About Me

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I have 15 formal Bonsai trees ranging from 5-25 yrs old which include conifers, deciduous', tropicals, and shrubs. i try and buy one of everything and i dig up whatever i can find. if you want to get into bonsai quickly, find the book call POP BONSAI by Lisa Tajima. go out and buy a little rosemary shrub, prune it down and expose the branches and you're on your way.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

i have too many ideas to post on this blog

this blog is sometimes hard to write. first because nobody reads it, second because i have too many random things going on in my head to write about. twitter will be slightly easier because i could dash one sentences down at a time instead of writing whatever comes to mind when i decide to write. i procrastinate a lot and for something that i just do for fun, it sometimes takes me a while to write new blog posts.

but i have some good ideas for my plants, and many useful tips.

1) don't buy decorative rocks at your nursery....if you do, wash them before you fill them into your pots. instead, go to your local pet store and buy the rocks you put in fish tanks. why? one, because they don't turn different colors or get dust in the dirt. but second, and most importantly, they're HEAVY. which means you can water your plants and the rocks wont float to the top and wash out of your pots. fish tank rocks are 100% safe and non-toxic, because after all, if a fish can survive the rocks in it's tank, so can your tree. i just went to a pet shop today and picked up a five pound bag of black fish tank rocks for $2.5 and they're great.

2) coffee filters make excellent strainers at the bottom of your pots. yes, there may be a lot of small particles collecting at the base of the pot, but if you cant find rocks for the bottom of your pots, or the ones you find are too small, use the coffee filter. better yet, place a coffee filter inside, THEN search for rocks to put at the bottom of the pots. (use fish tank rocks, duh)

3) before throwing any sort of container away, whether it be tupperware, old plastic boxes, random containers that take up space, stab a hole in them first. before you go through the trouble of building wooden boxes or buying fancy pots, take the tops of burnable CD cases, stab a hole, paint them a bright color, and your have a cheap and easy pot you can use until you find something better. take a old baseball or tennis ball, cut em up: cool pot. this world has an INSANE amount of useless plastic and we use far too much of it. all the packaging from new pairs of scissors that you buy to open the packaging to open packaging etc just gets thrown away. if you see the world like i do, i look for anything that can hold a small amount of dirt and i use it for a plant. why not?

4) if you have a plant that is root bound and it's in a plastic pot, wait before you replant it. instead, simply cut the bottom 1/3 of the pot off, pull some root strands down, and place that on top of a new pot full of dirt. press it in a bit and let your root bound tree now expand into the bottom of the new pot. you have to give it a few more years, or a few more growing seasons for this to work, but once you see that the bottom of the second pot is now root bound, you are ready. cut the top pot off, clear the roots of dirt and wash the roots, trim the small ones, leave the big ones etc. what you now have is a neagari tree (exposed roots.) you have allowed your tree to expand into a lower pot, making the roots in the upper pot its new "trunk" or multiple trunks.

5) and finally, 4 is an unlucky number in Japan because the word "four" and the phrase "go and die" sound the same. here is your 5th tip: explore your world. go out and find plants and make cuttings and experiment and don't worry about killing a few plants here and there and practice. its all about finding your own rhythm when it comes to plants. some people like to water theirs many times in one day, some people check them every few days. either way, find plants that work with your schedule. don't wuss out and buy a cactus because you don't have the discipline to water them. you can't do anything fun with a cactus, and there are so many interesting plants out there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

not quite the same as having a cat...

hello again. it has been more than a week since my last post but it feels like longer. now that school is out, summer in Portland has just appeared out of nowhere and we are now getting 75-80 degree days and the heat is slowly rising. after an uncomfortably wet spring and no time to adjust to the newly arrived heat, business at the Japanese Garden has exploded and the people are streaming in.

The Garden is hosting an exhibit on netsuke. these are small, golf ball sized ivory figures that one would use every day as a toggle to secure a purse or bag to their kimono.

since kimono don't have pockets, and men's have elbow-length sleeves, the Japanese merchants had to find a solution for carrying their personal belongings. a 3-5 tiered narrow box, able to hold herbal medicine and tobacco, was attached to the netsuke by string and one would slip the ivory toggle under their belts so it would not fall out.

i find these little things fascinating because they're not like porcelain figures you would display in your house to collect dust. these were ornate and detailed items one would use and wear EVERY DAY to stroll around town.


what does this have to do with bonsai? I'm not quite sure yet. i get exited about things like this so i thought i would share with the rest of you. maybe it's the fact that netsuke, like bonsai and so many other things, are personal. they're yours forever and only you get to enjoy it.

netsuke were custom carved one-of-a-kind pieces made by professional carvers. the buyer/wearer would ask for a custom piece to be made after is profession or zodiac sign or any other good luck sign. netsuke were like tattoos. they were yours forever and only you knew how special they were. bonsai are the same thing because only you can take care of your plant. only you can truly enjoy how significant it is. only you can care so much about such a valuable item that you carry with you for the rest of your life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

showing the kids the real world.

moved my maple sprouts "out in the open" to accompany the rest of my collection. these were little guys i dug up from the ground earlier this spring when they were wee little lads. now the tallest ones are topping 6 inches which is good for just sprouting up a couple months back. they like to grow as a group. as a gardener at PJG said, "the seeds sprout and the roots join up and communicate." awwe the trees help each other grow up. isn't that sweet?

so they have been in an alleyway facing west getting plenty of sun and protection from the wind. now they're in my yard on a western wall, facing north, east, and south, but not west. there's more wind exposure but not enough to scorch them. wind scorch by the way is a leading killer of maples so i wanted to move them out in the open to toughen them up a bit. more sun and circulating air will benefit them.

anyway i'm out. off to teach my Windows mom how to use her first Macbook.

everything looks like a maple...

here's how tell.

maples grow opposite leaves/branches.

