BSV News & Blog

2017 September Meeting – Wisteria’s

Annalea joined us at our September meeting to share her extensive knowledge and 22 years experience of growing wisteria’s.  The capacity crowd enjoyed the discussion and had lots of questions for Annalea.

Annalea discussing Wisterias
Annalea discussing Wisterias

Highlights of the presentation are included below.

  • The tree in the above photos is a floribunda or Japanese variety.
  • Propagation by air layer is the preferred method.  Grafts can also work.  These methods usually produce flowers quickly.  Growing from seed is considered a waste of time.
  • Best growing conditions for wisteria’s vary with the climate and experimentation will be required to get the best out of your plants.
  • At least 6 hours of direct sun a day is needed to get good flower displays.
  • Soil needs to be well draining and open.  No dust.
  • A variety of fertilisers over the growing season can be beneficial but it is very important that high potassium varieties are used in late summer/early autumn to encourage next season flower growth.  Generally use half the strength of the label suggestions.
  • Pruning whips is usually done when they get to a metre long.  Cut back to three buds.  Leave the shorter stubs as flowers bud on these.
  • Defoliation may be another option for wisteria’s but Annalea has not tried this option.
  • Over time, wisteria branches keep extending and will need to be cut back.  An air layer opportunity?
  • Use wire very carefully as branches/trunks can snap easily.  Bend over days/weeks and try to twist the branch to strengthen branches.
  • When styling, be mindful of the size of the flowers.  Wisterias tend to have straight trunks so if taking an air layer, get something interesting.  Further bending may also be required.
  • Wounds/cuts can take a long time to heal.  Sealing cut branches and large roots is essential.  Sharp tools are required.
  • Air Layers.  Best time is end October/early November.  Think about the nebari and trunk movement when selecting the air layer location.  Often there is a good thick area where branches join.  Use hormone powder.  Cover with a thick pad ( 50mm?) of wet sphagnum moss.  Cover with clear plastic and tie tightly at both ends.  Then apply black plastic over the top so you can check the root development without disturbing the roots.  Add more water if required.  It should take 6 to 7 weeks for roots to develop.  Before potting the air layer, remove as much deadwood as possible from under the root ball and seal well.  You should get strong feeder root growth in a flat plane.  See photo below for an example of root development after one year in the pot.
  • Wisteria - repotting a recent air layer
    Wisteria – repotting a recent air layer

     

  • Repot annually or maybe very two years.
  • Beware of fungus attack. They can be terminal and it is often very difficult to detect early indications of infection and to treat.  The fungus can be contagious so disinfect tools and hands to avoid spreading it to other trees. See the photo of a casualty below.
A great Wisteria becomes a casualty of fungus
A great Wisteria becomes a casualty of fungus

Victor extending thanks to Annalea.

Victor thanking Annalea.
Victor thanking Annalea.
Is this the pot for my Wisteria air layer?
Is this the pot for my Wisteria air layer?

 

A selection of other trees on display are included below.

Continue reading 2017 September Meeting – Wisteria’s

2017 August Monday Demo – Rui Ferreira

Rui Ferreira from the Algarve area of Portugal gave up some of his European summer to enjoy the delights of a Victorian winter and share his wealth of bonsai experience with BSV members.  In addition to conducting workshops with members over the last couple of days, Rui’s challenge for the Monday demonstration was to re-style a Juniperus squamata.  Playing safe was not an option so Rui pursued his preferred vision of the tree recognising that only so much could be done at this time.  See Rui with the tree before re-styling below.

Rui Ferreira with the Demo tree before any action - Juniperus squamata
Rui Ferreira with the Demo tree before any action – Juniperus squamata

Considering the re-styling, Rui liked the first movement in the trunk but was planning to tackle what he believed were the two major issues for the tree.  The lack of taper towards the top of the tree and the sparse foliage.  A drastic reduction was proposed as a first step towards a more compact tree as shown below.

Rui at work on the demo tree.
Rui at work on the demo tree.

This variety of juniper tends to be brittle so branches likely to require bending had been kept moist for most of the day to assist.  Narrow jute webbing soaked in water and wrapped around branches prior to wiring and bending is Rui’s preferred method.  He has found that raffia can scar or mark the trunk.  See the use of webbing on the main branch below.

Trunk detail.
Trunk detail.

