Before and after cleaning 

My first ficus salicaria I bought back from Jason Schley in 2012 has had a nice white buildup on the trunk for a while now. I need to sort out the base. I haven’t decided between ground layering or girdling the trunk yet. I do know that I don’t like the way it looks like it has two fat legs spread out. 
Anyway. Today while contemplating future work I decided to clean off the trunk. I love the red trunk on these plants. 




Here is a shot of the whole tree:


It’s very scraggly right now and needs wired again. It’s getting progressively better each year. I’m thinking of letting the branch on the left grow longer and thicker and maybe eventually eliminating the right branch. They both need cut back for taper, especially the left one. And I have my nebari fixing to do. I just have to keep at it.  

Itoigawa Shimpaku Cuttings




I took these from my itoigawa Shimpaku I got from Evergreen Gardenworks last year. It’s sitting in a pond basket growing out. It has a secondary trunk that needed to slowly be reduced while letting the main trunk line grow. It seemed like a good opportunity for cuttings. These are mostly shorter cuttings. I took another batch of slightly longer ones. All the cuttings were from strongly growing branch ends. I dipped them all in rooting hormone then watered them in. Assuming they take, they should make for a good supply of future material.   

The cycle continues: shimpaku with Bjorn Bjorholm

Nebari Bonsai

Yesterday, Bjorn spent the day in Birmingham and we wired out a shimpaku I bought in 2013. During Bjorn’s last visit in March, 2014, we discussed a plan of attack for this tree; repot into good soil first, grow it hard , and when runners are appearing, prune it back to remove thin, weak growth, long runners, and remove growth appearing straight up and straight down.
As Don received in in 2009:

The tree in early 2010 in a private collection in OK:


The tree after being wired out by Maro Invernizzi in 2010:


Back in Don Blackmond’s nursery in 2013:


In Birmingham; as purchased December 2013:


March 2014. After removing wires applied in 2010, cleaning the wood preservative off the dead wood, cleaning the live vein, removing the awkward lower left branch, and potting into a mix of akadama and lava rock, into a current generation Yamaaki pot:



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Getting Ready For A Bonsai Show

Here is a slick idea.

Valavanis Bonsai Blog



American larch bonsai on cork board

Most spring bonsai shows have probably taken place by now in southern areas. However, it’s now show time in the north. Our local bonsai exhibition will take place next weekend in Rochester, New York, and I’m always trying to improve each member’s display. Last month information was presented in this blog on how to make a quick and low cost companion planting from dwarf Columbine.


Dwarf Columbine companion planting on cork board

This month I’d like to suggest a quick and low cost “wooden slab” for companion plantings as well as smaller size bonsai. Traditionally, wood is used and although inexpensive types can be found, high end quality wooden slabs can cost hundreds of dollars, even for small 10 inch sizes. The prices increase with rare wood species and hand carved edge details.


Elm burl by Michel Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada


Wood from western USA…

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Aerial root encouragement 

A couple years ago I bought a couple s shaped ficus from Walmart. I tinkered around and did some experimenting on them. One has been pruned and wired for some initial branching. This is the other one that was allowed to grow last year. 

There were two sacrifice branches left coming from the base along with all the other growth. I’m hoping that these low sacrifices will create a very fat base. I also would like some aerial roots to form around the lower trunk and branches to start a banyan style progression. 

There are several ways I have been advised to grow aerial roots.

  1. Let the plant become pot bound. 
  2. Keep the plant in a humid environment, such as above a humidity tray.
  3. Share the area where roots are desired either with wet sphagnum moss or some kind of cling wrap. 

I have let it grow without pruning or repotting in an effort to get it pot bound. 

I sat the plant pot and all in this three gallon nursery pot. I can slip it out easily if needed. The top growth will stick out collecting light while also shading that bottom growth near the base. Hopefully encouraging aerial roots. When fall rolls around I can pull it out of this big can and slip it back on the shelf to overwinter. I’ll post an update further along with the results. 

Bonsai will be the death of me 

Adam's Art and Bonsai Blog

I know it’s been a while, sorry. I’ve been ill, in the hospital again and out and had to recover from all that. And the nature of my illness makes me not want to do anything.

As prelude to that opening paragraph (which I should have started with first, I guess) let me explain, using clinical And sanitized terms created to not gross you out, my health situation. Back in December 2014, due to a swelling in my sigmoid colon, I had to have emergency surgery in which a loop ileostomy was created to allow rest to the sigmoid. An ostomy is basically a process where a part of the intestine has been brought through the stomach wall so that the waste one’s body produces is exited through that new opening, called a stoma. My ostomy occurs close to the end of the small intestine, called the ileum. Hence, an…

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Create A Companion Planting For Your Spring Bonsai Show

Valavanis Bonsai Blog


Its show time and the time for spring bonsai shows is rapidly approaching. In order to complete the presentation of your bonsai an appropriate companion planting, suiseki or figurine is often utilized next to the tree. Formal bonsai display requires study along with fine taste, which is a lengthy topic. Rather than to attempt to cover the theory, design and background of bonsai display, I’d like to present a quick and easy solution to creating an instant companion planting, which may enhance the presentation of your bonsai for your bonsai show.

Perennials are often used as companion plantings for bonsai. There are almost an unlimited number of different perennial species which are suitable for bonsai companion plantings. Dwarf or low growing plants work best. Often, when pot bound the foliage reduces in size and is more delicate. Pot bound companion plantings usually dry out quickly so keep many of them in a…

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Repotting privet for growing out

Last year I bought a couple privet “Golden Vicary” on the cheap. They put out a little growth but nothing like I heard privet were apt to do. So about a week or two after they started putting new out new buds this year I repotted them into slightly larger containers.  

Container size comparison:


Good mass of roots. Wouldn’t say it was exactly root bound but it seems like a good idea to up the container size: 


Combed out the roots a little so they’d grow into the new soil surrounding the outside of the rootball:  


For those wondering the freshly worked in soil was 3 parts pine bark, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part Turface. I put some Miracle Grow shake and feed on the surface. It has trace elements in it. I also put a nice dusting of Plant Tone into the upper layer of soil. Beside the NPK values, It has mycorrhizae in it which will hopefully help create a good   chemistry. 

The end goal here is lots of growth. Hopefully in a couple years these privets will have bulked up to the point I can chop them down and start making shohin. 


JBP seedling repot

There are four small Japanese black pine seedlings that I got last summer from my friend Jason. They didn’t push out any candles. I think the soil particle size was too small and they stayed too wet. I took the time to repot them today in a mix of half chunky perlite half akadama. 


Think I put enough fertilizer on them? It’s Alaska brand pelletized fish emulsion. I also sprinkled a few spoonfuls of Holly Tone on them too to help add some mycorrhizal fungi to the soil. 

Next up a set of three Japanese red pines.