Ilex Serrata

I bought 3 ilex serrata (Japanese Winterberry, or deciduous holly) from Brent back around 2009-2010 in 2 3/4″ pots.  They were the size of matchsticks if I recall.  They went in the ground, and over time I lost a couple, but managed to keep one going.  The earliest photo I could find was this one from 2013.

When we moved in 2015, I dug up everything in that bed, and this ilex went into a 16″ Anderson flat with minimal root work, to keep it growing strong:

2 growing seasons later, in summer 2017, here is how it looked:

I had a very specific vision for this tree, a fat little multi-trunked tree; somewhere around 18″ tall and 20″ wide; like these examples:

Lately, I have been dabbling into shohin-sized trees; 8″.  I want to keep both options open.  And since this variety is rare, I decided to layer the top as well.  In May, it appeared the layer was going to fail, but I left it in place.  In mid-June I moved the tree up to get a closer look and it seemed to be making some progress:

I scraped the white tissue back off the girdle to prevent bridging, and wrapped it back up.  Maybe it will work after all…

So instead of giving up and chopping, I did a little light pruning down low, and returned this one back to its growing site.  If I go the shohin route, the trunk definitely needs more taper than this currently has:

A few weeks after recutting the callus, the entire top died back, so the next step was defined.  In the spring, I’ll repot it and change the planting angle a little in hopes of creating a little movement.  Until next spring…


Happy Sweet 16 to my first “apprentice”

Happy birthday to my dear sweet baby girl.  She’s been along on this Bonsai ride her whole life.

At 2 she slept through much of the (then)Wayerhauser collection near Seattle:

At 4, she was heavily involved in carving with power tools with Mr. Ron…or at least the contemplation and conversation just following:

And at 6, she was making sure Mr. Ron properly prepared wire for a nice Yamafusa pot while repotting the hawthorn:

By 9, she’s helping Sir Peter Warren prune a black pine during a demonstration:

Showing little brother how to Prune Shimpaku by 11:

And repotting Shimpaku by 13:

Then, the Bonsai pix drop off for a while…must be that teenager thing.  Instead, we’re baking cupcakes with a Grandma Donna.  

It goes fast.  See those keys on the counter….?

Losing trees: Pyracantha

This pyracantha had a rough summer of 2016.  The leaves’ veins would turn yellow on a branch, then the entire branch would die about a week later.  This post details its demi-demise.  First this:

Then this:

It only happened to the left side, and the right side was fine. So it went from a double trunk to a single trunk.

Symptoms list: yellowing leaf veins, followed by branch death, on one side of the tree, and bark cracks showing pink/orange fungus-like growth at times.  All during the warm summer months.  Well, a little too little, a little too late, I started researching the symptoms and found this little gem:

Fusarium Wilt.

From the University of California’s Website:

Fusarium wilt—Fusarium oxysporum

Fusarium wilt affects relatively few woody ornamental species but can kill certain hosts, including albizia, date, palm, hebe, and pyracantha. Most forms of Fusarium oxysporum attack only herbaceous plants including aster, carnation, chrysanthemum, dahlia, and freesia. Fusarium wilt causes foliage to yellow, curve, wilt, then turn brown and die. Fusarium wilt symptoms often appear first on one side of a plant. Older leaves usually die first in infected plants, commonly followed by death of the entire plant. Plants infected when they are young often die. Cutting into infected wood may reveal that vascular tissue has turned brown, often all the way from the shoot to the soil line. Cross-sections of basal stems may reveal brown rings. Masses of spore-bearing stalks are sometimes visible on dead tissue and may look like small pink cushions.


Fusarium wilt results from infection through roots by hyphae that germinate from long-lasting survival structures in the soil. Plant with species from different genera rather than with plants previously infected there by Fusarium. Choose resistant cultivars if available. For herbaceous species, plant on raised beds. Provide proper sanitation and cultural care to reduce plant susceptibility to infection and damage. Avoid overwatering and provide good drainage. Avoid applying excessive fertilizer. Chronic branch dieback may develop in surviving trees; prune out any dead wood. Regularly inspect for possible hazards; affected trees may need to be removed. Soil solarization before planting may be effective.”

And from Gardening Zone’s website:


Fusarium wilt is a common vascular wilt fungal disease, exhibiting symptoms similar to Verticillium wilt. The pathogen that causes Fusarium wilt is Fusarium oxysporum . The species is further divided into forma specialis based on host plant. Disease fungi enter through the roots and interfere with the water conducting vessels of the plant.

HOST PLANTS: Commonly found in tomatoes, tobacco, legumes, cucurbits, sweet potatoes and banana are a few of the most susceptible plants, but it will also infect other herbaceous plants.

SYMPTOMS: As the infection spreads up into the stems and leaves it restricts water flow, causing the foliage to wilt and turn yellow. Symptoms often appear later in the growing season and are first noticed on the lower (older) leaves. As the disease progresses, the younger leaves will also be affected and the plant eventually dies. In many cases, only one branch or side of the plant show symptoms in what is referred to as the “yellow flag effect”

FAVORED ENVIRONMENT: Fusarium wilt can survive for years in the soil and is spread by water, insects and garden equipment. It develops during hot weather and is most destructive when soil temperatures approach 80 degrees F. Dry weather and low soil moisture encourage this plant disease.

FUSARIUM WILT CONTROL: Choose resistant varieties when available. Remove stricken growth and sterilize clippers (one part bleach to 4 parts water) between cuts. Control garden insects, such as cucumber beetles, which are known to spread the disease. Remove all weeds from the garden (many weed species host the disease). The biological fungicide Mycostop will control wilt caused by Fusarium. If the disease persists, it is best to remove the entire plant and solarize the soil* before planting again.

So, when the first yellow leaf of the year appeared in early June, and some Mycostop to try, it was time to get to work.

First, I mixed some with a small amount of water…

Then, into the bath tub to soak for a few hours in early June.

I repeated the treatment once again in late-June.  By mid-July, the tree had only a few leaves showing the symptoms of Fausarium.  I decided to repeat the treatment with at least another round, and likely it will be ongoing until I don’t see symptoms anymore.  Here is a look as of July 15:

And pruned back:

And on July 22 after spending the night in another bath of MicoStop; submerged to the trunk with a full packet of MicoStop in approximately 3 gallons of water:

And while I don’t have a lot of hope this will make it too much longer, the season’s berries are a treat to enjoy while they last: