Thursday, June 6, 2013

Advanced and basic techniques bonsai.



It’s that time of the year, when the sap is flowing and the wood is getting hard. When the hormones are beginning to do their chemical wonders and the smell of propagation is in the air. Cuttings, seed, and air layering!

I’ll again be doing a Brazilian Raintree but also: podocarpus, hackberry, elm and ficus. And an experimental air layer: nea buxifolia !

I think I’ll make this a yearly post. And I’ll try different trees and we shall see what works and what doesn’t.
Lets try an easy one first.
Ulmus alatta: the winged elm.
The key to air layering success is including, underneath your moss, the presence of buds. Not that kind of bud, childish.
A bud is a place where, in bright, clean sunlight, a verdant leaf and branch will emerge. But in cold, wet, darkness pale, maggot like growth will push forth; magically, sending, searching, snaking long tendril-like fingers in reaching for purchase and sustenance.
Roots, in other words.
So it’s a good idea to pick species that have evident buds when we are air layering.
Like an elm.

All those little bumps are potentially buds.
As you can see

This tree has no taper. So it has to be chopped back. But it has that nice wiggle and that’s where I want to air layer.

First, trim the twigs and branches away

And make two cuts around the trunk about the thickness (give or take) of the trunk apart

and peel the bark away down to the wood.
I kept intact the branch collar

because that’s an awesome spot for roots to emerge.
Cover with sphagnum moss, aluminum foil and tie it with wire.


I don’t use rooting hormone. I don’t find the need.
The next subject is nea buxifolia. It’s a native Puerto Rican tree that’s considered a weed by some.

They also grow very straight and usually have no taper. This telephone pole is about 4 ft tall

This is an experiment with this nea. I’ve never heard of anyone attempting it but, since we have to cut it back to induce taper, why not try to save the top. Right? It can be grown from cuttings so it might be possible.
When you make your ring cut

You will notice that you have the bark, then the layer under that (which could be green, red, orange, yellow). Peel off all that until you get to the wood.
Grab a handful of sphagnum moss (wear gloves) and some aluminum foil


And wrap that willie.
Again, I use wire to tie the foil off. I’ll go in every week or so and re-wet the moss.

Let’s see if the tree gods smile on me and we have success.
Most of this was done at the monthly study group meeting.
And I was grilling


so the next several pics show my corillo at work.
If you remember the Rogues Gallery post (here) I promised a side by side comparison on the efficacy of a cutting compared to an air layer on a ficus.
It was these trees


We chop one

Which is a two man job

And air layer the other


On the first one we take the top

And plug it into some good soil

and keep it wet.
The bottom is repotted into bonsai soil

The wound is shaved smooth and even

The advantage to the chop method: the bottom tree will be a bonsai quicker.
This makes me want to sing. I filked a song for the occasion.
Watch it on YouTube here (Cut It Back). My apologies to the Stones.
Here’s a big raintree

We put three on this one. Which answers the question “Can I put more than one on a tree?”
Yes you can. Just make sure there is not more than one in a row on the tree.


The next two victims are a podocarpus

And a hackberry

Both of these trees are in the ground. Which answers that question.
The podo was just cut back heavily and has exploded with growth. I plan on collecting it next year. It’s about 7 feet tall at the moment and will be cut back to about 3 feet after collection. So I says to myself
“Yo, self! Since youze’r doin’ sum layerin’, why ain’t youze try a podo?”
I looked up if people had done it and, yes, they had. And had success, so….here we are.
The site

The layer

The thickness of the wood

Which is what I tell all the ladies. But I’m not fooling anyone.
And let’s pray to the Druids it works.

Now, I’ve tried to air layer the hackberry before.
It defeated me. It just healed over the cut end. Which surprised the hell outa me.
This time I will succeed. Or have some nice pics to blog about.
Ring cut, extra wide

I did two on this tree


Which I intend to collect next year as well.
Do you have your fingers crossed?
Will we do the impossible (air layer a nea) and the uncommon (a podocarpus); will the hackberry laugh at us again?
Stay tuned (or check back in a few months.)
All your questions and more will be answered.
Or I’ll make soup.

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