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 January Fig Demonstration & Discussion

Our first meeting for 2017 was a typical Melbourne hot and humid night. But it was wonderful to come together again to renew friendships and to focus on bonsai. Many BSV Members enjoyed the welcoming and happy atmosphere.

We were provided with an excellent demonstration from Steve and an informative presentation from Tom about growing the many varieties of figs.

Fig Group before repotting.
Fig Group before repotting.
Fig Group before repotting.
Fig Group before repotting.

For Steve’s demonstration, he had a group of fig trees originally created in about 1988 by Arthur R.  The trees are believed to be Port Jackson figs but there was some conjecture about this.  Tom believes one of the trees was a Ficus watkinsinia because of the rough bark. One of the trees in the group was quite loose suggesting a root issue which was confirmed after the tree was removed.  It only had one tap root so was removed from the group. Steve checked the state of roots of all trees. No pests were found in the soil but there was concern that drainage was poor; perhaps due to too many fine particles in the soil.  Steve has now used a more open and coarse soil mix to improve drainage and encourage better root development. The group had been defoliated about a month ago and with some root pruning will improve its vigour and health.

After Group rearrangement and some small future options.
After Group rearrangement and some small future options.
Steve with new grouping.
Steve with new grouping.

Steve repositioned the group trees, reviewed with Members at the meeting and repotted the group in the same pot.  A couple of additional small trees are being considered to enhance the grouping.  See the photo of the revised grouping.

Tom provided notes on the wide range of fig varieties and their distinguishing features.  He had an extensive range of varieties on display to demonstrate the differences.  Some figs are not native to Australia.  Tom also talked extensively about the best way to grow and develop fig bonsai.  Some guidance from Tom is included below.

Discussion on many fig varieties.
Discussion on many fig varieties.
Tom with one of his favourite figs.
Tom with one of his favourite figs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why prune??  To shape a bonsai tree, to stop long branches, to shorten internodes, encourage back budding and to develop taper.

Defoliatation.  Tom uses this technique to reduce leaf size and improve ramification.  He prefers cutting off the leaves halfway between the leaf and the stem rather than pulling off the leaves to avoid damage to smaller stems.  Defoliate between November and before March.  If you have a very healthy tree, you may be able to defoliate up to three times in one season but probably not every year.  One or two defoliations a season would be a safer option to ensure the tree is not unduly stressed.  Water on the cut sections is not considered necessary but make sure you do not get the sap in your eyes.

Repotting – Tom advises to ensure there is at least 6 weeks growing period after repotting and pruning.  In Melbourne, generally repot between September and February.

Most figs are frost tender and dislike drafts – hot and cold. Generally, they need filtered light.  If indoors, lots of daylight but not direct sun light. Ficus benjamina in particular can survive in indirect light.

For watering, they don’t like wet feet so use a very open mix. Tom uses a mixture of diatomite and sifted pine bark such as orchiata.

For fertilizing he soaks cow manure in a huge barrel and then dilutes the solution. You can use a combination of osmocote, powerfeed , Seasol, Charlie Carp, etc.

Continue reading 2017 January Fig Demonstration & Discussion

2016 September Cedar Demonstration

For the September Meeting, Chris Xepapas, a visiting tutor from Tasmania, conducted a re-styling demonstration on a well established Cedrus deodora.  Many BSV members were in attendance to hear and observe a very entertaining and informative presentation as Chris guided us through the re-styling process.  Along the way, Chris shared many stories about working in the industry and provided much information about growing cedars and many other species. Continue reading 2016 September Cedar Demonstration

2016 January Meeting – Eucalyptus Demonstration

2016 started at the Bonsai Society of Victoria with a very entertaining and interesting demonstration by Kevin about Eucalypts and the art of bonsai.  Eucalypts, an Australian native plant, are part of the Myrtaceae family with hundreds of different species having a wide variation in shape and style.  This also means there are lots of differences in how to grow them as bonsai.  Kevin has been exploring the issues facing bonsai artists working with eucalypts and some of his learnings are included below.

Yellow Box(Small) & Red Box(Large)
While there are enormous variations in trunks, bark and leaves, the general habit with branches is to stretch up rather than spread creating many challenges for the bonsai artists.  See examples in display photos below.
Most eucalypt species can be successfully grown in a Melbourne backyard with a judicious choice of location.
It can prove very difficult to develop eucalypts with mature leaves in a bonsai.  Kevin has a 35 year old Red Box that still sends out juvenile leaves.
Kevin discussing his Red Box(Large)
Wiring eucalypts is possible but you need to watch closely and not leave it on too long.  This activity can also encourage a new burst of growth.
Eucalypts naturally live in environments subject to bushfires and have found ways to survive.  Bonsai artists can use this capability to assist in the development process.  Kevin has found that burning the leaves is often a good option when a tree is doing nothing.  A light scorch with burning newspaper can generate vigorous new growth opening up new development options.  This can be an option in the November to March period but please don’t do it on a Total Fire Ban day.
Kevin encouraging a River Red Gum to regenerate.
Trees can be trimmed by pinching but if larger branches are cut, Kevin seals the cut immediately.
Lots of pests love eucalypts so keep a close watch.  See Eucalyptus Gall Wasp nodules on this River Red Gum.
Nodules from Eucalyptus Gall Wasp on River Red Gum
While generally eucalypts are hardy, the first transplant is often a high risk activity.  These starter plants tend to have long roots which you want to reduce and encourage more lateral roots.  Be very cautious.  Subsequent transplants are generally less risky.  Kevin uses an open potting mix, slow release fertiliser and half strength liquid fertiliser.  He is also exploring techniques( from Neil P.) used on deciduous trees to help develop surface roots.  See photos.

