Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All Things Change

Update on the original bonchi:

Things are looking kind of rough for the old girl.  Lost the middle arm earlier, and now its looking like the right arm is a gonner as well.  Luckily, there are some sprouts near the fork, so I'm going to be looking at encouraging that one to grow and pruning the deadwood above it back once it takes off.

Officially in unknown territory now, as I'm not sure how its all going to go, but hey, such is life.  All things change, and rarely do they go 100% according to plan!  Who knows, maybe in the end we'll end up with something even better.

While we wait to find out however, I went ahead and started up a new one.

This one is again using some aquarium/terrarium decorations I found at Pet Smart.  Small (dare I say child sized) skull and an arm with hand that matches for size if not entirely in color.  Side note, really, what is with all this stuff always being different colors?  Can't you make matching bones, Pet Smart terrarium decoration supplier person?  Anyway, hot glued the two pieces together (didn't bother with superglue, the gaps were too wide for that), and put an orange habanero on top of it.  Spread the roots around really well, between the fingers, into the eye sockets, so hopefully it will turn out well.  Should make a nice Halloween looking piece to have the almost pumpkin looking orange habs growing over this setup.

Update on the rib cage diorama, you can see the reapers are growing quite happily.  Going to let them have a few more weeks before we start on the pull downs.

Also a bit of a deviation for me, this one is an ACTUAL TREE!  Specifically, it is an olive tree as my wife loves olives.  Its too cold here to grow one outside year round, so if I'm going to have to overwinter it, I might as well bonsai it!

Bought the tree from a local nursery and pruned the top back by about half, and noticed that it had a small shoot coming out near the base, and then nothing but bare trunk up for the next 2 feet.  Said screw that, and started encouraging the lower branch.  Later, I'll prune the trunk back SUPER hard right above the lower branch to get it to have a nice bend/taper.

Heh, and just because I could, one rosemary from Walmart + 5 minutes with the snips = adorable herb bonsai!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living Death Bonchi: The Next Generation

Okay, update on the original Living Death bonchi first.

We had some die back on the old girl due to aphids I was fighting all winter long.  The middle branch died back pretty much to the split, and I had to remove all of it.  We also lost some of the roots over the skull's face.  I'm afraid she just ain't as pretty as she used to be anymore.

I'm not giving up on it yet though.  There is a new shoot coming from the branch split that I'm going to promote.  With a little luck I can get it going well, and then prune back the two remaining woody arms and start a whole new shape!

But, just in case I can't, this year I've decided to start the second generation of Living Death Bonchi.  And this time, it won't be quite so simple!

Meet the new crew.

Yes folks, that is not one, not two, not three, four, or five reapers.  That is half a dozen of the little buggers courtesy of a local nursery that just started carrying them this year.  I bought at least a third of their entire stock they had set out for this project (because hey, reapers are a pain in the ass to sprout)!

Now, it wouldn't be a Living Death Bonchi without some death, right?  So what kind of bones are we growing on this year?  Found these little beauties at the pet store as lizard terrarium decorations.

Not gonna lie, kinda wish the skull had been just a big bigger, but it matches the rib cage perfectly so I'm going with it.

I've kind of gotten the raised bed spoken for this season with other veggies (like horseradish), so I'm going to do a container grow on this diorama piece.  Now, this comes with risks and potential rewards.  I've selected an old but large storage bin that is fairly deep.  It should provide more than enough depth to make the plants happy, but may end up getting really warm this summer.  I'm pretty sure this is the same tub I successfully grew corn in once upon a time, so it should be good.  It also means that there isn't a lot of room for anything to grow out sideways, which will help contain roots to only the area I really want them to be in.

First step, as terrarium decorations, these bones are hollow.  Gotta fill them up!

Pretty simple start there, mostly just making a pile of dirt where the ribs will go then smooshing it down on top, and then packing more in all of the holes until it was fairly solid.

For long time readers, I'm using the same process I did with the skull.  For new readers and/or those not familiar with root over rock bonsai technique, a quick rundown of what we're doing.

First, I ran the plant under an outside faucet turned up to a decent pressure to wash all of the soil from the roots.  Second, I place the bare roots down on the "rock" (in this case the ribcage model) and spread the roots out.  Some I push down into the openings, some I leave splayed across the tops.  Third (and not pictured because my hands were full), I packed a bit of dirt over the top of the roots to hold them in place (and keep the plant upright) while I moved on to the next one.

In total, I used this technique to start all six plants in their new homes.  Five on the ribs, one directly on top of the skull.  Once they were all in place, I simply bulked up the soil deeper all around.

Since I wasn't able to get pictures of it before I filled it up (the balance was pretty delicate and I had to hurry), I've overlayed images so you can see where things are.

