30 Day Collection Update

It has been exactly one month since I collected 3 Bald Cypress and 1 Water Elm from the shores of Lake Marion here in South Carolina (see post here http://wp.me/p3pRJl-6g). Since that was my first adventure collecting quality trees, I have been more anxious than my 3 & 5 year old on Christmas Eve.

It took about 2 weeks to see new growth on my first cypress. As I predicted, the first signs of life came from the tree with the most dense fine roots. It also happens to be my favorite with the large knee on the side so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw it pushing new buds.

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You can see that most of the new shoots are near the top of the tree but the first noticeable growth was seen at the base. These trees are very apical with their growing habits so no surprise there. In another month or two I will have lots of bright green new foliage. My plan for this fine gentlemen will be a formal upright styling. The chop will be made lower and a new leader chosen next Spring. Right now I just want it to gain strength and continue recovering.

I also have some good action on the second tree with the smaller knee at the base. It produced new buds about 5 or 6 days later than the first and has been also doing very well. I have some different ideas for styling this one. The more I look at it, the more I dislike the roots on each side of the base.

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The roots separate from the trunk higher up than what I like and just generally don’t appeal to me. I haven’t decided exactly what to do yet, but I will most likely do some carving at the base to fix the roots. Maybe a small cave like opening or something….we’ll see. I have a lot of time to decide and I still haven’t decided on the front.

Well…unfortunately…the third tree is most likely dead. Maybe not completely dead yet, but the lack of new foliage doesn’t give me any hope.

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It’s a damn shame too because I love the killer base of this tree/dead stump.  I will continue to care for it for another month or so and keep my fingers crossed. It was chopped and worked in the same manner as the other two so my only guess is that the tree didn’t have as much initial strength built up as the others. You win some and you lose some. I still have a cool idea for the dead trunk though. It involves a saw, shellac, lamp parts, and a nice ambiance. Pics to come if that happens.

The Water Elm is doing extremely well and showed growth as early as the first cypress. One note on the water elm, it isn’t actually an elm but a close relative.  Everybody just calls it a water elm because somebody decided to do that….who am I to argue?

I wasn’t expecting it to do as well as it has considering the condition of the roots when I got it home. It proves to be a tough species that I wish I had more of. If I had room, I would head back and collect a few more. Everything I have now will be packed in a U-Haul for a move to Indiana this November so I have to be pretty selective.

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I plan to chop this guy again as well next Spring to a leader about half way up the tree. I really like the movement to the left and will continue building my tree in that direction and developing taper. Give it about 5 years and this tree will be a real looker.

I also received a beautiful Arakawa Maple from Martin Sweeney a couple of weeks ago. I may make a small post about it in a couple of weeks to brag about how awesome I think it is.

Swampathon 2014

So I decided to take a day off work and go snatch some awesome trees.  Any day off work is a good day, right?  I was lucky enough to have a friend give me access to some of their property bordering a freshwater lake here in South Carolina.  I decided today was the day and off I went.

Anytime you are planning to do a lot of repotting, collecting, styling, etc., it’s always a good idea to prepare your tools or whatever else you may need or use in advance.  Yesterday evening I went out to pick up some large containers because I knew I would need some much larger than what I already had.  I came home with these mortar mixing containers from Lowes.  They were only $5 and were 20x26x6 inches which are perfect for collecting larger trees.  I would have liked something a bit deeper but hey, you can’t win them all.

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Since I want to plant my trees in these guys, I have to drill plenty of holes for drainage and cover them up with some plastic canvas.  You can pick this up really cheap too.  I buy it in sheets and can cut them to whatever size I need.

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Unfortunately, I only have one picture of the swamp or the digging process.  I was afraid to take my phone out and drop it.  You can see the conditions I was digging in…knee high water with nothing except bugs and trees but it was beautiful out there and very peaceful.

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Once you have picked out your tree, getting it out of the ground is extremely easy compared to other trees in solid ground.  A circle around the tree with a hand saw and you’re ready to haul it out in 5 minutes. 

I picked out 3 Bald Cypress and 1 Water Elm.  I bagged them up and threw them in the truck.

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Keeping them in the cab gave them the best chance to survive.  Since I had to drive over an hour on the interstate, the wind and heat could have stressed them out too much.  Better to be safe than sorry!

I got home and set them out in the driveway to admire my haul.  I was hot, sweaty, and worn out, but I had a lot of work ahead of me. 

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I started with the Water Elm and it went pretty quickly.  This tree has great movement and pretty good taper halfway up the tree.  I left it much longer than my final design calls for.  Sometimes your tree will die back from the chop so I want to give it plenty of room.  I also needed the extra room to secure a screw to the tree and pot to help hold it upright.  The screw won’t hurt the tree at all and will be in an area that will be removed later on.  I could have wired it in to the container but it would have taken a hell of a lot more wire and a lot more time.  This way took less than 5 minutes.

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Once I had my elm all potted up and watered, I started on my Bald Cypress.  The process is the same for all of them so I don’t have a lot of progress pics on each tree.  The flare on the base of these trees is why they are so loved for bonsai.  They backbud like wildfire and are pretty tough.  The three I chose had very large bases and good taper.  They are also very tall but will likely stay that way.  I may end up taking off a bit more later on with a tapered cut, but I can’t remove too much more or the ratio will start to look all funky and I will lose my taper.  Anyway, on to the trees!

The first one is an average well aged tree.

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The second one has a very small knee formed on the left side in this picture.  Knees are highly desirable and a unique feature.  They only form on older, mature trees and are the only tree I know of to form this growth.

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The third one, and my favorite one, has a huge knee on the side.  This tree will be a real showstopper in a few years.  Not only was it the best looking tree, it also had the healthiest fine rooting of any of the ones I collected.  The top 2-3 inches were all very fine roots.  I was shocked to see these were all roots and not just caked mud around the top of the root ball.  It should bounce back very quickly with these fine feeder roots.  It will take a few years to get rooting anywhere near this good on the other 2 I collected.

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Once I started getting them in pots, I was so glad I hoarded up all the soil components I could find earlier this year.  I went through 3 totes of pine bark, turface, and pumice!  You can see in the group shot below that I even had to resort to using the sifted fines I had for saved for starting seeds.  I was getting nervous that I would run out but I barely had enough to finish.

 

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I will update on these guys in about a month or two and see how well they have responded.