Saturday, 30 April 2011

Meon Springs - an Alternative to a Royal Wedding

Not being wedding-y type people (although we do wish well to every couple that ties the knot) and certainly not street party-type people either, TOH and I decided to spend the day fishing at Meon Springs in Hampshire.  Well, one half of this couple went fishing, and the other half chilled out with unlimited mugs of coffee and a laptop.  Up to you to decide which one was which :o)

But...I took pics!  Oh yes, 'cos it's really lovely country over there.  Meon Springs is within the South Downs National Park and is adjacent to a working dairy farm.  Unfortunately I didn't manage to get up close and personal with the cows, but as them heifers have two very big, very butch boyfriends, maybe it's just as well. 

Here's one of the vistas from one of the hills, as you drive up to the fishery:

And views of the fishing lakes as the afternoon draws to a close:

Imagine having something that looks like this tree but in a nice 12-inch landscape pot (with possibly a bit of depth in it for the roots, as I think this is an Oak):

And my personal favourite, with just the lone angler at the end of the day (double-click on the photo to enlarge):

A big Thank You goes out to manager Keith for treating us like royalty (or was I just a royal pain in the A?).  Even if you don't know one end of a rod from another, the whole area is really rather pretty and I would still encourage you to discover the villages of the Meon Valley in Hampshire.

Oh, and TOH bagged a couple of four-pounders.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Then and Now: Larches on a Slab

There is a plus side to blogging, I suppose.  While blathering nonsense to the ether, I've also wound up with an inadvertent photographic history of the development of some of our trees.  Take this European Larch group, for instance.  TOH created this planting using a bit of fake slate.

This was part of a blog post which dates back to the summer of 2009.  Almost two years later and - wonder of wonders - the roots have stabilised enough that moss has started to grow of its own accord on the surface of the planting. 

Which now looks like this:

The slab is faux slate, so actually not all that heavy (not that anyone is carrying this thing around).  The soil mixture is akadama, some organics (peat substitute of some description) and Keto to bind it all together.  The planting was top-dressed with some chopped sphagnum moss, but the birds made away with all of that almost immediately, and we gave up fighting a losing battle after a couple of seasons.  The Larches were some not-very-expensive saplings bought from one of the Bonsai nurserymen at a show, and TOH keeps threatening to add a few younger, thinner ones to get a bit of difference in trunk size (the close similarity of the trunk diameters make the planting look boring and a bit contrived, IMO).  I suppose it will happen one day, when we find the right size saplings. 

The curious thing about the whole thing is that the group is just sat on top of the slab.  There are no drainage or wiring holes.  Initially, wire was wrapped around the whole lot to keep the planting from falling apart.  Years later and the roots have knitted themselves together, moss has grown naturally and the birds have (fingers and toes crossed) ignored all that freebie nesting material.  Or they have decided that our nicer-looking, more mature trees are better objects for vandalism.  And gravity just keeps the whole planting sat on top of the slab.  Double-click on the photo to enlarge, you will notice the Larch roots sticking out of the bottom edge of the planting, just under the moss.  OK, so some of it is dead Larch needles (so what if I didn't tart up before taking the photo; bite me), but most of it is roots that have given up any attempts of encroachment.

Had we been a bit more anal about clearing out the dead needles, I suppose we would have more moss growing in the centre of the group.  As it is, I'm quite happy to see that what moss we have is thriving without any assistance on our part.  I will occasionally pull out the odd weed, but that is only when my conscience actually wakes up and takes notice of the world around me.

And one can only hope a big, fat pigeon doesn't decide to land on one edge of the slab.  Otherwise, boy will it be in for a suprise :D

The first photograph is courtesy of our friend Stef in the Netherlands, to whom BTW I still owe an e-mail along with a few hundred other folks.  Join the queue, Stef...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Red Japanese Maple - in flower, no less

Last week ended with a Spring re-potting and pruning session with Teacher-san.  Almost a whole day gratifyingly consecrated to the trees - not just those that needed root and branch work but also those that just needed their top dressing refreshed; plus some weeding, clearing out dead branches, checking benches for pests, etc.  Everything in a pot got looked at, Accent Plants as well as this ornamental red Maple in a very large patio pot.

Although this would be considered a patio plant rather than a 'true' bonsai (unless you are one of those nitpicking purists so PLEASE let's not argue semantics here, OK?), the lessons learned are what are of interest.  'Nuff said.

This is the first year where this Maple has produced so much flower - you'll notice the little dangly things running all the way along the branches, right up to the very edge of the extending shoots.  Teacher-san took one look and said, 'pot-bound.'  Apparently when there is that much flower, particularly when it goes up to the leader shoots, then that's a sure sign that the old root pruners need to come out.

Sure does look pretty, though - a bit like an ersatz Christmas tree.  And when you think all that flowering effort is all about reproducing... oh yes, an oversexed red Maple.  Oh my, oh my , oh my.

Swiftly leaving that topic... in the background, visible through the Maple leaves, are rows of Accent Plants on shelving propped against a wall.  Although this gives them some protection during the Winter, the last couple of years have been pretty hard and we have lost a couple of the more fragile plants.  Even among the plants we keep in the cold greenhouse, we've lost some Shohin bonsai and Accent Plants.  This coming on after a holiday taken during a very hot May in 2010, where a lot of the smaller trees had dried out.  Lesson learned: when you have someone come to water your trees, make sure they REALLY REALLY understand what it is to water bonsai properly.  *sniff, sniff*

The Return of the Prodigal Blogger

Uh, that would be sort of me, I guess.  But more disappearing than prodigal, really.

So yes - another hiatus come and gone.  My excuse is that I was busy learning a trade.  Seriously. 

But, in the background, I took loads of pics - stuff done over the summer last year, a visit to a Yamadori collector's place in the Alps, a couple of shows... the trouble will be remembering what I did so long ago, and finding the photos in my archives.  Especially as I have officially defected from the Sony Ericsson camp and am now iPhoning my way around the planet.  Sort of.  Am I happy with the change?  Sort of.  I could wish for better Alarm Clock apps (being one of those people who want to be able to set a snooze for 04 mins & 26 secs for example. Don't ask me why I want that level of exactitude - I just do).  And I am still on the hunt for a good app that will let me download my Lotus Notes diary onto my phone.  I did get me a business card making app that I plan to play with sometime soon (which means less time spent on blogging, but that's the way it goes).

So, going back to the issue of prodigality.  Lots and lots of pics.  Would that equate to lots and lots of posts?  Guess I'll have to make lots and lots of time...