Jins are generally created by cutting halfway through the branch and then breaking the branch as this can help create good jins.  His favourite tool for removing bark is a tool used to clean horses hooves. Jins are usually left for twelve months for them to weather before using lime sulphur or similar.

As the final styling developed, Rui decided the upper branch was too long with no growth and it was removed.

Final trimming
Final trimming

For potting, a small round pot with a rough texture was preferred.  Rui noted that he had seen some great pots in Australia and he was sure options were available that would help capture the vision for this tree.

Following final trimming, Rui was pleased with the “rough sketch” that had now been developed as is shown below.  Future development will focus on developing compact growth and adding a shari to the lower trunk to make it less bulky.

Rui with the finished tree.
Rui with the finished tree.

The BSV thanks Rui for sharing his knowledge and experience and helping Members improve their bonsai skills.

Continue reading 2017 August Monday Demo – Rui Ferreira

2017 July Monday Workshop

The BSV Monday meeting in July was a workshop aimed at fine tuning trees for the BSV Show in October.  Many trees were subject to intensive activity to style and or fine tune.  A few examples are included below.

White Pine
White Pine Trunk
White Pine
White Pine
Chamaecyparis obtusa nana gracilis
Chamaecyparis obtusa nana gracilis

 

Several Member’s trees were also on display including a few with flowers.

Prunus mume
Prunus mume
Prunus mume
Prunus mume
Buxus harlandii
Buxus harlandii
Prunus
Prunus
Dawn Redwood
Dawn Redwood
Cedrus deodara
Cedrus deodara

2017 July Sat Workshop, Children’s Day & Grafting Masterclass

The Saturday workshop in July was bustling with activity.  In addition to working on their trees, members could also participate in the Children’s Day activities or join the Grafting Masterclass.

The Bonsai Society of Victoria organised the Children’s Day activities to introduce and share our interest in bonsai by enabling our members to work with their children and grandchildren to create a bonsai together.  Every child attending was shown how to make a bonsai with a plant and pot provided.  The wonderful bonsai created were for the children to keep and enjoy for many years to come.  Several examples of work in progress are included below.

Children's Day Activities
Children’s Day Activities
Children's Day Activities
Children’s Day Activities
Children's Day Activities
Children’s Day Activities

Many thanks to Peter for running the Grafting Masterclass in Max’s absence.  Peter took participants through the basics of grafting crab apples on to a different root stock.  See examples below.

Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass
Grafting Masterclass

Continue reading 2017 July Sat Workshop, Children’s Day & Grafting Masterclass

2017 June Meeting – Starting Out in Bonsai

At the June Meeting of the Bonsai Society of Victoria, Michael S.  demonstrated a great approach to developing seedlings into bonsai.  Members enjoyed a very interesting discussions about the process which Michael was able to demonstrate on a range of tree varieties.  Many helpful hints were provided throughout the discussion and a number of these are included below.

Michael talking about issues relevant to native species.
Michael talking about issues relevant to native species.

The essence of Michael’s approach is “balancing vigour”.  This applies to both foliage and roots and is generally achieved through leader replacement and wiring.  This approach also contributes significantly to developing taper.  See below for more comments on the process

  • This is a process for developing seedlings into foundation material for great bonsai.
  • Start the process when seedlings are well established but still flexible enough for wiring and bending.
  • The seedlings are removed from the pot, old leader cut back, new leader wired and shaped, roots trimmed to balance vigour and shortened and then repotted.  This process is repeated every year or two over many years as the trunk is progressively developed.
  • When trimming roots, preferably select those at a 45 degree angle to the main trunk line as this contributes to better nebari.
  • Wiring needs to achieve an elegant shape in three dimensions and be mindful of what you are trying to achieve in10 years or so.
Wiring a new leader.
Wiring a new leader.
Considering how the trunk may look in future.
Considering how the trunk may look in future.
  • If a trunk is too thick to wire, cut off, repot and try again.
  • Planting in the ground may assist growth in some species.  But, for junipers, experience suggests that planting in the ground rarely gives a better outcome that using a pot.  Also, junipers are a species known for naturally poor nebari.
  • If applying this process to conifers, the suggestion is to leave the previous leader in place as they often don’t bud again – eventually it will be removed.  Try to arrange branch placement to encourage vigour in the new leader and discourage growth in the old leader.
  • Feed your plants well and when using pots, it is best to repot after two years to achieve higher growth rates.  If in the ground, balance vigour after three years.
Victor thanking Michael.
Victor thanking Michael.