Photo: Tree Identification By George Wellington Dillingham Symond

what a name!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ah books...

the thing with bonsai is that it's so diverse and everyone says something different. you'll get conflicting advice and contradicting information. but the valuable thing is that everyone has a secret that they accidentally write in their book that ends up benefitting your trees. you just gotta read em all and see what they say. many of them have species lists with detailed info about all the trees and if you buy one in the books, they each give you valuable hints.
on a second note...i should post profiles of my trees. at least then i have all my tips in one jar so to speak.
*Found at the Japanese Garden Gift Store
*Beginning Bonsai by Shirley & Larry Student
-elementary. its easy to buy a pot.
Growing Bonsai-A Practical Encyclopedia by Ken Norman
-name says it all. great species profiles.
$8 @ Powells
*Bonsai with Japanese Maples by Peter Adams
-awesome book but has advanced techniques that take decades to accomplish.
*Totally Bonsai by Craig Coussins
-has two excellent charts detailing what to do each month. very helpful.
*Bonsai Survival Manual by Colin Lewis
-When Bonsai ATTACK!!!
*Pop Bonsai by Lisa Tajima
-awesome ideas. growing a grapevine from a ukulele?
*Classic Bonsai of Japan by the Nippon Bonsai Association
bring out the big guns. these are the top trees in the world. 500 years old!!!
Bonsai-A Care Manual by Colin Lewis
$9 @ Powells
(meh) Herbal Bonsai by Richard W. Bender
*Post-Dated by Michael Hagedorn
diary about a crazy bonsai monk


This is not a question as to where to keep your tree, it is a matter of what that tree is most accustomed to. the word "indoor" simply means that this tree is accustomed to warmer, tropical climates. When kept indoors, it is easy to maintain the temperature it is used to. Mold growing on dirt is a problem. It really depends on which tree is in question. Humidity is another story, but it can be accomplished easily.

Dollar Store Humidity Tray: this is the simplest humidity tray to make. it will cost you a whopping $2! Simply buy a shallow serving tray and a cookie cooling rack. tape em' together, fill em' with water, make sure your cat doesn't drink the water, and you're all set. evaporation will do the rest.

This Weather Sucks

I have lived in Portland (zone 9) my whole life but i will be moving to Eugene (zone 8) in the fall. my trees are all accustomed to this climate with an average temperature of 60F and near-daily rainfall. this winter/spring has been particularly unusual because it has rained more than normal. This is HEAVY rain. Portland is always wet, but its been soaked since Fall 2009.

Those in the know are aware that over watering may kill your tree. Amateurs get nervous that they are responsible to keep a tree--not just a houseplant, but an actual tree--alive, therefore overcompensating for the amount of water used needed. many trees are prone to root rot, so finding a pot with good drainage and finding a good soil mix is essential if your trees live outside like mine do. Unfortunately where i live i have little control over the amount of water they receive (working on it) and I'm still not sure how long it takes my pots to dry out. i have moved my collection around many times in the last couple months so it is hard for them to figure out where they permanently live.

if you live in a moist and rainy climate like i do, finding a good soil mix is a good idea. i have my trees in a gritty, rocky soil. the rocks hold a good amount of moisture when rained on, but dry out nicely when there is hot weather. winter and spring are easy times to take care of watering because i let the weather do most of the work. the rain that falls on my collection will be soaked up and absorbed, but the rocky soil makes it easy to drain out. so far it's been good.

this is the reason i choose to grow outdoor trees. they are healthier outise, it is thier natural climate, less work when it comes to recreating thier natural environment. when buying Bonsai, i choose ones meant to be grown outdoors.

Why Bonsai?

Why you may ask? Why not?

I have always had an affinity for plants and trees. I have always been drawn to them, the unusual or uniform shape of their leaves, the shape of the trunk, the way they twist with the wind and towards the sun....

When i was a child i tried to be interested in plants but the only access i had to potted plants were the flowers my mother would grow on our porch. While i liked flowers, i never liked the ones my mom had because i never saw the point. sure, they're pretty, but they die in the winter and you have to start all over again next year. with my juvenile brain it had never occurred to me to look past that and look at the rest of the trees in my yard. as a kid, trees were more for climbing than anything else and i cherished the sticky sap on my hands and the thick woody scent that followed me around for the rest of the day. i was a weird kid who did nothing but study my surroundings and play with LEGOs. i would find myself rolling around on the slick wood floor of my big house staring deeply into the rings of the wood imagining i was in a vortex being sucked into the center of the trunk or that the rings were mini highways i could drive my car down, zig-zagging around knots and other imperfections of the 100+ year old wood.

still as a teenager it never occurred to me that i had the power to grow my own trees. with my parents divorced and living in separate households, i could not trust them to water a plant if i had one. my room was my only safe haven and i felt that if i had any plants outside, somehow they would be abused, mowed, dug up, or otherwise defiled. because of that i never bothered to start my own collection.

i am only 20 years old but i felt like i have been doing this for a long time. it wasn't until i moved out of my house and had my own place that i realized for the first time that i have the power to do whatever i wanted. that's when i made a trip out to the Portland Nursery in the middle of winter, bought a Serissa and a Zelkova, came home to prune them (BAD idea in the winter! i have learned my lesson) and promptly killed them. (Jump to today: the Serissa is dead because they tend to enjoy tropical climates, the Zelkova is doing fine, but the 5 branches it had when i bought it have all died. it is currently growing two new branches from it's trunk.)