In the next few days most of the northern United States and Canada are expected to experience unseasonably cold weather. Here in the Cleveland, Ohio area, for example, it is predicted to drop to 27° tonight and 19° tomorrow night when the averages for those days are 38° and 37°.
Why should that matter for bonsai trees that are hardy to lower temperatures and do we need to provide extra protection to our trees?
I would advise that extra protection be given to trees, even if hardy to those temperatures, because there is a chance the trees have not yet acquired their full winter hardiness this early in the season.
Part of cold hardiness comes from the concentration of sugars in plant cells. This concentration increases starting in early September and reaches maximum in late November to early December. Then it holds steady until early April and begins decreasing as the plants wake up and begin to utilize that sugar for spring growth. Since plants reach their maximum concentration in late November that is when they have their maximum tolerance to cold temperatures.
The fact that it is early November means that it would be prudent to provide additional protection against the cold temperatures but care should be taken to avoid keeping the plants too warm which could delay cold hardiness.
Some good options for protection for the next couple of days include an unheated garage or shed, a cold house or cold frame, or setting on the ground and covering with mulch.
Your trees might not be ready yet for winter storage but would benefit from a little protection until temperatures return to normal in a few days.
Our 2019 Fall Show was held this past weekend and was a big success with over 1,000 visitors!
While we did get a little light rain on both days the weather cooperated for the most part. See below for a gallery of sights from the show.
We are also pleased to announce the winners of the People’s Choice voting:
Thank you to everyone who attended and I hope you all had a wonderful time.
The results of the People’s Choice voting from our 2019 Summer Show are in!
Congratulations to Alex H for his Hawaiian Schefflera which took First Place!
Second Place went to Steve Z and his Juniper Sea Green and Anne H’s Japanese Larch forest took third.
The nicest, most heartening aspect of the whole thing is that, except for a couple of trees out of the whole 60+ trees in the show, every tree appealed to at least one person enough to list it on a ballot. Tells us that each person’s efforts, even when the result isn’t a spectacular runaway winner, added a little memorable beauty that touched someone that day. What more reward could we ask for the work we put in?!
Spring is a time of renewal and our bonsai trees are waking up!
Not everyone realizes that most bonsai trees are outdoor plants. While there are a few tropical species that can live indoors, even most of them prefer to be outside when it is warm. For the majority of trees, if they aren’t allowed to go through their natural cycle of dormancy they will eventually weaken and die.
Here in Cleveland, spring is upon us and our trees are coming out of their winter dormancy. Buds are cracking open to reveal new leaves, new needles, and in some cases even blooms!
Take a look at these photos submitted by a few of our members and their trees enter spring glory.
The Cleveland Bonsai Club is very proud of club member Mel G who took home the President’s Award for his Shohin display, as well as Best Accent Plant, at the MidAtlantic Bonsai Society Spring Festival last month. Mel’s display consisted of: Top–Japanese Back Pine, Upper left–Star Jasmine, Upper Right–Japanese Chojubai Quince, Lower left:–Zelkova elm, Lower Right–Kumquat–Outside tree–Shimpaku Juniper. Note that each pot is a different color and shape which is one of the important criteria for a good shohin display.
Well done, Mel!
At our April 2019 meeting member David Bennett gave a presentation on utilizing Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) for bonsai.
David talked about some of the benefits of this tree, such as the fact that it is locally available and hardy to the area. It is shade tolerant (though prefers sun), fast healing, has good needle reduction, and tends to have compact growth when cultivated properly.
Because it is fast growing David prefers using guy wires instead of wiring branches and pointed out that hemlocks tend to have a lot of “memory” in them and bends don’t always hold. He also warned that they don’t usually backbud on old wood so that needs to be taken into consideration when styling the tree. They are also strongly apically dominant so need frequent pinching to maintain shape.
The March 2019 meeting of the Cleveland Bonsai Club featured a presentation by member Les Allen on Suiseki, the Japanese art of stone appreciation.