 

Members also had several trees on display and these are included below.  Apologies for the lack of focus in some photos but hopefully you can still appreciate the shape and colour.

Chinese Elm
Chinese Elm
Shimpaku Juniper
Shimpaku Juniper
Atlantic Cedar
Atlantic Cedar
Scotts Pine
Scotts Pine
Plum
Plum

2017 June Saturday Workshop & Triple Trunk Trident Masterclass

The June Workshop was held a week earlier than normal to avoid the public holiday in Victoria next week.  For interested Members, there was also a Masterclass conducted by Victor L. to show members how to grow a triple trunk Trident Maple.

Masterclass – While developing a triple trunk Trident maple will involve many years of growing, trimming and shaping, the starting point is straightforward.  See notes below.

  • Select seeds from a tree with the desired leaf shape and grow seedlings.
  • Use an aluminium plate with three holes to achieve the initial placement of the seedlings.  See photo below.
  • Wire the seedlings to keep the trunks apart and pot with about 3cms of soil above the aluminium plate.
  • Balance the seedling growth so each trunk has a different diameter.  During this period, also start to develop the styling of the trunks and branches.
  • A growth period in the ground may assist.
  • When roots growing above the plate fuse together, you cut off the roots below the plate and remove the plate.
  • Continue to style the “tree” as it grows and develops.
Plate for developing trident triple trunk
Plate for developing trident triple trunk
Initial Triple trunk wiring
Initial Triple trunk wiring

The following tree is an example of what can be achieved with this technique.

Trident Maple Three trunk
Trident Maple Three trunk

Continue reading 2017 June Saturday Workshop & Triple Trunk Trident Masterclass

2017 BSV Sales Day Sat. July 1 Buyers Admitted 9-30am to 11-30am.

The 2017 BSV Sales Day will be held on Saturday July 1 at the East Kew Uniting Church, 142 Normanby Rd., East Kew, 3102.  (Melways 45H3).  Please note that it will be held on a Saturday.   Buyers will be admitted from 9-30am to 11-30am from the Normanby Road entrance only.  Put the date in your dairy now.

If you would like to be a seller, there are still a few tables left but you will need to make a booking.  The Table Booking Form can be obtained using the link below.  It also includes information on the conditions that apply to sellers.

 

Table Reservation Form

 

2017 May Artistic Styling

A large group of members met at the Kew East Hall to hear Joe talk about Artistic Styling in bonsai.  Techniques and horticultural issues were not considered in this presentation.  A selection of comments by Joe are listed below.

  • If what we do is art, then bonsai is a medium, not a thing.
  • Bonsai are scaled down versions of real life, or stylised versions or abstract.  Lots of variations are possible depending on your point of view or objective.
  • Everyone sees the world through different eyes.
  • Actively develop your eye and become aware of how we interpret the world.
  • It can help to break the larger world down to understandable pieces.  Roots.  Trunk.  Branches.  Foliage.  Features.
  • Looking vs Seeing.
  • Create mindfully and actively challenge.
  • “Fastest way to change a tree – put it in a different pot.”  Quote from a Japanese bonsai artist.

Many thanks to Joe for an interesting presentation and tree review.

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President Victor thanking Joe for his great presentation.

 

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Joe also offered artistic comments on the trees on display by members and some of these are included below.

English Elm
English Elm

This tree has amazing branches and fine ramification.  It matches a field tree well.  There is a well rounded head and it encourages visualisation of what may be around the tree.  The bright colour of the pot helps the presentation but would a narrower and smaller pot enhance the display.

Melaleuca ericifolia
Melaleuca ericifolia

The composition of this tree encourages a focus on the foliage.  It has distinct pads on upward branches.  This native variety is an evergreen but styling wise, it is very similar to deciduous trees.  The pot has a strong visual impact but is it too much?  Would a rectangular pot be preferable?  Is the soil colour too distracting?

Trident Maple Group
Trident Maple Group

The little glade in this group enhances the view.  With tridents, need to ensure only two branches at junctions.

Mugo Pine
Mugo Pine

This tree is very much in the representational style and is very similar to trees in the field.  The apex is full which can be hard to achieve.  Very fine bark enhances this tree.