Black disk to encourage surface roots in a River Red Gum
If you want to try developing bonsai, look at River Red Gum, Red Box, Black Box, Red Ironbark, Mallee’s, Snow Gum( slow grower), White Peppermint and Brittle Gum.
Species to avoid include Swamp Gum, Narrow Leaf Peppermint and Mountain Ash.
Samples used by Kevin in the demonstration.
Red Box(Large) & Yellow Box(Small)

Yellow Box – Eucalyptus melliodora

Red Box trunk close up

Red Ironbark – Eucalyptus sideroxylon with regrowth after crown burning in Dec.
Other trees on display.
Yellow Box – Eucalyptus melliodora

Fuchsia Group

River Red Gum – Eucalyptus camaldulensis

River Red Gum – Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Coastal Tea Tree Group – Leptospermum laevigatum

Brittle Gum – Eucalyptus mannifera

Yellow Box – Eucalyptus melliodora

Lemon Scented Gum – Corymbia citriodora

2015 September Meeting – Peter Fewster Demonstration

At the September meeting, Peter Fewster shared many ideas on grafting and air layering.  Many of these originated from experiments by Peter to try and find whether different techniques produce good outcomes.  If you missed this interesting presentation, below are some of his thoughts for consideration.

*  Air layers are best when the tree is in full leaf.  Use a sharp knife for clean cuts and think about the angle of the cut in the context of desirable styling outcomes.
*  The width of the air layer cut should be about the diameter of the branch plus 50%.  Make sure none of the cambium layer is left in the cut area.
*  If using sphagnum moss, cutting it into smaller pieces can assist when trying to remove it later.  A mixture of sphagnum moss and sand or vermiculite may also be used.
*  Air layering Black Pines is not difficult if you can keep the tree growing vigorously.  He sees this as an excellent way to make good use of sacrificial branches when their job is done.  Diameter of the air layer is not considered an issue if the tree is growing vigorously.
*  For Pines, Peter maintains you can get better results with air layers if you wait until the roots are a brown colour.  White roots can be very brittle.
*  If removing the sphagnum moss is difficult when separating the layer, leave for twelve months and remove it then.
*  Peter has seen thread grafting work on Black Pines.  Use glad wrap to confine the needles when threading the graft.
*  Peter has achieved radical taper quickly on black pines by applying aluminium wire tightly to the section needing taper, placing the tree in a large pot and feeding strongly.  Think about an irregular pattern of the wire as eventually the trunk will grow around the wire and cover it.  It is important to manage the fertilising regime to match the tree growth so the roots are not burnt.

Below are photos of Peter demonstrating his techniques.

Cutting the air layer

Radical taper example – see growth around the wire.

Air layer all wrapped up.

BSV Members trees were also on display and a selection are included below.  Wisteria’s particularly seem to have benefitted from recent weather conditions with many flowers.

Crab Apple

White Pine

Blue Cedar

Lilac

Azalea

Wisteria

Recent air layer – Crab Apple

Wisteria

Leptospernum

Quercus dentata – Daimyo Oak

Chinese Elm

Pinus radiata

Wisteria

2015 July Meeting – Hugh Grant Demonstration

On a cold July night, BSV welcomed Hugh Grant to conduct a styling demonstration on Ray’s Black Pine.  Hugh hails from NSW, has been studying Fine Arts and offers bonsai services through his Bonsai Evolution Studio.  Before and after photos of the Black Pine are included below along with other photos of Hugh and the tree.

During the course of the demonstration, Hugh shared many of his views on various aspects of bonsai.  Some of these are listed below:

*  Allow the tree to take the shape it offers.
*  Approach the structure of the tree first and then do the fine wiring.
*  Prefers guy wires rather than heavy wire.
*  Be aware of the horticulture of each species you are working on.
*  There is a lot of bonsai and horticultural information available on the web.
*  Dig hot spots can often be found on cliffs where housing is proposed.

Demonstration tree Black Pine – Before
Hugh at work

Wiring assistance

Fine tuning
Black Pine – after
Hugh Grant with the finished tree.

Photos of a selection of members display trees are shown below.

Black Pine

Black Pine

Mugo Pine

Black Pine

Manchurian Pear

Black Pine

Juniper squamata

Dawn Redwood