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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Challenges of Bonsai: Tree loss



  Bonsai loss:  Cause unknown

   As a very long-term DIY'er,  I have always thought it supremely  annoying to see projects fail, whether they are stalled, delayed fall apart, or go backwards faster than I  can build or repair them.  Broken walls, cracked mortar. loose bricks, fading paint, rusting metal.   Ordinary stuff to be expected. In real life it is annoying to say the least.
      A failed hobby is the same, it irritates to discover a new idea doesn't work,  a high-potential  creation cracks in the kiln,  or an exciting new  technique results in an object of unbelievable uselessness.  A pragmatic approach has to be taken at times with 'works of the mind, and even more so with works of the  hands'.  Sometimes failure is funny. Sometimes not.

As a gardener, it bothers me to see persistent weeds, poor plant specimens,  soil turning rock hard, bone dry,  and unproductive except for stones of all descriptions.
 New vegetables being ransacked by animal invaders is irritating at best.  It happens. Animals do animal stuff.  We get it.
Tilly the Tall and Ebony the Short (T.T.T & E.T.S.) used to run about in the garden at times, the paths are dog-tag-you're-it-catch-me-now  race tracks,after all,  isn't it? ...... Okay, they're good pups, they easily learned how not to play pup-tag on newly-transplanted tomato plants or delicate, picture-perfect, new flower-beds.
Bad weather--we have lots of that too,  and we cross our fingers and hope. It rained nicely this afternoon, got soaked,  sun's out now. Fine.   

 None of the above, however,  has been as confusing and disheartening as seeing bonsai, years of work --disappear in front of our eyes, some dying quickly, some struggling valiantly,  dropping needles and leaves--and others gone totally dead within 3 or 4 days. Bonsai is a wonderful hobby that takes time, dedication and eventually, learned skills. Failure taxes the mind when the cost is paid in living things. Trees. Miniature, beautiful trees.

An "event" of some kind caused major needle drop, drying, and in some cases, seemingly instant death for many trees --and widely--in our geographical location. Conifer trees were primarily affected;  White Spruce, Black Spruce, Juniper, and some Cedars. Few deciduous trees were affected.  Needle drop in some instances was almost immediate; in other cases the needles browned and gradually dropped off.  Some trees showed only partial damage almost immediately .

Some bonsai showed only partial damage immediately

Trees adjacent to one another were often not affected. Very strange, to say the least. Inexplicable patterns of damage. 
After the initial needle drop, a few trees spouted orphan, small clumps of green needles out at the tips of the branches.  A sign of hope. Some of the natural trees in our wood lot grew quite a few new bunches of needles. The trees look strange with green needles growing out at the very tips.Some of the tip growth was accelerated at an unbelievable rate.

Not so with the  bonsai. The majority of the new green  needle tips showed up quickly, but wilted and dried up even faster. The trees gave up the ghost. We waited.

Strangely,   -adjacent trees-- even  in the same pot-- were not affected 

 We  avoided  facing the issue, disturbing them or 'donating' them to the compost pile for a few weeks, probably more out of wishful thinking rather than logic. Some of the "less affected"   trees almost looked like they would survive, but no. Lush green turned to dull green. Dull green turned to faded, pale gray- green or brown. Like the natural trees, on some trees the needles turned bone dry and dropped off,-- in some cases only three or four days.

Natural White Spruce : Now deceased   More than 60 years old verified  by trunk ring count

 A couple of days ago we bit the bullet and faced reality, tore them out of their pots and wheeled them away. It was not, so say the least,  a happy day at Whitewood Forge.

Down for the Count ?

In total, more than 60 individual trees were removed, including a couple of venerable specimens that were an estimated 70-80 years old--perhaps older,  --beautiful, natural bonsai that were collected 20 years ago and carefully nurtured.
Among the notable casualties was Grumpy, a long-term special pseudo-trunk grafting project, the subject of one of my previous posts. It took 5 years alone for the trunks to unify. So what-- Grumpy's  needles turned brown and fell off right along with the others. I sadly removed his failed prosthesis for a future grafting project.  

