Wednesday, January 28, 2009

About sealing wounds on trees

Yesterday I wrote this on Bonsai Nut:

One would think that the question of wound sealing is something that can easily be solved by listening to professionals who trim trees for a living and to scientists who do the research on which the horticultural practices are based. As one can see it is not that simple. There are fights about this in garden clubs. There are fights about this on the local side of newspapers when trees are trimmed in a park. In bonsai circles this is like a religious war. How is it possible that something which should leave no doubts because of obvious simplicity causes such aggravation?

The main reason in my eyes is that folks in general have no or almost no clue about functioning of a plant but they have a general clue how a human functions. They know that if a person has a large wound which is not treated it is not so healthy. They know that it must be avoided to rot from within if you are a mammal. If KK hates me so much that he cuts my belly open and leaves me without treatment it would be just but not healthy. If I told him that any would treatment would be detrimental and it should be left as it is he would call me nuts or an ignorant; and right so. And the same should be true with trees - the earth is flat. Wound sealants were and still are based on this huge misunderstanding. Then along came Dr. Shigo and he revolutionized the horticultural world. His research found something that is called codit (because most folks could never spell or pronounce the word compartmentalization). In a nutshell it says that trees do NOT rot from within as common sense tells as. They form compartments with chemical and physical boundaries. These compartments are started in the center of a trunk and there are several in rings to the outside. While the center compartment will rot at some time the rot will not continue into the next compartment easily. It will eventually, but on the outside the tree will grow and form new compartments. Even if all inner compartments rot there will still be an outer one where the living root will keep growing. This process normal is so slow that a tree will grow away from the rot successfully for many hundred years, even thousand years. Almost every very old conifer in nature rots from within. But due to compartmentalization the don't die.
Dr. Shigo found that humans who 'help' trees more or less professionally make two mistakes:
1) They cut branches off flat to the trunk and by doing so they make big open wounds across several compartments. Thus they create the danger that otherwise healthy compartments will be easily invaded by all sorts of critters, mainly fungi and to eventually rot.
2) Wound sealants as applied conventionally are meant to prevent rotting of the inner parts of the tree. He found that exactly the opposite is the consequence of this. First out in nature there is no way to prevent some sort of fungi or bacteria getting onto a fresh wound. If some innocent landscaper thinks he can prevent this he simply does not know enough. If you seal it you are creating an ideal environment for these critters to do their work. They need warmth and moisture which the get much better with a sealant than without one. So Dr. Shigo revolutionized horticulture by stating that wound sealants are superfluous and can even be dangerous.
Dr. Shigo is considered an eternal landmark in horticultural science for his findings. A student of horticulture who has never heard of him is an ignorant. A person who think he can fight decades of scientific study of the best capacities in the world with just common sense is a silly ignorant. A landscaper who pretends to not have heard of Dr. Shigo and cannot pronounce compartmentalization is at best a very simple person or a charlatan.

But the world has not changed too much. It is accepted mainstream horticultural practice by now to follow Dr. Shigo, but many don't. Well, fact is that one gets away with it because it takes years before the results show and then one can make money with ignoring Dr. Shigo. How that? Well, cut off big branches in a public park an do not treat them with something and you will see that people jump all over you. They 'know' they you are doing something wrong. Folks ask you to treat their trees in the garden and you live big open wounds. They will think you don't know what you are doing. So there are many charlatans who do put wound sealants onto big wounds to make money and to make people shut up. These charlatans know that they should not really doing this, but it is good for them and not all that bad for trees; a least not immediately. And then there are some who have not bothered to continue learning after basic horticultural education. They are doing things the way we used to do them thirty years ago. The problem is that the public would rather listen to them than to science.

What has this all to do with bonsai?
Well we do create big wound on trees all the time. Should not all the findings of Dr. Shigo apply.? My take is that they certainly do.

So far to science. Now to practice. What do I personally do after decades of study?

I know that I am endangering compartments if I do cuts as they are the norm in bonsai; which means close to the trunk and even with a concave cutter which is even worse as Bill V. has pointed out. I choose to still do this because it will not kill the tree. It will create rotting compartments but it will NOT KILL the tree. Trees can be all hollow and still be very much alive. Large trees in nature can be endangered because the loose stability. With bonsai this is not an issue. When I do big cuts I usually make sure that the wound is NOT regular like it is recommended in bonsai. There will be callus and with very big wounds there will always be hole. With smaller wounds there will always be a scar. I want to make sure that the hollow or the scar look natural, meaning never round like done with a knob cutter. I make crude indentations on the edges of a would on purpose.

As far as sealant goes there is a huge difference between conifers and non-conifers. Conifers in general will not rot easily because they have the best protestant already, which is raisin. Deciduous trees will rot much easier, but I know holes will rot even more when 'protected' Well, much to the surprise of many I generally want my hole to rot. I want big natural looking hollows in my bonsai normally. So I could well use sealant to make the holes rot. But since I know that sealant is superfluous I just don't use any. IN GENERAL.

I do use sealant on some cuts where I see the danger of drying out quickly. This is on some tender maples sometimes. Sometimes I brake branchlets accidentally and think that they still have a chance to heal. Then I put some sealant to the wound to prevent dehydration. I use sealant that will disappear by itself after a few months and that is inexpensive and not very visible: COW MILKING FAT. I have a farm supply store very near by where I get this fat for almost nothing. (Yes, it is fat that you put on your hands when you stroke the tits of the cow). It is almost invisible, works like Vaseline and stays on for about a year before it disappears. and is certainly not poisonous.
And I do hide obviously fresh wounds sometimes by putting some camouflage onto them.