Black Pine
Black Pine

This is a tree with many interesting features; some of which are not visible with the current front.  The compact foliage of this tree really helps the eye focus on the interesting features which have been developed over many years.  May be a smaller round or oval pot would add value to this tree.  This tree is a good example of what can be achieved by constantly critically assessing your tree.

Japanese maple
Japanese maple

This is an amazing tree that demands attention.  In this phase, it is all about the foliage and that provides a high impact image.  When the leaves drop and the tree structure is revealed, a very different tree will emerge.  You can choose whether you prefer the white or black background.

Japanese Maple
Japanese Maple
English Elm
English Elm

This unusual tree with a wild composition has great ramification.  You will find the eye wanting to investigate the many aspects of this tree.

2017 May Saturday Workshop

On a fine and cool Saturday, BSV Members gathered at East Kew for another afternoon of styling discussion and implementation; and a great afternoon tea.  Max was there to help with wiring along with experienced BSV members advising new and not so new members on styling.  An enjoyable and productive afternoon by all.

 

See below for a before and after adjustment to an Olive.

Olive
Olive
Olive - after styling adjustment.
Olive – after styling adjustment.

 

English Elm - considering styling options.
English Elm – considering styling options.

 

English Elm after styling.
English Elm after styling.

 

Black Pine - before
Black Pine – before
Black Pine after adjustment.
Black Pine after adjustment.

 

Black Pine
Black Pine
Black Pine - ready for wiring
Black Pine – ready for wiring
Dessert Ash Group
Dessert Ash Group
Baeckea linifolia in development.
Baeckea linifolia in development.

2017 April Juniper Demonstration

Trevor McComb,  Bonsai Art Nursery, Heatherton
Despite the threatening rain, many Members met in East Kew to hear Trevor talk about junipers.  Trevor was not feeling well but did an admirable job sharing his knowledge of junipers and answering questions.  Some of the information shared by Trevor is included below.
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Junipers are very popular trees worldwide with over 60 species.  There are no species indigenous to Australia.  Of these worldwide species, about 4 or 5 are commonly used for bonsai.  The Juniperus procumbens is good for bonsai but not as popular as it used to be.  It can be a bit prickly. The Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’ is very popular in Japan and it is not unusual for the majority of trees in Exhibitions to be this variety.  This variety does very well in Melbourne and grows most of the year unlike the short growing season in Europe and Japan.  They are drought resistant, can be grafted and suit most bonsai styles.  They are very flexible.
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Comments by Trevor are included below:
  • Shimpaku vs Sargents – Are they the same?  Internet sources suggest they are not the same but related.  Juniperus chinensis cv. sargentii var. shimpaku is the botanical name suggested by one site although it sounds like the experts are still debating the issue.
  • Phoma – a fungal disease can be an issue with some junipers.  Branch tips start to die.  It can move to other Junipers.  It can be treated by cutting it out and using a fungicide containing Copper Oxychloride.
  • Junipers don’t like oil based sprays so tread warily if you plan to use one of these to treat a problem.
  • Trevor feeds his junipers with slow release fertiliser in the potting mix and a variety of organic fertilisers to encourage micro-organisms.
  • Watering – let the surface dry out between waterings.
  • Shimpaku’s are very flexible and can be easily wired.  They are slow growing so wire can be left on for 4-5 months.  Shorter periods apply for other varieties.
  • Repotting Shimpaku is best done in early spring or the month after Easter but can be done throughout the year providing extreme conditions are avoided.
  • Shimpaku generally strike well.
  • Juniper squamata grows up to 5 times faster than Shimpaku but they are brittle and hard to strike.
  • Healthy shimpaku can be trimmed almost any time provided you avoid the extreme periods.  They shoot back very well.
On a more general note, Trevor encouraged aspiring bonsai artists to think about what they want in 5 years.  In particular, how can you ensure you can focus on developing the art in your better trees and avoiding the time required to manage small nurseries in your backyard.  Finding older material can get you there quicker.  Keep in mind that as trees get older, they can demand more of your time.
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Trevor being thanked by Victor
Juniper wiring detail
Juniper wiring detail
Wiring a young juniper
Wiring a young juniper
Juniperus chinensis 'Shimpaku'
Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’

 

Continue reading 2017 April Juniper Demonstration