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The Chinese Fringe Tree

In the west, we use a lot of small flowering quince and most of them are one or another variety of the Japanese flowering quince, Chaenomeles. They have spectacular flowers of many colors, and small, but they are borne on a small flowering shrub and, while there are some larger trunked varieties, they are still relatively small. However, there is a flowering quince which grows much larger and has lovely small flowers, but not as spectacular.

The Chinese quince, pseudocydonia sinensis. Still, it has many other qualities that make up for this. It is a small flower, delicately shaded pink and fragrant. First, it can grow much larger and faster and thus is much more capable of being developed into many styles and sizes: any upright deciduous styles, rafts, clusters, etc. The Chinese quince is related to the Japanese (all members of the rose family), but looks significantly different. Perhaps most obviously different is its bark, which looks like an attractive camouflaged mottling, of an exfoliating green, gray and tan. Furthermore, the bark becomes very muscled; very fluted with age. This is in fact its most outstanding characteristic for bonsai. These flutes become very deep and powerful, surpassing others well known for their muscling, even more so than the hornbeams, and the fluting becomes apparent early
Chinese Quince

The mottled color of the bark


Chinese QuinceShowing the deep

fluting of the trunks

The fluting of the trunk is indicative of the flow of water

and nutrient under the bark and so it also points out where the strong roots are. That allows us to develop a good set
of roots, though rarely the flat buttressed plate of roots that the trident maple has. The wood is quite hard and since the bark itself is fairly thin it sets up an interesting unexpected horticultural aspect of the plant. Since the tree’s wood is hard and its branches are somewhat ascending, we often need to bend them but they are difficult to bend. However, here is one of those trees that are capable of breaking partway without killing the broken part. Of course, we must take care to only break the branch to the degree we wish, and leave some of it intact. Then, by wiring or otherwise temporarily strengthening the area around the break we can use that wire as a temporary cast, to protect it while it heals (being certain to keep air out too, of course.) That won’t take very long, for it heals easily.


Then there are the leaves very
glossy, a very rich dark green, and
dainty and refined in outlook.

Nice through the summer, but dazzling ruby red in the fall.




Chinese Quince
As with all the rose family, they are opposite and therefore
easier to train.
Chinese Quince

Chinese Quince



Opening flower color





The delicately shaded flower

It has large edible yellow fruit, too, good for making preserves, though it is too large for bonsai. The result is that the Japanese tend to cheat and attach only partially matured fruit on their displayed trees. An interesting trick and it works for they continue to do so. There are smaller fruited varieties and, although smaller, still are large.

And it’s hardy too down to at least -10F, well up into Pennsylvania and certainly hardy anywhere in Florida. There is some question about how much heat it will take and how far south it will thrive, but there is no question it will be fine anywhere north of Tampa Bay.

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan

Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA



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Imagine, if you will, the most lavishly colorful and flowery bonsai you can think of. You would have a good concept of what that would be if you thought of the Bougainvillea.  Such rich color it is almost fluorescent, and the florescences come in so many different hues: rich red, orange red, orange, yellow, strong purple, bright pink, light pink, bright rich purple, dark purple, multicolored, and more delicate hues like soft yellow orange.

In fact, it is so floriferous, and so bright, there are those who think it is too bright and detracts from the overall beauty of the tree.  Their reasoning is perhaps because color, especially bright colors, is seen before form (the form of the tree) and thus reduces the effect of the look and feel of the reality of the tree.

Nonetheless, if you wish to pick a platform for the best and most vibrant, powerfully colored plant; and that is perhaps the most flamboyant and the fullest flowering, one of your candidates for that plant would have to be the Bougainvillea.  As an aside, let it be known that the showy parts of the plant are actually not flowers but bracts which surround the rather small and much less showy flowers.

Bougainvillea The white and miniature flowers surrounded by the powerful and elegant bracts.  It is also easy to grow, with few pests except an occasional aphid.  It is fast growing and the trunk thickens up easily.  Still, it tends to be a vine, so a lot of pruning will always be necessary. It is also able to be made to flower as a young plant, and despite being fast, it is easily tamed to become shapely.

Sometimes one might find it difficult to create the appearance of taper in a point in the stem, and if so we must then “cheat”, by, for example, using the heavy flowering to hide where the “taper” isn’t.  It is also fairly easy to graft, so if you have a plant with a remarkable trunk but whose color is not to your liking, pick another color and change it.

