It was heads down and a concerted effort at the meeting as we applied ourselves to a practical project that was equally enjoyable too. First we had an introductory talk.
The topic was larches with club member Peter sharing his experiences with this species. He brought in one of his trees which was a thug of a specimen (his words). This Larix decidua/European Larch is approximately 80 years old, and certainly has history. It was big, heavy, craggy and indicating its age with deadwood on the trunk. Unfortunately it
was not at its best. During our very hot summer this year, both his larches had suffered. In spite of extra tender loving care with shading and increased hydration, they struggled and sulked and were not happy at all and needles had grown long. The European variety is coarser, slow growing and develops a characteristic splitting bark. The more refined looking Japanese Larch/L. kaempferi was introduced into the UK by the Forestry Commission because its faster growing, more vigorous and stronger. Larches are deciduous conifers that have bright green new growth in Spring and vibrant autumnal colouring.
Naturally grown they have sloping down branches with a soft draping appearance. When struggling they tend to lose their branches from the bottom upwards. Over winter the roots normally dehydrate and go brown. As soon as new growth appears, the tree needs watering and the roots, when filled with water, become white. During the new growth period, larches require continuous moisture. Don’t pot them up before March. Check for wire cutting-in on swelling branches Apr/May time and remedy as required. Cutting back can be done Jun/July. The European larch is prone to developing thick branching, particularly towards top of the tree.
Cut off the male/female white and pink flowers when they appear. Leave the green ones which are new budding branches but remove any underside growing buds. Cutting is best for removal and also includes the cones as they appear in Spring. Cones tend to sap the tree of its energy and it becomes less vigorous. However, if preferred, the odd cone can be left on to fully develop for decoration purposes and fulfills the tree going through its seasonal cycle.
Although branches bend easily, its best to do this work in stages. As far as styling is concerned, Peter believes the ideal style is the natural look. Formal upright is not natural when branches want to slope downwards. Broom and literati are also unsuitable whereas cascade is OK with its draped down appearance. Thank you Peter for your guidance and another interesting talk for the Club followed by questions and answers.
Larches on display from members provided much discussion on the different varieties, colours, styles and sizes. One in a box was in training for root over rock.
After a break, members had the opportunity to choose a tree from a supply of seedling Japanese larches in plant pots. This seemed exciting in itself as a babble of noise and activity erupted and selected trees were taken back to tables. Then the project was announced – to wire and bend the trees for a start in styling. A hush descended as trees were closely examined, decisions made, and wiring commenced. The more experienced members guided beginners and, in spite of the determined concentration, it was great fun to be doing a group practical. Trees were taken home afterwards and hopefully there will be another group follow-up on their progress.
This is Simon, a fairly new member, working on his tree. He produced the start of a cascade, shown here beside a pre-bonsai starter tree.
It was another busy evening for us as in addition to the tree work, the members are also completing a questionnaire on the future development of the Club, and information was given out about preparing for the FOBBS show at Heathrow on 21 October where we will be putting on a Club display of our trees.
Next month we will be stretching our brains when we will be discussing the results of our questionnaire, deciding how we will be taking the Club forward and looking at programming ideas.