Suiseki are small, naturally formed stones selected for their shape, balance, simplicity, and tranquility. They invoke a feeling, memory, or impression in the viewer and can resemble landscapes, mountains, huts, people, animals, and more.
They are usually displayed on a daiza (a wooden base custom made for that particular stone) or in a shallow tray of sand called a suiban (ceramic) or doban (bronze). The display may incorporate a stand and possibly a scroll on the wall.
Suiseki are selected based on five criteria:
- Shape – balance and proportion
- Quality of material – appearance of hardness
- Color – reflection of nature
- Surface texture – varies but should never show damage
- Age – appearance of age (patina)
Some classifications include:
- Landscape Suiseki (Sansui keijo-seki): shaped like a mountain, island, waterfall, shoreline, cave, canyon, or plateau.
- Object stones (Keisho-seki): resembling a person, animal, boat, house or bridge.
- Celestial (Gensho-seki): with patterns resembling the moon, sun or stars.
- Plant (Kigata-ishi): with patterns picturing flowers, fruits, grasses, forests or even Bonsai.
- Weather (Tenko-seki): resembling rain, intense sunlight, lightning or snow.
- Abstract (Chusho-seki): with surfaces similar to animal prints, tangled nets, etc.
Suiseki are sometimes displayed along with bonsai trees and can be valued in the thousands of dollars.
Bonsai trees come in many different sizes, styles and types but one thing that is common to a refined bonsai is the appearance of age. A bonsai should appear to be much older than it actually is (in general, some bonsai truly are hundreds of years old!).
It is often said that a bonsai is the artist’s interpretation or impression of a tree. While some bonsai are replicas of full grown trees in their glory that have been rendered in miniature, there are also many that are made to look like an ancient tree that was kept small by nature and the elements. Those natural trees are the true inspiration behind the bonsai art, originally found in harsh mountainous environments. Trees that are naturally stunted in this way can be worth tens of thousands of dollars and are known as yamadori.
To me, some of the best bonsai are recreations of these unique trees found in nature and should be able to tell a story of how they ended up in such a form (rather than simply be bent into a S shape like so many mass-produced “bonsai” you might find at a box store). I like to look at these twisted form and imagine how they might have ended up that way. When designing my own bonsai, I try to continue this element of realism into the composition. Let’s look at a few trees and guess their stories.
Take this tree, for example. It is easy to imagine that while it was still young another tree fell onto it, knocking it to the ground but not killing it. As the tree recovered, it grew around the fallen trunk and branches and back up towards the sky, ending up with the twisted base and trunk that you see pictured. Eventually, the dead tree that caused all of this rotted away leaving its tale of woe in the victim’s twisted form. The tree also had to fight soil erosion that exposed the roots and threatened desiccation in the harsh environment.
In this next example, perhaps this tree was nearly blown over. But I think it is more likely that it was growing on the side of a cliff, clutching the rock face for its very life and the elements and gravity pulled down against the upward growth. A rock outcropping above could have forced the strong lean as it reached out for light. In my own backyard I have a similar tree growing beside a creek. Early spring storms flood the creek and erode the bank as the tree slowly falls over the side, held in place only by strong support roots on the other side.
This poor, tortured soul looks as if it hasn’t had a pleasant day in its life. Try as it may to thrive, harsh desert winds beat upon it, blowing sand stripped the bark, falling rocks crushed and deformed, and animals grazed on its branches. You can see where the main trunk snapped, leaving a side branch to take over as the new trunk line. Another branch was not so lucky and remains as a lifeless, bleached appendage. Yet through it all a vein of live growth persevered and managed to survive. Eventually, enough growth was able to make it above animal grazing level to thrive, a head of healthy green to contrast with the gaunt skeleton below. A constant reminder of all that was endured.
Even this strong grower was no stranger to the elements. Fate deposited multiple seeds near to each other that took root and the brothers fought each other for decades while harsh storms bent and snapped branches. Eventually, a gale broke the larger of the two nearly in half but it wasn’t enough to kill it. Weakened, it still continued to grow and struggle against the world.
When you look at bonsai trees, whether your own trees or someone else’s, what stories do they tell?