Stones from the River

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 | One Comment
Stones from the River

I recently went for a weekend excursion to the southern reaches of the state of Jefferson. (never hear of it?!?) On the recommendation of a friend I was there looking into the river stones, amid having some fun hiking and playing in the water. Camping is a great time for me and mixing it with something that goes with bonsai makes it amazing.

Following formulating my thoughts on the successes and failures of past root over rock compositions I decided that collecting some stones specifically for the purpose would be better than relying on the paltry selection of stones that I found either in a stone yard or around my yard. Both the stones I have around and the ones at the stone yard are not specifically selected for bonsai use and thus produce a less than optimal results. The Lava stones have too regular a texture and minimal color variation; The Napa field stone, a basalt, look almost as dull and uninteresting as a piece of sandstone.

The Salmon river, what some call the “Cal Salmon” (since there seems to be a salmon river in almost every western state) is a nice river, if a bit remote compared to my normal habitat. I grew up in rural Mendocino county, which for better or worse is still in California, not Jefferson. I spent a lot of time throwing river stones around in my youth, but there seem to be a better variety on the Salmon river than where I was as a kid. While hunting and playing I gazed at the surrounding hills and noticed some made of granite while others are made of darker stones. There really is a remarkable variety. The Marble Mountain Wilderness nearby is named for a large outcropping of marble and the geology is diverse across a small cross-section of the land.

So, on to the stones. First, four sides of a stone that is about 7 inches high. The shape is good if not ideal; I like the color pattern; and the overall size is about right for a medium-size tree. So how to plant a tree on this stone?

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Potential design of a tree using this stone.   The roots would grasp the top right portion of the stone and go around the lighter portion in the center.   The tree should be low to the stone and the composition will look good planted in a shallow oval pot.

Potential design of a tree using this stone. The roots would grasp the top right portion of the stone and go around the lighter portion in the center. The tree should be low to the stone and the composition will look good planted in a shallow oval pot. For some reason I think a trident maple would work, but I’m sure a pine would be good too.

Possibly my favorite river stone from the trip.   I think the shape is fantastic, color is interesting, unfortunately, the size is only big enough for a large mame or small shohin size tree.

Second, possibly my favorite river stone from the trip. I think the shape is fantastic, color is interesting, unfortunately, the size is only big enough for a large mame or small shohin size tree.

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Envisioning a small Kishu juniper hugging the stone.   Exposing roots can take a while on Kishu, but I think this will be worth it.    Or perhaps a Western juniper from cutting?

Envisioning a small Kishu juniper hugging the stone. Exposing roots can take a while on Kishu, but I think this will be worth it. Or perhaps a Western juniper from cutting?

Not a river rock, but from the same area.   This rock was along a trail in a scree slope.   The angles are much sharper and seem to lend themselves to an angular tree.   The top of the stone is about 7" high and the stone juts out toward the viewer sharply when looking at the most dynamic side.

Not a river rock, but from the same area. This rock was along a trail in a scree slope. The angles are much sharper and seem to lend themselves to an angular tree. The top of the stone is about 7″ high and the stone juts out toward the viewer sharply when looking at the most dynamic side.

The back side has inferior coloration and texture

The back side has inferior coloration and texture

Envisioning a pine tree atop the stone.   It would make a great base with the roots clasping the left side and wrapping behind on the right side to emerge near the soil line below the overhang on the right.

Envisioning a pine tree atop the stone. It would make a great base with the roots clasping the left side and wrapping behind on the right side to emerge near the soil line below the overhang on the right.

Or maybe a Monterey Cypress, Point Lobos style?

Or maybe a Monterey Cypress, Point Lobos style?

I collected about twenty stones, ranging in size from just an inch up to about 15 inches across. We’ll see if I can get them all stuck to a tree. If only making the tree were as quick as finding the stone and drawing a possible design.

1 Comment

  1. TdC
    August 8, 2014

    I was going to ask how your stone collecting went, but I can see it was well worth the trip. I’ve incorporated stones with bonsai, but only as accents. Having a design / plan beforehand is key, and your illustrations show it. I have a few large stones, but most of what I’ve collected are the size of the second river stone you mention – more for shohin and mame. That one is my favoriate as well. I’m heading up to the Russian River this weekend in hopes of finding something interesting. I’ve found a few from there with beautiful coloration and nice texture. Thanks for inspiration!