So, the goal to this one is a "forest" style display with multiple "trees" growing in a thicket.  I'll use the same pulldown method as before to hopefully cover everything in a tangled mass of roots.

The biggest challenge for this is going to be keeping the individual plants healthy and happy at this extremely close range to each other.  Crowding will definitely be a threat, and they're going to suck up water and nutrients at a much faster rate.  Might even lose a plant or two if they get stunted and shaded out by the others, but I'll be keeping a close eye on them to try and prevent that from happening.

So, the old is changing, and the new are well under way.  Its going to be an interesting season!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Three Years Lead to This... Can We Pot It? YES WE CAN!

Okay folks, this was the big day.  Over the past week or two I've pulled the project Reaper from the beds, let it recover.  Chopped the limbs back, let it recover.  Now, I pulled the dusty old bonsai container I made for it WAY back at the beginning of this blog, nearly 3 years ago, out of the closet and went for it.

So, the question we're all dying to know the answer to:
"Was all of this worth it?  Does it look awesome?"

 Yes, yes it does.  It looks AMAZING.

Folks, this was all worth it, I've truly got a one of a kind bonsai here, and I love it.

Now, we're not done yet by any means, but this was a huge milestone!  Now we move from creating the bonsai to refining it.  To making the canopies fill out jusssssst right, and maintaining it.  But ladies and gentlemen, I present unto you...

The Living Death Bonchi

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 - End of Season

Got lots of pods off the old girl again this year.  The titular Reaper grew quite large and bushy, which meant the weight shifted how the roots sit on the skull.  Some roots were lost, others bulked up tremendously, and the overall look of the bonchi has changed.  Such is the way of the bonsai, it becomes it's own creation over time.

As you can see, the entire thing slid backwards when the weight pulled it that way, which made the lower jaw pop out.  I rather like whats happened to it, actually.  The way it laid back now means it has a full back while the front is more open.  Makes a better display aesthetic.

The jaw coming out also gives it a more natural "its just scattered here" look, less "this has been intentionally set up".  I guess "more organic" is a good way of saying it?

Anyway, apologies for basically disappearing for this season.  Been planning a wedding (mine!) and haven't had nearly as much time to document incremental changes.  But never fear, the Living Death Bonchi is alive and well!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Winter is Coming... Again

Okay, I do remember this blog exists, I swear!

Its just that there isn't a whole lot going on that isn't a retread of things we've already gone over, so haven't felt as compelled to give blow by blow updates of things that are basically just reposts of existing material.

That said, its been getting colder and I've chopped the Reaper down for it's second year of overwintering.

As you can see, its alive and well.  Although it didn't grow up as big as I had really hoped it would during the summer, we still got some nice thickening on the roots all the same.

We did lose a lot of the roots in the mouth, but some are still holding on.  Most of the root development was on the sides, as you can see at least one really big thick root on either side of the skull.

All in all, a good year with some good progress.  We're well into actual bonsai territory now, where growth is slow and incremental now that the initial shaping is complete.  Its still going lightning fast compared to traditional bonsai though.  This would be a good 5-10 years worth of growth for a normal bonsai tree, and we've accomplished it in less than 2.

Less noticeable but even better for subtle realism, the skull now has been buried for one season and left exposed for one season through wind, rain, and sun.  Its taking on a very nice natural grime and weathered look.  You can fake that to some extent, but the real thing just looks so much nicer!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Watching Grass Grow... Bondage Grass

Sorry for the lack of regular updates, its just not a whole lot going on that makes for any interesting posts.

A few weeks ago I did actually do some tie downs to spread the canopy out (that I completely forgot to share):

Still using the same aluminum camping tent stakes as last year, and just looping twine over the branches.

Nothing fancy, no complicated bonsai style branch wiring, just a simple loop to pull the branches down.

And here's where its at now:

Been really dry out here the past month, month and a half.  Been keeping it (and everything else) watered from a rain barrel (mostly, that even went dry a time or two), but we're still chugging along!  Just nothing dramatic.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Back to Basics

So, still not a whole lot going on of interest.

Ignore the garlic and the weeds I didn't pull yet.

As we can see it has fully leafed back out from that last chop.  Just going to let it grow as large and bushy as it wants this season.

Only real issue we had was this branch in the back.  It didn't survive the chop.  Luckily it was a secondary branch that I didn't really like anyway, so I had no qualms in cutting it off at the base.  Was leaving it hoping it would help give a bushier canopy, but screw it.  Dead is dead, and couldn't leave it on as its a potential point for infection, had to go.  So back to the original 3 branches it is.

Little secret: To help keep the soil directly around the pepper healthy, I like to take any worms I find while moving containers around and put them directly into the skull's mouth.

Yes folks, I feed the skull a steady diet of worms.  Its kinda cool watching them squirm out over and between the teeth.  I should try to remember to get pictures next time I do it.