I'm the New Caretaker for an Old Larch Grove, looking for insight.

Rivka

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Today I became the 3rd caretaker for an old larch grove that is apparently 60+ years old. It has been owned by two members of my local Bonsai Society, the last of which for 20 years.

I would love to learn all I can about larches, I have always loved them as landscape trees, as well as anything folks see in this particular.
It has not been trimmed back this year as you can see and it has lots of freeloaders in its pot, some intriguing, others most likely problematic.
It is planted on top of a large chunk of black volcanic stone, I have not yet probed around to find the extent of it and if it is entirely a root over a rock or some partial set up. It has a number of interesting types of mosses and lichen both. I will be looking into if I can keep the lichen since they seem to enhance the overall presentation in my eye.

Anyway, here you go, feel free to point me towards good threads and other learning sources. I will be going slow and cautious with this, I feel very responsible for its next 20 years.
Larch_Grove_ - 1.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 2.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 3.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 4.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 5.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 6.jpegLarch_Grove_ - 7.jpeg
 

Cadillactaste

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You don't mess with the roots of a larch while it's in brush foliage. You do that as it's waking from dormancy....Green tips are okay...you start to see the brush of the foliage, your window of opportunity has left. The pot, and all that's going on...I am going to say a repot could be challenging. With not knowing what you are dealing with. I may have asked the one...some history on when the last time this was repotted. I'm not seeing a whole lot of ramification...But...I don't know larch overly much. Just researching for it's a species I would like to own.
 

Rivka

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Yeah I will be staying in touch with the person that passed it to me, so I will look to him to give me more insight as to whats under the soil level and large rock. I’m going to assume he has repotted it a few times at least. I already went over what culture he was providing for it, so that I could match that and not stress the plant out.
 

August44

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IMO, someone has not taken very good care of that at all. I'm not sure I'd ask the previous owner anything! What is all that black crap hanging from the branches? I agree that it need serious repotting, pruning for sure, but not now. Needs to be done in early spring before any green is showing. You might be able to prune some now. Portland has a big club. I would get in touch with them and get hands on help. Best way to learn. I live in Baker City, Or with no one to help. Not a lot of fun sometimes, but I love collecting and trying/learning as I go along. Luck!
 
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Jorgens86

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Looks realy unhealthy.
That grass or whatever it is on top of soil must be removed. Its sucks the nutrients and water out. Lot of work for this one and you must decide if its worth the time on this. And get rid of that black moss around branches. Uts killing your tree also
 

Rivka

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The “crap” is moss and lichen, It grows on anything that doesn’t run away around here. You really don't have to drip your reply in so much disgust. The person no longer had time to care for it like he knew it needed, hence why he sold it.

It does not need repotting as much as a good weeding, which I have already started on. It was last repotted in 2017, so I will at least lift it near the end of dormancy next winter and take stock of things. I’m told as much as half of the pot volume may be this single black volcanic rock, so it should be interesting.

I am a member of the local clubs and once our area opens back up more from covid restrictions, surely i will get in person help as well.
 

Rivka

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Looks realy unhealthy.
Lot of work for this one and you must decide if its worth the time on this.
It’s already cleaned up, and “worth it”? Its 60+ years old and has history, its just overgrown at the moment, of course it is worth it.
You guys are really pessimistic over some weeds.
 

Shibui

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I'm not sure the pessimism is over a few weeds.
The pessimism is more likely over the health of these trees. Larch are not the easiest of trees to keep as bonsai and larch in poor health may be even more difficult to keep alive through to next year. I do hope your nursing skills can pull these through.
Moss and lichen on the branches does not really harm the trees but it can prevent them from producing back buds because it prevents light from reaching dormant buds. I think you will need to choose between the mossy branch feel of old forest and new buds that may help the trees survive.
Some of that pessimism may also be about the style/shape/look of this bonsai.
60 years may be history but does not necessarily mean good bonsai. Bonsai is an art that is viewed. It has evolved into far more than a tree in a pot. Bonsai should look good. They need artistic style and form to impress the viewer. Age adds value to a bonsai but only when the bonsai is well designed.

In my view what really matters is that you are happy with your new tree but some others may have a lot more experience and points of view.
I note that you did not actually ask for opinions, only for references to other threads and resources but whenever trees are posted they will attract opinions and comment. Try not to shoot the messenger(s) when they bring news you don't want.

There are several different species of larch. Some are more hardy than others so it may be worth trying to work out which sort you have.

I do not know offhand any good threads for larch management but I used the search function to check what larch info is on b'nut. I don't think I don't think I need to work through all 10 pages to find you the best but this one looks like it has some good info https://www.bonsainut.com/threads/larch-question.43635/#post-743920

Good luck with your tree.
 
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I think some of the natural details are what make it great. After a bit of cleanup and in a better pot, I think this group has a lot of potential. The lichen that often grown on larch are one of the unique parts about them.
 

