he had in plan for it.  We saw the tree again at another show a couple of years later and it had acquired a more mature and finished look, aside from being a healthy specimen indeed.

Moving away from the demo area, I managed to grab these pics of the Pitt-boss John (and why is it all my photos of him are blurred?  Is my phone trying to tell me something?)...
and his wife Linda...
... who is my partner in hilarity at her husband's expense.  Only sometimes.  (Like at every show we meet.)  But he's a great sport.  And he gets his own back :D

And in reverse order (as this was the first photo of the day I took), let me leave you with a minute impression of one of the biggest piles of Suiseki I have ever seen in my life:
Them grey rocks in the middle of the field.  Click on the pic to blow it up.  That's right:  Stonehenge as seen from the A303.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spring view of another WIP

Works In Progress, we haz dem.  Big time.

This root-over-rock Forsythia has been WIPping around in the garden for nearly 10 years and has never come out on exhibit, as you can clearly see why. 

I believe we purchased it as a bare-rooted item, then stuck it in a generic deep, round 'export-blue' coloured pot for the longest time.  Almost two years ago, it got put into this shallow oval that shows the landscape off better.

There's still a major piece of work to do on improving the branches, the crown of the tree and the appearance of the trunk.  On the other hand, it's flowering profusely despite the whopping winter it went through.  Or possibly because of it?  We did get a mega-lot of root growth, as there's a whole load of the little buggers trying to escape the edge of the pot on the right,

As usual the birds had a field day with the moss protecting the topsoil, so we will be back to re-mossing all the trees this spring, once we get a new food processor - the last one we got for chopping moss didn't quite survive a year.  I guess like everything else, you get what you pay for...

And BTW, we will be off to Joy of Bonsai at Bath tomorrow, but I cannot promise pics.  Partly because my recollections of the lighting in the hall do not inspire optimism, and more because we will be meeting up with loads of friends and socialising may just have a teensy-weensy priority.  Or maybe I could do only people pics instead of tree pics?  Now there's a thought - I could consider starting a new career as paparazzo, armed with a camera phone.

My chances of hitting the big bucks suddenly don't seem too high.  Feh.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Better late than... even later?

Well, in the last post I did say I would take pics at our club meeting.  And I did.

And I did say that I'd post said pics if the light was good to my Sony Ericsson.  And it wasn't.

So rather than put out some over/under/badly-exposed shots for you to go "huh?" over, how about if I make up for it with more pics of the accent plants that are starting to come out in the garden.  Some of these were my earliest guinea pigs subjects for last year's posts, so to a certain extent it is interesting (for me at the very least) to see how they've come along since then.

This is a white Hepatica nobilis which first came out in this post.  It's only started coming out into flower in the past couple of days and there are at least two more flower buds waiting in the wings.  Just to show that everything is late this year, my 2009 pic dates back to late February and the flowers were much further along.  This planting is due for a break-up fairly soon, as the seedlings are now in their second year (you can see them in last year's photo). 
You get a better look at the pot's colour in this shot, though.  I'm  not sure if the leaves should actually be there, as they are last year's foliage and are really rather manky looking.  Despite the hard winter, none of our established Hepatica (and most of the seedlings) went fully dormant; they just hung on to every last bit of greenery they could.

And only just out by a day or so is what I believe to be a Scilla (possibly siberica), although its flowers are looking a little pale so maybe it isn't what I think it is....
This is in a Walsall pot, about 2.5 in / 6.5 cm high.

Last year I wasn't so sure this plant would make it - the double flowered form Hepatica transsilvanica 'Mrs Elison Spence':
It was either vine weevil or the alpine mix which didn't agree with my plant.  I now try to transfer all of our alpines into an akadama mix, which seems to suit our watering style (and our garden conditions) better.  For the vine weevil, we use a mix of organic (nematodes) and chemical (Provado) control.  Or I feed the buggers to the birds.  Either way, I'm happy to report that I have managed to save the parent plant as well.  This one apparently tends to flower before the foliage appears, but I will also have to say that it hung on to its very large and not very pretty leaves all throughout the very cold winter we just had.  I'm not quite sure who the potter for this one is, so let me do a bit of digging first.  In the meantime, if anyone recognises the pot, do give me a shout.

This is one of my experiments at making multiple-plant groupings for a longer period of interest.  This is one of the first Snowdrops (Galanthus) that has flowered for me in a pot, so I'm feeling a bit more encouraged to try different plantings.  The rest of the composition looks like it will need more summer interest.

