Yesterday I managed to find the energy to get out to dig some new raw material. In days of yore, a morning spent collecting would yield anywhere been 10 and 15 trees that could, given the right passage of time, begin to be made into bonsai, hopefully at one of the workshops staged here. Now at my advanced age [ ] it seems that I have to settle for just a couple , and still feel knackered !!
Although I went out with the camera in my pocket, that is where it remained ! I simply forgot to take photos out on the hill, so this image is the tree back in the studio just before potting up. note the volume of the root-ball relative to the mass of trunk and branches. I have always found that the retention of an intact root ball of soil bears a direct relationship to the survival expectation one can have for the tree. My experiments with bare rooting newly collected trees have generally ended in disappointment ! Others may well have experienced different results but I can only speak from my own observations.
The particular circumstance that I collect under means that I mostly have the opportunity to do a certain amount of preparation before digging, often over a period of more than one year. In this instance that work of cutting back, both large lateral roots as well as top growth, meant that the compact root-ball would fit straight in a bonsai sized and shaped plastic training pot.
The base of this Japanese larch, Larix kaempferi, is about 18cms in diameter at the bottom. Although not ready to be worked at that time, one year from now I am likely to be fairly sure if the tree has survived the lifting successfully.
This second tree is Betula pubescens, Common white birch, and it is a species that I have given very little attention to in all the years spent collecting in this area, which I now think has been a mistake. Fair enough it is not amongst the most popular types of tree for bonsai, it has a, partly deserved, reputation for having some natural characteristics that run counter to our bonsai activities, eg. having branches die for no apparent reason ! On the other side of the coin it has plenty going for it, very easy to grow, pretty damn tough needing minimal winter protection, responding well to pruning as well as other techniques.
As with the previous example my preparation enabled the planting of the tree into a reasonably sized plastic bonsai pot. You can see many branches from which to develop a structure suitable to which ever style is chosen by some prospective purchaser.
The diameter of the base of this trunk is about 9cms. Again, as with the above larch, one growing season will reveal how well the tree has coped with the trauma of lifting and potting up. To mitigate the adverse affects of the stress involved in being dug up, all my raw material is initially housed in the large polytunnel which seems to provide a very good environment for the recovering tree. My next day out I must aim to try to get 3 trees !!!