A Handful of Collected Junipers

grouper52

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Here are five junipers in two posts, collected in Wyoming and Montana this late spring with Dan Robinson and Eric. The photos were all taken within weeks of collection, but they are mostly doing well, with the exception of one below that I'll talk about later. We also got some Ponderosa pines, and I may start another thread for those later. I'm hoping Eric will post his trees as well.

It's really important not to bother collecting until you are well trained in the theory and technique. Dan essentially wrote the book on this, learning from his own frustration with incredibly poor survival rates when he started 50 years ago. Not knowing what you are doing will simply kill a lot of ancient trees, and our instincts serve us poorly in knowing what to do. Learn from someone good before you try it. :)

First is a Needle juniper - kind of a neat tree, but not too highly prized. It collected well. The rest are Rocky Mountain junipers - J. scopulorum.

The best of the bunch is next, from a granite cliff-top in Montana. It was set back a little bit by the transplant, but there is still a lot of vibrant growth, and I think it will be fine. It almost doesn't matter to waste time thinking about how to "style" it. It speaks for itself, IMO. Eric got an equally choice specimen from about three feet next to this one!

Third is a cute little guy from a crack in some cliffs in Wyoming. I was careful to keep that wonderful jin intact, the main attraction for this tree.

Two more to follow in next thread. :)
 

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grouper52

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The last two trees are pictured here.

First is a little guy that will present some styling challenges. These guys don’t bend much, so it will be a matter of accentuating the positives here. Of the five trees, this showed the least set back after collecting.

The last one has a “fun” little story. It was on a steep cliff, with lots of small cactuses growing all over the place. Well, my worst nightmare was realized coming down the hill with this guy in my arms. You know where this story is going! :eke: Yes, I slipped, and trying desperately to save the tree from harm, (a collecting code of honor - Dan says, “I’ll heal, but the tree may not), I broke my fall with my left elbow and upper forearm, which slammed right into a patch of these nasty little cactuses.

But it didn’t end there - Noooo . . . I then slid down about twenty or thirty more feet of steep incline, caught in a bind between stopping my fall while protecting the tree by not taking my hands off it, and along the way hitting a few more patches of cactuses with my legs, my left arm, and several delicate anatomical structures in my pelvic region! Yeow! I finally came to a halt. I was alive. Nothing seemed broken. The tree seemed intact. A victorious struggle! But . . . .

I finished the trip back down to the truck where Dan, Larry Jackel and a friend of his, and Eric, took great amusement in my plight. I stripped down with great pain, the removal of clothes pulling out or on the many needles embedded in my body. I spent about a half hour pulling the bulk of the needles out of my body with my fingernails, put my clothes back on, and overcame the pain of moving to scramble back up the cliff, and even onto another ridge beyond it where I found a great ponderosa.

That night at the hotel, Eric was kind enough to use some tweezers to remove more needles, but I still had so many in my right arm that I had to sleep with it wrapped in kerlex. Once back home, my wife, a nurse, spent a long evening with a magnifying loop and tweezers pulling out some that remained, but only now, months later, have some of the buried ones finally stopped coming to the surface, allowing the final wounds to heal at last.

For all that, this tree is the only one I got that trip that looks like it may not survive. :( I’m not giving up on it yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me either way. Perhaps no happy ending, but an entertaining story nonetheless. :D
 

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Dav4

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I love collected RMJ...boy, you got some great great trees on that trip. That last little one is a killer, too (tongue in cheek). I'm glad you recovered from your injuriies and hopefully the little one will, also. Envious in GA,

Dave
 

grog

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Oof. The cactus with the little hair looking needles are nasty! Love the trees. With that kind of story behind the 5th one I hope it pulls through.
 
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Klytus

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It maybe possible that you squashed a new and unknown species of cactus in it's entirity,cactus collectors would of course steady themselves using the prominent shrubbery.

Where is the Pine?
 

grouper52

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Thanks, guys. I may post the pines later today or some day soon.
 

