Hanging at the Pacific Bonsai Museum

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Deep Sea Diver here. Since I’ve been volunteering at the Pacific Bonsai Museum for the better part of a year, I figured that I’d post some of the jobs the volunteers do over this year to give folks what goes on behind the scenes at the Museum.

Some of you have seen my first job, debarking a deceased Eastern White Cedar for this year’s exhibit opener, “Ghost Tree”. As I said before, I figured, being a relatively newbie, Aarin our Curator chose this job for me because it was safer than working on museum grade specimens! 😉


EA8E4559-E829-47B4-A278-0AB5CA69D1D7.jpeg

All kidding aside Aarin is brilliant and this job shows it!

5E349AD7-3C3E-4039-8F1B-D8AFD871FB4E.jpeg
Cheers
DSD sends
(@Bonsai Nut - I’m posting this thread in General Discussion as there seems to be no specific thread for this type of content. Please feel free to move this in another appropriate area.)
 
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Post 2 Satsuki Azaleas Today! Job - Removing old clogged surface soil, clean moss off trunk, replace old soil with new kanuma and top off with a dusting of mixed moss.

(btw: Feel free to chime in with comments and questions. I’ll do my best to reply cogently or wait until I can chat with the Curator.

So ok, working at the Museum isn’t all about making cool exhibits! It’s mostly hunkering down, concentrating really hard on a specific task, paying attention to detail, even though you are doing routine work.

I actually spent the most part of a couple days on this job, completing 4 azaleas... Juko, Gyoten, Kinsai and one donated azalea with no cultivar name I’ll try to ID upon blooming.

This first tree I’d just finished “taking the foliage down to two branches” earlier in the year after an initial trimming. Then later I spent time removing excess buds so the flowers would not be crowded. It’s a northern type Satsuki, listed as a Kinsei, yet seems to me to be from the Nikko Family. Again, I have to wait until flowering to see if my hunch is right... likely not, but it’s good practice for a newbie to go through the ropes on independently identifying the trees you work on. It forces you to think about the key characteristics of each tree while you are working.

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It’s really cool to work on a big full cascade Juko satsuki azalea. The presence of the tree itself is impressive. One can’t help but be moved just by being next to it. At first I had to microfocus on the task I had to do to just get beyond what I was feeling to do work on this tree. I feel this cool sense of awe each time I get to work on the Museum’s tree.

Back to the Juko.... I’d removed the dead flowers off this Juko last year. Cool tree!
Here’s two images, one while removing soil and one after putting new kanuma in. Btw: Juko has a number of flower sports, like Juko no Homare and Tensui.
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Another before and after. This is a Gyoten satsuki which is a sport of Kaho. We also have a Kaho in the collection, but it’s parked outside. This is a “Maruba” satsuki, a southern type, characterized by those round leaves... not as cold tolerant.
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We have a really cool person in charge of communications, Katherine, who sometimes takes videos to post of us working. She ran in today and had me narrate why and what I was doing. Actually that is a really good practice too as telling what you know while showing what you are doing requires more than basic information. (It also is kinda embarrassing when you mess up!)
cheers
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kale

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Awesome post DSD! Should I be taking the foliage to two branches on my young satsukis?
 
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Awesome post DSD! Should I be taking the foliage to two branches on my young satsukis?
Likely, unless these are really young. If you leave all the branches after blossoming you’ll end up with “cartwheels” at each flowering node. Not such a good thing for a future bonsai.

Choose two of equal strength, moving parallel and remove the rest of the branches. Save 3-6 of the best cuttings for rooting each year. You may need to use these later for grafts. (btw If you have a multicolored cultivar it will be important to choose cuttings from areas that will breed true.)

Yet I think what you do after initial cutback is the key. You have several choices depending on your goals.
The best reference I know of to help guide you is an article in Bonsai Focus 3.2016 “After the Blossom” It’s a reprint from Kinbon Magazine.

Cheers
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leatherback

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(btw If you have a multicolored cultivar it will be important to choose cuttings from areas that will breed true.)
And.. Important to ensure you do not trim of the recessive flower color, to avoid the whole tree becoming uniform!

You have a really cool volunteering place there!
 

Woocash

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Deep Sea Diver here. Since I’ve been volunteering at the Pacific Bonsai Museum for the better part of a year, I figured that I’d post some of the jobs the volunteers do over this year to give folks what goes on behind the scenes at the Museum.

Some of you have seen my first job, debarking a deceased Eastern White Cedar for this year’s exhibit opener, “Ghost Tree”. As I said before, I figured, being a relatively newbie, Aarin our Curator chose this job for me because it was safer than working on museum grade specimens! 😉


View attachment 351349

All kidding aside Aarin is brilliant and this job shows it!

View attachment 351348
Cheers
DSD sends
(@Bonsai Nut - I’m posting this thread in General Discussion as there seems to be no specific thread for this type of content. Please feel free to move this in another appropriate area.)
What a cool place to work. That ghost tree is really quite something. A great shame, but what a way to show branch structure on a conifer that isn’t normally possible. The pot combo is very clever too. Did you lime sulphur it or is it naturally that white underneath?

Also how many trees are there in the collection? It has to be one of the best resources for reference you can get anywhere.
 
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What a cool place to work. That ghost tree is really quite something. A great shame, but what a way to show branch structure on a conifer that isn’t normally possible. The pot combo is very clever too. Did you lime sulphur it or is it naturally that white underneath?

Also how many trees are there in the collection? It has to be one of the best resources for reference you can get anywhere.
It is a real thrill and an honor to work at the Museum 😎!

In days past it seems folks in an entire village mourned the passing of famous old bonsai. This was a similar effort to honor the passing of a rare bonsai.

Coincidentally the pot the E W Cedar was last potted in accidentally was broken during the winter before I began work on the tree. Aarin felt using this pot would heighten the sense of loss and sorrow one would feel when looking at the entire exhibit... which is about the history of the Japanese contribution to bonsai up through World War Two... including and just after the internment camps. I’ll tell more about the exhibit later as I work on these trees.

The collection has grown to about 180 trees due to recent donations. We’ve usually been able to maintain about 150, so the remainder will be worked and traded or sold to improve the collection’s overall variety and quality.

As the Ghost Tree is a cedar it’s wood had the natural variations in colors of cedar that really came out after I rinsed and strip sanded it in I the last phase of finishing. The tree needed three applications of lime sulfur by Jeff and Scarlet to even out the color to give the ghost effect. Even the Aarin wasn’t entirely satisfied with its presence, so he created a brownish textured backdrop by staining a sheet of plywood and positioned it behind the tree.

Here’s a close up of the Ghost Tree exhibit, showing the backdrop in its entirety. As you might guess, the tree looks way different in various climatic conditions.

AC441D9E-4BF6-4B8B-B81C-FC286C788CA2.jpeg

cheers
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Prep Work - Japanese Maple for PSBA photo shoot

Puget Sound Bonsai Association has been planning a Winter Silhouette photo shoot for this week. Aarin wanted to put one of our trees into the shoot. I’m up to do the basic prep work.

This tree is on display so Scarlet and I carefully slide it onto one of our nifty hydraulic carts. This tree is good sized, but not major heavy like some of our specimens. When moving a tree one has to always watch your hands and head when moving big trees... Your hands so you don’t get your fingers crushed, or inadvertently grab the trunk. Your head so you don't get a face full of branches during the transfer. Here is the JM in its winter display box before the transfer.

0B25C583-10BB-4583-800D-352854D30A68.jpeg

Once loaded, the tree is transferred again to the bed of a gator and it’s off to the Workshop... where most really cool things are done to our trees. Transferred yet again to another wheeled lift and it’s show time. The main point is to lightly scrub the algae off the trunk and brush back moss off the nebari. So I load up with an assortment of long and short handled toothbrushes. Then, with one of our functioning spray bottles in hand, I start in cleaning the trunk, roots, branches and branchlets.