You can also take cuttings easily; they can hardly fail to strike roots. All varieties are easy.  The florescences come in so many colors, and there are even double flowered forms.  And as long as you don’t let it dry out entirely (it is quite drought tolerant), it will be hard to kill, if kept warm; even having a fairly high salt tolerance, so you can grow it alongside any water as well.  It is also a fairly fast almost rampant grower, and if you feed it heavily, it will reward you with all the growth you could want.

Further, when pruning it, if you let the tree get leggy, it will work back readily and develop many more branch and flower shoots easily.  So it is easy to wire, easy to prune and fast and easy to grow.  Perhaps nicest is the fact that the bloom is at its peak in winter.  No wonder it is so popular for bonsai!

Within its hardiness zone it is hard to kill, and in fact will often take the slightest touch of frost, but why try? Keep it warm.  What’s not to like? Its thorns come to mind, and they are often fairly long , but you can cut them off if they detract or are dangerous. About the only thing some might find uncomfortable for those who like the delicacy of form and color of the real tree is that the colors are so overwhelming and vibrant and tend to overcome any other aspect of the tree’s design.  Don’t worry that there are at least two species that can be confused B.spectabilis and B. glabra, for you can use them equivalently, along with several other species and hybrids, for they all have the same characteristics and hybridize as well.  A whole bench of Bougainvillea might take away from your bonsai collection, but put one on your collection and it will be a point
of color that will be unforgettable.

A beautifully styled tree, but with a degree of  “cheating” where (as is typical of the  Bougainvillea) pure taper is hard to enact (see the left hand trunk at about the level of the top of the right hand trunk where the lack of taper is hidden by florescence.)

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan

Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA



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Reducing Florescence Size

Making Crape Myrtle Flowers Useable
For Bonsai And In Scale

The most beautiful aspect of the crape myrtle plant, for the most part, is its gorgeous flowers.  Granted, the growth habit of many of the crape myrtles is particularly appealing, and the development of roots and nebari  make for a very interesting display as well.
What a shame, then, that we have not been able to make the florescences, or flower masses, work for the creation of an even better bonsai – until recently..  The crape myrtle’s florescences are way out of scale, for the most part, especially from the larger varieties of crape myrtles.
However, at our annual seminar on crape myrtles, which was held in 2010, we discussed a solution to make flowers work as a successful aspect of our crape myrtle bonsai.

How can this be? 

Don’t we know that flowers can’t be dwarfed, at least to any serious degree?  And if we can’t dwarf flowers, how can we make them in scale?  Is there a trick?

Well, it’s not exactly a trick, but it is a secret of sorts.  At least it’s not a deliberate secret, but it hasn’t been talked about  much; in fact, it’s even hard to find out much if you were to begin to “Google” an answer.

The secret lies in the fact that flowers don’t grow individually but rather in groups which together are called a “florescence”.  A florescence  consists of many flowers growing out of the same stalk and secondary stalks, as it were.  Importantly, the florescence consists of a different kind of plant material with different growth characteristics than the flowers themselves.Thus the flowers don’t need to be dwarfed (which won’t happen anyway) to reduce the scale and size of the overall mass of the flower mass,  the florescence.  If we could just dwarf and shorten the stalks on which the flowers grow, we could  make the florescence smaller without doing anything else.
But how? 

Here again there is a trick

that has been developed over the past few decades and it involves using chemicals which have been formulated  for just such a purpose.  Collectively, they are called “growth retardants” , PGRs, or “growth regulators”.
The part of the plants that these chemicals have been developed to retard are, for the most part, the stems.

There are several parts to the stems, primary, secondary and tertiary.  All have the same characteristics of growth as a result of which we can treat them similarly.
The primary stem that is the attachment of the florescence  to the rest of the plant is called merely the stem.  The secondary stem, which attaches to  the primary stem, is called a peduncle, and the smallest part of the florescence, which themselves carry the flowers, are called pedicels.  Fortunately for us, they all react the same way to the PGRs, as “stem” material.

 Much work has been done

to create different growth patterns, especially including products which can cause a more compact form of growth.  That is something that is in great demand in ornamental plants which have, as their purpose, their  looks, rather than a particular function of the plant.  Even grasses have had formulations prepared to keep them from having to be mowed as often. There is even a formulation designed specifically for grasses, called “Cutless”, for obvious reasons.

