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.

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.)