The future

A number of our cherished trees are still valiantly struggling and also may or may not survive. We are hopeful and persistent and damned stubborn too, --like they are, those tough little spirits from the forest.
Completely Natural White Spruce estimated 80 years old : Severely stressed. Under watch

Total losses?  The ultimate toll is unknown do date. With over 60 scrapped at this date, an estimated 85 trees or more, fully one-half of our collection--may eventually succumb.  Individual trees, members of group plantings, mini-forests. --We'll see. 

So, what happened?

The fact is, the cause of this unfortunate event is unknown.
 Conifers in northern Canada do not suffer from severe cold. Minus 40F  (-40C)   is routine. 
Hot, dry summers are routine.  Using 'unusual weather' as a 'cause',  the  'generally accepted explanation is illogical and sublime.
 White,  Red and Jackpines seem to be unscathed.  In the natural population of  White Spruce, black spruce, cedar and others, some individual trees were unaffected while adjacent trees died within a few days. Why? 
Other possibilities include  recent and timely solar flares, discharged air contaminants from industry,  or the most unthinkable,  elective destruction by spraying. The hole in the ozone layer shifted over our geological location.  What?  The pattern of damage can not be explained.
 Interestingly, the tree species typically planted by forestry companies do not appear to have been affected. Why?  Readers at Incoming Bytes are encouraged to think for themselves.

Bottom Line:  So what?

Fortunately, we still have a number of trees, and we shall  continue to develop new healthy ones. That's how Mother Nature works. Meantime,  Grumpy will get a replacement graft, perhaps even one of a different species-- and shall thrive. Our collection will do the same.

Grumpy the White Spruce peacefully snoozing in happier days; just prior to Repotting
Our dedication to and our  love of the hobby of bonsai  is not diminished; in fact it has grown ever more important. We intend to persist, to learn, to get smarter, and continue doing what we enjoy. Alternative strategies may be involved; for example, we will likely diversify our collection to prevent such  massive losses involving one species.

Meantime,  R.I.P.  Grumpy. You were a White Spruce bonsai with heart.

Is that incoming I hear?


  1. Raymond,

    I cannot imagine this loss. 60 trees, bonsai, that you've cared for and nurtured, now gone. I am sorry my friend and wish I had answers for you.

    A thought, and one you'll have to decide on your own. Given these trees died of unknown causes, is it possible that vehicle that caused their death remains? And if so, will it persist in your compost pile? Just a thought for you to consider.


    1. Thank you Mike. From what we have heard, this is a much wider event of some kind, natural trees for hundreds of miles across this region have been affected. The possibility of a disease or insects of some kind was our initial reaction. The astoundingly rapid failure of the trees was unique. Could it be a virus, a pathogen, bacteria of some kind? We just don't know.
      The possibility of contamination of the garden compost pile is certainly a concern and a question unanswered; we did establish a separate, isolated compost for them just in case.
      How likely is it though, --considering adjacent trees in such close proximity were not affected and appear to remain absolutely healthy? The damage pattern is completely erratic.
      I imagine we will find out sooner or later--or maybe never. Thanks for mentioning that possibility Mike. Much appreciated. ":) ~R

  2. Oh, this is sad Raymond. After so much care you put into them... I hope the remaining ones get strong and prosper. Take care my friend

  3. Thank you, Christyb. As they say, it's 'all water under the bridge', and we too are certainly hoping those remaining do survive.
    "Christyb passes on love to help survivors prosper at Incoming"
    Thank you so much, my friend. ":) ~R

  4. Raymond,

    So sorry about the tree you lost! that is depressing, esp. since you worked so hard to save it.

    Hope you had a good 4th of July otherwise!


    1. Thanks,MOV, it wouldn't be so bad with only ONE tree, but losing over 60 to date--with more to come-- is difficult isn't it! We are not defeated by any means--and had a wonderful Canada Day on July 1st and a great 4th of July too! Thanks for dropping in! ":) ~R

  5. Oh, the carnage! This is so sad. The Lorax and I indeed sympathize for your loss. :-(

    1. Glory and the Lorax! As a gardener it's always sad to see great plants and trees give up the ghost isn't it?. Have no fear, my friend, we're tough as weeds because we NEVER GIVE UP, we plant new stuff! Thanks for dropping in,Glory! Much appreciated... ":) ~R

