Collecting California Juniper with JC

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Hi Kids,

I was lucky enough to be able to collect California Junipers this last weekend (3-20-2010). I brought along my camera to document the collecting. The trick to collecting Cal Junipers is to see what's not there. By looking at this juniper you wouldn't expect there to be anything worth collecting, that's why you have to dig all the way down to the root zone to see what's been covered by debris. Turned out there was a pretty good trunk hidden under ground.

This is an El Nino year here in California (meaning higher than normal rain fall) and that means that the trees are well hydrated and the ground is very soft! After digging up the tree I could see plenty of new white tipped (most desirable) and copper tipped roots. This means that the trees have an excellent chance of survival.

I knock off as much mountain soil as possible and trim back all of the big roots. I pack the root ball in sphagnum moss and wrap the root ball in burlap.
 

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More collecting California Junipers

Part 2,

Everything gets bagged in a black trash bag. Next, I have to reduce the foliage mass and this is where I have to figure out generally where I want to go with the tree. I plan on grafting Shimpaku onto it, so if a branch seems too long now that's OK because I'll graft lower on the tree. I'll post a new thread documenting the steps I take to pot the tree. But for now, here is the potted tree in my greenhouse.

As I mentioned in another thread, if you have the opportunity to collect California Junipers, this is the year to do it, the trees are hydrated and the ground is still soft. This tree has a great chance of survival and I feel very lucky that I was able to find it.

JC
 

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Attila Soos

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Interesting trunk. It looks like a big one.
How do you water in the greenhouse? Are those valves visible in the picture part of a misting system?

What made you decide to graft on this one?

Good luck with the tree, I hope it will make it.
 
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Greenhouse Plumbing

Atilla and friends,

That is a regular sprinkler valve (industrial grade) that is controlled by a humidistat. I keep the humidity between 40 -60 % and the valve turns on foggers as needed. It is a very easy setup and you can buy all the parts at Home Depot (except the humidistat).

The first pic shows the trees just after potting, you can see a tree laying on the floor waiting to be worked on. The second pic shows the trees with the pots bagged, all Juniper berries removed and additional pruning of the trees done. I remove all berries because I want the tree to put energy into growing roots and foliage and not seeds. Additionally, I remove any foliage I deem as not necessary to cut down the water demand on the tree. Other collectors prune a lot more but I'm still wrestling with how much foliage the tree needs to make sugar to stimulate root growth. However I do know this, by reducing the foliage on the tree (around 50%) you automatically stimulate a growth response in the tree due to the reduction of the hormone Auxin. Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

JC
 

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The Next Victim

Alright Kids,

Here is another tree that I dug following the montra, "look for what you don't see". Here is a different scenario, a California Juniper clump that looks like a twisted mess. However, all this means is that a tree is hiding inside. The tree that I saw was growing off of a limb and all I had to do is see if it had roots (and it did). As described before, I cut off the large roots, removed much of the mountain soil, packed the roots with sphagnum, wrapped the root ball in burlap and bagged the tree in a black trash bag. The close up of the root ball shows lots of active roots, copper colored and white tipped roots - now the tree is ready for potting...

cont'd
 

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Next Victim Cont'd

Cont'd,

Potting the tree starts with a layer of black volcanic scoria. Next I put in the Akamada right at the root zone. People ask if Akadama gets soggy when it gets wet and how the plants react to it. I have found that the plants love Akadama. Remember, I removed most of the mountain soil which appears to be mostly clay and all I'm doing is replacing it with something much more airy and that drains better. Although Akadama will break down over time, I'm going to change the soil eventually when it goes to a training pot. Also, the scoria will mix in and keep the Akadama from caking up.

NOW THE SECRET INGREDIENT! When I collect trees, I also gather the dead Juniper needles under the tree. If you look carefully enough the needles will have a white fungus just under the surface. I add this into the Akadama to inoculate the tree with micorrhizal. Now I have no scientific evidence that this works, but I noticed that branches that have rooted on their own were touching this stuff and it appears that there is some connection. Hey and at the end of the day it doesn't hurt!

cont'd
 

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Next Victim Cont'd 2

Cont'd 2,

Next I cover the root ball with more Akadama then finally with scoria. This particular tree is a male, so I won't have to remove any berries. I also left the tree long because I needed to keep the top alive so I could graft farther down the trunk in the future.

