More on Cement Slabs Step by Step


A Simple pot using 1/2″ by 1/2″ hardware cloth, using tin snips I cut in 3 places and fold over creating an Armature

IMG_1919 IMG_1920I prefer to cut the Tulle into several pieces and then glue on the outer side of the Armature

lIMG_1921 IMG_1923 IMG_1924 IMG_1925 IMG_1926 IMG_1927 Using Quickrete Expanding Portland Cement sets in about 10 minutes hardens overniteIMG_1928 IMG_1929 IMG_1930 IMG_1931 IMG_1932 IMG_1934 Mix it well 3 minutes of stirringIMG_1935 Since I am covering a sphere shaped armiture I mix it wet and pour over

Inside is now ready for a layer of cement


IMG_1946IMG_1945To finish off I use a flexible tile grout over the layer on the outside of the pot. This grout can added in layers and hardens in 12 hours


IMG_1956I had some neglected Zelkovas I arranged them on 1/2″ by 1/2″ hardware cloth.

IMG_1957 Cut the hardware cloth to shape and created an Armiture

IMG_1969IMG_1968 Created this slab, did a few layers of Flexible tile grout on the edges drilled holes, airbrushed some semi-transparent stain and done takes about 4 to 5 days to construct waiting for things to dry and harden off.



Ciment Fondu Pots or are Cement Pots Fun to Do?

Over the past year I journeyed through the path of making cement bonsai containers. This path had many forks, turns and dead ends.

Early internet posts recommended Hyper Tufa, Papercrete and Ciment fondu. I have seen instructions on fiberglassed slabs, mixing peat moss and Portland cement, mixing up Ciment Fondu and so on. It was ok but I thought very mediocre.

I then saw Erik’s pots
Great now we are getting somewhere, he raised the bar. A very high high bar. Hmm can I jump that high? Mind you Erik is a trained artist and a very good one at that.

So with my stick man artist skills I decided to try and do what he does.

What’s first? The medium, so what do we use? Cement of course, but what KIND???
Well I went from simple to complicated formulas and back to simple.

Concrete countertops tweaked my interest. Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete or GFRC as the industry called. Basic ingredients are:
Portland Cement
Alkali Resistant Glass Fibers
Super Plasticizers

No reinforcing required very strong and lightweight.
Premixed bags are available for around $35 a bag (22kg)

Mapei makes a similar product called Planitop X stronger and lighter for around $50 per bag (22kg) great for free forms without any extra reinforcing.

A little definition here, cement is used to make concrete and grouts.
Concrete is a mixture of cement plus adjuncts (navvy jack, sand etc.)
Grouts are a mixture of cement plus adjuncts and admixtures.

I spent a year playing with the above but still could not get the cement to finish as I wanted to.

I ended through my local hardware store getting in contact with the manufacturer of Quikkrete products. So after a lengthy conversation it was suggested that I use something simpler that is strong, light and economic for my purposes.

The quick and easy is this;
Quikkrete Portland Expanding Grout – $13 per 22kg bag
Sets in 10 minutes, can be sculpted for up to 12 hours or longer depending on temperature.
1/2″ by 1/2″ hardware cloth, the 1/4″ stuff is good for smaller items but too flexible for anything larger.
Cut and shape the wire mesh to whatever you wish, no wrong way here.
Cut out Tulle to fit I use a spay adhesive glue in place
Mix the grout well 3 minutes minimum I sometimes add a little Portland type 10 cement (not concrete mix).

Sika makes a similar product but the sand is a little coarser and contains more calcium aluminate.

Okay I am there or am I ?? No I needed to develop 3 new skill sets.

Hmm I am Stick Man Level 1 but I need to get to Level 2. Containers came out ok but my wire cloth designs needed work. So with a little patience, experimenting and practice with the wire mesh I managed to get to Stick Man Level 2 as far as wire mesh skill. An engineering course would here.

