Author Archive

Short Leg Productions Presents: A Trident Maple Conundrum   3 comments

On a whim, I decided that I might take problem trees from various places on the net and take them on as a challenge to come up with a solution to these problem trees. I find that working on these trees in the privacy of my blog allows me the freedom to propose a solution without all the diatribe associated with too many cooks spoiling the broth.


Case no one: Trident Maple

Owner Background: Owner has not a clue what to do with this trunk and has posted this to a bonsai discussion forum for opinions and a possible solution. Owner has stated he does not have the experience to come up with a solution on his own and is seeking help. Owner is willing to have a larger tree or a smaller tree, just the best option.

Tree background: The trunk looks to be about 8 to 9 years old and probably grown in the ground. At some point a first chop was made and a new leader was allowed to grow introducing taper. At least two other smaller chops were made introducing a couple new directions and more taper. The grower looks to have lost interest and we have a vertical pipe growing straight up with no taper, and the current problem.


The first solution offered was to chop the tree preserving the small branch as a new leader and building the tree from there, building a better top and using the nice base.

The owner countered with another possibility of chopping the tree lower and starting over building a massive trunked small shohin tree.

In solution number one the small branch is really coming off the trunk in the wrong direction and will only force us to make a slanting tree. The branch scar next to the branch would have been a better candidate and a better direction in which to take the new leader maybe preserving the apex over the root base. The yellow line in solution two is more of a pipe dream and probably not even possible for the uninitiated.

Why is this so? I’m glad you asked.

When the tree was started or grown from cutting, the first thing done wrong was to allow the tree to exit the soil at 90 degrees. Plants started for bonsai should always be planted at a 30 degree angle away from the sun and allowed to push towards the sun. This will allow for a subtle curve in the trunk. The second mistake made was the first chop was done on a trunk with no shoots below the chop. It could have had one, which was preserved for that first directional change or may have been a bud, who knows. In any case the lower trunk is scarless and shows no signs of growth below that chop.

What happened was, as the tree grew in the new direction, and with no branches on the trunk to preserve sap flow, the new tree began to compartmentelize itself from the original trunk.

The sunken area to the left of the original trunk is the sign that this area did not grow. No branches to support it.

So now as the new leader continues to grow, it grows roots on that side (left side) and begins to build a new tree based on the nourishment it is receiving from above. The side on the right will continue to atrophy and probably at this point roots have died back and the trunk remanent is no longer able to push buds there.


I would venture that within three to five years everything on this trunk right of the hollow….

will dry up and fall away showing a massive shari. This is not a matter of “if” but “when”. Ditto the rootage on this side. That hollow and that scar has cut off the foliage from what there is at the top and so the right side original trunk is shrinking back and the left side will continue to get larger and larger and more strong and make a one sided tree at the base. Chopping anywhere below that scar will only sprout on the left side of the trunk. Lets see how the trunk shapes up…

The part in light blue is the dieing part. The red X means no sprouting from this portion of the trunk. I would even be a crap shoot for a graft to knit on that side of the trunk at this point. The green part is the diminishing rootage. This rootage will continue to dry up and die away as the left side becomes more strong.

The red side of the trunk is the active trunk, this is the side with up and down flow between rootage and foliage. That is not happening on the light blue side, and the hollow in the trunk bears that out. The dark purple area is the good rootage. The tree will continue to grow more and more roots on this side of the trunk as the new water pipe continues to expand.

What would Short Leg do?

I would not chop….I repeat, I would not chop this tree anywhere below any active shoot on this tree. The lower trunk is just too risky to support any diminished foliage above and the right side would definitely dry up in a month or two rendering the tree a complete waste. I wouldn’t waste any time trying to get about three grafts to take hold along the light blue portion of the trunk. With some foliage on that side it may be just in the nick of time to save that side of the trunk.

