Ryuga 2013 Competition

I have entered the Ryuga 2013 competition this year over at Of Bonsai

I entered a Colorado blue spruce which I found at a local nursery.  It is a tree I have never worked on before so I wanted to use it to test my skills.  It looks like it has been at the nursery for a very long time, it is pot bound and overgrown but on the plus side I got it for half price because of all the dead branches.

colorado blue spruce

If you haven’t noticed it isn’t exactly very blue, just the tips!  I think it’s a cultivar called Malochyne, at least this is the closest looking type that I can find.

me styling spruce

I spent at least 2 hours styling the tree it was so complicated and overgrown.  There was also important decisions to be made for two reasons.  Firstly it needs to be looking at it’s best by the end of the competition (April 2014) and secondly because spruce branches do not readily grow back if you chop the wrong one off!  As with a lot of evergreens like this once the branch has gone it does not bud back easily.

colorado blue spruce

Here is how far I’ve got with the tree so far, I am really pleased with it.  The next part to address will be the fact that it’s pot bound!  I bet it’s a mess in that pot but I can’t have a look until spring time now.  I will be pruning a bit of the roots but not fully for now and putting it in a fairly large training pot.  I can see it going into it’s final pot in maybe 3 years time.

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Cat litter as bonsai soil

I have heard a lot of people here in the UK talking about using cat litter for bonsai soil. The type they talk about is a material called moler which drains easily but also retains some moisture. The two I have heard people using are sophistacat pink (non-clumping) and Tesco LOW DUST lightweight cat litter. I tried it out myself as a 100% mix and I must admit it did not work very well for me. However I think it would probably work better mixed with other materials. I was told in May of this year on a forum that my trees looked terrible in the soil I had and I should immediately move them all to a 100% mix of the stuff even though it was too late to repot. Hence why I don’t use forums (I must have forgot this year). Here is the Tesco version:
tesco low dust cat litter
I went in store yesterday to have a look for this and found quite a big selection of different types. The ones to look out for are clumping types and bentonite which looks like small pieces of cement. The one I thought looked interesting was this – “Tesco ABSORBENT odour control hygienic cat litter” which looks like small pieces of pumice! Although it’s probably an ingredient that just looks similar to pumice.
tesco absorbent cat litter
I have been trying to find a pumice type source for weeks, the only ones I could find were at specialist bonsai shops for 3 times the price of this. It doesn’t smell of anything (unlike the low dust) and I think it could work well. They even had bark cat litter at the shop so you could make a bark/clay/pumice mixed all of which was intended for cats!

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Cotoneaster Bonsai

Here’s my cotoneaster bonsai which I personally think is great.  It’s one of my favourites in my collection.  It flowers in June and has berries in August.  Add to that the fact that it’s evergreen and it all adds up to an interesting bonsai all year round.

cotoneaster bonsai

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Hawthorn yamadori death!

Well I’ve had a hawthorn stump that has been looking poorly lately.  In fact it’s been in a steady decline since I collected it 6 years ago.  I’ve been trying to work out what I did wrong with it and I think I must have tried to work on it too quickly and didn’t let it recover enough in between.  It didn’t grow much early this spring so I put it back in the ground where it’s been for 4 months.  After the initial couple of leaves it grew there was nothing.  It finally gave up the ghost and a quick scrape of the bark with my nail showed that it had died completely.  When I dug it up there were hardly any roots on it, seemingly less than before which was odd.  I won’t make you cry by showing you a picture of it, it’s just too upsetting…

Lessons have been learnt from this experience which I think is the main point of things going wrong.  If you just ignore what happened and don’t try to work out why they did you will never learn anything.

From now on collected trees will be left alone for at least 12 months in my care to give them a chance to recuperate from the move and the heavy chopping that I do to them.

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