Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pinus Mugo, protected by law in many countries

Mugo Pine aka Pinus Mugo, Mountain Pine, Pinus montana or Latschenkiefer   is an atypical dwarf shrub from Pinaceea family of a pine native from the sub-alpine areas of Europe.

Mugo Pines (jnepeni) grown over 2000 meters altitude on Carpathian Mountains Plateau
 Mugo Pines (jnepeni) grown over 2000 meters altitude on Carpathian Mountains Plateau

It is very popular plant in gardens, parks and landscaping all over the world. It has variable size and shape  depending on the area (alpine, sub-alpine) where is growing. Typically it grows near the timber lines no more than 10 feet tall. Sometimes the large number of branches produce plants twice as wide as their height.
Dwarf  Mugo Pine is extremely tolerant of a diversity of planting locations, doing best in full sun or light shade, in rich / black soil or in poor / infertile soil, in high mountain meadows, rock gardens or urban bedding plants. These dwarf pines follow a variable pattern in growth rate, usually when they are planted as garden shrubs, they are growing 5-10 cm per year. They have sharp and twisted evergreen needles 2-5 cm in length which persist up to five years.

Wild Mountain Pines grown over 2000 meters altitude on Bucegi Mountains Plateau
Wild Mountain Pines grown over 2000 meters altitude on Bucegi Mountains Plateau

I came across the beauty of the Pinus Mugo type Mugo when I visited for first time Mugo Pine Valley / Valea Jepilor / Valea Caraiman from Bucegi Natural Park, Carpathians Mountains, Romania (with stunning landscapes like Canadian Rockies). In Romania and in many other countries, the Mountain Pine (in Romanian named Jneapan / Jnepeni) is included in the list of natural species protected by law.

Mugo Pine Plateau , Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Mugo Pine Plateau , Carpathian Mountains, Romania
As a child, I learned how to harvest buds and young pines in spring and to use them in cooking or to make "pine syrup", very useful to soothe the cough when you got a cold (it can be added in teas or ice-cream as flavoring element with pleasant and powerful pine resin scent).

Mountain Pine Syrup recipe:
Mugo Pine Cliff, Carpathian Mountains
Mugo Pine Cliff, Carpathian Mountains
Put in a glass jar small green pines and shoots (better and tasty when picking younger, tiny, green, somehow difficult to pick). Cover completely with sugar, let the mix in full sun for one and a half months.
Filter the melted syrup and keep it in a dark bottle away from the light.

If you can not wait so long time you can simmer the mix covered by boiling water, stirring until is evaporated enough water to look like a syrup (perhaps 2-3 hours) - but some therapeutic effects could be destroyed by hot water.
Both methods will made a great syrup with extremely taste and smell and will conserve for at least one year.

Over the years, as a person who felt in love with the plants of the high mountain meadows long time ago, I transformed few interesting specimens in small bonsai. Around Vancouver, the nurseries offers Mugo Pines propagated by cuttings or grafting, so every time when I chosen my plants, I was careful not to choose a grafted one. Mugo is cold resistant coniferous (it grow in zones 2-8) but when is turned in a bonsai, its roots need to protected against freezing. It has a good root system and if you prune it carefully, the plant will be stabilized few days after re-potting (better to do this in spring). The soil might be fast draining to avoid root rot. During the summer is better to spray the foliage with water (daily if the temperatures are higher than 30 degrees celsius).

Mugo Pines forest on Carpathian Mountains Plateau
 Mugo Pines forest on Carpathian Mountains Plateau

" Most varieties of Mountain Pine make nice bonsai" - says Peter Chan in his book "Bonsai - The art of growing and keeping miniature trees".
I wired my Mugo Pines bonsai in September (is recommended to do this in fall or early winter) and perhaps these days will spend some time to remove the wires (better to remove them  4-6 months later) before the new candles start to grow - but this will be another post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pelargonium Citrosum cascade bonsai

Pelargonium x citrosum aka Scented Pelargonium Prince of Orange aka Scented Geranium Prince of Orange is an upright grower plant with citrus scented foliage.  Due to the compact columnar habit, usually they are trained in formal upright standard style. But if you wish ... and the perseverance is one of your skills, you can train them also in other bonsai like styles.