Next skill set is applying the grout mixtures, what I did learn was making different slurries from wet mixes to drier mixes for different purposes. Small batches of mixes are key you only have 10 minutes, tools to apply the mixes are important also, palette knives work great also cheap thin metal spatulas, bread knives all can found at a thrift store (Salvation Army for one).
After a couple of hours the grout can be worked but be careful it is still in the green state you can wire brush, sculpt don’t move the piece though at this state. After 12 hours you can still work it wire brush etc. After 3 days it is very hard and you will need strong tools.
This skill just needs practice. Those of you that are familiar with clay modeling will do well here.

The third skill is the painting, I made mistakes by using solid color outdoor stains. Solid colors filled in all the little cracks surface features I created and gave the container a fake look. Switching to semi-transparent stains gave the look I wanted and I have since purchased and airbrush and having a lot of fun with that.

IMG_1889A wild looking Pinus contorta and a cement container to fit it.



IMG_1883Detail of grout layers and painting with semi transparent stains

IMG_1762 IMG_1759Collected in 2014 needs a good grout cement pot.

Have you done this before?

When you start on  a new bonsai project do you try for something different? Not just different to you but just different. Is our bonsai Ikea furniture? Not saying there is anything wrong with that I happen to like Ikea. But hasn’t all been done already?

I found an interesting Youtube

The fear that everything has already been done. I saw the video and thought I have to share this.

Pine Needle Blights and Needlecasts

Dothistroma needle blight

I copied this from several sources but I think it is important for everyone that has pines to know about this blight!!!!!

Dothistroma needle blight is caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella pini Rostr. This common pine pathogen kills needles of all ages and can weaken or kill Austrian pine trees. Recently, we have also found Dothistroma on white pine. The main symptom is dead needle tips beyond the yellow to tan needle spots. These spots enlarge to form distinct brown to reddish-brown bands.

Needle tips turning brown on Austrian pine.
Photo credit: Jill O’Donnell, MSU Extension

The black fruiting bodies of the fungus can be seen in the dead spots or bands on the needles. The spores spread by wind and rain and can infect needles throughout the growing season. New needles are susceptible once they emerge from the needle sheaths. The black fruit bodies appear in the fall; however, the spores are released the following spring and summer.

The best protection of new needles can occur when applying copper-based materials as the new needles emerge from the needle sheaths and as the spores are released from the fruiting bodies. To protect foliage from infection, apply a registered fungicide containing copper or mancozeb in mid-June through mid-July. This year (2013), you might start earlier since trees are ahead of normal. Repeat the application two or three times as needed at seven- to 10-day intervals.

Some people refer to this as Red Band Disease. 



Early symptoms consist of deep-green bands (fig. 2) and yellow and tan spots on needles. The deep green color of bands does not last and cannot be detected unless observed at the onset of symptom development. Later, the spots and bands turn brown to reddish brown (fig. 3). The bands are brighter red and more numerous on pines in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, where this disease is often referred to as the “red band” disease. Map



Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4
Figure 2. – Early symptoms (deep green bands) on Austrian pine needles infected withDothistroma pini. Figure 3. – Spots and bands on Austrian bands) on Austrian pine needles infected pine needles infected with Dothistroma pini. Figure 4. – Typical appearance of infected Austrian pine needles: needle tips brown, needle bases green.


The ends of infected needles progressively turn light green, tan, and brown, with the base of the needles remaining green (fig. 4).

Needles may develop extensive necrosis (browning) 2 to 3 weeks after the first appearance of symptoms. Infection is typically most severe in the lower crown (fig. 5).


Figure 5
Figure 5. – Dothistroma pinidamage severe in lower crown.

Infected needles drop prematurely. Infected second-year needles are cast before infected current-year (first-year) needles. In some seasons, second-year needles are cast in the late fall of the year they became infected. In other seasons, loss of second-year needles is not extensive until late the following spring or early summer. Needles that become infected the year they emerge often are not shed until late summer the following year.