Other formulations,

which have different effects on different plants, but which are all designed primarily to make the ornamental plant and/or its blooms more attractive, include those with names like: A-rest, B-nine, Cycocel, Trimtect, ethephon and  paclobutrazol, or bonzi (not recommended, for when used in a concentration slightly too high, it can cut off any more growth almost permanently), and bud ignitor, which does several  phase-specific bud boosters for different aspects of the blooming cycle.

And there’s much to discover.

To read more on this recent development, Bud Booster, for example go to:
Ethephon, as another example, which has a different mode of action than inhibiting gibberelic acid (GA). GA inhibition is one of the most used methods of reducing growth.
Application methods vary too.  Some are designed as foliar sprays and others as soil drenches.
The literature has become so all-encompassing  that it is impossible to do more than touch on some of the highlights of a few of the best known.  For more information, just Google “Plant Growth Retardants” and you will find everything you need to know – and much more.
The crape myrtles, being vigorous growers, for the most part, will generally need more powerful PGRs.  The more forgiving sprays are probably the best to experiment with first.  We’ve found Cycocel, B-nine and Ethephon among the best – all foliar sprays – for our personal purposes.
Much experimentation is still worth doing.  For each size of growth florescence, and its speed of growth also, there may be another PGR that is best for it.

Another thing that needs to be kept in mind

is that many of these are designed only to be applied in commercial  quantities and thus only available in large (and expensive) quantities.  If so, you will want to share your acquisition with others to make it affordable.  However, there are some – good ones for our purposes – which can be bought in smaller quantities.  Bud Ignitor  one such; Bud Blood is one similar.  These last two are commonly used in the marijuana growing trade, but I am not suggesting this.  The fact is, there is a great growth of knowledge among those growers,  perhaps for obvious reasons, and as a result their prices are coming way down as they become more popular.  They are still expensive, but perhaps affordable, and available in smaller quantities – and for our purposes and quantities used for bonsai, they will last a very  long time. 

There’s another way

we can reduce the size of the florescence, also:  by  reducing the number of flowers in the florescence.   Simply cut back the remaining flowers on the remaining stem to only the bottom few, perhaps even just one, while they are in the budding stage, and remarkably the remaining flowers will fill the gaps to create a complete mass of flowers that look as well as if they were the complete florescence from the start.
With these techniques, you can dwarf – and make into small scale – even those crape myrtles with the largest florescences, like Natchez, Muskogee, Red Rocket, Dynamite, and Arapaho.  Of course, the same results will occur with the smaller growing varieties as well.

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan
Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA



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There are many types of soil particles which can make up a good bonsai soil or, if you will,
a bonsai soil matrix.

 Always if you remember the  primary characteristics of the soils and particles, you can create  your own bonsai soil matrix out of many different particles.  Just remember  the soil characteristics which will provide the plants’ needs.
It must:

  • HaveThe right pH, or acidity level.
  • Not break down into mud nor lose its discrete particulate characteristics
  • Have the right particulate size which, by inference, will result in the right air pore space sizes between the particles.
  • And even better, if we can increase the air in the mix , by having the particles themselves filled with minute pore spaces,we will even further increase the air pores.

Think of a mix of particles with the consistency of miniature swiss cheese pieces.  These particles’s air spaces will be so fine they will likely not allow the water to drain out from them but they will increase the amount of water in the mix without reducing the amount of air in the mix.

This too, clearly, is a good beneficial characteristic for we will then have an additional level of safety before any drying out can damage the roots.
These are the most important considerations of the soil particles.  The shape of the particles can be important but not as important as many think.  Perfectly round particles will hold about as much air in beteen them as very angular irregular particles and sometimes more if the angularity causes the particles to pack together better when the soil is being settled around the roots.  However the irregularity can be made to work to our advantage if we choose the right amount of irregularity of the particles.
We can, with these considerations in mind, create a mix with  a large amount of air in the mix, and, at the same time, hold  plenty of water too.

Almost all bonsai mixes include clay;

clay baked to a high enough temperature that they are “calcined”, that is, turned into a material that can’t turn back into mud.  We can, of course, bake it to a high enough temperature that it will never turn back into mud at all; in other words, baked into a rock, or “vitrified” but it will not hold any water at all..
We must find a high enough level of baking that the clay will stay primarily hard, but not so hard it won’t hold water – and last a few years in that condition.

