Grafting, Fertilizing and a Rhino

Here's some quick pictures from the last few weekends:

This is a Sierra Juniper that I brought to a recent BIB workshop. This tree was originally collected by and purchased from Ned of Deadwood Bonsai.

One of the more challenging aspects for this tree is the fact that the majority of the foliage is too far from the base of the tree and the design I envision.  I think it would look best as a short and powerful tree which leaves me with two option-either big heavy bends or grafting new foliage.  Much of the large branch on the left hand side will be removed.

I've heard varying opinions on whether you should graft foliage onto native Junipers or keep the foliage natural.  Currently I believe I stand somewhere in the middle of this debate.

Here are the Itowigawa 2-3 year old cuttings which we used for grafting.

I think it would be really cool to find examples of our natives juniper varieties with foliage that has good characteristics like being naturally smaller and tighter.  It would be great If we could find these trees which grew as chance seedlings and propagate them for grafting.  If my tree had coarse, large or weeping Sierra Juniper foliage, i'd love to replace it with smaller tighter Sierra Juniper foliage.  Hopefully this is something we will see as time goes on.

In total, Boon helped me place 8 grafts on the tree.  The Itowigawa foliage and roots are kept, until the two plants fuse then the roots will be removed.

I made a big batch of fertilizer cakes with the ingredients below. I used about 70% Whitney Farms and 30% cotton seed meal for the dry mixture.  Then 50/50 water and fish emulsion with a small amount of Cal Mag and sea kelp.

I still form the cakes with my hands, but would like to try using a melon ball scooper with  a ratchet arm. This time around I stopped making the holes in the top of the cakes.  I found that this was more time consuming and I did not see much difference in the cakes without a indentation at the top.

Next time, I might try covering the mixture with plastic wrap for a few days to allow the bacteria to grow, which strengthens the fertilizer and the smell.  Here's a picture of some of the first cakes I ever made after being covered for a couple weeks.  You can see them starting to turn white from stuff growing on them.  I let them dry in my garage, which I will not do again.  It smelled absolutely amazing;)

Lastly, a pic from a short trip collecting California Junipers on private land.  While in a lot of situations it would not work, we rode in style in this off road vehicle called a Rhino.  It was my first time taking something like this and felt much different than usual.  I think it felt like cheating, because my legs weren't even sore the next day.

2 thoughts on “Grafting, Fertilizing and a Rhino”

  1. Jeremiah,

    I agree with you on the grafting – I often wish that I could graft different juniper foliage that is not Kishu or Itoigawa. I’ve seen some pretty nice Western juniper foliage – it’s sticky and sappy but it looks really nice and tight and the color is so distinct from the Japanese varieties that there would be no mistaking it.

    I tried air layering off some branches from a Utah to graft back onto itself but I couldn’t get them to root….which means you’d have to graft on roots, then sever the branch and graft it as an approach graft and then remove the roots (which could be Kishu or whatever.)

    The other thing to consider is the bark – our native junipers seem to have much more fibrous bark than Kishu and they differ among themselves and from Kishu in color when the bark is left on. This is problematic for the grafts since the branch bark color wont match the trunk bark color. I think this may be one reason that the Japanese frequently remove the bark on junipers – exposing the young under-bark gives a more uniform color which also contrast better with the deadwood.

    1. Thanks for the great comment Eric. That’s quite a process to graft Utah onto another juniper if the Utah won’t air layer. The Western foliage you showed me at Boon’s was really nice. Westerns seems to ramify very nicely and better than Sierra, Utah and CA and that one seemed to have even tighter foliage. The only problem I have with Western is how crazy sticky they get. It’s just not quite as enjoyable for me to work on Western, but it’s probably just something I need to get over. I will probably want to use it to graft onto my native junipers in the future-I should try and buy that Western from Boon. When I’m out collecting I’m going to keep my eyes out for native junipers with naturally dense foliage just for grafting purposes. I never really thought about the differences in bark, but yes Utah especially has very different bark than Shimpaku and that makes sense why you would show the tree with a smoother live vein.

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