That would be first, without saving that portion, even talking about what to do with the rest of the tree is futile at this point. There is just not much to work with without grafting ASAP and getting the bottom strong again. The future tree is in the hands of the owner and only he can make the decisions on what to do next. It will be interesting to see if this tree gets the work done it needs and if that work is shared for a continuation of this story.

Short Leg Out!


Posted August 14, 2017 by California Bonsai Art in Short Leg Productions

Willow Leaf Ficus   2 comments

I purchased this small Willowleaf Ficus from Gary Lai in Southern California at the yearly fundraiser for the Southern Collection, The Bonsai-a-thon. I picked this up for $120.00. I think it is important to list the price of plants for the general public to see how the pricing is different around the country. This also allows those selling material, what to expect when the come west to sell!

This is the ficus as purchased. Notice the deep scar in the middle of the tree from an initial chopping point.

Of course upon arrival at home I had to commense pruning the tree. I applied its first wire and waited. It did not grow. No shoots and it began dropping leaves. I have no experience with tropicals and so all I could do was nurse it through the winter and hope for the best. The tree was way overpotted in this deep larger pot.

It is now August and this day seems cooler and time to repot this thing. everyone tells me that deep summer is the time to do it and hotter the better. Well I figure 99 is hot enough…no need potting on a 110 day. Before pruning.

After pruning and deciding on placement. The scar seems much more healed now since the tree grew quite well with this humid summer we had the last month.

The tree potted up in a small Yamafusa pot. maybe not the final pot, but much smaller and fitting for such a fine trunk. I was able to pot the tree a little taller exposing more of the flare that was under the soil. Now on to refining the branches over the next few years and then maybe the best pot…who knows. I really do like this pot, I think the color works well with the trunk color and the color of the foliage.

Posted August 13, 2017 by California Bonsai Art in Spotlight on Shohin

The Dreaded Fungus   4 comments


When it comes to keeping plants as ornamental’s like Bonsai, watering becomes a problem. Keeping plants in pots can be a problem since most of the watering is done by hand, and from overhead. While for the most part this is not bad for the plant, it can become dangerous because the soil may hold the water for long periods of time causing an environment good for the formation of fungus.
The subject of fungus in plants is a tricky one. We as humans are quick to visualize fungus on our plants as some grotesque looking growth that would be easy to identify as bad for the plant.

This is not the case. Most fungal outbreaks in plants happens with discoloration of the leaves. This happens to perfectly good normal looking leaves and looks as though the leaves are scorched by the sun. This is not the case. I would be willing to wager that most complaints about maples in particular, of browning edges and scorched looking tips is not sun related at all. This is most of the time fungal in nature. If even minimum requirements are met on a healthy maple, and it is hydrated properly and out of the harsh afternoon sun, there is no reason leaves should be browning at all. Routine prophylactic sprays of fungicide will keep a maple looking lush all summer.

The two main culprits for bonsai come from:

Virticillium Wilt

What is Anthracnose?

From the Farmers Almanac:
This fungal disease affects many plants, including vegetables, fruits, and trees. It causes dark, sunken lesions on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. It also attacks developing shoots and expanding leaves. It can spread very quickly during rainy seasons.

Anthracnose is a general term for a variety of diseases that affect plants in similar ways. Anthracnose is especially known for the damage that it can cause to trees. Anthracnose is caused by a fungus.

Anthracnose can survive on infected plant debris and is very easily spread. Like rust, it thrives under moist and warm conditions and is often spread by watering.

On leaves, anthracnose generally appears first as small, irregular yellow or brown spots. These spots darken as they age and may also expand, covering the leaves.
On vegetables, it can affect any part of the plant.
On fruits, it produces small, dark, sunken spots, which may spread. In moist weather, pinkish spore masses form in the center of these spots. Eventually, the fruits will rot.
On trees, it can kill the tips of young twigs. It also attacks the young leaves, which develop brown spots and patches. It can also cause defoliation of the tree.