Of the processed clays available which have been baked, there are some best known brands.  You may know them as “kitty litter” (which hasn’t been baked to any degree), and the calcined clays: turface, terragreen (and their best, highest baked variety, “Soil Conditioner red”).  You can always test the degree of baking by putting some of the clay in a cup of water.  If it begins to decay, it hasn’t been fired high enough.  You generally can tell the degree of baking by the color, even without testing, of the finished product ; the darker and redder the color, the higher the bake.

There are many other  products which result in the
same or similar beneficial  processes.

Some diatomaceous earth clays are baked high enough to retain their shape.  One sold in the UK is “Tesco” which gives favorable results. Another relatively inexpensive product is Haydite, an expanded gray shale (if you don’t mind the color).  Then a relatively new product on the market is “Growstone”, made of expanded glass.  This works well,  for a while, but like some others it abrades  and, as their own website explains, eventually turns back into sand.
Growstone says their product holds more water than perlite, which Is extremely expanded rock, but this is not exactly so.  It is correct for regular sized perlite but not the larger coarser sized perlite which has fewer fines and holds much more water and/or air.  Coarse perlite, I have found, holds more water and/or air than Growstone.

Another product I used

which was wonderful and held together without decomposing was totally decomposed muck peat from the Florida swamps.  Totally dried to a rock-hard consistency it would last for a couple of years before needing to be replaced and had all of the water holding capacity of the Japanese akadama and kanuma tsuchi soils.  These have different characteristics, but always the primary needs are for air and water holding.
It was, like the Japanese soils dug out of Japanese backyards, also cheap and readily available.  Not any more in most places, and there are good or better components anyway

The last component

that needs mentioning is bark.  The best kind of organic material is pine bark – and there are many kinds of bark as well.  Most are too resinous.  The least resinous are the Florida pines, especially the slash pine, not the longleaf pine. No other bark has the capacity to remain in granular form and not break down right away and is not too resinous.

Here’s another note of caution: don’t use composted pine bark.  If you do, you’ll use something that all the value the critical mycorrhiza loving microorganisms  will already have ingested.  Raw bark is necessary.

 Don’t use peat moss;

any peat moss, period.  Remember what we said earlier in this series: all particles in the soil should be the same size, approximately.  Again, the mind experiment which can prove it is to consider a container whose mix is of all same sized large particles.  When you then add much smaller particles many of the new particles, peat for example, will fill in the larger original air pockets and, to a certain degree, no additional volume of soil will result. What will happen is that air pores will be taken up, resulting in reduced air in the mix.
The fact is, and it can’t be overemphasized, that all the soil particles should be sieved to abut the same size which will result in the maximum amount of air in the mix.

There are, of course, soil particles with particular charactistics, as for example, crushed oyster shell, which will reduce the acidity in the soil which is occasionally necessary, as with buttonwoods.
Many other specialty particles can be used for particular purposes, but these are the primary mixes we use.  It would be impossible to list all the many other soils we use for specific but only occasional purposes.

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan

Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA


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As we said in part 1 of A Good Bonsai Soil Matrix, perhaps the most important aspect of a good soil mix is the size and quantity of the air pore spaces. They must be of the right size and the soil must have enough of them to maintain plenty of air in the mix, as much of the time as possible.
Were we to put very fine particles in the mix with the larger, primary sized particles, they would filter into the air pores and, to some degree, clog them up. The amount of air in the mix would be reduced.
Let it be said again, for it is so important: to maximize the useable air in the mix and optimize the air pore space size, we must have all the soil particles of roughly the same size. *
If some of the particles were much larger, they would simply take up space and reduce the amount of useable matrix that the roots could grow into and, If some of the particles were much smaller, the roots would be able to use that area and grow into them, but the air pores would be so small that they would likely stay filled with water and thus promote pathogenic anaerobic microorganisms.

Air is critical to the roots.

Consider a pile of garbage. When it has been just piled it may still have some air in it, and won’t smell too rank. However, put it in a closed black plastic garbage bag in the sun for a few hours, and, as we all know, it will begin to smell horrible. In fact, it smells horrible because it is horrible. Our noses give us warning that something is amiss – and the gases given off by the rotting vegetative mass in the bag are our warning.