This bonsai, like many others, so dear to my heart, is "Edible, fragrant, very useful, showy, flowering, drought resistant, little care and very forgiving ..."

Pelargonium Citrosum (Prince of Orange) bonsai - cascade style
 Pelargonium Citrosum (Prince of Orange) bonsai - cascade style

We decided to make another cascade bonsai from one of our plants, and after few months of trainings, the result was really interesting. The woody stem tends to become leggy unless it is pinch back - so initial we left some branches to grow longer for few months. (the plant did not look so great in that period) .

Scented Pelargonium Citrosum  (Prince of Orange) prebonsai
Scented Pelargonium Citrosum  (Prince of Orange) pre-bonsai

Last year, when summer began, we re-potted it and we bended the stem and side branches  (before become too woody) over one big calcite rock. Then we pinched them back at every 2-3 weeks - to obtain a lush foliage with small roundish leaves. Still under training, to create and develop the main trunk and crown, upright growing apex, because only the branches are supposed to cascade ... not the entire tree.

Scented Pelargonium Citrosum (Prince of Orange) bonsai in training
 Scented Pelargonium Citrosum (Prince of Orange) bonsai in training

Usually the leaves are roundish with a crinkled edge and let a delightful scent in cooking: in sauces, desserts, lemon chicken or salmon.

"Prince of Orange"  flowers are larger than other scented pelargonium varieties, pink with small dark stippling on the upper two petals and are very appreciated by the bees (who collect nectar and pollen all blooming season).
Pelargonium Citrosum Prince of Orange flowers
Pelargonium x citrosum Prince of Orange flowers

Pelargonium Citrosum Prince of Orange branch
Pelargonium x citrosum Prince of Orange branch

When the blooming season was gone (at the beginning of September) I obtained many curly-tailed seeds as a result of pollination process. 

I consider this cascade bonsai my best Pelargonium x citrosum bonsai, although we trained several others Pelargonium citrosum over the years ... but most of them were falling in love with other humans and decided to move along :-)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Forsythia flowers, sign of spring

Forsythia flowers in miniature hand-painted Chinese vase Qianlong style
Forsythia flowers in miniature hand-painted Chinese vase Qianlong style.

For most people, seeing the golden-blossoms of Forsythia flowers is one of the first signs of spring arrival.

Forsythia flowers

Forsythia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Oleaceae, named after the Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737–1804) - royal head gardener and founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society.

There are about 11 species of Forsythia, most of them native to eastern Asia(one is native to Europe), all of them making stunning golden blossoms bushes.

Forsythia flowers in bloom
Two of them: Forsythia × intermedia and Forsythia suspensa are commonly cultivated in gardens and parks. Mine is Forsythia × intermedia and I like it because is smaller with vivid flowers and upright habit. As usual, this season I forced some branches to bloom indoor. Although in Vancouver is not so cold, they are blooming in the garden when the spring occur, somewhere at the beginning of march. I know, Forsythia is not a showy bush the rest of the year, but I keep it in relative compact form, by pruning every spring its branches after they have flowered.

Forsythia flower is pure joy

"Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Forsythia flowers and bay laurel branchIn December I had cut some branches and I forced them to bloom indoor. I put them in a glass with water with some hydrogen peroxide in a spot with natural light. After a week spent indoor, their flowers were blooming (they are super easy to root in water, too, but this was not my intention).

In the New Year Eve these flowering branches brightened my house. I added also some small branches taken from my laurel tree (laurus nobilis) to decorate my room. This small bouquet of flowers has found its place in my living-room in one of the small Chinese vase from my collection, to welcome the New Year as a symbol of Joy, Victory and Prosperity.

Friday, January 21, 2011

ShakeOut BC - Drop and take cover

At 10:00 on January 26, 2011, thousands of British Columbians will “Drop, Cover, and Hold Onin the Great British Columbian ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill in BC history!

Earthquakes usually occur when two of the earth's tectonic plates meet, after volcanic eruptions, or underground explosions. During them and afterward, the rock and ocean plates start moving and continue to move until get stuck again.

The Pacific plate has an intense tectonic activity along the west coast of North America, but many earthquakes occur also throughout most of eastern Canada. So, we all must get better prepared for major earthquakes, and also practice how to protect ourselves when they happen. The purpose of the ShakeOut is to help people and organizations do both.