Oh, and before I forget - here's the blue Primula from the last post, but just two weeks along and its pompom is all out.  Well, almost.

Monday, 8 March 2010

It's Partayyyy Time!!! Bonsai Club night tonight...

And everyone's decking out in their finest - at least the bonsai and accent plants are.

And since we've been through an unseasonably cold winter for this part of the world, everyone in the club will be mad keen to show whatever has come out of hibernation.  Of course I'm no exception, duh.  But being the generous and giving (showoff - errr, wait, ignore that) person that I am, I thought I'd give you guys a sneak peek of what I'm taking to the club.  And if the light at the club hall is kind to my Sony Ericsson, I'll take home some more pics to show you later this evening. 

Here is a shohin Chinese juniper that started its life as an informal upright at least 10 years ago.  It wasn't a bad-looking tree then - as a matter of fact, when someone saw it a year after we had acquired it, he suggested we enter it into a very prestigious national show.  But we had already decided it would be better off as a semi-cascade, and since then the invitation to display the tree has never again been tendered.  Heh. But we still feel it was the right thing to do - if a bit drastic.  Achieving the change in shape also meant a lot of wiring (I did say I had gotten a lot of practice in an earlier post), and sometimes Junipers can sulk when treated this way.  Because he did get the heavy metal thing going back then. Yo.
He was also moved into this unglazed Walsall pot, which gives Teacher-san kittens every time he checks our trees, as the cylindrical shape is one that he feels is difficult to keep watered correctly.  Walsall have since stopped using this clay, so I do regret not buying every single one of these that had come out then.

Here is the detail of the rear of the tree, showing 2 jins which are the remains of rather heavy branches.  Had they stayed, we would have wound up with a pronounced lump in the middle of the tree, I bet.
This is one of our larger shohins, measuring 8 in / 20 cm from the feet of the pot.  I don't think it has ever gone out on public display - as it has taken forever for the juvenile foliage to sort itself out - but we have taken it out to the club a couple of times.  Club nights are more like family to us, they don't really count as public, if you see what I mean.

And here's the detail of the Primula in a Japanese pot.  I believe I have the plant's label somewhere, but there's bound to be someone at the club who'll be able to tell me what it is.  It will look better when it's fully out in flower, and even better in 3 years' time when it will have filled out the pot a bit more.

I did mention on Twitter that I would be bringing the microscopic Aquilegias, and I am.  And on the other end of the scale, I am bringing this Kusamono which is a green Ophiopogon variety, a tall bronzey grass whose label has gone the way of the wind, and some other nondescript grass that is only kept within the planting on sufferance (I just keep pulling it out when I have nothing better to do with my time).  Here is what it looked like in summer:

And these are the Ophiopogon fruit which have stayed all through the winter:

I took the Kusamono out of its pot nearly 2 years ago and it has spent all winter outdoors, albeit protected by a whole load of other potted plants around it.  Still, it was covered with snow like everything else.  One day I will find a suiban which will complement the colours of the planting better than this one. (In fact I do know of one potter who has this shade of blue... :D)  But still, this one is the right size, so it will have to do for now.

Unfortunately my Hepaticas and Soldanella are not quite fully out in flower.  My double Hepatica 'Mrs Elison Spence' is only just starting to come out and it doesn't look like anything much at the moment.  What a bummer. 

We are bound to have lots of accent plant lovers tonight, even some people from other local clubs.  Will be great to see if they'll have brought their stuff.  Maybe we can even start doing some barter.  Because boy, do I have some nice stuff coming out... Any takers?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Charcoal in the Growing Medium

At our local bonsai club meeting sometime back, a couple of guys had an interesting discussion on the merits of using charcoal as part of a bonsai soil mix.  I can't remember what the outcome of the discussion was (probably more concerned about getting myself coffee and biccies, as usual) but this blogpost at Yamadori Passion may interest some of you:

Have a gander over there.  Loads of great photos from his travels.  My recent fave is his series of posts on the tools he uses for his yamadori.  Good stuff.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Anyone up for a guessing game?

Our friend Robert gave us several of these seedlings last year and they promptly went into these thimble pots.  Think you recognise what sort of plant they are?  No, they are not baobabs.

Okay, here's their big brother.  Does that give you a better clue?  No, it's not a cabbage either.

Just to give you an idea of scale, I've included the moss accent plant, which as I've mentioned in a previous post is about 1 inch / 2.54 cm high.  So although the 'trunks' look chunky in these photos (and I suppose proportionally they are), the plants are really rather minute.

