The alcove display in my studio is periodically changed according to the season of the year, expected visitors, bonsai class instruction or other special occasions. The period of late spring and early summer is particularily colorful. Because of the severe winter, spring arrived “late” and summer came a bit early. Enjoy a few of the displays composed in early summer.
GOLDEN SMOKE TREE
The Smoke tree, Cotinus coggygeria, is a tall shrub or small tree in the garden. It is cultivated for the unusual flower clusters which look like smoke in spring.
The species has green foliage and fluffy yellowish flowers, but is not widely grown.
The most common Smoke tree is the cultivar ‘Royal Purple’ well known for the purple foliage and pink flowers.
Another unusual Smoke tree cultivar is ‘Golden Spirit’ with brilliant yellow foliage and light pink flowers. All three of these varieties have a colorful red and orange autumn color. This bonsai has only been in training for three years from a two gallon can nursery stock. Perhaps with more water and a bit of shade the foliage would have been larger and more golden, but I’ve been trying to reduce the foliage and flower size by maintaining ‘intelligent neglect.’ Both the flowers and foliage are considerably smaller than the one planted in front of our home.
Since it’s the summer season the display table I selected has a carved bamboo design. Because of the bamboo design a bamboo raft for the companion planting was not suitable because it would be repetitive.
An oval ceramic plate was selected for the Dwarf hosta companion planting because the Smoke tree is growing in a round container. Since the Smoke tree is in an unglazed container, a Dwarf hosta in a blue glazed container was used.
A companion planting of Black Mondo Grass was also used because of the contrasting color of the foliage with the golden leaves of the Smoke tree. But it did not look good on a bamboo raft so a wooden slab was used.
The scroll featuring a bird with weeping willow branches was selected to enhance the early summer season.
Berchemia, Berchemia racemosa, a shrub with vining branches which are elegant. The bonsai is in full bloom now and also has a few reddish fruit which actually developed last summer.
After summer flowering the yellow blossoms drop and small brown buds develop. Most people think the plant has finished flowering and the remaining brown buds are trimmed. However, leaving the brown buds on the tree, through the winter will result in plump reddish fruit next summer. So, if you prune the bonsai so it looks tidy in late summer it will fail to form fruit next year.
The Berchemia bonsai is in full bloom now and also has a few reddish fruit which actually developed last summer. The rough bark looks old and is actually. I’ve been growing this bonsai in a container for over thirty years. Perhaps it gets fatter in the ground, but I’ve never seen a large specimen. Because of the long branches it has been shaped in a rather naturalistic form, even with a crossing branch in the front, but it does not touch the trunk.
The Berchemia is displayed here with a dwarf hosta companion planting. But this is a poor selection because both containers are round and also blue glazed. So I tried a small bird figurine on a round wooden slab, so it would contrast with the rectangular display table for the Berchemia.
TIGER EYES SUMAC
The Tiger Eyes Sumac, Rhys typhina ‘Bailtiger,’ is a rather new sumac introduced a few years ago. It’s grown for the bright golden lacy foliage and red fruit. The color is quite attractive in the garden and forms a focal point next to the outdoor alcove display area. Additional information on this cultivar and how this bonsai was created can be found in this blog from August 2013. The foliage has also reduced on this plant in only two growing seasons.
A Dwarf hosta displayed on an informal style bamboo raft was tried to contrast with the bright yellow leaves and red flowers.
The geometric round wooden slab, with bamboo edging was tried, but the roundish ‘root display table’ of the Tiger Eyes Sumac did not contrast enough with the round wooden slab. At the end, a hand carved informal wooden slab of uneven lengths was selected. This unusual slab was was a gift from Marc Arpag who also carved it.
A quiet black and white scroll painting featuring two birds was selected for this display.