Successive years of severe infection result in decreased growth and, ultimately, death. The disease makes pines in landscapes unsightly and pines in Christmas tree plantings unmarketable.

Dothistroma needle blight can be mistaken for brown spot disease caused by the fungusScirrhia acicola. The symptoms on needles are similar. With both diseases, trees are affected first in the lower crown. The dark stromatic fruiting bodies of D. pini and S. acicola look alike after they have erupted and split the epidermis. When a common host is involved; these two fungi can be distinguished only by microscopic examination of conidia. The conidia are somewhat similar in shape and size, and both have cross-walls. However, conidia of D. pini are hyaline whereas conidia of the brown spot fungus are colored, usually a greenish brown.

These two fungi have several hosts in common. However, Scots pine, which is severely damaged by the brown spot fungus, is rarely infected and seldom damaged seriously by D. pini. A plantation of 36 geographic sources of Scots pine in eastern Nebraska has remained free of Dothistroma blight, but an adjacent plantation of Austrian pine has been severely damaged.

Life Cycle


Figure 6
Figure 6. – Conidia ofDothistroma pini.

The fungus has both a sexual stage (Scirrhia pini) and an asexual stage (Dothistroma pini). In the United States, the sexual stage has been found only in Alaska, California, and Oregon. The stromata of the sexual stage produce ascospores, whose role in the development of epidemics is not known. Much is known about the role of conidia (spores produced by the asexual stage) in disease development (fig. 6). Conidia from Western States are considerably longer on the average than those found elsewhere in the United States. These differences in length of conidia have led to a designation of three varieties of the fungus: linearis, the longest spored form, is found in Western States; pini, the shortest spored form is found in Central and Eastern States; and keniensis, with conidia intermediate, is found in East Africa.


Conidia are borne in stromata (fruiting bodies), which develop below the epidermis of needles (fig. 7). In the Central United States, stromata may develop sufficiently in the fall to raise and split the epidermis. They generally do not mature and produce conidia until the following spring. The epidermis is split longitudinally along two sides of the dark stromatic bodies, with a fragment of the epidermis often adhering to the top of the fruiting bodies. The conidia are exposed as the epidermis is raised. They are released during wet weather and dispersed by rainsplash any time during the growing season. Thus, new infections can occur any time it rains from May to October. However, symptoms do not appear on newly infected needles until early fall in the Central United States.


Figure 7 Figure 7. – Fruiting bodies ofDothistroma pini raising the epidermis of needles.


Two growing seasons are required for completion of the life cycle in most areas of the United States; although in California and Oregon, the cycle may be completed in 1 year. In these States, the period between infection and appearance of symptoms is much shorter than in other States.



Copper fungicides effectively prevent infection by D. pini. Bordeaux mixture applied twice in the growing season has provided good protection of pines in shelterbelt, Christmas tree, park, landscape, and other plantings in the Central United States. Chlorothalonil is also registered for use against D. pini. Fungicides containing copper salts of fatty and rosin acids, however, are registered for control of Dothistroma blight only in the North Central States.

The first application (mid-May) protects needles from previous seasons; the second application protects current-year needles. When control is intended for plantings of Austrian or ponderosa pines, the second application can be made after considerable new growth has occurred because current-year needles of these species initially resist infection and do not become susceptible until midsummer (July).

Effective control has also been obtained in plantings in the Central United States with a single application made after considerable growth has occurred (early June). There is some risk in this procedure, since infection would occur in previous years’ needles before the early June application. A single application will control this disease on trees that do not have susceptible current-year needles. Many Christmas tree growers in the Central United States are effectively controlling Dothistroma with a single fungicide application.

Annual spraying for control of Dothistroma blight is unnecessary in certain types of plantings. Because control of this disease can be obtained with fungicides, managers can risk not spraying in park, residential, and similar types of plantings. If infection occurs during a year in which fungicide has not been applied, fungicide can be applied the next year with confidence that good control will be obtained. If little or no infection occurs the year fungicide was not applied, spraying can be skipped for another year. On the other hand, Christmas tree growers should probably not skip spraying any years because of the high possibility of great financial loss.


