Welcome to the Saruyama Blog, intermittent and generally off topic. Occasionally you might see some trees...and weird ones at that.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Books and learning....

On my recent trip to the United States I made some trees and did some demonstrations and all that. Here are some of those trees in case you don't stalk me on social media.

A limber pine done by Akiyama and myself (Mainly Akiyama). We considered buying it between us and then entering it into a major show one day...however seeing as there is a big possibility I would be the judge and also we have nowhere to keep it, we decided against it. It was a shockingly good piece of material. I went all a bit hipster instagramtastic on the filter there. Makes things look that little bit more wabi-sabi.

We got through a few trees at Natures Way during our two days there. Perhaps we did too much. We did lots more but I am not here to blow my own trumpet. Lets leave that kind of activity to the FBM* crowd.

What I am here to do is that unpleasant thing and talk about important things rather than show pictures of overly wired badly styled trees that all look the same and get lots of attention. (Can you tell I have spent the last week with Akiyama talking about what makes good bonsai and a good bonsai professional, mainly from the exasperated point of view that FBM's seem to be directing the dialogue on what is quality or true and what is not?)

What I am here to do is point out the fact that I did some book learning. Flicking through a lot of old books at Nature's Way, I learnt some ground breaking stuff...made me realise what an absolute gamble it is when you pick up a book. For instance, I learned from some random book that...

That for me was an eye opening piece of information as I had been going around telling people for the last ten years that the root system on a bonsai was the foundation for a strong, healthy, well ramified and generally lovely looking tree. Turns out I was wrong. Apparently the roots don't matter that much.

*** in case you don't realise, I am making fun of this nonsense that was published ****

After having a chuckle at how little they knew back then, for the book was published in the 80's, I picked up a book entitled "American Bonsai" published in the sixties, I forget the author, which is a crime I know. I didnt take a picture of the cover. I will admit, I opened it expecting to have regressed even further back in time. As it happened, I should have had a plate, with a knife and fork, ready to eat my words...

The section on soils just amazed me. Why hadn't I read this before? Why hadn't this knowledge been repeated in other books? Who stopped this important and essential information from being disseminated? This knowledge is lacking in most people's understanding in the 2010's and this dude was talking about it 50 years ago. 50 years. Things have advanced a little, but not that much. The soil mix bit with peat moss can be ignored but otherwise, this is essential reading. By breaking copyright laws I hope I don't upset anyone, and if Bill Valavanis could tell us what/who the title/author is, that would be great...but as a starter to soil science for bonsai, you can't get much better than this


There is absolutely no excuse for not knowing this stuff now, it was knowledge around in English fifty years ago. Next time you have a workshop or watch a demonstration with a FBM then ask them about the three forces acting on water in the soil. Next time your teacher uses Akadama straight from the bag without sifting it ask them why. "Because it doesn't make a difference" is not an answer that should be accepted.

Apologies for the rant but this is fundamental knowledge that should be understood and practiced. Sometimes it is better to get off the unedited and irresponsible internet and get back to more traditional ways of learning. Even better, get off the internet and work on trees, it is so much more enjoyable.


* In case you didn't figure it out, FBM = Facebook bonsai master...and yes, I have started posting pictures there. In order to change society, you must first be part of it. It won't last though...

Edit **** So I was being a little bit over enthusiastic on the dates....turns out I was like 20 years off...but that still means that goddamn it I was mostly right. Thank you Bill and Frank Kelly. As Morrissey once sand..."There is always someone, somewhere, with a big nose who knows, and trips you up and laughs when you fall". ****

Thursday 15 May 2014

Organic pest removal...

A no nonsense post for once. No jokes. No messing. Just solid information. A break from the norm for once.

Assuming you are not liking me on faceache or following me on instaspam then this will be new. If you are appreciating my attempts to be social and media friendly then apologies for the repetition. The new presence of said social media sites is to attempt to make myself more visible because according to my PR people, that is what I should be doing.

After a few demos and workshops at Nature's Way Nursery near Harrisburg in PA, Akiyama and I have arrived for some work at a large collection nearby. At this time of year many trees have lots of lovely long shoots which are soft and tender. These are juicy and easy to eat for many sucking insects such as aphids. Symptoms of aphids can be the presence of little green insects known as aphids on the soft tender growth. They crap everwhere which makes things greasy and shiny. The growth may also be deformed and less vigorous, mainly because those little suckers are taking away valuable nutrients. Another tell tale sign is the presence of ants running around your trees. They farm the aphids, looking after them and offering protection, moving them to fresh pastures all for a small cut of their honeydew takings. In effect ants are insect pimps and the aphids be their bitches who better have their money.

If you are faced with this problem and are either organically minded or know how easy it is to damage tender growth with incorrect use of pesticides or chemicals that are too strong, especially on chojubai who drop their leaves easily; then how, other than squishing them one by one, can they be removed? Easy.

Now you can see from the power of the water jet (for that is all it is people) that this will damage weaker varieties or possibly knock wired branches out of shape, so adjust the power accordingly. Blast those suckers off into hyperspace. If any ants turn up to protect their bitches, gun them down too like the weak ass pimps they are. Make sure you get the shoots from all angles, not just above. Check out the 360 degree death jet in the video.

It is incredibly effective. Physically removing all of them and washing their crap off the leaves at the same time.

That said however there will always be one or two that escape the blast and manage to stay on there. They can reproduce very quickly and one female can have thousands upon thousands of babies, spreading like a plague across your trees. Get on top of it quickly. After the tree dries out completely, later that day when the sun starts to set, mix up some insecticidal soap and weak contact killer pesticide such as Pyrethrin and spray the new growth. One area to be especially careful of with trees from the rose family such as Chojubai which send out soft tender sucker gowth on the inside of trees is the soft tender sucker growth on the inside. Not only will these be covered in aphids but they will also take away energy from the growth on old branches, so make sure you check inside.

Whenever handling chemicals be careful not to inhale, breathe or get covered in pesicides and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Whenever handling aphids, be careful not to upset their ants.