· Remove and destroy any infected plants in your garden. For trees, prune out the dead wood and destroy the infected leaves.

· You can try spraying your plants with a copper-based fungicide, though be careful because copper can build up to toxic levels in the soil for earthworms and microbes. For trees, try a dormant spray of bordeaux mix. (lime sulphur). This should be applied during the leafless winter phase as calcium during summer will strip a tree of leaves in a day.

· Plant resistant plants, or buy healthy transplants.

· Plant your plants in well-drained soil. You can also enrich the soil with compost in order to help plants resist diseases.

· Water your plants with a drip sprinkler, as opposed to an overhead sprinkler. Don’t touch the plants when they are wet.

Some common Maple fungi;
Aureobasidium apocryptum, Discula campestris, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Discula umbrinella

Anthracnose fungi can over-winter in buds, twigs, fruit, fallen leaves or petioles depending on which hosts and pathogens are involved. The disease cycle begins in spring when spores are dispersed short distances by water or spread long distances by air to newly forming leaves. Spores are produced within new leaf infections several days to weeks after the initial infection and are further spread to new locations by splashing water.

The disease is most common in spring when new shoot and leaf growth are combined with temperatures ranging from 50-68°F and spring rain. Anthracnose can also re-occur in the summer when cool, wet weather is paired with succulent leaf growth. For ash, maple and oak trees, young leaves and shoots are highly susceptible to infection from the anthracnose fungi, but mature fully expanded leaves are largely resistant. Mature leaves of these trees only become infected through minor wounds like damage from insect pests. As a result, once the weather becomes dry and the leaves mature, disease growth will end, and the tree will replace lost leaves with a new flush of growth. In contrast, anthracnose can continue to progress through summer months on trees like hornbeam.

Leaf spotting and leaf distortion have very little affect on the health of the tree. However if a tree is severely defoliated multiple years in a row, this can weaken the tree. In such cases, opportunistic pests like boring insects or canker causing fungi can attack the tree resulting in more significant damage.

Fungicides are not necessary unless a tree has been completely defoliated several years in a row. Fungicides are protective and need to be applied before symptoms appear on the leaves. Proper timing of fungicide applications can vary widely from growing season to growing season and therefore can be difficult to predict. Chemical treatments include products with the following active ingredients.

§ Propiconazole
§ Thiophanate methyl
§ Copper containing fungicides
§ Mancozeb
§ Chlorothalonil (daconil)

*Always completely read and follow all instructions on the fungicide label.

The following pictures are unfortunately from my backyard.
In maples the first signs will be a curling of the leaves. It will look contorted and like a bird’s claw.

As the disease spreads small patches of the leaf will begin to brown. This may or may not be accompanied by the curling of the leaves. Other symptoms like black edges may show.

As the disease progresses larger brown patches may present themselves as spots on the leaf.
This phase may happen on an otherwise normal looking leaf. This is the time most people think the tree is getting sun-scorched or salts in the soil, poor PH and no magnesium. It’s just fungus folks!

In the latter stages the leaf will start to exhibit signs of large tissue loss on the inner portions of the leaf.

Most of the damage caused by Anthracnose can be fixed with fungicide. I especially recommend daconil and copper solutions applied monthly. Keep in mind that fungicide will not cure incurred damage, just help rid the plant of future damage. The present damage will have to be removed by hand or pruning and destroyed and then treated. While not life threatening prolonged damage by fungus will weaken the plant to the point of death. It is important to treat as soon as possible to keep the pathogen from infecting other nearby plants.

Now we move on to the tree killer
Verticillium Wilt. The really bad fungus.

I am happy to say none of these pictures are mine….Thank God.

Verticillium Wilt

By Chantal Guillemin*

Verticillium spp. attack a very large host range including more than 350 species of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers, field crops, and shade or forest trees. Most vegetable species have some susceptibility, so it has a very wide host range. A list of known hosts is at the bottom of this page.

