August 13, 2021

Crazy for Catalpa! Bonsai prospects for an unusual North American native

         If you're familiar with the northern catalpa, Catalpa speciosa, then you know it's a pretty strange tree and certainly not one which you would expect to be used for bonsai. Maybe it's a fool's errand for me to attempt to tame a tree with 12" leaves and 20" seed pods, however something about that staccato, memorable name has got me captivated. I've been observing specimen of it everywhere I go around Columbus as it is one of the more easily identifiable naive trees around - so much so, I've even got my girlfriend shouting "Catalpa!" every time we pass one. From this foundation, basic identification skills had led me to observe the species more intimately. As with any unknown species, the more scenarios you observe a specimen, the more you can observe its potential for bonsai. In the case of the catalpa, observations of a full-sized specimen, the seeding frequency of seeded, the fast growth of those volunteers, and the discovery of one naturally stunted catalpa all inform my plans to experiment with this species for bonsai.

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Catalpa is capable of producing a variety of leaf sizes. The left-most leaf is typical for a healthy catalpa, while the right leaves are from a naturally stunted catalpa.

July 23, 2021

Roberta Walters' Azaleas 101 - A Guide to Seasonal Azalea Care

            Few species of bonsai can compete with the visual intrigue produced by an azalea in full bloom. For that reason, today I have to resist the flowery temptation to write a full on history of their use in bonsai and review manual for Azalea techniques (maybe someday...). Instead, I'll whet your appetite with a more manageable intro to azalea-specific information through long-lost excerpts from one of California's premier azalea expert, Roberta Walters. While the full playlist of Roberta's demonstration is available on the Puget Sound Bonsai Association's Youtube Channel, this article is intended to serve as a guide to how each clip of Roberta's discussions fits into seasonal work that can be done on your azalea bonsai.

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This old azalea by Dan Robinson (collected decades ago by his first student. Frank) is a prime example of their potential spring beauty. Although it is already covered with pink flowers, this tree is still a few days away from peak bloom. At that time it would be so covered in pink that you can't even see the leaves! It's no wonder this tree won the People's Choice Award at the 2017 PSBA Spring Show.

April 21, 2021

A Case Study for Applying the Water and Sugar Equations - Repotting the Risky Rose

Source material: 3/19/2021

            Hola bonsai amigos! Today is a great day because not only does your friendly neighborhood microbiologist (me!) receive his second Covid vaccine dose, but my immunized arms also come bearing another present to the bonsai community. As spring continues to march on, so too does the blog's coverage of my giant rosebush bonsai - this time the rose's latest repot reveals two fundamental equations of life to consider when manipulating bonsai or any plant.

            The "Risky Rose" was the second major repot I did this year; returning readers will recall from last week's post that this operation involved another of the largest trees in my collection - a yardadori/landscape origin rosebush turned bonsai. As discussed in the previous post, now that the tree has recovered several years after its initial transplanting endured a cross-country move and survived its first Ohio winter, our rose has definitely earned renewed attention this year. For now, I'm calling it the "Risky Rose" because it needed severe root reduction in order to change its planting angle and lift the upper half of the trunk out of the pot. Read on to understand the motivations behind this bold action, including what steps were taken to ensure this radical root reduction could be done safely.

            As with my last repotting post, "Repotting The Monster Mulberry - Revisiting the Basics", this repot was done with the help of my friend in the Columbus Bonsai Society, Kevin. Thanks, Kevin!

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April 13, 2021

Origins of the Risky Rose & Steps for Transplant Recovery

 Source material: 2/09/2018

            As the weather continues to warm up and frosts become rarer here in Ohio, repotting season is on its tail end - if you're not already finished with it. I'm hoping to squeeze in my last few this week and also plan ahead for future bonsai by sowing my newest batch of seeds. In the spirit of finishing the repotting season, I was also planning to post the second major repot I did this year - once which involves substantial risk and reward. For now, that's all you'll get about it because, in the spirit of breaking my habit of writing overly long articles, today we have to first take a trip back in time and discuss the history of my gargantuan rosebush landscape-origin/yardadori prebonsai. It has perhaps the largest trunk rose I've seen in the bonsai world (not that they're a common bonsai subject to begin with!).

Sections

1. History of the Risky Rose
2. Current Repot Operation (Next post)
3.  Blog Announcements

Possible planting angle #1 (This is how it was originally buried).

March 23, 2021

Repotting The Monster Mulberry - Revisiting the Basics

Source material: 3/16/2021

            After a few weeks of being buried in snow, last week my larch seedlings started setting off alarm bells with green needles bursting from their dormant buds. "REPOTTING SEASON IS HERE, GET YOUR A@# INTO HIGH GEAR!" - is probably what they were telling me. I quickly reorganized my work and homework schedule to make the past week as bonsai-focused as possible for this narrow springtime window. While spring is also the perfect time for planting seeds, today we will discuss the first of a handful of major repots I did last week. Today's repotting report focuses on one of the largest trees in my collection at the moment - a yardadori/landscape origin mulberry tree.

            This repot was done with the help of my friend in the Columbus Bonsai Society, Kevin. Kevin grew up around Portland, Oregon and moved to Ohio just a year or two before I moved back. It's been great having another PNW native person to talk bonsai with. Thanks for your help building the grow box, Kevin! Y'all will definitely see more of him in future projects on this blog 😉.

Sections

First up: The Monster Mulberry with a falling apart plastic pot (hence the need for the repot).
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