1AC00AAF-F3F3-4CF7-81A5-BEDF7DF02853.jpeg

A note to other beginners: When faced with a spiderweb of branches to work on, one needs to focus at all times. Otherwise when the tree dries you might find yourself with a large number of branches and branchlets that weren’t cleaned. This is a worse case scenario as one ends up chasing their tail around the tree. Since the tree wet has to be before you clean, you can’t easily pick out the algae covered branches. So one ends up cleaning here and there, waiting for the tree to dry again, only to find there are areas you missed yet again!

The cleaning mantra goes like Focus, pay attention to Detail... start at the Top and work downwards... be Consistent.

It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially when your coworkers come over to comment about a tree you are working on. This time it’s Ken, an incredibly gifted Boon trained artist, who does most of our big tree wiring. He steps over to comment on the tree. Ken asserts that one of the main high points of this tree is that it's branches begin to ramify right off the trunk. An excellent point btw, but before I stop to appreciate this feature, I gently grab the base of the branch I’m working on so as to keep my place.

As I scrub, the rich burgandy colors of the trunk come out, the emerald green of the primary branches gleams and the pink red hues of the growing tips shine softly into my eyes... As you can see, it easy to get lost in the magnificence of one of our trees!

Just about done, I’m realizing some areas are best to clean up and down, others sideways. Once done, Scarlet gets an air mover to blow on the tree and dry it off. Luckily I missed only one or two branchlets. Easily fixed!

All dried off now. It’s time to nip off all the tiny deadwood pieces left over from winter pruning. Also to lightly slice off larger branch cuts and cut paste these with brown green Lac Balsam cut paste. We do this for two purposes. First, it’s just good styling technique, secondly each of the larger cuts will show as white on our photos.

CB35509E-A59F-46DE-8254-7CE714C2C034.jpeg

Finally I tweezer all the fallen debris off the moss and wipe off the pot. Aarin will still have to do final trimming and the pot will get a final wipe of baby oil before the photo shoot tomorrow. But just for fun I decided to spray down the trunk with water one last time and slide it in front of a wall to take a final shot for posterity.

2EF66465-DBAD-49BD-93E2-6B940D6F7C29.jpeg
cheers
DSD sends
 

Carol 83

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Prep Work - Japanese Maple for PSBA photo shoot

Puget Sound Bonsai Association has been planning a Winter Silhouette photo shoot for this week. Aarin wanted to put one of our trees into the shoot. I’m up to do the basic prep work.

This tree is on display so Scarlet and I carefully slide it onto one of our nifty hydraulic carts. This tree is good sized, but not major heavy like some of our specimens. When moving a tree one has to always watch your hands and head when moving big trees... Your hands so you don’t get your fingers crushed, or inadvertently grab the trunk. Your head so you don't get a face full of branches during the transfer. Here is the JM in its winter display box before the transfer.

View attachment 351680

Once loaded, the tree is transferred again to the bed of a gator and it’s off to the Workshop... where most really cool things are done to our trees. Transferred yet again to another wheeled lift and it’s show time. The main point is to lightly scrub the algae off the trunk and brush back moss off the nebari. So I load up with an assortment of long and short handled toothbrushes. Then, with one of our functioning spray bottles in hand, I start in cleaning the trunk, roots, branches and branchlets.

View attachment 351690

A note to other beginners: When faced with a spiderweb of branches to work on, one needs to focus at all times. Otherwise when the tree dries you might find yourself with a large number of branches and branchlets that weren’t cleaned. This is a worse case scenario as one ends up chasing their tail around the tree. Since the tree wet has to be before you clean, you can’t easily pick out the algae covered branches. So one ends up cleaning here and there, waiting for the tree to dry again, only to find there are areas you missed yet again!

The cleaning mantra goes like Focus, pay attention to Detail... start at the Top and work downwards... be Consistent.

