After thinking about the successes and failures of past root over rock compositions I've made, I decided that I needed to get outside and collect stones specifically for root over rock bonsai creation. I just wasn't happy with the selection I found either in local stone yards or around my own neighborhood. They weren't specifically selected for bonsai use and thus produced less than optimal results. Lava stones have too regular a texture and minimal color variation; Napa field stone, a basalt, looks almost as dull and uninteresting as a piece of sandstone.
So I pulled on my hiking boots and went for a weekend excursion north, a region sometimes referred to as the "State of Jefferson". A friend recommended the location as a great place to find river stones. I have a great time camping; add some fun hiking and playing in cold river water for the purposes of creating bonsai, and I'm in my happy, amazing place.
The Salmon River, what some call the “Cal Salmon” (since there seems to be a salmon river in almost every western state) is nice, if a bit remote compared to my normal habitat. I grew up in rural Mendocino county in Northern California. I spent a lot of time throwing river stones around in my youth, but I don't remember any of those being as beautiful as the variety I found on the Salmon River. While rock hunting and playing in the river, I gazed at the surrounding hills and noticed a remarkable variety; some were made of granite while others were made of darker stones. I was near the Marble Mountain Wilderness, which is named for a large outcropping of marble. The geology is diverse across a small cross-section of the land.
On to the stones I brought home. Below are four sides of a stone that is about 7 inches high. The shape is good if not ideal; I liked the color pattern; and the overall size is about right for a medium-size tree.
I had fun imagining how I could plant a tree on this stone, and sketched one possible design:
The roots would grasp the top right portion of the stone and go around the lighter portion in the center. The tree should be low to the stone and the composition will look good planted in a shallow oval pot. I imagine that a trident maple would work, but I’m sure a pine would be good, too.
This is possibly my favorite river stone from the trip. I think the shape is fantastic and the color is interesting; unfortunately, it's only big enough for a large mame or small shohin size tree.
I envision a small Kishu juniper hugging the stone. Exposing roots can take a while on Kishu, but I think this will be worth it. Or perhaps a Western juniper from cutting?