Lodgepole Pine

Here is a bit of information on  Lodgepole Pines, the majority of studies on Lodgepole were done by European countries. Their purpose was the possibility of replacing the European native Pinus sylvestris (Scot’s Pine) with Lodgepole as a lumber source. Some genetic strains of Lodgepole grow well on poor sites and cold temperatures.

The species Lodgepole Pine  (Pinus contorta) is a 2 needle subgenus of Pinus and encompasses 4 varieties or races. Within these groups are ecotypic variations

The 4 races are divided up geographically;

Pacific coast – Shore pine (Pinus contorta contorta)

Inland  – Lodgepole ( Pinus contorta latifolia)

Mendocino – Bolander Pine – (Pinus contorta bolanderi)

Sierra Lodgepole –  Tamarack Pine – (Pinus contorta murrayana)

Generally all Lodgepole do not do well with competition from other tree species. They require full sun and suffer  as an understory tree. They are somewhat a pioneer species that propagate well after a fire. Lodgepole can adapt to many different soil types and often the only species seen on ultramafic soils, seasonal high water tables, rocky sandy sites and other poorly enriched soils.

The Pacific coast race (Shore pine – Pinus contorta var. contorta) have local ecotypic variations which includes a chemically distinctive muskeg ecotype. This variation grows in wetlands, bogs and marginal sites. The bark is extremely thick, rough, thick plates which some refer to as corky bark. It is not entirely known what causes the thick bark as compared to other Shore Pines that do not exhibit this characteristic. The bog ecotype has many obstacles to overcome, wet soils, exposure to fungus and algae, salt spray (coastal) acidic soils, constant wind etc. These combined factors may account for the thick bark.

It has been suggested that this race evolved after the last ice age and were isolated in  bogs and muskeg that are the same today as when the ice retreated. Leaving this race in the same environment over the last 10,000 years to evolve into it’s own ecotype. The soils are highly acidic 4.5ph but much of coastal soils are acidic due to heavy rainfall and carbonic acids. Slow growing short gnarly branches contorted trunks make this race a great addition to bonsai but collecting is extremely difficult due a limited root system. Exposing and finding the main trunks and roots are often difficult. Some of the main roots continue for a long distance without any fine feeder roots attached making collecting not possible.

The bog ecotype grows in very wet organic surface soils while the underlying soils are  semihard clayey grey and brown mud deposited by the last ice age. Wet soils almost all year round while in the winter months high water tables and poor drainage. Collecting can be very frustrating, hard to differentiate between a root and the actual trunk underground, many twists turns and reverse directions. Important to keep the rootball intact as much as possible to prevent roots from breaking off.

Aftercare is very crucial the root ball needs to breath and drain plus get enough water at the same time. In the 2nd year after collecting I use a slow release commercial fertilizer 18-6-18. The  nitrogen portion is important for this pine specie, other pines do not require as much as Shore Pines. Also in my planting mix I use pumice mixed with composted fish bark, this provides a chelated form of iron which is readily available to the tree. They respond extremely well to nitrogen fertilization without it they do poorly and susceptible to fungus as well as other diseases.


I am not familiar with the other types of Pinus contorta, other than latifolia that grows on the mainland.



Shore Pine Yamadori Update

I am going to Michael Hagedorn’s to deliver a large Mt Hemlock in the coming weeks as soon as my passport gets here. I do have a problem crossing into the US with Shore Pines, a pine permit from a US importer is required in order for me to export pines.

At the moment I do not have anyone with a pine permit but anyone who wishes a Mt Hemlock I can deliver that.


January 2016

I have been busy this past year and have neglected this blog.

What’s new for me?

I collected 150 trees last year, 100 Pinus contorta contorta and 50 Tsuga mertensiana. The pines are mostly shohin literati or medium sized trees. The Mt Hemlocks collected are quite large.

A winter photo of a Mt Hemlock raft (1 tree) planted on a cement slab, I cut the back off a chair to create a metal stand


Another forest type on a cement slab


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.



So some new ideas that I have just done this winter

I wanted to make an accurate pot for a literati Mt Hemlock I have so I came up with an experiment.

I grabbed some aluminum wire went to my tree ( in a nursery pot) formed a rough circle with the wire around the tree. This gave me the general size of the pot I need.


I took some stainless steel wire measured the width of my new pot I also added the depth I wanted to the length of wire, double the length and folded it over. I then added it into a drill grabbed the other end with pliers and with the drill got a nice twist of the wire.



After making several of these wires I attached them to the frame





A little patchwork but I got to use up all my scraps of hardware cloth and now it’s time to glue on the tulle and add the the cement.



Having finished the one above I made several more slabs as seen below


Creating Textures

To create different textures like natural rock  depends on the the type of rock you would like to duplicate.

Decide the rock type you wish to duplicate; mainly Sedimentary, Igneous and Metamorphic.

Sedimentary types are limestone, shale, sandstone etc.

Igneous types; basalts, granites etc these two types can be broken into their crystal size and if they were cooled slowly or quickly

Metamorphic marbles, slates gneiss etc.

Some sedimentary rocks are in layers like shales and sandstones to duplicate these I use the fine tile grouts and place thin layers. Wait till it dries and add another layer so on and so on. Look for the different natural colors. Sandstones have a gritty texture I add some coarse sand blasting grit to the grout mix different types of grits and colours are available. As they grout dries you can create layered textures with a sharp point nail just dig in the edges to separate.

Basalts or lavas I use a wet grout mix that flows and drips giving the lava flow effect if you.

I use different grout consistencies to help create different textures and different grouts depending on the sand content of each product. Using the Target grout I am able to use it runny or thick runny gives a smooth texture while thick gives a blocky rough texture. When you apply a second coat of grout the first coat has a tendency to suck up the moisture as you apply and stops it from running.

Experiment with different mixes, amounts of water, product and adding adjuncts.




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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ftDjebw8aA

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