It’s easy to get sidetracked, especially when your coworkers come over to comment about a tree you are working on. This time it’s Ken, an incredibly gifted Boon trained artist, who does most of our big tree wiring. He steps over to comment on the tree. Ken asserts that one of the main high points of this tree is that it's branches begin to ramify right off the trunk. An excellent point btw, but before I stop to appreciate this feature, I gently grab the base of the branch I’m working on so as to keep my place.

As I scrub, the rich burgandy colors of the trunk come out, the emerald green of the primary branches gleams and the pink red hues of the growing tips shine softly into my eyes... As you can see, it easy to get lost in the magnificence of one of our trees!

Just about done, I’m realizing some areas are best to clean up and down, others sideways. Once done, Scarlet gets an air mover to blow on the tree and dry it off. Luckily I missed only one or two branchlets. Easily fixed!

All dried off now. It’s time to nip off all the tiny deadwood pieces left over from winter pruning. Also to lightly slice off larger branch cuts and cut paste these with brown green Lac Balsam cut paste. We do this for two purposes. First, it’s just good styling technique, secondly each of the larger cuts will show as white on our photos.

View attachment 351694

Finally I tweezer all the fallen debris off the moss and wipe off the pot. Aarin will still have to do final trimming and the pot will get a final wipe of baby oil before the photo shoot tomorrow. But just for fun I decided to spray down the trunk with water one last time and slide it in front of a wall to take a final shot for posterity.

View attachment 351695
cheers
DSD sends
Thanks for sharing your experiences there, very cool indeed.
 
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Thanks!

You will see more about that Blue Atlas Cedar very soon...

Its funny... these clips are not set pieces. Katherine just pops in, whips out the iphone, and says, “So, what are you doing today?“. Its mostly a one and done.... If I look like I know what I’m doing it’s because Aarin’s a good teacher! 😎

cheers
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Today's Mission - Overhaul a Big Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca')

This big robust Blue Atlas Cedar is unquestionably the best we have at the Museum. Its been onboard for a long time. During the winter it has accumulated a number of issues we want to address in the next day and a half. Here's a couple cheesecake photos before I get down to work.

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First the BA Cedar has accumulated a bit of Sirococcus Shoot Blight that needs to be taken care of soon. These little Sirococcus Strobilinus fungi like close packed needles that hold pockets of moisture, allowing the fungus to breed and spread. The affected needles are very distinctive as they have a characteristic ‘pink’ color and become brown as the season progresses. It took me a bit of time to learn to find "pink needles". Scarlet and Aarin spotted these right off. Practice makes better...! Maybe you can pick these out...

9F00FC2B-45C6-4595-BF27-99BABD08629A.jpeg 74C8FB42-B21D-43C8-94E9-61C0FB34BC82.jpeg

The first work phase had 3 parts tto be done all at once.

Starting at the top I work downwards, plucking out every single infected needle. Then pluck in between the growing rosettes of needles to decrease crowding.... creating space for air to circulate. Finally "push" the protruding branchlets back into the styled form. Knowing the tree needs a full wiring job badly, we didn't push back hard, knowing Ken and Aarin would come in afterward and wire these back into style.

The bywords today are Attention to Detail, Make good decisions, Recheck and redo. Its constant vigilance, assess - pluck - cut back or not... and repeat...

I know the job is done really well when the "starbursts of needles" stand out. See the Cedar's starbursts of needles before and afterwards. There's a distinct difference in color... Left before, right afterwards. Two photos taken 5 minutes apart.

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This job took a real long time. Aarin took pity on me at the end of the first day and helped work on one side. He's way faster than me! Thus, the next morning I only needed an hour or two get this phase done.

Next: Scrub deadwood, dry and Lime Sulfur.