Attila Soos

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Great story there, those trees look like treasure. It will be a lot of fun house-training them into well-behaved and properly groomed bonsai.;) The trunk of the second tree looks REALLY ancient. The last one is also a beauty, it would be a cause for celebration if you could indeed keep it alive. The first of the last two may be a good candidate for an Itoigawa approach graft...but only after exhausting all other options.

Did you try placing the last tree into an artificially created humid environment, to increase its chances? Also, what did Dan do wrong in the past and how did he change the collection practices to improve the success rate? I don't have any books from him, explaining his findings.
 
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Attila Soos

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..on my last collecting trip I did not perform belly-flops into a cactus grove, but I DID bring home a couple of scorpions in the collected rootball. Luckily, my dog brought them to my attention next morning, in the backyard. Later on, I released them unharmed back into the wilderness - to much delight of the scorpion-collectors.:)
 

Klytus

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They say that all new species of cactus discovered recently in south America have been found within 5 miles of a road,they made no mention of scorpions.

I think they were simply not looking for them.
 

aredsfan

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You could look at it this way. THat could of been a patch of rattle snakes instead of cactus. andy
 

TheSteve

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Will-

Great trees man. and the story makes them all the better. Whatever you do... DON'T GRAFT THEM. While the foliage is a bit coarse compared to some junipers they have a majesty of their own and we need to keep them as they are. America will never break out in the bonsai world if a) we don't develop our own styles for ourselves and b) we turn our native trees into Japanese trees. My RMJ foliage has a killer blue tint since it has recovered from collection and I couldn't imagine it with foreign foliage.


I'm done ranting now. :rolleyes:
 

grouper52

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Great story there, those trees look like treasure. It will be a lot of fun house-training them into well-behaved and properly groomed bonsai.;) The trunk of the second tree looks REALLY ancient. The last one is also a beauty, it would be a cause for celebration if you could indeed keep it alive. The first of the last two may be a good candidate for an Itoigawa approach graft...but only after exhausting all other options.

Did you try placing the last tree into an artificially created humid environment, to increase its chances? Also, what did Dan do wrong in the past and how did he change the collection practices to improve the success rate? I don't have any books from him, explaining his findings.
Thanks, Attila. The itiogawa approach graft would be great, but it would take years up here, with a limited success rate. RMJs are sometimes sent down to So Cal for such grafting, where the growing conditions are far superior for shimpaku in general. I may eventually end up approach grafting all these guys with shimpaku, though not Itiogawa, since these desert trees often eventually fade in the constant wet up here. Shimpaku foliage will thrive on them here, but the limited growing season makes the grafting difficult.

In my upcoming book on the life and works of Dan Robinson, I devote an entire chapter to the evolution of his collecting techniques, so I don't want to spoil it by laying it all out here. Basically, when he started he knew nothing, and there was no one who knew who could teach him. He would collect the wrong trees, at the wrong times, from the wrong places, in the wrong way. It was sometimes a matter of such simple things as timing, but the complexities of the underlying rock strata, the biology of root systems, species variability, climatic variables, etc, all played a part as well. Besides his general knowledge, which he catalogued in an unpublished manuscript in 1984, he published a few articles through the years, but is generally known today only for the techniques of "root enhancement" and the "papoose wrap", which are still in use by all the collectors that have come after him. People think of Dan as a bonsai artist and a landscape artist, but his first love has always been collecting trees.
 

grouper52

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Will-

Great trees man. and the story makes them all the better. Whatever you do... DON'T GRAFT THEM. While the foliage is a bit coarse compared to some junipers they have a majesty of their own and we need to keep them as they are. America will never break out in the bonsai world if a) we don't develop our own styles for ourselves and b) we turn our native trees into Japanese trees. My RMJ foliage has a killer blue tint since it has recovered from collection and I couldn't imagine it with foreign foliage.