The internationally recognized Drop, Cover and Hold On protocol requires individuals to:
- Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!)
- Take Cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
- Hold On to it until the shaking stops

Do you know how to make your home a safe place during an earthquake?
Can you beat the Quake? Play this game and find out.

To secure your top-heavy furniture, mirrors, paintings, hanging baskets and other objects, use steel bolts. 
To secure glass, chinaware, porcelains or ceramic items, use putty or gel, don't think they won't hurt anyone.
For bonsai and other indoor plants use Velcro type products or non skid mats. Yes they will fly around if else.
Keep your emergency kit and other essential items with you.

Download various materials from  or from to learn how to be prepared in case of Earthquake.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Geraniums in the form of a column

It is a long time since I wrote my article about my scented pelargoniums bonsai. Well, I know, they are most known as scented geraniums, although their name was changed in 1789 when Charles Louis L'H̩ritier de Brutelle (1746 Р1800, French botanist and magistrate) has made a study about the differences between Geranium and Pelargonium. That was the period when Pelargonium become a separate species of plants from Geraniaceae Family. Bye-bye Geraniums ... welcome Pelargoniums!

Geranium Snowflake in a form of a column  with rose-scented foliage
Geranium Snowflake in a form of a column  with rose-scented foliage

I like to spend time shaping and pruning them ... not sure because their appearance or just to be surrounded by their scents (the scent is more powerful when you cut / crush a leaf and/or a branch).

Most of them have bushy allure, but the citrus scented geraniums: "Prince of Orange" and "Frensham Lemon" varieties are growing naturally in form of a column.

Lemon Scented Geranium with the stems growing in a form of columns
Lemon Scented Geranium with the stems growing in a form of columns
This lemon scented geraniums / pelargoniums with small, brights green leaves, woody stem and many side branches (also columnar) became very suitable to be train in formal/ informal upright bonsai style. Use driftwood and rocks for decoration.Yes, you can use any stones ... just wash them carefully, especially the ones from oceans beach. Yup, driftwood as well; salt is not so good for your plants :-)

Scented Geranium Frensham Lemon - the stem is growing in the form of column
"Scented Geranium "Frensham Lemon" - the stem is growing in the form of a column"

Rose-Scented Geranium - with a columnar habit
Rose-Scented Geranium  - with a columnar habit
You will fall into a deep state of wonder when you'll first discover their enchanting scent evoking a sense of tranquility.

Only if you get around them you'll understand my passion for them.

Some of the Rose-scented varieties as Skeleton Rose, Atomic Snowflake or Rober's Lemon Rose presents also a columnar form, with robust, upright habit, but their branches usually wouldn't follow the same columnar form of the main stem and tend to create bushy plants. You should trim them regularly because are fast growing plants (and soon you'll have fresh scented leaves to use for yourself anytime).

Geranium Atomic Snowflake- the stem grows columnar with bushy branches
 Geranium Atomic Snowflake  - the stem grows columnar  with bushy branches

Anyhow, all of them: rose, lemon, orange or lemon - rose scented  geraniums might be trained as bonsai or accent plant despite their relative short period of life. These magnificent plants are living only few years (10-15 in perfect condition), and with little efforts you will make them a great attraction to your house & garden. During the winter you should protect them by winter-frost and be aware that many of them became dormant for some months. Everybody needs some sleep, right ?!

Rose- Scented Geranium on driftwood with branches in the form of columns
Rose- Scented Geranium with branches in the form of  columns

Your senses will be delighted for the entire year by their look and smell and when the blooming period will begin ...  you'll fall in love forever  ... then remember you've learn that from Scented Leaf :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Picea Glauca Conica Bonsai

Alberta Spruce is an evergreen conifer with deep-green dense foliage, native North American - originated in coolest forested regions. His scientific name is "Picea Glauca",  other names being: Canadian spruce, skunk spruce, Western white spruce, Alberta white spruce or Porshild spruce.  In British Columbia, in the Rocky Mountains, the most common variety is "Picea Alberta Albertiana". Its wood is harvested for paper-making and is a very important component in constructions industry. In Japan, the Spruce wood imported from Canada (known as "shin-kaya") it is used to make "GO game boards".  But in the gardens, the very attractive components of the Canadian home landscaping is a dwarf cultivar named " Picea Glauca Conica".  It is a very slow growing conifer (less than 10 centimeters per year) that makes an excellent bonsai tree.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce / Picea Glauca Conica bonsai
Dwarf Alberta Spruce - Picea Glauca Conica bonsai

Dwarf varieties grow around 10 feet (the normal Alberta spruce grow bigger - around 40 feet) and need protection for their roots against freezing temperatures, although they should be exposed to cold temperatures during winter.

