Bernard’s Forest

Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 | 3 Comments
Bernard’s Forest

While I first started a batch of black pine seedlings in March of 2006, I also started a second batch in March of 2009. It was somewhat bad timing given that I had to move all my trees to SoCal soon after; and the result was that I ditched the vast majority of the seedlings, keeping only about a dozen for myself.

I had bought the seeds in Japan during my second trip to see Kokufu; I thought that they were red pine seed, but, it was obvious by the middle of the second growing season that they were in fact black pine. That was disappointing to me because I had been hoping for the more slender needles and growth habit of the red pines and for a slightly different growing adventure.

My friend Bernard was one of the major recipients of the batch of seedling, he lives in San Francisco and was eager to adopt a large portion of them. Since I was traveling back and forth to the Bay Area on a regular basis I was able to work on the trees with him. Bernard is a skilled horticulturalist and dedicated bonsai grower. I consider his batch of pines to be some of the best pines that I’ve been involved in creating. It’s been a team effort to make the trees with Bernard providing the space and doing the growing.

Many of the six year old trees are over six feet high at the top of the sacrifice branches.   Staking is needed on a few to keep them from blowing over.

Many of the six year old trees are over six feet high at the top of the sacrifice branches. Staking is needed on a few to keep them from blowing over.

A bench full of large colanders, most of these will be medium-size informal upright trees.

A bench full of large colanders, most of these will be medium-size informal upright trees. Bernard uses tea bags filled with organic fertilizer in combination with Miracle Grow and supplemental fertilizers to make the trees bulk up as quickly as possible.

A six-year old starting to look like a classical informal upright.

A six-year old starting to look like a classical informal upright.

A soon-to-be shohin black pine.  The trunk movement that was added around year 2 is relatively tight.  This view will be the front and the sacrifice branch will be cut just behind the small branches that are wired.

A soon-to-be shohin black pine. The trunk movement that was added around year 2 is relatively tight. This view will be the front and the sacrifice branch will be cut just behind the small branches that are wired.

An exposed root tree - this one is going to be great, just need to wait a few more years for the roots to fuse more.

An exposed root tree – this one is going to be great, just need to wait a few more years for the roots to fuse.

I don’t have enough superlatives for the tree below. It’s by far my favorite tree of the batch at this point. It’s an upside-down exposed root tree, the colander that it is growing in is about 11″ square. Bernard and I spent a couple tense hours twisting it into a pretzel after the second growing season and then potting it into a special container so that the foliage could stick out of a small hole below the mass of roots.

My favorite tree of the batch, an upside-down exposed root.   There is no back to this tree, just 360 degrees of great fronts.

There is no back to this tree, just 360 degrees of great fronts.

Maybe this will be the front?  Looks like a couple roots need to be moved a little.

Maybe this will be the front? Looks like a couple roots need to be moved a little.

I counted the trees while I was at Bernard’s place – he has 22 pine project trees; one from my 2006 batch, twenty from this second batch and one more…more on that later.

3 Comments

  1. Maurizio
    March 30, 2015

    Beautiful trees! I’ve got my 2 yr old seedlings growing up similar to these. I was surprised to read he uses a mixture of Miracle Gro and other organic fert. I think I’ll start cycling this in as well. I do the same “tea bag” method although it’s difficult to keep my shepherd from intelligently stealing every single bag I place out there over the course of the week.

    Thanks for posting these shots!

  2. Maurizio
    April 25, 2015

    These are really spectacular trees. I was wondering, at what age do you typically transplant your seedlings into smaller colanders? What do you have them planted in prior to this — small 4″ nursery pots?

    I recently got some JRP seedlings and I think I rushed the 6″ colanders too soon, some of them have dried out and are really struggling.

    Cheers!

    • Eric Schrader
      April 29, 2015

      Hi,

      I grow the trees usually for the first two years in 4″ containers. Obviously you can use smaller but the size shouldn’t be too small. Then after the second growing season they are basically bare-rooted and the roots trimmed and arranged to do the initial style creation. The bare-rooting should only be done during the proper repotting interval (which varies by location.) I repot all winter, but have no need for cold protection due to climate. People in colder climates repot later or protect the trees afterward from freezing temps.

      Also – I think 6″ colanders are too small. I’d go directly into 10″ colanders or pond baskets. The tree will be in there for 2-3 years and the larger the root ball the better.