Rivka

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Shibui,
yeah, I agree that a tree's value is more in its structure and look than plain old age and that honestly, this is not the best looking grove around. But I also don't think there are any huge red flags health-wise, and it is certainly worth working and learning on and genuinely enjoying my first chance to care for an older bonsai.
Though I have heard it can be in warmer climates larches are not usually happy, I do not live in one of those climates, this tree has lived outside in my city, year-round, for more than 60 years, I think if it were cranky, it would have been clear long before now.
I'm fine with opinions, that is why I posted, I just don't think they have been very constructive. Your comment about balancing the look of lichen with the sunlight needs for back budding was the first real exception to that, and thank you for taking the time. And yes I did search the forum and a few others as well, I always do and have been reading thru what I found, I don't expect folks to search for me, just if they happened to know of a great thread or article, I always love getting pointed to the gems.

I would like to hear why folks think these trees are unhealthy? Peter44 what is your reasoning, besides blaming "black stuff" that you can't even identify? I would love to be educated if there is something folks are seeing that I'm not. It has good new growth on all its live branches and the ones that are dead have clearly been that way for many years. While Lichen and moss can block light, it does not in itself indicate an unhealthy tree from what I know, it is a really common sight on nearly anything left alone fore too long in the valleys of the pacific northwest. Though I admit my knowledge is more about full-size forests than the tiny bonsai ones.
 

Bnana

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Look like healthy old trees to me. Lichen are no problem for a tree. The worst they can do is shade the bark. I love how they make the tree look older.

There is definetly room to improve the structure but there is a lot to like.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I own a couple of larches.
If buds are shaded out, they're usually rejected in the next year; they don't open up and don't draw energy so the entire branch might be abscised by the tree.
I also noted that weaker parts usually don't show good extending growth, a tree in good health can live like that for decades; putting out just a tiny bit of foliage on every bud every year. I think @Brad in GR has a larch like that where one can see how the rings of every years foliage build on top of another (sorry if I remember it wrong, then I don't know who posted it).
However, that's in the wild. Where things live at a slow pace and die at a fast pace. Once a larch is potted, I think it should produce long extending growth all over; it's a sign of vitality. A friend of mine had a tiny forest of larches, they didn't produce extending growth, they just put out one 'layer' of needles. They didn't survive the winter. Larches seem to be good at compartmentalization, so a weak branch this year could mean that it's a dead branch the next year.

This is a neutral observation on my part. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
 

Rivka

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Thanks, Yamabudoudanshi I know it is not a breathtaking grove, but it's nice, and it's mine, so there's that. I will be cleaning up clumps that are tightly around green needles so that they can get air and light but leaving some of the interesting bits along the sections of branch that I'm ok with being bear and the deadwood and roots if I can. After cleaning up the last few years of duff, the black volcanic rock has shown itself to be a stunning aspect of the planting and I think it will look good to keep a moderate amount of moss on the rock itself where it can't compete with the tree for food but like alongside. The previous owner said that it used to be in a shallower pot, but that the culture needs exceeded his capabilities or willingness maybe. So I will be really interested to see what I can see next Jan or Feb when I lift it and carefully poke around. at some point, I believe this was at least in large part a root over rock. after I get a better idea regarding the shape of the rock itself, I will get an idea of what sort of overall design and pot it can be happy in. I can even see this heading towards a Shanshui Penjing "rock and pond" style landscape.
 

mattspiniken

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Pretty cool group that could become even more. Awesome to have some Larch with history.

If it were mine I would grow it this year. Next year I would repot it and re-arrange the trunks a bit maybe straighten a few and create a bit more visual sense to the design. I would also lightly wire a few important branches (before the repot).

THen I would let it grow that year all year. The following year I would detail wire the whole thing.

That is my take, trees look healthy.
 

Rivka

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Once a larch is potted, I think it should produce long extending growth all over; it's a sign of vitality.

This has tons of aprox 10cm long growths all over it at the tips (and tips of a number of side branches) would you think that is a good sign?
I've been searching around for some explanation of types or stages of growth on larches, like why these long single growths and how that is different from the small "florettes" that line the older branches. I seem to only come up with talk of emerging growth "the paintbrush" reference. I'll keep looking, im sure more info is out there.
 

Bnana

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Mosses don't have roots, so they can not really compete with your tree for water and nutrients. That effect is pretty much negligible, especially on a deeper pot.
 

Rivka

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If it were mine I would grow it this year. Next year I would repot it and re-arrange the trunks a bit maybe straighten a few and create a bit more visual sense to the design.
yeah, at this point, I'm not planning anything but clean up to it this year, nothing structural for sure.
I agree they haphazard and mismatched angles of the trunks are the big issue. They don't all share an "up" or fan in a flowing way. I will have to wait to see how tight they are to the large volcanic rock and if they can be shifted to a more visually harmonious alignment. I was thinking of putting some very gentle directional pull on them this year, maybe only enough to halt or correct if they are actually still slipping farther, do you think that is too stressful?
 

Rivka

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Mosses don't have roots, so they can not really compete with your tree for water and nutrients. That effect is pretty much negligible, especially on a deeper pot.
yeah, I guess I was thinking mostly about what looks like Irish moss in some spots, which is not actually a true moss and does have roots. and the little violets of course.
 

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