Now the tree is off to the greenhouse where it is bagged and kept in 40 - 60% humidity. I never move the trees until I'm sure they're alive and kicking. Then I'll gradually bring them out where they'll live with the other trees. Keeping the trees in the greenhouse too long will eventually weaken them because they're used to living in dry conditions.

This is by no means the only way to collect California Junipers; there are countless other ways to kill them! I've had very good luck with this method (about 80%) but there are a couple of caveats. I try to dig a few weeks after a heavy rain (that's why El Nino years are fantastic) and younger trees will have a better success rate that very old large trees. After you dig the tree you must thank the Yamadori gods for giving you that opportunity and you must kiss the root ball of every tree you want to survive!

Anyway, now you know what I do, I would appreciate if everybody would contribute to this website by sharing their stories of success and failure because this is the only way we can put those arrogant European bonsai wannabes back in there places.

Love
JC
 

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rockm

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Thanks for the photos and information. Interesting to see how you all collect this species.

By the way, I dont' think mycorrhiza has anything to do with plants throwing new roots. The fungus colonizes existing root tissue and aids in nutrient uptake. Not saying that adding some to the root zone on a collected plant hurts, but it's not making the plant grow more roots. It helps once new roots are established.
 

Attila Soos

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Thanks for the great photo essay, Marcus.
With a very little extra work, you could have published this in one of the bonsai magazines - after you get to take some pictures of the new growth, the sign that the trees survived.
 

Si Nguyen

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Good job JC! Some nice Cali junipers there. How many did you collect on that one day? I hope you are not one of them greedy guys who collect hundreds of these junipers a season. I know some people like that around here.
I am jealous of that little greenhouse too. Perfect for new stumps!
Good luck to you.
 

MICKJ

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Greenhouse plumbing

Fantastic JC and thanks!That is more info than I have got in months of prying... I am going out again tomarrow to bag a couple more, yamadori yeehaw! Regarding your Greenhouse; what is the temp kept at, in shade or sun? (I live in the San Fernando (very hot in June/ July)) I want to finish my enclosure and any additional parts & info. that you could recommend, would help a million. Spr. Valve, Humistat, Foggers...it's on a timer system? How long do you leave the trees in the greenhouse before turning them out to the world? And- you should publish your stuff...
 
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Good job JC! Some nice Cali junipers there. How many did you collect on that one day? I hope you are not one of them greedy guys who collect hundreds of these junipers a season. I know some people like that around here.
I am jealous of that little greenhouse too. Perfect for new stumps!
Good luck to you.
Si,
I collected five trees. Two of the trees were with the original trees I was trying to collect. As long as the tree is already dug up, I'm not going to leave it! The first pic is one such tree, after I dug up the first Juniper this one was there for the taking. The second pic shows the tree potted up and the third pic is the tree, on the left, in the greenhouse.

Mind you, I don't have room for hundreds of trees and quite frankly it's tiring to dig them. The only reason why I didn't collect more trees Saturday was because I was too tired. However, I try to only dig trees that have good bonsai and survival potential. My other limitation is the size of my greenhouse which is not that big.

JC
 

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Fantastic JC and thanks!That is more info than I have got in months of prying... I am going out again tomarrow to bag a couple more, yamadori yeehaw! Regarding your Greenhouse; what is the temp kept at, in shade or sun? (I live in the San Fernando (very hot in June/ July)) I want to finish my enclosure and any additional parts & info. that you could recommend, would help a million. Spr. Valve, Humistat, Foggers...it's on a timer system? How long do you leave the trees in the greenhouse before turning them out to the world? And- you should publish your stuff...
Grasshopper,

You seek knowledge which I have and here's the scoop. I purchased a 6 X 8 greenhouse from Harbor Freight, however they have a larger one that's around 10 X 12. My backyard and wife won't allow for a large greenhouse so I make due with the small one. I got the humidistat and thermostat from ACF Greenhouses (look on the internet) and they have everything you'll need. All the common stuff you can get from Home Depot.