The symptoms are similar to most wilts with a few specifics to Verticillium. Wilt itself is the most common symptom, with wilting of the stem and leaves occurring due to the blockage of the xylem vascular tissues and therefore reduced water and nutrient flow. In small plants and seedlings, Verticillium can quickly kill the plant while in larger, more developed plants the severity can vary. Some times only one side of the plant will appear infected because once in the vascular tissues, the disease migrates mostly upward and not as much radically in the stem. Other symptoms include stunting, chlorosis or yellowing of the leaves, necrosis or tissue death, and defoliation. Internal vascular tissue discoloration might be visible when the stem is cut.

Once the pathogen enters the host, it makes its way to the vascular system, and specifically the xylem. The fungi can spread as hyphae through the plant, but can also spread as spores. Verticillium produce conidia on conidiophores and once conidia are released in the xylem, they can quickly colonize the plant. Conidia have been observed traveling to the top of cotton plants, 115 cm, 24 hours after initial conidia inoculation, so the spread throughout the plant can occur very quickly. Sometimes the flow of conidia will be stopped by cross sections of the xylem, and here the conidia will spawn, and the fungal hyphae can overcome the barrier, and then produce more conidia on the other side.

A heavily infected plant can succumb to the disease and die. As this occurs, the Verticillium will form its survival structures and when the plant dies, its survival structures will be where the plant falls, releasing inoculates into the environment. The survival structures will then wait for a host plant to grow nearby and will start the cycle all over again.
Besides being long-lasting in the soil, Verticillium can spread in many ways. The most common way of spreading short distances is through root to root contact within the soil. Roots in natural conditions often have small damages or openings in them that are easily colonized by Verticillium from an infected root nearby. Air borne conidia have been detected and some colonies observed, but mostly the conidia have difficulty developing above ground on healthy plants. In open channel irrigation, V. dahliae have been found in the irrigation ditches up to a mile from the infected crop.

Without fungicidal seed treatments, infected seeds are easily transported and the disease spread, and Verticillium has been observed remaining viable for at least 13 months on some seeds. Planting infected seed potatoes can also be a source of inoculum to a new field. Finally, insects have also been shown to transmit the disease. Many insects including potato leaf hopper, leaf cutter bees, and aphids have been observed transmitting conidia of Verticillium and because these insects can cause damage to the plant creating an entry for the Verticillium, they can help transmit the disease.

In Verticillium, the symptoms and effects will often only be on the lower or outer parts of plants or will be localized to only a few branches of a tree. In older plants, the infection can cause death, but often, especially with trees, the plant will be able to recover, or at least continue living with the infection. The severity of the infection plays a large role in how severe the symptoms are and how quickly they develop.

As Verticillium spreads more quickly in weaker plants, follow these sound cultural practices:

· Prune dead branches to discourage infection by other fungi. Disinfect tools between cuts in a 10 percent solution of household bleach.

· Water generously, especially during dry periods.

· Apply modest amounts of slow-release fertilizer, low in nitrogen and high in potassium.

· Mulch to maintain soil moisture, keep soil temperatures moderate and minimize chances of root injuries.

· Avoid gardening under a Japanese maple, as damage to the roots can be an entry point for Verticillium wilt.

· Don’t use wood chips from infected trees.

· Because the Verticillium fungus can survive in the soil for 10 years, do not move soil or debris from areas of known infection.

· Fungicides are not effective for control, because tree roots inevitably grow beyond the treated area.

· Seek guarantees from nurseries or suppliers that the stock you purchase is Verticillium-free. Replace severely infected trees with unsusceptible species such as yew or conifer.