I remember doing a demonstration a few years ago and was brought a plant – quite well styled, actually, that was clearly sick. The symptoms (dying leaves at the end of the branches, especially dying back around the edges and the look of a soil whose particle sizes were way too small – or non-existent – to hold any air).
Immediately, without looking at the plant further I said “it needs repotting and the soil changed
“With such a quick cursory glance that I took, some of the audience members were skeptical. I, across the room, and too far from the object to perceive its odor,nonetheless suggested they smell the root mass. That settled the discussion, for it was fairly rank and clearly the reason for the plant’s distress.
In the same fashion, we can smell a beneficial environment for the roots: the rich loamy soil which by its smell indicates it is filled with healthy root-promoting microorganisms, most usually the mycorrhizae (meaning “fungus root”) which act like an extension of the root system and help to keep it healthy.
In fact, some plants can’t grow (or at least not grow well) without these beneficial microorganisms. One way to show this is to take a plant that seems to require them and dose the root ball with one of several fungicides. Although other plants might thrive, the fungicide, while not damaging the roots directly, will kill the plants because the extensions of the roots – the good guy fungi – will be destroyed.
The best and easiest way to make certain beneficial fungi live in the soil is to deliberately inoculate it with some soil from a healthy plant of the same or similar species.

The Japanese have done this for hundreds of years

with plants of varieties which are known to need these fungi. Very few pines, for example, almost always are treated in this way when being planted or transplanted,
To extend your knowledge of what species of fungi grow well with what species of pine, experiment with different inoculants to see which do best with which trees. You may be surprised by the difference in growth.


*An interesting experiment can be made by placing larger particles of soil at the bottom of the pot. It’s a tradition of long-standing but isn’t healthy for the plant, and proves the need for the soil particles to be of similar size.
The reason is that, at the bottom of every soil layer, there is a saturated layer of soil, called a “perched water table”. It will remain in that soil. Thus there will be even more saturated soil (in two levels) which can’t be made use of by the plant.
Believe it or not, we could even create a third perched water table if we were to add a third layer of a different sized soil particle (not that we would want to, of course).

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan

Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA


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A good bonsai matrix/soil

It’s interesting to me how complicated people make the subject of creating a beneficial soil for bonsai, or for any plant in a pot for that matter. It’s not hard to do, but it must start with the right concepts. Actually, since a good potting soil is such a specialized product, it would rightfully be called a “potting matrix”. For there is often no natural soil involved in it.
Let’s start at the beginning. We’ll use the term “soil” since it is the term most people are acquainted with, no matter what the particles are composed of.

To make a very healthy bonsai soil,

one must keep several characteristics in mind. First, it must hold enough water so as to stay moist from the last watering to the next.
At the same time, it must be able to hold enough air so as to keep it from being waterlogged. Also, the air must be sufficiently distributed so the air pore spaces don’t make such large voids that they can become completely dried out and without access to water. Thus the air pores must be carefully sized so the edges of the particles around the air pores can maintain a layer of water on them; that is, the water layer can be continuous without filling all the room between the matrix particles and thus – even for a while – fill the matrix so completely with water that there is no room for air.Spoken differently, it is critical to have, not just enough air in the mix, but to have all the air pores the right size. To do this we must have all the particles of the right size, and, to whatever degree it matters, the right shape as well.The right level of acidity and/or alkalinity (the pH balance) is also necessary. The correct level is usually somewhere around a neutral or pH balance, which is called a pH of 7.

This is important, not only for the bonsai, but for all the oher plants growing in the same pot: the moss(if any) and the beneficial organisms growing in the soil which are bacteria and the correct form of fungi which live in conjunction with the plant’s roots.So if we have the right amount of water, the right amount of air, the correct air pore sizes and the correct ph, we are well on our way to having a very healthy environment for our bonsai.One question with a non-obvious answer remains: how to get the air pore spaces of the correct size.

The answer lies in the fact that we must have the correct soil particle sizes.

