Corin Talks on Cedars
Our scheduled speaker had to withdraw at short notice but Trevor, who arranges our programme, was able to persuade Corin Tomlinson to fill the gap and speak on the same subject of cedars.
Corin opened by talking about the four main types of cedar whilst displaying an example of each type. The Atlantic cedar or Cedrus Atlantica is of compact habit with short needles. The blue variety or Cedrus Atlantica Glauca has attractive blue coloured needles. It is common in garden centres but can be expensive. Often they are grafted so for bonsai work it is important to choose a specimen with a good graft. Both these types like well drained soil and when grown commercially they achieve better growth without irrigation. They take time to recover from development work and shock can lead to all the needles falling which often causes the inexperienced owner to worry that they have done something wrong.
The Cedrus Libani is the well known Cedar of Lebanon originating from Asia minor and Syria. It is conical in shape as a young tree but develops the flat topped appearance as it matures.
A less common cedar is the Cedrus Brevafolia known as the Cyprus cedar. It has short needles with a growth pattern of a maximum of about 1 inch a year.
All types like good drainage because if they become waterlogged the foliage responds by developing a yellowish colour. Young growth can look similar to that of a larch. All types often have a good branch distribution. Although generally free from disease they can be susceptible to red spider mite. The first signs are poor colour and needle drop.
A young cedar had been donated as a raffle prize so Corin proceeded to demonstrate how to improve it. It had bright green new growth and branches. First all the old yellowing needles were removed. The straight trunk needed some movement so it was wired the tip and some gentle bending put it into an S shape before a twist was given to the top part of the trunk. The ends of the branches were clipped to put growth energy into developing the buds along each branch. Giving general advice Corin advised wiring with care to avoid trapping needles under the wire and damaging buds. Even the smallest branches should be wired and bent to give a distributed aspect.
Our chairman proposed trying to develop bonsai cedars more in the form in which we see them growing naturally often with a flat top and with lower branches which moved upwards before progressing downwards. Whilst Corin entered willingly into the debate the result could only be declared a draw.
Many members had brought cedars of many shapes, styles and size to the meeting in readiness for some advice about forward development. There were too many for Corin to review individually but he did offer advice to several members about their trees sometimes asking the owners questions about the history of the tree. On several of the trees he demonstrated how many of the branches were still flexible and could be wired and bent to advantage giving attractive movement. He showed how lower branches could be removed with upper branches being lowered and bent to take advantage of the space so created.
Pots were discussed with unglazed pots being favoured. If glazed pots were used then earth colours or a subdued moss green colour were preferred.
To cater for the members who had not had a cedar to bring to the meeting, Corin was asked to consider a multi-trunk Mugo pine. It was growing in clay and had been in the ground as a landscape shrub. In that position it had not made much growth but since being moved to a training pot it had improved. Corin considered it had too many branches of the same thickness growing from the same point. Drastic action was recommended with several options for design. After removal of some branches, the levels of the remainder could be adjusted with one being moved up and the other down. A raft style was a possibility but Corin considered that the similarity of the trunk thickness would detract from the final image. Eventually the owner would have to make a choice from the options discussed as there was no clear cut way forward.
Corin finished the evening by saying that he looked forward to the Society`s forthcoming visit to Greenwood Gardens. The evening was delivered in Corin`s lively style with his advice and demonstration punctuated by stories from his bonsai experiences. Considering the extremely short notice he had received he did not let us down and did a good job.
A certain amount of care is needed with wiring. The bark is thin and it is very easy to get wire marks on the tree. The tree sets wood very quickly so always do a daily check to see that the wire has not started to bite into the bark. Whilst the branches are still young they can be wired and bent very easily but once they set they can prove brittle and do not take kindly to sharp bends. Even then they are still accommodating, for if the strain has been too much they do not break off completely but form a green stick fracture. This allows the partially severed pieces to be realigned, bound with raffia and covered with wound sealant to give a good chance of complete repair. The plant will put out straight branches if left to itself. This is not a good thing and one should always induce changes of direction both sideways and up and down.
Not every tree will have branches where you want them and my success rate with bud grafting is zero. I try in-arching when I want a new branch in a hurry. The privet often produces suckers from the base and they seem to be extra vigorous in habit. In ordinary circumstances such growth should be got rid of quickly but these shoots can be used for in-arching. I normally do this in the winter by taking all the leaves off except for a couple at the tip, boring a hole in the place where I want the growth and thread the branch into it. I must be honest and acknowledge that I have come unstuck with this method of grafting. The bark will appear to have grown all round the inserted branch and to be fully joined to the trunk of the tree but when the insert has been separated the leaves turn brown and the graft fails. I think I will have to wait for a longer period of time before I do the separation in future.
So far I have to admit that I have not been able to find suitable privet material for conversion into formal uprights or literati ( but then again the same can be said of other plants as well) They can make very strong looking informal uprights and I have got a cascade under development. The fact that the big base trunk is not one piece but formed from the merger of branches can lead to gaps which allows water to penetrate into the interior and eventually to rotting of the wood . I had to scrape out the interior of a lovely big privet owing to water penetration and now make sure that wherever there is an indentation in the trunk there is a run off route for the rain water With a bit of cunning even this defect can be taken advantage of and a 'Kimura' type of bonsai produced. Be warned however because the wood is very, very hard and sculpting is a job of power tools.
I am very much a convert to this plant and I think it would be ideal for beginners. It is hedging material and that means it is hardy, will withstand neglect, brutal hacking and regenerate quickly. It is also in abundant supply. What more does an enthusiast want?
..... Start to leave the polythene cover off the bench and bring trees
out of the cold frame or greenhouse, but watch for frost and recover if
and WATERING .....On the first and third weekends of the month feed, all
but the trees yet to flower, with a high nitrogen feed such as Liquinure
or Phostrogen. This nitrogen feed promotes healthy leaves.
REPOTTING ..... Any trees that have not yet sprouted may still be repotted. Some semi tender trees, such as Cryptomeria, may benefit from being left as late as pos-sible to avoid frosts after root pruning.
MAJOR PRUNING (branches) ..... Trees that are still in bud can have major branch pruning done this month, but not Pines.
WIRING ..... It is still early to wire most deciduous trees, as new growth is still too tender to be wired without bark damage. Check any conifers that still have wires to see if the wire can now be removed.
GROOMING (shoot pruning) .....Continuous shoot pruning of most species starts this month and continues until early Autumn. Acers may be left until next month, especially if leaf pruning is planned.
Next Meeting. 8th May 2001
Bring a tree!
Copyright & copy; 2001, Surrey Heath Bonsai Society.