This is careful work on a big tree. First as a tall tree, it represents a number of safety hazards due to its height. Second, Lime sufur is a decidely hazardous chemical, burn and respiratory danger here. Thus one has to ensure to wear appropriate PPE at all times. Extra thick nitrile gloves, wrap around safety goggles, long sleeves, hat and a respirator if you have one. Being I've just had laser surgery for a retina tear, I'm doubly aware of the need to take care of my personal safety, especially my eyes! Please remember your PPE.

Out with the toothbrush and scrub. Let dry.... Then apply two coats of full bore Lime sulfur out of the bottle. We applied the lime sulfur with the barn door open, the tree at the door opening and the air mover blowing away. Luckily it wasn't too cold... 44F

Scrubbing the deadwood was straightforword, but the lime sulfur is more exacting.

My inclination was to put a nice layer on the deadwood, not too much, not too little. It turned out I was too generous as the chemical started to run... and drip! UGH! Out with a moist paper towel, or three, or ten and sop up the extra. Over and over again, until every drip and stain was gone. Rookie mistake here! Beware, this stuff is slipperier than it looks! Mopping up can be hazardous. Especially watch where the moist towels go!

You might see a hint of extra lime sulfur under these branches. I took the second shot before I cleaned up my "Oops" mistakes!
Left - scrubbing, Right - Lime sulfur application.

CFEE09D4-475F-423D-9DF9-C00F9113A7EE.jpeg F3534BF7-31F9-42FF-9EA5-C4793929E6E3.jpeg

Finally, my last phase is to go over the entire job and check for stray needles I missed. Pluck needles off the clusters, the trunk and the media. Then pull star weeds. After that a rubdown of the pot with a moist cloth. Finally clean up all needles and toss these in the covered garbage. Whew!

0B41886D-4658-4ABE-B952-F3C07AE82548.jpeg

The next step is to spray the tree with a fungicide - Subdue Maxx - pricey stuff - to put down the Sirococcus fungus. Some folks are inclined to use Dacinol. Aarin says that's a big no no as Dacinol attacks a Cedar's waxy coating. So... not such a good idea!

Finally, Big Blue will go off to the wiring shop where Ken will likely work on it. I'll see if I can get some photos of that process and the finished tree later.

That's all for now!

Cheers
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Thanks!

You will see more about that Blue Atlas Cedar very soon...

Its funny... these clips are not set pieces. Katherine just pops in, whips out the iphone, and says, “So, what are you doing today?“. Its mostly a one and done.... If I look like I know what I’m doing it’s because Aarin’s a good teacher! 😎

cheers
DSD sends
 
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@Deep Sea Diver just watched you working on the azalea and blue atlas cedar on Facebook. Great job talking us through what you were doing. Thanks for the insights, keep it up! 👍
Thanks!

Its funny... these clips are not set pieces. Katherine just pops in, whips out the iphone, and says, “So, what are you doing

today?“. Its mostly a one and done.... If I look like I know what I’m doing it’s because Aarin’s a good teacher!

cheers
DSD sends
 
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Today's mission: Getting trees ready to sell...

Many folks donate trees to the Pacific Bonsai Museum with the expectation that these will be sold soon to raise money for the Museum as they aren't museum quality. Also Aarin is very slowly, but surely, adding and subtracting trees from the collection to improve the collection's breadth, depth and quality. So the goal is to build the very best collection possible, while getting funds to keep things going.

Lately I've been tasked to work on a number of "sell" trees. Getting each to look its very best. Its always bittersweet to me to think of parting with a tree, but in this case its a really good thing. I know each is destined to go to homes where folks can spend much more time on them than we could... over years... making them the best they can be.

So for two days it was Clip, Cut paste, Weed, Scrub the pot and take photos. I have to make a lot of decisions while I work, keep up the rythmn and move to the next tree. Here's a few of the trees that I worked on....