What do I tell people who insist in still sealing every wound on a bonsai? Well, go ahead if it makes you feel good but be aware that it is more for YOUR soul than for the tree. And do not believe that the one who is telling you that he does use sealants is the better person.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sebastijan Sandev from Zagreb, Coratia sent me this. Looks great!

In attachments you can see program of 3rd South-East European Bonsai Convention with bonsai master Walter Pall, Bistra (Zagreb), Croatia 18- 19. IV. 2009.

We are looking forward to see you all soon in Bistra
the place of january World Cup Slalom course.

For additional info:

3rd SEE* Bonsai convention with bonsai master Walter Pall
Bistra 2009.


Day one, Saturday, 18.04. 2009. ( 9.00 – 18.30h )

9.00h – short theoretical introduction

10.30h – tree critique

13.00h – lunch break


14.30 – 18.30h – tree critique

19.30 – 23.00h – dinner

Day two, Sunday, 19. 04. 2009. ( 9.00 – 18.30h )

9.00h - Mr Walter Pall – demo workshop
- demonstration, Walter Pall with two assistents

13.00h – lunch break


14.30h – Mr Walter Pall – demo workshop
- demonstration, Walter Pall with two assistents

18.30h – closeing time

*SEE – south-east European

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wild cherry to offers

Wild cherry, Prunus mahaleb, collected tree, 55 cm high, around 40 years old. This will go to offers because I have about 10. Two fronts are standar here. It will have blooms in two months.

wild plum in full bloom

Wild plum, Prunus cerasifera, collected, in the naturalistic style. Two equally good fronts are standard here.

Trident maple coming

This will be one of the very few trident maples in the naturalistic style. After two years in training my visiion starts to be visible.
First two images in April 2007.
Two equally good fronts or more are standard in my collection.

Monday, January 19, 2009

report of the Nolanders Trophy 2009

Go here to see more than one hundred images about this great show:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Off to the Noelanders Trophy

Tomorrow morning Alex and I will drive up to Belgium ton the Noelanders Trophy. It will take about eight hours to get there.

I was asked to be official guest and to hold tree critiques on Saturday adn Sunday. I will speak around the clock about all exhibited trees in English and German. My CD and personal pin are available on a small table in the vendor area.

I will try to tak many cool pictures which I will show on Monday here.

I will exhibt three large trees and three shohin. I found that this is one of the few exhibits where one can show deciduous trees at their best. So I will not show a single conifer this time.

Acer burgerianum, trident maple
Prunus cerasifera, wild cherry in bloom
Ulmus campestre, field elm
Buxus microphyllum, Korena boxwood
Ulmus parvifolia, Chinese elm
Lonicera nitida, dwarf honeysuckle

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

fat European beech clump

euonymus, burning bush

Euonymus europaeus, burning bush.

two wild honeysucke coming

These are both Lonicera xylostemum. This is a common shrub in Central Europe. But as a bonsai it is extremely rare. They can be nice littel trees as one can see.

two deutzia shohin

Both Deutzia grazilis, shohin size.

European beech raft

shohin zelkova

This ons is Zelkova serrata, shohin size. I have this forever; since 1987. But it somehow dose not want to get right. I have tried to airlayer it to get decent nebari, but it did not work well. I will have to try again in a few weeks.

Chinese elm

Chinese elm, Japanese rough bark variety. This one is coming nicely. IO think I will take this away from 'offers'. It would be difficult to get a new one if I sold this one.

two Hokkaido elms

Both Ulmus parvifolisa 'Hokkaido', shohin size.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Japanese maple

Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, 35 cm, see the deadwood in front!

honeysuckles and euonymus

Europeajn burning bush. Euonymus europeus and dwarf honeysuckle, Lonicera nitida. Two shohin. The euonymus used to be a shohin but it outgrew the size a few years ago.

Fat sloe coming

This is a sloe or black thorn, Prunus spinosa. It is still in a training pot, of course. Maybe this spring I will find a good pot for it. This again is a rarity becasue black thorns are a bush and normally one wole never find such a fat one. Well, it happened. This will be great when hundreds of tiny white flowers show up in April.

European beech

I am quite happy whith this European beech, Fagus sylvatica. It is in the naturalistic style. Which leads some visitors to ask when I will start to style this good material. Well, I tell them I have been working on this for fifteen years to make look like wild material. They question my intelligence. Good for them!

Two elms, Ulmus glabra

These twa are in development since about 15 years. One would ask why they are not much better then after all that time. Well, these are Ulmus glabra, the European elm with the large foliage. This species is rare now and as bonsai it is unheard of. I find them very difficult despite their habit to grow vigorously. We'll see whether I manage to get these to to look decent one day.

Chinese elm shohin

Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, Hokkaido, 22 cm, pot by Dan Barton.


This is a zelkova, Zelkova serrata, that I acquired abot 18 years ago. I never was happy with it really and offered it for sale or trade for many years. Now it is coming and I wonder whether I should not do what the second image shows, which is a virtual. I think that it would take another two years to get there. I wonder whether I should not remove it from the offers, especially when i think about the import stop into Europe.