  6. RK.....This is so sad and disappointing for you after so much time dedicated to it. I wrote on my blog the other day how I am loosing trees big time. They begin turning brown then eventually die completely. I am wondering about chemtrails, solar flares or radiation....Yes I said radiation, if people blog Fukashima they will be stunned to see how much cesium etc continues to pour out and around the Globe. We are being covered by plutonium....Who knows what is up, but all I do know is that it isn't normal and something is going on. Turn the bonsai into sculptures of ascension trees. Revive their spirits by bringing them back to life in new ways. So sorry RK....Tough times indeed.....VK

    1. Hi Vk,,,I too was wondering about radiation from Fukushima, and 'the authorities' are silent about it too, so it would not surprise me at all. We are headed for a major disaster with that one. This situation with the trees in the wilds AND our bonsai is NOT normal at all.

      Have you noticed abnormally fast growth on the tips of affected trees that are 'surviving' to date? What geographical location are you in losing those trees? Which species are being affected in your area? It sounds like the same problem we have here in NW Ontario.
      Our recovery plan is to replace them with BETTER, MORE BEAUTIFUL and tougher trees. We stand in the Light so we're not defeated by any stretch of the imagination. We're fearless ! ":) Vk, thank you for your support and kind comments. ~R

    2. I'm in VT and pretty high up...The trees that are dying are all kinds. It started with pines but the hardwoods are dying as well. I can see with the tall trees the very tops while green are looking withered kind of. I am watching to see if where they appear withered begins to brown off. I haven't noticed the new growth. It is very sad to witness. The aluminum in the chemtrails has definitely altered the PH of the soil though. People don't seem to realize what it is happening to the trees is happening to them as well. I hope in time we can reverse this catastrophe. I think you should take the tree trunks of the dead bonsai and decorate them and hang a lantern off of them as a symbol of light that cannot ever die!We are immortal as is the light. VK

  7. the trees are your canaries, they can sense whatever floats on the waves..daichi strontium? or free fracking gasses?
    there are invisible spider mites decimating trees,corn and soy here in US midwest now..they like this heat..
    is your water safe? i hope that you keep all your needles, till i return to the web.. tree love, ns

    1. Hi Nadine, nice to see you! The trees being like canaries is a very good observation. This problem can be caused by anything, it is so very unusual. Fracking gases or radiation? It would NOT surprise me at all. The water is fine, and there does not seem to be any type of insects, mites or disease that we know of.
      Thanks for the 'tree love'. We shall keep the needles, hoping you return soon! Thanks for commenting! ":) ~R

  8. You are working on a genuine mystery, quite possibly a crime mystery here.

    1. Hi Mac, because of the totally erratic pattern of damage, it certainly could be a combination of factors, or a 'selective poison' of some kind --it really is anyone's guess.

      No doubt though-something out of the extraordinary has taken place-criminal in nature or not. There is very widespread damage as far as I understand--for hundreds of miles--all very erratic in nature, with literally no explanation that makes sense.
      If you do hear of any areas with this kind of damage, try and find out which species of trees have been affected. I would appreciate hearing about them. There has to be some kind of pattern, however random. Thanks so much for commenting...this is a mystery indeed. ":) ~R

  9. Replies
    1. Thanks, CYW, I'm guessing it's sad for anyone that loves plants and trees. We shall grow more! We're tough enough to get cracking, we're not whipped yet! Thanks for dropping in! ":) ~R

  10. Wow! You must be heartbroken. I will miss Grumpy. I love a tree with attitude. I hope the worst is over and you can begin again. Angie

    1. Hi Angie, yes we are in a way, believe it or not you become attached to bonsai just like pets. I will miss Grumpy too, but plan to bring him back to life with another "live" attachment....which will take another 5 years or so, I imagine. We now have deciduous trees in the yard showing extreme stress too, so I'm not convinced the worst is over by any means. Quite a number of trees are showing more stress including our bonsai. We SHALL begin again, and will be successful. Thank you so much for commenting! ":) R

  11. I am with Angie. I hope that is the last of them dying.

    1. Thanks,Red--so do we. Unfortunately there will be a few more that are severely stressed and heading out too. Thanks for commenting ~R


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