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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Whew, I didn't screw it up! I mean... Season 2 Begins!

As per the post title, WHEW!

It was two weeks ago that I gave the project reaper it's super hard chop to get rid of the second round of aphids and clean out the entirely too dense branches that had developed over the winter from the previous chops, and a week since I put it out in the raised bed.

Was starting to get a little worried that it was too hard of a chop followed by too cool of weather (it dipped down into the 40's a time or two), but checking it today reveals:

See 'em?  See the little green leaf buds?  ITS ALIVE!

Okay, I didn't kill it.  Its warm (its actually 85 out there now), and we should be all good.  WHEW!


Ahem, composure regained, lets get back to some actual update news.

As you can see in the above picture, I buried the plant back up to the base of the skull again.  I had several issues with the neck, namely a lack of stability and several important face roots keeping a rather tenuous grasp on the soil.  Decided that it was worth a shot, but that I'd rather stick to a good looking version of the original design than keep pushing the neck that might end up ruining the entire thing.

This season should be a good one for it.  Without the constant pulling down of soil, the plant itself should be much less stressed, which means it should get a lot more growth.

Now, while I will be continuing to selectively prune off new growth in areas I don't want (like down on the base trunk or too low down on the limbs), I intend to let it grow however it wants above a certain line.  I want it to grow big, tall, bushy, and set lots and lots of pods.

Why?  Because that is how we will thicken the trunk, the limbs, and the roots up to truly gnarly proportions!

You see, the roots and the trunk will only grow thick enough to support the current amount of foliage.  If I were to keep it pruned down to proper bonchi size now, the trunk and roots would essentially stop developing.  Sure, they'd grow a little bit, but its the constant pruning that stops a bonchi (and bonsai in general) from getting bigger.  But to get them up to size, you want them to grow lots of leaves so that there is a constant demand for ever increasing amounts of support.  Same for the roots, the greater the demand for nutrients, the more root development we get.

So, by letting it grow big and bushy (note to self, get a tomato cage to put over this one so the extra growth has some support and the lower limbs don't break) we should thicken the trunk and limbs up, and especially setting pods will put a lot of demand for nutrients on the planet, which should turn our spindly roots into a real gnarled mess, which will be great.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Season Starting Chop Back

Okay, the various plants (including the project reaper here) have spent the last week outside in the relatively warm weather, and either the ladybugs just aren't out yet, or they didn't find these guys, as the aphids were getting bad again when I inspected today.

I also noticed that the last couple of aphid chops I had made left too many small stems in place, and the growth nodes had become very crowded, leading to vegetation that was WAY too thick and close together.  Not only do aphids love that, but it creates pockets of moist air that can harbor disease and fungus growth, definitely not what we want.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to get pictures of how dense it was under there until just now while typing, but oh well.  The answer was another HARD chop.

Zombie Reaper got a hard chop back as well, for the same reasons.  It had a few aphids on it, but not nearly as bad as the project reaper.  I know from experience though that you leave one spot with aphids in it, and they just come right back.  So both of them got whacked.

Now, that might seem a little extreme with warm weather and being ready to set it out in the raised bed again for the season being just around the corner, but there is a reason to my madness beyond simply the aphids.

Namely, sunburn.

I've been hardening things off, but there is only so much hardening you can do.  This way, I can avoid sunburn entirely by placing them out in direct sunlight from now on instead of partial shade, and any new growth will be good to go.

Last frost date here is the 18th, and we've got a single night of 35 degrees coming this Saturday, but after that its solid 70/50, I think it should be safe to actually put stuff out this Sunday.  That'll give them a few days in the soft grow cabinet to recover from the chop, then out they go!

I also have sprouted some kind of large heirloom sweet pepper, I have no idea what kind.  Family member basically gushed "I found the best sweet pepper at the farmer's market, it was delicious!  They said it was heirloom, so I saved the seeds, grow this for me!"  So I sprouted half a dozen or so of them.

They seem to be naturally leggy, or at least more so than the nuclears I've been growing.  Same tray with a couple new reapers, and the sweets were really stretching out while the reaper was staying short and squat, so I decided to use that legginess to my advantage.

I picked two of the lankier ones that already happened to have some natural bends in the trunks, and made sure not to water them for a while.  When they started wilting a bit, the stems became soft and pliable so I repotted them together and braided them into each other.  Watered, and now they're pretty well locked together like this without the need for any kind of bands or tape (though I may end up tying them together later anyway if I need to).

Never tried this kind of twist tie grafting before, but they *SHOULD* fuse together into a single cool twisted trunk as they get bigger.  Least I've seen other people who have pulled it off, so I'm giving it a try.

I usually wind up with nice thick tree like trunks on my peppers with only one plant, so kind of interested to see how this one turns out.