In a smaller greenhouse heat & humidity are critical. Many people have their misting systems on timers, but I believe the humidistat is better because your greenhouse won't get too wet which can lead to a whole host of problems. I leave the door open all the time because it heats up fast due to the low ceiling. Also, in the hottest months, I take panels off to increase circulation and I have a fan that helps circulate air when it's stupid hot! The greenhouse has water & power and it is completely covered with 50% shade cloth - NO DIRECT SUNLIGHT!

Well grasshopper hopefully that helps. Remember to post pics of your progress on this website because it's your responsiblity to make it the best damn bonsai site ever and you need to give me something interesting to read!

JC
 

MICKJ

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CA Juniper in bag

Hey JC- How long do you typically leave in Greenhouse? I have had one in clear plastic for 2 months, (like a little greenhouse) kept moist all the time. Only problem I have had is letting the sun hit the bag for an afternoon and the branches that were up against the platic looked like they burnt...?
Thanks for any help you guys...
 
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Mickey Mickey Mickey,

Bake cakes, chicken & ribs but not California Junipers (they don't taste very good)! If you put the tree in a bag put it in the shade, under a tree or under shade cloth and don't let the sun hit it. It only takes one afternoon to brown the tree.

My suggestion would be to get it under shade and see what happens. Once you cook the tree and it dies, it will sit for months and do nothing then finally it will get crispy and brown out - or it will brown out immediately. If on the other hand it's alive, it will start throwing out juvenile growth from the tips of the foliage or from the crotches of the branches.

WARNING: New growth doesn't guarantee success so let the tree sit when it first pops. Harry Hirao likes to start feeding it shortly after it pops. He uses Green King (very expensive) or Peters 20-20-20 or Miracle Gro in a pinch. I like organic fertilizers because they won't burn the tree.

Good luck and keep us posted.

JC
 

Dwight

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Hay JC , how about a continuation of this thread....what happens next ?
 

Brian Underwood

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Good lord, thats a lot of info! Thanks! I plan to go on at least one collecting trip this year, though it is scheduled for October... I will take your experiences and teachings into account for sure. -=Brian=-
 
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Dwight My Good Man!

You've read my mind, I was doing my daily check of the trees and noticed that a few of them started popping out juvenile growth, however, I didn't want to start gloating just yet because they've just started to pop and I want to be absolutely sure they're going to make it. It's like when my wife first got pregnant, she didn't want me to say anything until the 4th month - let's say the Cal Junipers are in the 3rd month so I'm almost there.

When I collected these trees they had lots of roots, however, I collected again about a month later when the ground was much dryer and I didn't find any living roots (copper or white tips) so I'm holding my breath on this second batch and hoping that the greenhouse will pull them through. This goes to my point of collecting during "El Nino" years and a few weeks after a good rain.

Anyway, I'll take some pics and I'll post them hopefully tomorrow.

JC
 
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A note on Cal Juniper recovery

Hey Bonsai Friends,

I just wanted to share a couple of notes on the recovery of collected Cal Junipers. At some point, the tree might do a needle drop where some needles yellow, dry up and fall off, while others will get very green. At first you might panic and think that your tree is dying but fear not this is actually a good sign. DO NOT START MOVING, FERTILIZING AND MESSING WITH THE PLANT BECAUSE YOU MIGHT KILL IT!

This, I think, is a hormone response and the tree is eliminating foliage that it can't support. Here's how I believe it works: The foliage sends the hormone Auxin to specific roots which tells the roots to grow. The growing roots send back the hormone Cytokinin which tells the foliage to grow. Foliage that doesn't receive Cytokinin, because roots have been cut, dies off.

If your tree does nothing and goes into a coma, that's when you need to be concerned. Sometimes trees will sit for months with a dull pale green color then they eventually get crispy and die.

Hopefully this info can help anyone that collects junipers from the wild and I would appreciate anyone that can add to, or correct, anything that I've said. Remember, I'm not at botanist; I just play one on the internet!

JC
 
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