Disease incidence is influenced by cultural care and environmental conditions, so homeowners who choose to beautify their gardens with Japanese maples must take precautions against the establishment and spread of Verticillium wilt.*

*Chantal Guillemin is a Contra Costa Master Gardener.
Master Gardeners
The Master Gardener programs are UC Cooperative Extension, county-based volunteer organizations dedicated to providing research-based gardening information to home gardeners. They love sharing information and answering questions.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners, 925-646-65

Susceptible plants
Maples, Most all stone fruits,(Ume) and various elms

Immune plants
Juniper, Pine, Pyracantha, Hackberry, Boxwood, Hornbeam, Oaks, Yew, Zelcova and Hawthorn

Leaves look much the same as Anthracnose, but has much more yellow in the early stages while Anthracnose goes right to brown and black.

As the infection spreads entire branches will be infected. To save the tree remove entire branch. On bonsai this is probably not a tree saving idea since removing entire branches will ruin the tree as bonsai and saving it is most likely futile.

Blackening of the trunk skin will happen and the tree may exhibit compartmentilizing trying to save itself.

The autopsy will show that the core of the tree is beginning to rot and the xylem shows a dark band.






New pot for an old Friend   2 comments

This Trident maple has been the subject of many articles here but this time it will get a new pot. Re potting here startes early, like in January. This tree wtill has Christmas ornaments on it from the previous month.

The tree is lifted from the pot and a thick matt of roots are starting to move already. This tree is so vigorous it must be re potted each year as the roots lift the tree from the thin pot.

I remove a full two inch ring from the tree and comb out the roots.


The new pot is from Robert Pressler and Kimura Bonsai in Southern California. It is a sky blue Chinese bag pot. Trying the pot for size. I like it!

Drainage layer.

Soil layer with 30 percent coarse fir bark.

Watering it in…

The beauty shot.

At the recent Fresno Home and Garden Show March 2017.

Juniper Winter Work   5 comments

I have worked on many shimpaku and other species juniper over the winter. Many were restyled and re-potted.

Mas Ishii Shimpaku

This first tree is a tree I purchased in 2002. It had been a very beautiful tree but I managed to ruin it over the years. It has escaped death numerous times from spider mite and pinching misfortunes. This is the tree in 2005 after escaping death twice.

Another few years and more rattyness.

A few more years and even less green left.

Left to grow for a few years to get strong and now it may be ready for a restyle….at least with whats left.

Restyled and repotted in a glazed Bunzan.

George Muranaka prostrata.

This tree was purchased in Nov. of 2014. It was left to grow for a couple years and then a first styling was begun.

Cleaned up and put into a first pot.

part of the canopy would be removed and jinned entirely.

Re grow and then style whats left.

George Muranaka Shimpaku

I purchased this tree from George around 2006. Once again it suffered from spider mite and my lack of awareness on how to take good care of the species.

Left to grow and a re style and then a repot. Looks like this now and is growing quite well.

Benny Kim (Kim’s Bonsai) procumbens.

The tree is on the left and purchased in 2002. It had a good trunk about two inches across.

Lots of jins on this one and some carving.

A first styling

Starting to look pretty good.

A new direction for this one. It had started to slump really bad due to the roots giving up on one side. Time to turn it upright.

Done…for now.

Steve DaSilva Procumbens.

These were struck as small plants and wired and twisted up. Planted in a field for a few years and dug up in 2015.

I would use the stock as a demo at the Fresno Home and Garden show in 2016

As it sits today.

Ed Clark Shimapku

This tree came by way of Ed Clark from Bonsai Northwest in Washington State. I kept it for a year making sure it was good for a repot in 2017.

Ready for some work.

It was removed from its growing container and combed out. Root structure was fairly small like most junipers but was rather one sided. I wnted to plant it into a signature Begei pot I had and felt that once planted here it could stay for a while. The one sided root meant it was planted well off center but will be fixed later when new roots go and allow for more diligent root pruning.

Now for the style part.

There is a large looping jin that comes over the top of the tree. The shoot I wish to be the apex is in front of that jin. I need to get it behind.

So…with some praying and bending and pulling I ease the jin around the shoot.