To maximize the air in the mix

we must have all the particles of the same size. If there are many different soil particle sizes, the small ones will fill in the potential air pores among the other larger particles. Not to belabor the point, but just in case any confusion remains, consider the following mind experiment:Fill up a container with large particles (all the same size), pebbles, for example, and then fill in the remaining room with some fine sand. Shake it a little bit. The result will be no growth in the volume of the soil; it will all go into the voids between the larger soil particles, thus only reducing the air in the mix (which we definitely don’t want).Therefore it becomes obvious that all the soil’s particles must be the same size (approximately) so as to maximize the air and optimize the air pore space sizes (optimized if we start out with the correct soil particle size to begin with) .That particle size which works best has been found by soil scientists and many bonsai experts –here, in Japan and in China too, – to be between ¼” and 1/8” .No larger particles (which simply take up space and don’t allow roots to grow in that area), and no finer particles (which take up air space and, while allowing roots to grow in those areas, reduce the total air and oxygen available to the plant and thus increasing the possibility of anaerobic microorganisms and disease.Some people add peat moss or other fine organic matter, but it increases the likelihood of disease. There are other organic matter components which we can use that will also hold water, and are much healthier for the plant.

A number of companies, headed by the better bonsai experts, sieve and create such balanced soil mixes, all of which are created of more or less similarly sieved particle sizes, and we would recommend such a mix for your bonsai.

Keep Your Creative Mind Alive,

Clif Pottberg of Bonsai At Pasiminan

Phone (342) 424-6000


18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523, USA


It is hoped that this page will offer tips and techniques to help all bonsai enthusiasts.

As a beginning, I’d like to offer a discovery I made just this spring.  Not that it’s certainly new, just new for me, and I’ve not seen nor heard it mentioned in the bonsai literature.

It is because of the fact that, despite high humidity in Florida, many plants don’t grow as well here normally as they do elsewhere.  I remember back to the environs of Baltimore where I grew bonsai for many years and the same was true there, and the remedy was the same.  That’s because of heat and poor soil primarily.

It involves the use of mist on a plant, in the ground or in a pot with the soil the  Japanese recommend – a semi-hydroponic mix, as it were.

When we create a cool (or at least cooler) rainforest environment, similar to, for example, the Oregon coast, many plants that don’t like too much heat can prosper.  Of course, it can also create a saturated soil condition if the soil isn’t at least semi-hydroponic, i.e., plenty of permanent relatively large air pore spaces between particles.

Even if the soil becomes saturated (growing in the ground), there are many plants which don’t mind and, in fact, are benefited by the added moisture.  These include hornbeams, sageretia, ficus, and any plant which normally grows in alluvial soils.  What happens is that the roots, seeking oxygen (a capacity particularly needed by those which grow in such soils), tend to develop on the surface of the ground – in profusion – creating a perfect result for bonsai.  Even when the tree is a bonsai in a pot, the cooling effect of mist benefits both the health of the plant and also its growth, and does no harm to the roots if they are in the correct well-sifted bonsai soil.  Azaleas, of course, are particularly aided by this action, but many others are as well.

So, by putting a mist head over the plant in the ground (or, with the right soil mix, in a pot) we can not only get much better growth of the upper side of the plant, the roots of many subjects are made wonderful.

This works particularly well when a plant is kept in full sun when it might perhaps enjoy high – or better – shade, but it also works for plants in high shade, and even – for those which are used to the heavy shade of the swamp – in heavy shade.  I’ve found Sageretia are very grateful for this handling.

The question inevitably arises as to what damage may be done to the plant when its mist is withdrawn.   Of course, a gradual withdrawal is called for, but at Pasiminan we’ve turned off the mist from some plants in shade and moved them almost immediately to full sun, without damage.  The key is light mist, not heavy mist bordering on drizzle.  The largest difficulty with such change is to make sure the plants’ soils stay well watered and don’t dry out.

I think that this can work in winter as an environment amelioration, as micromist is used in orange groves down here to protect against frost.  If one lived in New England or colder climates it might be possible to get more yearly growth on a plant and even help it overwinter better – again, depending on the soil mix.

I think this will probably only work with natural – not treated – water, as from a city supply, especially if it is chlorinated.

We’ve continued to experiment with more plants and, of the ones we’ve tried, haven’t found any yet which don’t benefit.  Of course, we’ve kept away, so far, from plants which enjoy deep root systems and dryer soils, like pines.  Not all conifers are incapable of benefiting, however, even bypassing the question of the bald cypress which very likely would.  Those junipers which sprout new roots readily from the trunk, from the bumps under the bark which are actually unpopped adventitious root nodes, seem to like it too.  These include most of the non-upright Chinese junipers, including San Jose, Parsoni, and Shimpaku.  Even the upright foemina seems to like it, but we haven’t quite enough evidence on it yet to be definitive.

