Tuesday, September 20, 2011

California Cactus Center Nursery, Pasadena, CA

California Cactus Center is an awesome nursery in Pasadena.  Their nursery is organized and clean.  It's a good idea if you're a succulent lover to take a day to visit the Huntington Botanical Gardens Desert Garden before you visit CCC to get some ideas on how you can design your residential xeriscape!  However if you aren't sure if a plant is okay to use in landscaping, the friendly staff members will be happy to answer all of your questions.

There selection of succulents is gigantic here, but why not buy something you can't buy at your local Home Depot or Lowes?  Like this Aloe ramossissima.  :)

I was afraid to ask them how much some of the plants were because I think their prices are on the high side.  Perhaps there is a high demand for succulents and cacti in the area and people in the local neighborhood have deep pockets.  Nevertheless, this is a great place to get some inspiration for succulent dish gardens.  We love succulents because they offer a very wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.  Look at this nice Discorea elephantipes:

They sold a couple of these plants that were a small fist size for $99 each.  The cauldex has fissured textures and makes you just want to touch it.  This guy will grow a vine, which sometimes people may consider putting it near a trellis so that it can climb up.  This is very slow growing so big ones are very expensive if someone is willing to sell them.

The plant below is called Euphorbia lactea variegata.  Now, I take it back.  On your lucky day, you may be able to find this at Home Depot for a very reasonable price.  Keep your eyes peeled.  This plant is a beautiful organic modern sculpture built by nature.  It looks very much like a piece of sea coral.

You can buy this at Home Depot but I just included it just for kicks.  This funny cactus is called Old Man of the Mountains (not to be confused with Old man of the Andes which is more green with curvy spines).  The rest is up to your own interpretation.  ;)

Try to say this ten times fast, "Operculicarya decaryi", from a 3/4 top view.

Now we are getting into a controversial area in the subject of Bonsai.  There is a term coined by Rudy Lime called S.M.O.L.A. which stands for succulents as a medium of living art, which brings us to a very interesting subject matter.  This is a recent phenomenon that can be called "American Bonsai."  The good news is that if you forget to water any of these succulent Bonsai for a couple of days, they will be A Okay!  In fact some prefer to be watered very little compared to traditional Bonsai in a well draining soil.  This is great news for Southern Californians.  The tiny leaves make this awesome plant look like a giant tree!  Here is a side view:

 The word "caudiciform" simply means large form.  These plants are also sometimes called "fat plants".  Some are very slow growing and some aren't.  I will now bombard you with one of my favorite caudiciforms called Fockea crispa and Fockea edulis.

These plants are rare so they are quite expensive!  I love the outer-worldly look of these plants and their movement.  I had to haggle the price down so that I could afford to buy a couple small ones shown below.  The awesome thing about CCC is that if you buy a pot and plant, they offer to pot it for you free of charge or if you feel inclined, you can do it yourself right there at their potting station, which is what I did. 

Fockea crispa looks the same as Fockea edulis except the edges of it's leaves are wavy.  Fockea edulis is considered to be the more rare plant.  CCC also has very nice pots, rocks, and toppings to dress your arrangement up.  Don't forget that the plant will take the shape of the pot over time so if you want a wide bodied plant, put it in a wide pot.  If you want it to grow the body downwards more, put it in a deeper pot.  Each time your re-pot these guys (each year or two), you can raise them a little bit to show off more of the fat body.  If you tilt the planting angle at every planting, eventually you can end up with a "reclining nude" style.  Take that traditional Bonsai!  :)  It's fun isn't it?

Overall, whether you buy something special or not, this place is definitely worth a visit because of their wonderful succulent Bonsai displays and rare plants.  To be honest, if you do plan to buy something, I recommend that you know what your Home Depot and Lowes stocks so that you don't pay premium for common succulents.  Do your homework and save more money!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cactus Jungle Nursery

We visited what I think is the largest supplier of succulents in Berkley, CA in the Bay area, called Cactus Jungle on September 3rd, 2011.

The weather up there is much cooler than in Los Angeles especially in the Valley. The staff members were very nice and friendly. They had a couple of dogs under blankets that were also very friendly and well behaved.

The nursery is small but very very clean, extremely organized, and had a very good selection of plants. There were some nice little displays of terrarium containers, hanging baskets, air plants, and sand to decorate them with. We loved this little ornamental house with the succulent roof display.

They had some bigger stuff like these agaves, and both column and barrel cacti. One thing I wish I took a picture of is the Dr. Hurd Manzanitas they had. It was quite nice. I wasn't expecting it but they have veggie and herb garden plants there also.

I was very happy to see that Momma Lim had a very pleasant visit. She bought this iceplant with purple flowers and was very excited about it.

There was also a nice little room with rare plants including aloe dichotoma, adenium obesum (dessert roses), Cyphostemma juttae (the desert grape which I resisted buying) and several others. I bought a trichodiadema bulbosum in a tiny 2.5" container for $6.95. I think it will take several years before I will be able to see any raised roots. It will make an interesting little succulent Bonsai in the future.

It's interesting because with the weather being much cooler and more humid up there, I don't think they have to water nearly as much as where we are in L.A. When it rains hard, they might have to cover the cactus up to prevent root rot. It was a very nice nursery overall. I would definitely recommend visiting if you're in the area.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fuji Bonsai Nursery in Sylmar, CA

This is the best Bonsai nursery I've seen so far. It is owned by Roy Nagatoshi who has been working with Bonsai for forty four years. He teaches class worldwide and started learning Bonsai from his father. His classes are on Saturday and Thursday mornings starting at 9am and can go on as long as 2pm sometimes or whenever the last person is done working. Roy is a very friendly guy, not pushy to make a sale, and very informative and enthusiastic to chat even when he is in the middle of working on a tree. I felt bad about interrupting him with a bunch of questions but he was always smiling when he answered my questions. He was preparing six grafted Junipers to use as material for the 34th Golden State Bonsai Federation Convention. He had a genuine enthusiasm to meet other Bonsai enthusiasts so he kept the conversation alive by asking me some questions in return. There is a nice Bonsai Gallery in the front.