I believe TOH got the two 'square' thimble pots from one of the potters at the now-defunct Southampton Balloon & Flower Festival, but cannot say for sure.  The moss planting is in a Japanese pot that we got at the Green Club during one of the Kokofu shows.  Absolutely no clue who made the larger round pot.

So a lot of our accent plants are starting to come out of winter dormancy.  And a lot of the trees as well.  Which will mean moving everything around in the cold greenhouse and making space for the more vigorous varieties.

Oh yes, I suppose you're still wondering what these plants are?  They're not a dwarf variety so here's what they'll eventually look like one day; well not precisely like these ones as this is a photo of my flower bed:
Yup, Aquilegias.  Don't ask me what colour - I'll either have to remember to ask Robert or wait to see what will happen if they do eventually flower.  Which will either be spectacularly great or spectacularly bizarre, as flowers or fruit don't reduce in size...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Not Quite a Starting Line-up...

Well, I actually did forget some of the other plants I had put on display at the Swindon Winter Image show in my earlier post.  Not that I could've posted them on this blog any earlier due to my recent monitor problems, but better late than never, I suppose.  So here we go with the rest of my starting line-up of display trees and accents for 2010 - and then some.

Our accent plants are starting to wake up now and some of the compositions I put together last year are starting to show signs of rejuvenation.  So more photos to come in the next few weeks, hopefully.  But for now, this photo is the collection of accent plants that went with us to Swindon Show; all but one went out on display:
The Ranunculus ficaria 'Coppernub' (rear upper left hand side) is a slight disappointment to me, as it didn't flower any more profusely than it did last year, although the plant has bulked out considerably.  The other guy to the right of him is also a Ranunculus (another lost label jobbie, so don't expect a variety identification anytime soon from me) and still hasn't flowered.  Leaves are funky, though.  This second Ranunculus is in a pot by Alan Harriman.  The lighting in this photo is brighter than last year's so the colour of the Coppernub's Bryan Albright pot is a lot closer to the original.

This picture of a Shohin cascade Cotoneaster frigidus 'Cornubia' was taken before clean-up and show prep:
We've been growing this guy for at least 4 years now, and this Walsall pot is now its second home.  It started out with quite a large rootball, hence the slightly over-potted look; however as it only has come out on show when either the flowers or berries are out, then it also has these over-long branches which slightly compensate for the whopper of a pot.  Being a cascade, this is a difficult one to give dimensions to, so if I say that the pot is about 4 in / 10 cm high, that should give an overall indication of the size of the tree. 

This isn't one in our collection that comes out in public very often (although I have taken it to our local club several times), partly because we aren't 100% satisfied with its ramification.  Although the trunk is rather interesting.  Here it is at a slightly different angle, showing the trunk line and the berries:
 A little later in the year, I'm going to give this guy a massive prune. 

As an aside, the winter colour on our cotoneasters was gratifying this year.  However, we didn't get a lot of flower and fruit out of our shohin cotoneasters this time, although the larger ones did all right in that department.

Again another shohin that went through the popsicle stage this winter.  Here is how this Picea looked on show:
And here you can just about see it on the left-hand side in all its frozen glory.

The pot is a Tokoname, apparently by Bigei.  As I can't read the markings, I have no way of confirming this but I'm sure someone will give a shout if it proves otherwise.

And this last one is a shohin Japanese White Pine which will only go out on show if I'm really, really desperate as the branch structure still needs so much work done to it.  Plus that trunk line sometimes strikes me as being totally dire.
Another small tree that we've had for several years but really only a WIP for the past two.  This one also went popsicle during the winter freeze, and you'll see it on the right-hand side of this photo.

The reason I've got this White Pine in here is to illustrate a couple of things.  Rather than buy expensive trees, our bonsai acquisition strategy has been to pay for trees that - by our guesswork - will need about 5 to 8 years' work and fall into a medium (or more) price range for that type of bonsai.  We have been lucky with some and they have literally only needed a couple of years before they've been deemed ready for show.  We have also acquired dead cheap / unwanted trees that showed their potential in a relatively short space of time.  Others, like this White Pine, will need both time and patience - in spades.

But if you are mad keen on getting a 'finished' bonsai to go out immediately into competition (and win), then expect to pay the full market value of that tree. Whatever that may be. Because - in bonsai just like in everything else - you get what you pay for.