Sunday, October 25, 2009

Notes on a Bonsai Master Class

The Albuquerque Bonsai Club brought Harold Sasaki to town over the weekend for two workshops. I attended both.

His introductory lecture was aimed at the newcomers to bonsai and was keyed to keeping your bonsai alive, something obvious but often overlooked when everyone is concentrating on artistic styling. He mentioned light and water as the critical environmental factors.

Using leaf size to approximate light requirements, he pointed out that large leaves are adapted to low light conditions and small leaves (like our nanas) were adapted to high light levels. However, during the NM summer he cautioned that we might have to shade or mulch the pots to keep soil temperature low even if the plant is fond of full sun.

To avoid overwatering (rarely a problem in NM during the growing season), he recommends subirrigating ("dunking"). Not only does it fully wet the soil, it sucks in air from the soil surface as the water drains when lifted out of the watering container. It also prevents salt deposits from forming on the rim of the pot.

Mr. Sasaki also discussed the choice of material, emphasizing good root structure and trunk potential. Even as "instant bonsai" they can produce worthy material if selected carefully.

The morning session had everyone working on Green Mound junipers, aka Juniperus procumbens cv nana. A good time was had by all as we hacked enormous quantities of foliage off the 5 gal. plants. The results were varied depending on whether one had a trunk hidden in the mass of greenery that provided a sinuous upright curve or, like mine, was an "octopus."

Here's my before...

and after...

Next posting, the afternoon session wherein our hero does battle with an enormous Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. Stay tuna'd.

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Frost

The Weather Service is predicting an early freeze tonight with near record low temperatures here in the Near North Valley. I spent the late afternoon carrying in the tender tropicals and smaller bonsai. Some of the hardier potted plants were ganged up under the back porch and covered with sheets, as were the Hibiscus and Ipomea in the Hidden Garden. I also covered the Coleus and calla lilies in the front courtyard.

We'll just have to wait and see how things turn out. At the moment, the outdoor thermometer in the back shows only 42. Perhaps the cold air pooling hasn't topped our 8' cedar fence and has been stopped in the front yard. Then again, the swimming pool is 25,000 gallons of thermal mass, which certainly helps. Finally, the thermometer is underneath an arbor of thick Wisteria. If the cooling is radiant, then the Wisteria will take a big hit. If its cold air drainage, it might be safe.

Terrance certainly knew something was up--he's been spending more time in the burrow at the east end of the Vinca. This morning he was about 3" deep in the leaf litter. Its the same location as last year's hibernation, so it looks like he's found the perfect spot.