This is a very nice example of one of his root over rock style for Japanese black pine.
Having visited many Bonsai Nurseries, I notice that there is a shortage of stock of Japanese black pines. That is not the case here as you can see. Roy will not sell a tree if it is in a fragile condition or is in the process of recovering from work done. For example, today he had some nice boxwoods but the branches were very short and leaves sparse so he told me that they will be ready for sale in a year.
Seeing beautiful bougainvilleas like this one makes me want to grow some myself especially since they fit nicely into the drought tolerant group of plants. It's amazing how a vine can turn into a tree!
Some of his trees like this boxwood have a 2 feet wide diameter at the base of the trunk. Boxwood is a commonly acquired plant but it is spectacular when you can transform it into a $275 Bonsai. :)
Roy has an incredible collection of California Junipers. We all want one but they are extremely difficult to obtain. Some of these trees are over 200 years old and cost $18,000 if someone is willing to part with their precious tree. The natural deadwood gives these trees a very rough and ancient look. In my dreams I would buy one and never sell it.
Roy's Dad did grafting work on this California Juniper about 30 years ago and you can't see the scar any more. It's completely healed over and looks very natural. Most of these junipers have been grafted but there is one that is 100% pure California Juniper that is gigantic. Why didn't I take a picture of it? Perhaps, next time... I don't think any of his California Junipers are for sale.
There is a plethora of chinese elm here, but this is an exceptional example of rock clinging style mass planting. This stone is about 3 feet wide by 4 feet tall with tons of elms planted onto it. Very impressive that it is sustainable.
This nursery has the best selection of pomegranate pre-Bonsai material I've seen. The pomegranate I bought from San Gabriel Nursery looks like two straws coming out of the soil. It's quite sad in comparison. This is one of the most incredible Bonsai I've ever seen.
Finally, this is a one of the fine examples of Yaupon Holly Bonsai. Roy has a bunch of these little guys and they look great as small to medium Bonsai. I fell in love with them so I just had to get one.
I bought a 3 gallon Shimpaku Juniper for $45, a 1 gallon Yaupon Holly for $30, and a bag of All Purpose slow release granule Fertilizer 12-12-12 fertilizer for $8. Roy told me to put two teaspoons every 2 months for the 3 gallon juniper and 1 teaspoon for the Yaupon Holly every two months. The visit was very pleasant andI will definitely make an effort to come to his class sometime soon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kimura Bonsai Nursery

I visited Kimura Bonsai Nursery in Northridge, California today. They have some nice starter stock there and some trees that particularly interested me.

This Operculicarya Decaryi caught my eye because of the nice size of the trunk. I'm glad to see that they have succulent Bonsai material even though this one is not for sale. I can't wait until my plant grows bigger. :)

The Yew since I have to train a Niwaki at home...

And, these two Atlas Cedar because I killed one and I really like the dense foliage. :(. I am looking for pre-Bonsai material so these were not a buying option although they were nice to admire. One was blue and one was green but now that I look at the pictures, I'm not sure which was which. I like the blue one more. Some day, I will buy another one.

I also really liked their Cork Bark Elm which I didn't take a photo of but I just couldn't justify spending $85 on a medium size starter stock at the moment.  Bob Pressler is the owner there.  He offers Bonsai classes and also does landscaping so he is very knowledgeable and willing to answer questions.  He has a twisted trunk Pomegranate pre-Bonsai material that were cuttings from John Naka's tree.  There is a nice large bonsai display area in the front of the nursery which is a great place to look for inspiration.  There is a very good supply of Junipers as pre-Bonsai that is tempting to buy there like the San Jose Prostrata and the Foemina.
This is their webpage:

Kimura Bonsai Nursery

Has links to his Bonsai blog which is very well updated and to his landscaping portfolio page with nice photos.
I am currently growing pre-Bonsai material and nursing my Dad's Bonsais back into shape. The only bonsai that looks presentable is my Bougainvillea that I bought late last year.  Here it is:

Chinese Yew Fukinaoshi

I finally got around to begin training our Chinese Yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus) today. It is a 10ft. tall multi-trunk conifer. The ground around it is temporarily not level, it's right up against a tall wall and short fence, and one side (the right side) of it is hard to reach without stepping onto the neighbor's yard so the pruning process was very difficult. Since we bought the house a year and a half ago, it has been a tall shrubby box which is quite unattractive.

I found this description about the Yew tree:

"Known for its incredible longevity (estimated to be well over 1,000 years), the Yew can be commonly found growing on ancient sacred sites, that often predate the construction of its neighbouring church. The Yew is meant to protect the living from evil spirits and protect the dead on their journey to the other world, it also represents eternal life, death and rebirth. Simply being in the presence of an old Yew can fill a person with a sense of timeless awe and it is easy to see why pre-Christian Pagans worshipped these magnificent trees."

I used the method of Fukinaoshi as described in the Niwaki book by Jake Hobson with the intention of training it in the monkaburi style, where a branch is trained above the gate, or sometimes driveway, of the house. The basic idea is to remove dead branches, epicormic growth, water sprouts, suckers, undesirable small branches, and thinning out foliage. Then train the branches horizontal, and refine pads into zig-zag cloud shapes that taper upwards.

Monkaburi style

Cloud pruning

This is how far I got after 4 hours of pruning. Not done yet but almost there.