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First off we are set to tackle a number of two needle pines. Each of these medium sized two needle pines, black, red, etc that were donated by a local individual a couple years ago. Each have good long term promise, but had not been attended to for a couple years. Aarin, Scarlet and Jeff have worked hard to get these healthy for this year.
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After removing all old needles, clipping dead branchlets and nubs, I cut pasted, then weeded, and cleaned the pots. Then shot 90 degree images as well as the trunk and a comparison shot with a bottle. Here are some images of a few we worked over. Note: I need to remember to take the pink surveyors tape off each before I take photos. (I've got to go back and retake a couple this week! Its the details that count...)

A37F27B3-92E1-4D54-A600-D53A89E95A51.jpeg

Each and every one of these needs a repot and likely a bigger pot. The really good news on these pines it that each are ready to explode with growth once the roots get room to roam!

Azaleas were next. We've a couple to get ready for new homes. The same process was done. Nothing structural, just fit and finish, detail work.
This first satsuki's identity is was not given to us upon donation. But I'm going to try to puzzle this out in May-June blooming time.
E4B8B315-68FA-4536-A83F-0909D65B6A68.jpeg
The next photos are of an older Gyoten satsuki. Its going to be repotted soon! I really hope I'm in on that evolution.

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Lastly we were given a melange of trees to prep. Amongst them were a Paper bark Maple and a really nice Crabapple. I haven't seen a Paper Bark bonsai so that was cool to work on. Here's a photo of the lovely Paper bark Maple!

8F8BEFCD-D5A3-420F-943F-31A7AEB24A07.jpeg 1DE58340-A9E7-44D6-BCD3-D1455C0E9E40.jpeg

This was a go couple days of work for the crew. There's more coming.

I really like the work we do. We're always striving for better, step by step, in every job we do. This was no exception.

When folks think of creating bonsai, myself included, they are first drawn into the ultimate beauty of the finished product... most don't anticipate all the care, planning, work, rework and constant vigilance that is required to create and maintain a high quality bonsai. I'm learning and liking this work.
Its always a good day. That alone makes it easy to be ready to do the work!

Cheers
DSD sends

PS: btw Katherine does an awesome job crafting videos about lots of Pacific Bonsai Museum doings on Facebook!!
 
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MrWunderful

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Looks great. I was there in 2017, want to go back so bad. Keep up the good work, efforts of volunteers are what make things like this possible.
 

cwilhelm

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Today's mission: Getting trees ready to sell...
This has been a fun thread to follow. I enjoy the "behind-the-scenes" view into the work being done at the Pacific Bonsai Museum. I wasn't aware that they take volunteers, but living in the Seattle area that sounds like something I might enjoy doing one day far from now when the kids are out of the house.

How/where do sales of some of these donated trees you reference happen?
 
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How/where do sales of some of these donated trees you reference happen?
That’s a good question. I’ll let you know when I find out more and Aarin gives me the ok to release.
cheers
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Heat regulation! Keeping the the trees safe during the snowstor.

Last week the temperatures forecasted for a number of days and nights where the temperatures were certainly going to dip well below freezing. Also a big snow was to looking to dump on the area. The Museum staff jumped into their cold weather action plan for keeping our trees healthy through the event. Here’s what they do in these situations.

First of most of the exhibited trees are partially protected with three sided enclosures, as you can see with this Stewardia.

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Next heaters are added to each enclosure.
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Finally each enclosure has a “Front door”... See these on the right of this Domato Redwood.

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When the weather gets nasty, the staff goes around ”closing the door” on each of the enclosures.

But, of course, we don’t leave the doors hanging around. That wouldn’t be professional! Each enclosure has to be reset with heaters and doors, so it’s a matter of hauling equipment hither and yon each time things look grim for the trees.

But what about our huge specimens like the Domoto Trident? In this case it a matter of buttoning up the tree’s roots and safely tucking each in for the length of the event.

FBDABE14-0FD4-4CAC-BD48-C3FC69422B55.jpeg A7B7A5C1-457F-40D4-A929-4441F40562A9.jpeg

...and that’s how things are kept safe and healthy through the winter’s inclement weather!

cheers
DSD sends
 

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