Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Post 89 South West USA - trees and pots

Just back from a quick run around the national parks of the SW of the USA, from Phoenix, Grand Canyon, four corners area and around to Bryce and Zion. Stunningly beautiful scenery in a very arid landscape.

The Colorado Plateau sits over the intersection of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and many of the parks take in the mountains and gorges created out of the weathering of this great plateau. The picture above is a typical scene, if not a little greener than most.

The dominant trees in this great area are pines and junipers, more specifically Pinion (pronounced pinyon) Pine and Utah Juniper. These two species successfully occupy the same territory in areas where rainfall is as low as 200mm or less and moderate altitude. They  like it cold and dry and commonly while they commonly reach 3 to 4 m in protected areas, depending on conditions they will normally have suffered some level of natural bonsaification and will oftern be much shorter.

This picture shows the two right next to each other. Along the route we took there must be countless thousands of square kilometers of this dominant mixed forest.

This is a close up of the Pinion needles, very compact and quite heavy needles (in pairs), looks like a natural for bonsai culture but replicating the right condition in all but close to its natural range would be challenging. The pinion produces an edible nut which has been harvested from the earliest time of human occupation of the areas.

In higher rainfall areas the mighty Ponderosa pine takes over and what a mighty tree they are too.

This is what their needles look like, a very different picture from the Pinion. Surprisingly I did see a number of Ponderosas in exposed low rainfall areas that had taken on a nice small stature and shape, but its no prospect for a small bonsai with needles like that.

This next one is the Bristlecone Pine, possibly the species that has the oldest living trees - up to 5000 years apparently. I didn't see any of the really old live ones but found this young one with a few friends out on an exposed point at Bryce.

Up close the needle structure is even more compact then the Pinion. Pardon the glove but when I took the shot it was zero C and there was a blustery wind - I've never been quite so cold, but then when you live in a temperate climate......The needles of the Bristlecone grow in bunches of 5.

I'm not sure what this one was but longer and at the same time quite heavy needles.

The trees on the trip were quite instructive and inspirational. The forces of nature in the harsh conditions in which they survive result in a natural shaping which is at odds with much of the formal structural conventions of bonsai, but at the same time beautiful in their own natural way. Immitation of these natural shapes in bonsai would result in very attractive trees.

Next post I'll show you some Junipers.
And the other interesting theme of the trip was a pottery one - yes the pottery of the ancient pueble cultures that reached their peak 800 years ago. Beautiful patterns and natural earthy tones for great composition. 

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