Friday, February 8, 2013

March Meeting will Feature Erodiums with Ken

by Michael Rusnak
In the first years of the club's existence, Ken Huth introduced us all to erodiums, a sort of ground cover weed, to make miniature bonsai.  Some members planted them over rocks, while others just potted them up and let them flower and thrive on their kitchen window sills.  Plus if in the course of pulling off dead or overgrown leaves, you happen to break something, the broken piece will readily propagate.  One of our past presidents had so many cuttings he used to give each new member one from his original plant. From time to time, erodiums from that original club workshop will appear in ACBS exhibits. The photos at the left is Carlton's erodium in a unique copper wire pot, and on the right is Mike R's in a of Dave C's hand-made salt glazed pot. Both very cool. 

A Barbie-doll sized one in Ken's greenhouse
A visit to Ken's greenhouse shows that he has developed erodiums into just about every classical style.  Twisty trunks, cascades, literati, root over rock and broom style to name just a few.  Often flowering, their twisted shapes in Barbie-Doll sized pots just look cool.  This section of Ken's green house sort of makes you wonder if Barbie herself didn't talk her boy friend into working with these plants.

Anyway, it turned out the erodiums were just plain fun to work with, especially in the winter months when our hearty trees are put up and you just want to satisfy your hunger for bonsai. Visitors just love them, especially if they catch them with their colorful blossoms. Also, erodiums really are trouble free plants for the most part.  Aside from remembering to water them, you only have to re-pot them a couple of times per year.  This is important because they do put out a lot of roots, but it really only takes minutes to do this small chore.

Ken prepares a root over rock
Ken suggests that members bring a golf ball sized porous rock to the meeting.  The plants can easily be held in place over the rock with with a rubber band.  He recommends using a tall container and completely burying the rock under the soil.  The tall can encourages roots to grow deep and vigorous. Then over time, sections of the upper part of the can and soil can be removed, gradually exposing the roots. Under the right conditions, a healthy erodium will wrap itself on the rock in no time, and will produce an easy root over rock style. 
(And just in case any of you don't think a weed is proper for bonsai, don't forget John Naka himself made a bonsai from a dandelion.)

Newer members to the club will not want to miss this workshop.  These fast shaping projects are an inexpensive way for someone new to the art to begin to learn how to visualize, develop, and care for a bonsai--and at the same time earn a quick and rewarding result. 

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