I wanted and tried to get this post out earlier especially because October is a great month to collect in California, but life just got a bit too busy and I couldn't make it happen. I've listed a few basic tips or general guidelines below that i'd recommend when collecting trees for Bonsai. This isn't meant to be a definitive guide, more so just what I do personally and some advice I'd give to non-experienced collectors. I'd love to hear what you think.
Be respectful of the land - get permission from the land owners, back fill all your holes and make it look like you were never there when you leave.
Try and get as many fine fibrous roots as you can. The more roots you can keep, the better chance the tree will survive (up to a certain point).
Bring tools that are appropriate for the collecting site. Collecting a CA juniper in a desert situation is very different than collecting Sierra Juniper off granite mountains.
Wrap the root ball with damp sphagnum moss, an old t-shirt or anything that will hold some moisture. Then use a plastic trash bag and wrap the whole thing with clear packing tape, this will keep the root ball from getting too beat up on the trip back.
Tie the tree to a metal frame pack to hike it back to your vehicle.
The best time of year to collect is generally the same time you would re-pot.
Use a plastic, wood or ceramic container that will fit the root ball nicely. I like building wooden boxes so I can make them the same shape as the mass of roots.
Your container only needs to be maybe 1/4 inch to 1.5 inches of excess space around the sides of the root ball.
100% washed and sifted pumice is my favorite soil for newly collected trees to start out in.
Make sure to firmly secure the tree into the pot so it doesn't move around(sometimes you have to get creative to do this, use aluminum wire or support the tree by attaching more wood to your box).
Frequent Misting, or fogging(even better) could be good, but may not be required. Try not to get the soil wet from misting/fogging.
If the tree has a good amount of roots, personally i'll put it into full sun right away. If the tree does not have many roots, I think some shade or misting house might be better.
Light foliar feeding during the first several months is a good idea.
Bottom heat maintaining temps between 65-75 degrees F could be a good option, but not required(I don't currently use).
Lightly feeding with organic fertilizer one month after potting is good- but don't over do it.
Thanks for taking a look, here's a couple I collected during my last trip.
Bonsai is a complicated and complex art form. Finding solid information and getting your questions answered by reputable sources can often be challenging especially in the US. Because of this I'd like to strongly encourage anyone that loves Bonsai to take advantage of the "Michael Hagedorn-Ask Me Anything thread" that just popped up here:
In my opinion, Michael Hagedorn is one of the best in the US and he'll answer any question you might want to know. You don't have to travel anywhere, you'll likely learn some new and it costs you nothing! Check it out!!!
Wow! What a fantastic blog Peter has been writing! He has made a great effort and used a good chunk of his limited free time to share his experiences and new found bonsai knowledge with us in the U.S. I feel very fortunate to be involved in Bonsai during a time when it’s so easy to follow along with a bonsai apprentice living in Japan. Facebook, Blogs and You tube did not exist or where not as big when the first Americans were apprenticing.
I’d like to suggest that if you’ve got it, then kick a few bucks over Peter’s way and consider yourself investing in helping bonsai progress in the U.S.
I know I’d really like to see more American’s learning from professionals and the quality of bonsai always increasing in our country. I believe that if an intelligent hardworking individual like Peter wanted to make a serious commitment in an apprenticeship, we should support that person if we can. These people will be the next teachers in the U.S. and the Bonsai community should make things just a bit easier on them while they do it. Hopefully this will encourage that person to kick back more knowledge to us. It’s a Win Win in my opinion.
I know Peter’s a great teach and I believe you can tell from his posts. Here’s a picture of Peter giving me some info on branch structure on his California Juniper before he went to Japan. Congrats to Peter for what he has accomplished so far and best of luck to him in the future!
This blog is helping to document my Bonsai Journey. I feel that with any journey you first need to decide where you are going and because of this I have decided to list some of my goals relating to Bonsai. I don't hear about goals being discussed too often in regards to Bonsai, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be discussed or that they don't apply.
How Do Goals Help Us?
Give us Direction
Force us to focus on what’s important
Hold us accountable
Push our limits
I have listed my long term goals below in order of importance. I also have more short and medium term goals which revolve around practicing more, graduating Boon's intensives and spending more time collecting. I think short and medium term goals should be updated and altered on a as needed basis, but for the most part your long term goals should stay the same once you know what you really want.
My Long Term Goals
Have a collection considered among the best in the world
Become a confident Bonsai expert
Do my part to improve Bonsai in the U.S.
Run a successful small bonsai business
Place at least a few times and win the Portland Cup at least once(New)
I'm beyond ecstatic to see Bonsai develop in the U.S. over the next several decades. I know we will see some of the most amazing trees being developed here in our own backyard and the level of skill and knowledge will be increasing dramatically. if you haven't already, I hope you set some goals and push yourself to achieve them so we can continue to raise the bar in the U.S.