Friday, May 29, 2009

Bougainvillea Treasure

This weekend I went Bonsai nursery hunting for a couple of hours, you know, mom and pop nursery shops with hidden treasures among their stock. After visiting a few, I ended up at an Asian nursery in Irving, TX. In their store entrance they had a small Bonsai stand with like fifteen 3-5 yr old Ficus and Junipers. These "Bonsai" were overpriced, had glued rocks in the soil and Home Depot's trademark shape that looks like an 'S'. After I looked at this stand for, I don't know 5 seconds, I re-focused on my mission and went to look at their stock out back.

20 disappointing minutes later (and yet common) I didn't find anything worth taking home and no hidden treasures and as I was heading out; a sign caught my attention..."Do Not Enter". It was their back room, and an employee was coming out of it so I browsed around until the area was clear then I made my move.

Once in the backroom, in a corner, I noticed trees piled together that looked like were dying and BINGO! Pirate found his treasure, I found 3 mother Bougainvillea trees (where they take cuttings to make new plants).They looked dead and were bone dry but had healthy foliage at the tips and green bark. I remembered it had rained recently so I knew they were in good shape. I looked around for any witnesses as if I killed someone and I pulled two of the ‘bodies’ out.

I called on one of the care takers who was Hispanic and maintained the nursery and after acquaintancing myself with him in Spanish, I asked him if he thought the owners would sell them to me. He said he didn’t know but did tell me they used them for cuttings. So he called on the boss lady and she called on the boss man and among themselves I could hear them go, "盆栽栽..Bonsai..盆栽盆"

I didn’t need to know what they were saying to realize they knew why I wanted them for and they would overprice it. Anybody else would have thought “what an ugly stump, get rid of it”. So I tried to fool them and made this expression as if to appear clueless about Bonsai, the same clueless expression I made once when my ex-lady saw a text msg from another girl on my cell phone. However, once again, the ‘look’ was useless and I admitted to them I wanted to train them for Bonsai. So she said “you can take one for $35” and I made my choice.

Once I got home, before it repotted it, I put it in bucket of rain water for a couple of hours while I messed around with other work. When I got to it, the first thing I did was cut a thick root that was growing out the drain hole. Having in mind the ‘vigorous look of the tree’, I didn’t want to mess with the roots much so I got a saw, cut it in half and then I gently felt around for thick roots to cut. I also noticed the legendary mycorrhizae on the root mass which I tried to keep as much as possible. I put it in a ‘grow box’, added some of my compost and topped with lava rock. I cut dead branches and left most of it intact and will ‘grow and trim’ as it back buds until I reach the main trunk by next season I hope, but who knows.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece but it will be good. I wonder what color the paper bracts are and I know I will be putting my dremel tool to use on this baby. This concludes EPISODE 1. Stayed tuned, coming soon EPISODE 2, in Spring 2011.

Part 2

Well it has been 2 long years (which consisted of 14 excruciating long days) since I last posted and said I would do any training on this treasure. This bougainvillea only had growth in the top when I found it neglected in the ground, took it home and repotted it. As it turns out, it responded very well to repotting so much it bud back all over to the main trunk. I figured it would take months to do so but it only took 14 days.

As you can see I removed more dead branches which I could have removed on the first session but sometimes you just have to wait. You see, you can look at a tree one day and not see anything you can do...YET. But then one day you come out to water it and then IT HITS YOU AND YOU SEE IT. It's like a mathematician trying to solve a very difficult problem but he can't solve it so he just sits there idle but then he figures out a way to answer it and he starts writing on the board like a maniac.

Same with Bonsai when it hits me, I start to prune away like Johny Depp in 'Edward Scissorhands', seen that movie? Anyway, at first it was better to not prune so much for maybe a seemingly useless branch might fit in a design I had not seen yet or someone else might bring to my attention. In the same way, a seemingly useless branch might be just that and end up being pruned anyway but always lean towards less pruning as opposed to over doing it.

I also hollowed out one of the branches which had bud also and was extremely careful to get not even an inch near it. That bud actually survived and still growing. So that concludes this session and now I will wait and continue to clip and grow and ramify. I will have another training session next spring (for real this time).

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