Its trunk and roots get ridged with age. In Canada it is very popular as a decorative garden plant and small Christmas Tree and as ... beginner's first bonsai. But ... don't be fooled by his appearance, this guy is very difficult to tame. (hard to no back budding, elastic like branches, browning needles)

So, as many others before me, 7-8 years ago I fall in love with its natural shape and dense foliage ...and I started my apprenticeship training in the "bonsai world" with a 4 years old, pyramidal Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

I discovered that these conifers are difficult to wire because they quickly return to their original shape once the wire is removed, due to their incredibly supple branches.
You can choose many styles for Dwarf Alberta Spruce Bonsai:  straight or curved trunk, windswept or multi-trunk.

Pyramidal Dwarf Alberta Spruce bonsai

During growing season if you want to keep the plant's foliage dense, you should pinch back half or two-thirds of the new shoots once they reached 1 inch growth.

 Picea Glauca Conica bonsai

I trained (and abused) this incredible tree for more than 7 years... and now I consider it one of the most "special" bonsai I had, because of its sturdiness and equal fuzziness this tree is capable of.

Initial the tree's trunk and foliage inspired me to work as a Chokkan (formal upright) bonsai, later I turned its shape in Tachiki (Informal upright style) bonsai.  Last year in spring, when was re-potted, it was re-stylized  in a slanting way, his allure inspiring me to transformed his shape in a Shakan (slanting style) bonsai. I rewired his main branches and I let them wired for few months to be sure that they'll maintain the new direction. Old Alberta Spruce trees produce small flowers that are followed by small cones - maybe this year I'll see few of them in my very special bonsai ;-)

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Juniperus trees

Christmas has been a pretty busy period for us and we are excited to unveil some of the projects we had done meantime. We were doing a gaggle of miniature gardens and coniferous pre-bonsai and bonsai  for winter season.  Sorry for the long period without a blog post but we'll correct this once we get out of this holiday season.

Hope you like the Juniper trees. Juniperus trees are coniferous plants in the cypress family Cupressaceae. The name is derived from the Latin word Juniperus which means "youth producing" or "evergreen".  During the Renaissance era, Junipers were used symbolically in art to represent chastity. There are more than fifty species of juniper, which vary in shape and size to columnar or low spreading shrubs.

Dwarf Juniperus Chinensis and its variety Juniperus Procumbens - are my favorites. These are a hardy evergreen long-lived trees which tolerates a wide range of temperatures, including freezing.  Traditional they are grown and trained for bonsai  because usually grow between 20-30 cm tall and their little shape makes a fine bonsai or small tree for saikei  if it is properly trained and cared for. (you should be very carefully for spider mites - the natural enemy of all junipers)
I want to show you some pictures of two of our juniper bonsai.

Juniperus Procumbens Nana bonsai (15 cm tall)
Juniperus Procumbens Nana bonsai (15 cm tall)

This dwarf specimen (known also as Juniperus Procumbens Nana) that we styled as Kabudachi (clump style) bonsai has 5 years old and only 15 cm tall.

Juniperus Procumbens Nana bonsai - Kabudachi style
Juniperus Procumbens Nana bonsai - Kabudachi style

This Juniperus Chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'  (3 years old) was wired and trained as Sankan bonsai (triple trunk style)  for one year.

Juniperus ChinensisDaub's Frosted bonsai- Sankan style
Juniperus Chinensis 'Daub's Frosted'  bonsai

Juniperus Chinensis Daub's Frosted bonsai in training
Juniperus Chinensis 'Daub's Frosted' bonsai in training

I like its blue-green foliage, with a thick yellow-green new growth. It is a dense, spreading and compact Juniper cultivar very suitable to be trained as multi-trunk bonsai.