Procedures for control of the disease in the Western United States will differ from those that are effective in the Central United States because of differences in the life cycle of the fungus, hosts, growth, and weather. Experience with this disease in Christmas tree plantings of shore pine in Oregon indicates that fungicide should be applied earlier than in the Central United States.

The use of genetic resistance looks promising for preventing or reducing damage by this fungus. Resistant strains or clones have been identified in Austrian, ponderosa, and Monterey pines. Seed from a Yugoslavian source, which has shown high resistance, is currently used to produce Austrian pines for Great Plains plantings. Recently, several geographic sources of ponderosa pine have been identified as having high resistance. Needles of all ages are highly resistant on some trees. On other trees, current-year needles are resistant, but older needles are susceptible (fig. 8).

Figure 8




Psuedo Science in the Bonsai World

I have come across a few articles either online or in Bonsai publications that use illogical logic to try and prove a theory, point or reason why they do what they do. The reasoning sounds logical but it doesn’t have the science to back it up. I was reading through an article in a bonsai publication regarding bonsai soils and it stopped me dead. It was written by a well known bonsaist that had years of training by bonsai masters. The statements that were made regarding soils and root systems sounded logical but was not based on any science at all and in all actuality was fundamentally wrong.

Here is an example

Quote “The idea is that by allowing the soil to dry out more rapidly, trees will naturally send out more roots in search of moisture. Our job is to then quench this soil with water on a more frequent basis so as to keep the new feeder roots alive and healthy.”

“This continual process of rapid drying out and frequent quenching is what produces fine, healthy root systems and in turn better foliar growth.”

I really don’t think so, where is the science to back this up. What I learned as an Arborist was In reality is fine roots grow in moist FERTILE well aerated soils and branch more. Roots that search for water are not feeder roots.

Dr. Shigo on the Rhizosphere –

1. Root hairs on non-woody roots are extensions of single epidermal cells. Common on seedlings, root hairs grow to maturity in a few days. They function for a few weeks and then begin to die.

On mature trees, they are usually not abundant. When they do form, they do so when soil conditions are optimum for absorption of water and elements

 This statement uses the words ‘fine organic components

“Soil mixes that contain higher percentages of fine, organic components such as bark and peat will provide a growing environment counter-productive to our developmental goals.”

Not true where is the science?

A totally false statement with no science. In reality fine roots grow in moist FERTILE well aerated  soils with more branching.

“Yes, these mixtures hold more moisture, making watering an easier process because the soil dries out less often. But if the soil remains wetter for longer, roots are not being actively encouraged to grow, which will be reflected by poor foliar growth.” —- Not entirely true at all

Non-woody tree roots are organs that absorb water and elements dissolved in it. The two basic types of non-woody roots are:

1. Root hairs on non-woody roots are extensions of single epidermal cells. Common on seedlings, root hairs grow to maturity in a few days. They function for a few weeks and then begin to die.

On mature trees, they are usually not abundant. When they do form, they do so when soil conditions are optimum for absorption of water and elements. I have found root hairs growing in non-frozen soils beneath frozen soils in winter.

Flower Buds

All the nutrition that is required for a flower bud to open already exists in the bud. Removal is not necessary and flowering does not take any energy from the plant. Seed production does and removing spent blooms stops seed production


Snake oil people who claim it works have zero science to back them up. Those that sell it and those that use it have lost all credibility with me.

Shore Pine Yamadori Availablity

Here are some Pinus contorta contorta that are available;



Single trunk very old Literati – $400 30″ tall wide root base



Nice thick base very old and twisted $300″ tall



Nice twisted old Shore Pine – 3 gallon pot 20″ tall – $150




Another Shohin Literati – corky bark  1 gallon container – $150












Very Large Shore PIne in a 10 gallon container the base is 8″ across $1500 height is about 24″