I'm done ranting now. :rolleyes:
Hi steve,

I agree with the underlying philosophy of your rant, but the grafts are a practical matter here: except for the subspecies seen in the second photo found in areas of Montana, apparently, our climate here is too wet for RMJs and Sierra junipers, and they slowly fail. Shimpaku, OTOH, is very moisture loving, and grows very well here. So if we want to keep these great specimens alive here, they must be grafted before they start to fail in a few years.
 

Ang3lfir3

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You could look at it this way. THat could of been a patch of rattle snakes instead of cactus. andy
The rattle snake was later the next day as we were heading out of the collecting grounds. He was nice enough to warn us... Tho Larry couldn't resist going to take a look.

I'll see if I can get some pictures taken of the trees I collected on the trip... i have a pretty even spread of junipers and pines.

Strangley the Pine I was carry down when Will fell is not looking too good either. We were trying to move quickly over the rocks to get off the tretchurous hill side to avoid the Downpour that was about to occur which would have left the rocks wet and that much more slippery and dangerous. I was a few feet in front of Will when he slipped and I was helpless to assist him. It has become such a focal point of the trip (it was painful to watch) that trees collected on the trip are sometimes labeled as "before the fall" and "after the fall".

Will was VERY prepared and keeps an impressive first aid kit.... anyone who goes collecting with him will be safe... it's just too bad he had to be the one who needed the kit.

on a side note... the Juni i collected not 3 feet from that fat old RMJ has the more blueish cast foliage to it while Will's has the more normal foliage... weird.

I never knew how it is that Dan could remember all the trees and where they came from for all those years... but i do now... and you remember the ones you left behind... the ones you still want to collect... best time I've had in a LONG time
 

Attila Soos

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Thanks, Attila. The itiogawa approach graft would be great, but it would take years up here, with a limited success rate. RMJs are sometimes sent down to So Cal for such grafting, where the growing conditions are far superior for shimpaku in general. I may eventually end up approach grafting all these guys with shimpaku, though not Itiogawa, since these desert trees often eventually fade in the constant wet up here. Shimpaku foliage will thrive on them here, but the limited growing season makes the grafting difficult.

In my upcoming book on the life and works of Dan Robinson, I devote an entire chapter to the evolution of his collecting techniques, so I don't want to spoil it by laying it all out here. Basically, when he started he knew nothing, and there was no one who knew who could teach him. He would collect the wrong trees, at the wrong times, from the wrong places, in the wrong way. It was sometimes a matter of such simple things as timing, but the complexities of the underlying rock strata, the biology of root systems, species variability, climatic variables, etc, all played a part as well. Besides his general knowledge, which he catalogued in an unpublished manuscript in 1984, he published a few articles through the years, but is generally known today only for the techniques of "root enhancement" and the "papoose wrap", which are still in use by all the collectors that have come after him. People think of Dan as a bonsai artist and a landscape artist, but his first love has always been collecting trees.
Yes, the Kishu variety is the more hardy one, probably better suited than Itoigawa.

I really hope that you will have the energy and inspiration to publish the book about Dan, I have the feeling that he has some original thoughts on bonsai. Combined with his passion and vast experience, it should be a hit. It is something I am looking forward to seeing, and I would be the first in line to buy it.
 

grouper52

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Yes, the Kishu variety is the more hardy one, probably better suited than Itoigawa.

I really hope that you will have the energy and inspiration to publish the book about Dan, I have the feeling that he has some original thoughts on bonsai. Combined with his passion and vast experience, it should be a hit. It is something I am looking forward to seeing, and I would be the first in line to buy it.
Thanks, Attila. I think the book will be a real addition to the current bonsai literature, but we'll see if others think so too. :) It is essentially finished now, but there are two factors that will delay the release until this time next year. If current negotiations proceed as expected, Stone Lantern will be the publisher, and Walter has written the Foreword. Vic has been a co-photographer with me, and Eric has offered some significant help as well.
 

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"In my upcoming book on the life and works of Dan Robinson, I devote an entire chapter to the evolution of his collecting techniques, so I don't want to spoil it by laying it all out here."

Definitely looking forward to this book.
 
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