I like also the delightful juniper's scent - its foliage has a relaxing fresh scent very popular in diffuser oil, aromatic essential oil  (can add Juniper to Bourbon Oil), scented candles, scented frankincense, bath sachets  and fresh scented soap / cosmetics.

Juniper Berry 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil- 30 ml     Juniper Wood Incense - 40 Bricks - Incienso De Santa Fe     Bath & Body Works Pleasures Juniper Breeze Body Lotion 8 oz (236 ml)

Juniper berries (Juniperis communis) are used as a distinct flavoring for a wide variety of dishes and beverages, very known being the alcoholic spirit gin flavor (the name Gin is derived from either the French genièvre or the Dutch jenever, which both mean "juniper")

Juniperus as low-growing conifers are a good selections not only for bonsai, they are very popular mass planting shrubs and ground-covers. Most of the various junipers I've planted seem to do great in Vancouver's climate.   The "Common Juniper" is usually a low-spreading shrub found everywhere: from people's lawns to Rocky Mountains.

Junipers of the world: The genus Junperus, Ed. 2 Juniper Hills, Framed Art Print by Mary Silverwood

I like their tenacity to adapt in any circumstances...
Hope you like them, too.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Three Wise Men Saikei, Christmas Days special

During this Christmas season, I have had a request from a member of my church to make a tray landscape, using the Magi (Three Wise Men) figures in the composition of it.

In Christian tradition, the Magi or Kings from the East are a group of Kings who have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense to worship the Christ. They found Jesus by following "his star" known as the "Star of Bethlehem".

"Who is this coming up from the wilderness
Like palm-trees of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
From every powder of the merchant?" Old Testament

bonkei with three wise men

Although traditions identify several names for the Magi, for Western Christian Church their commonly known names are Melchior (Melchyor), Caspar (Gaspar) and Balthasar (Balthassar) (mentioned in an old Greek manuscript  from Alexandria around 500 A.D).

wise men

The origins of myrrh and frankincense bear as gifts by The Three Kings are traced to the Arabian Peninsula, being  mentioned in Herodotus scripts:
 "Arabia is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia and cinnamon" Herodotus 5th century BC

The Myrrh tree, Commiphora Myrrha, native to Arabian Peninsula is belonging to the Burseraceae family and is very used in incense, religious rituals (was considered "a magical herb"), embalming (it was mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus dated 2000 B.C.) , cosmetics and medicine .

magi / wise men
Myrrh tree grows about 2-3 meters tall on arid, rocky soils being adapted to grow under desert conditions. Myrrh is  low spreading with a canopy, with ashes- colored trunk and tri-foliate - oval in shape leaves, grown for the valuable oleo gum resin, with redish-brown color, bleeding from the stem (used for the holy oil) and to be burned in fumigators, purifying or religious rituals.

Frankincense is obtained from Boswellia Sacra, other tree native to Arabian region belonging to the Burseraceae family as the myrrh tree. The resin from the yellow aromatic sap was used long time ago as a incense in religious and funeral rituals, being mentioned in Christian writings.

wise men - magi in bonkei Boswellia Sacra, known also as Boswellia Carterii, has stiff, low branches and clusters of small flowers.
Its bark has the texture of paper and can be removed easily, the frankincense being obtained from the aromatic gum resin extracted by making incisions on the bark (from the trunk and branches)
bonkei with three magiwhen the trees are about 8 to 10 years old.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year Wishes

New Year wishes from ScentedLeaf Team

New Year's Wishes
lyrics by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836 – 1879)

What shall I wish thee?
Treasures of earth?
Songs in the springtime,
Pleasure and mirth?
Flowers on thy pathway,
Skies ever clear?
Would this ensure thee
A Happy New Year?

What shall I wish thee?
What can be found
Bringing thee sunshine
All the year round?
Where is the treasure,
Lasting and dear,
That shall ensure thee
A Happy New Year.

Faith that increaseth,
Walking in light;
Hope that aboundeth,
Happy and bright;
Love that is perfect,
Casting out fear;
These shall ensure thee
A Happy New Year.

Peace in the saviour,
Rest at His feet,
Smile of His countenance
Radiant and sweet,
Joy in His presence!
Christ ever near!
This will ensure thee
A Happy New Year!


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