Now I am happy with the position of everything and can start the details.

More pruning and removing everything I don’t want. That should mean I have only the things I do want. Good in theory and poor in practise….

After some wire and manipulation I am able to coex a pretty decent tree out of the aftermath. Next year I will concentrate on managing shoot strength and how to treat possible shari on the trunk….or not!

Mas Ishii Shimpaku

I purchased this tree from Gary Ishii in 2004. Like all my shimpaku I battled the spider mites with fury. Mostly they seem to win but never kill the tree but ruin it for many years till successive cut backs get rid of grey and yellow foliage.

This style took place in 2010 after the tree had recovered for many years. It was planted into a Sarah Rayner shallow glazed bunjin pot.

This winter the tree underwent another re style and pot change. This time into a heavily patinanted Bunjin Begei.

….then the styling

Two Trident maples get new pots.   4 comments

This trident was a purchase from Ian Price of Lone Pine in 2009 at the GSBF convention in Anaheim.001







Signature Yamafusa pot purchased for the tree four years ago. Needed all four years to get it into the pot.dsc_0031


This trident maple was purchased from Steve DaSilva in 2013. It was dug from his field.0003







This Japanese bag pot was purchased from Kora Daleger back from a recent trip to Japan. It has had many root cut backs to get it into this pot.dsc_00361


Cork Elm Reconfiguration   7 comments

This elm has been written about here before. I will gloss over the past details and just show a few progression shots for clarity.

This was the stump as dug from the tree farm ( Steve DaSilva ) in Feb. of 2013. Over the next few years the branches were styled and given some shape. Fast growing meant cutting in of the wire many times and some scarring can be seen giving some character to the branches.001



I decided that the tree was about as far as I could take it as it was. I would either have to layer the tree reserving the top portion as a good Moyogi tree and then work on the bottom and utilize that over a number of years. Or, turn it into a sort of Bunjin tree because of its long trunk with special branching near the top.

I thought the Bunjin style may be worth the effort so most of the branches on the lower half were removed.dsc_000100011

I applied about 8 guy wires to the tree in an effort to pull down the branches to get the necessary effect of an older looking tree. The tree has its short comings as far as a bunjin styled tree. First the trunk is quite large. It is not easily seen in the photo but is nearly three inches across at the base. About half way up, the tree had been chopped for a direction change and some necessary taper in the trunk. What it did was build shoulders on the chop. This gives the impression of two cylinders on top of each other. While the top third shows much more taper due to the fact that I was able to control the growth in a container rather than in the ground.dsc_00110001

A picture of the tree during its naked X-rated photo shoot!dsc_00120001



This bark was removed from some places to get the necessary taper that would improve the overall look of the trunk.dsc_0003

This large lump will have to be worked on to smooth out the bump.dsc_0004

These old scars and the new ones as well will need some work to make them a part of the feeling of the tree.dsc_0005


Sunday morning Jan. 1st, 2017dsc_0007

I began by carving some interest into all the old stubs. Some were carved and some just smoothed.dsc_0008




I had three choices for Literati pots to choose from. The two shallow ones are from Japan and the other is a local potted.dsc_00012

There are no feet on the pot and it will sit directly on the wire.dsc_0012

I just cut a piece of screen to fill the entire bottom and allow the ties wires to do the holding in place of the screen.dsc_0011

After pruning and root pruning the tree was tied into it’s new pot.dsc_0013

For the guy wires I use a 24 gauge steel wire that is anodized black. I thread that thru 3/32 shrink tube for protection on the branch. It’s all very small and barely visible.dsc_0015

The guy wires are attached to small 1/4 inch brass screw eyes that I thread in along areas not readily seen from the front.dsc_0014

The final result.  So far reception has been OK but still not Bunjin. People still feel the trunk is too big. When seen in person that feeling is not


Posted January 1, 2017 by California Bonsai Art in Styling Trees

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