Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Larch Project: Forest Planting Basics

Larch grove--fall and spring
by Michael Rusnak
Soon we will begin working with our larch seedlings.  Prior to the meeting, please think about what you want to do with your seedlings so you know what to bring.  Some members may want to bring materials to begin their projects, while other may want to just keep their seedlings moist and then pot them up at home. 

Members may want to plant the seedlings and grow them as individual bonsai projects.  This can be accomplished by growing your larch in progressively larger nursery pots over several seasons.  Ample watering and feeding will aid in trunk development.  Members may also want to try planting seedlings in the open ground. You can also begin to develop the trunks by some preliminary pruning, as well as adjusting the planting angle.

Members may want to create a grove or forest planting.  For beginners, even a small grove planting of three or five seedlings can be a good learning  experience, as well as a fun project.  There are a couple of options to think about for creating your forest.  One way is to first plant seedlings individually in separate nursery containers, and allow them to allow to develop a bit over a few seasons, and then in a year or two assemble these now older seedlings into the forest.

You could also create your forest by planting it in a seed tray.  Seed trays are a handy and inexpensive training pot for a beginning forest--whether you are going to make your forest now or in a few seasons.  Seed trays are deep enough to permit ample soil for the seedlings to continue to grow and develop.  The tray will train the roots of the group for a later transfer  into a shallow pot or onto a slab. At the same time, the tray  allow you to artistically place the seedlings into an believable arrangement.

Chan's diagrams for group plantings--worth studying
Author Peter Chan's book Bonsai Master Class has an excellent chapter on creating forest plantings.  He suggests the use of seed trays to create the forest, and has photos of the process.  Additionally, he discusses such artistic points as how use empty space in the composition and how to create a senses of perspective by using seedlings of varying sizes-- largest near the front and offset center, smaller toward the back and side.  He also adds considerations such as the larger trees will dominate the competition for light and so smaller trees will often bend, turn or angle slightly away from the larger one.   In some, for example the smaller trees on the outer edge will angle slightly outward.  See the pattern diagrams from Chan's book for good ideas on where to place seedlings in group plantings.

Planting your seedling group on a slab now is also an option, and a few members did this several  years ago at a club workshop.   At the meeting, Ken will walk us through the process of building the slab arrangement with use of sphagnum moss and other soil types to accomplish the planting. The photos of Gib's larch forest was actually done at the past club workshop, and it continues to thrive and develop.

Again, please think about what you want to do with your seedlings before the April meeting so you know what to bring.  If you plan to begin working on your project, you will need :bring tools, soil, and containers for either individual trees or group planting.  Some members may instead want to just keep their seedlings moist and then pot them up at home.  

Much thanks to our own charter member Ken Huth of Ken's World of Bonsai for acquiring the larch seedlings for this project and for all of his help and expertise.  Greatly appreciated--on this club project, as well as many others.  See Ken's website for more on his nursery:

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