It seems to me that this is an area that many bonsai enthusiasts can experiment in and, by comparing notes, we can all benefit from the accumulating knowledge pool.

And too, If anyone has any further observations on this subject, we’ll be glad to publish them here, to add to a growing compendium of insights..

“From time to time we will present special messages which will hopefully be fun and valuable.”.

I apologize for beginning these ramblings with a personal note, but a little history is in order.

Although I had planned, long ago, to expand my work in bonsai continuingly, fate decided otherwise. Family business, and a host of other responsibilities, caused me to have to end all but the most rudimentary of bonsai activities.

That was over twenty years ago. My collection has suffered, though I tried to hang on to some. But having to leave much of the tending to others caused many a slip. For example, I have a large trident maple ( 3 1/2 feet tall, 12″ diameter base and root spread beyond that) which I collected in 1972, with a wonderful set of roots, a powerful muscled and tapered trunk, and good branching and which, for many years I considered the centerpiece of my collection. I displayed it in the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association annual trade show back in 1985 and was offered $20,000 for it then, as well as its winning the “best plant in show” award, though I don’t hold much credence with judges’ commendations.

It and pot weigh over 250 pounds and I am able (barely) to lift it, but one hefty other and I can move it without too much stress. However a crew of 4, even with direction, can put the hurt on the lightest load. Apparently two of them didn’t know their right from their left. The quartet parted company, as did pieces of the pot as it hit the ground. There went a Tokoname pot worth $800 wholesale when bought in 1975.

Later, a horticulturally trained (though not in bonsai) worker made another mistake with it. When it developed a mistletoe infection, I asked her to paint Roundup on the mistletoe leaves (when done carefully, I’ve found it works). In a spirit of generosity and completeness, she painted the whole branch. Other bonsai had similar fates.

Now I’m finally beginning the trident’s resurrection. It will be going into a grow ring and a new top will be inarched. Eventually, perhaps, it will be worth being a centerpiece again, but the job of trying to fix it is a gentling experience and worthwhile task in its own right.

In the meantime, I’ve been growing a lot of root pruned, in-ground material: more tridents, crape myrtles, podocarpus, hornbeams, zelkovas, boxwoods, junipers, sageretia, pyracantha, etc., so there is plenty of good material to play with and of those some will find their way into my personal area.

Now I’ve begun to offer plants to the public again, as well as workshops and other hopefully interesting activities. And five acres of plants will expand to at least ten eventually.

In the ensuing years, much has changed in the bonsai world. Where before the professionals whom I would have said were at the state of the art level in this country were a few handsful, now there are many to guide the enthusiast with more or less accurate aim. That can’t help but expand bonsai numbers and activities, and make it more fun for all.

I come back to a larger family, but just as friendly. Nice.

The mind hasn’t been inactive in all this time, either, and I’ve discovered more tricks of the trade, as it were. Having bonsai in the back of my mind has helped keep me mentally healthy, though some might argue the point.

Still it’s nice to know I haven’t lost the mindset and to discover that bonsai skills are a lot like riding a bicycle. Once one knows how, one never loses it, though one may be a bit rusty the first few times back in the saddle.

Today I see it as a way to make friends: gentle, mindful friends. That’s an opportunity that we all might want, and to that end I plan to make this tiny corner of the world a place where all can come to jaw, share ideas, and get help with whatever problems they might have.

Helping, after all, is what everyone wants to do when fear hormones stop.

The study and practice of bonsai seems to be a particularly efficient way of ending them.

…and a delicious way of finding more beauty in the world.

In these ramblings I’ll try to keep to a point about bonsai and/or the natural world of which bonsai is, of course, a representation.

To help others – and ourselves – in experiencing the immense beauty that the human mind is capable of conceiving, is part of how we all want to help. That’s especially so when we are appreciating bonsai, and it’s most of the purpose of bonsai: as a teaching aid to that end.

I’m glad I’m back.

As St. Augustine put it so elegantly: “the world is a smiling place”.

September 3, 2006 (transferred to this website, July 5, 2008).

In general, we will usually be open on the second Sunday of the month, and the last weekend of the month, as well as announced workshop dates and times. It’s still best to call ahead, though. Of course appointments at other times are welcomed also.

18700 Lake Iola Road, Dade City, FL 33523 (1 mile off I-75).

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