In the first meeting for 2018, Tien from Bonsai Sensation conducted a brief demonstration on growing figs for bonsai followed by a workshop for members to work on their figs and seek guidance if necessary. Over 40 BSV Members were very engaged in the demo and the workshop and there was a real buzz in the air as they got down to work. Below are a few photos of Tien demonstrating with figs. It was interesting to see how quickly Tien trimmed his trees.
Tien focussed his demonstration of developing fig bonsai with good nebari and taper. He covered repotting, trimming of roots and branches and defoliation. He reminded all those present that the tree doesn’t want to be a bonsai so we need to regularly trim the longer shoots.
It was close to a full house as BSV members met for the final meeting of 2017. First on the Agenda was the Annual General Meeting of the Society followed by Trevor talking about azaleas. The evening finished with a great supper provided by members.
Brief reports were provided covering the years activities. These included the continuing healthy membership, extensive communications with members via Newsletter, Web site and Facebook, an extensive program of demonstrations and workshops, Masterclass and Novice sessions, a very successful Annual Bonsai Exhibition, Welcome packs for new members, a successful Sales Day and several community events. Finances remain sound with further investments in member benefits and a small surplus recorded for the year. Membership fees will remain unchanged for 2018.
The Frank Hocking Award for 2017 was awarded to Robert R. for his many valuable and ongoing contributions to the Society.
Following a recommendation from the Committee, the meeting agreed to award Life Membership to Gerard S. in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Society over many years. Gerard also won the tree display raffle with his Lemon Scented Gum displayed earlier in the year.
Many thanks were extended to the Committee and members for their hard work during the year to create opportunities for members to develop and extend their bonsai art capabilities.
Following the annual reports, elections for next years office bearers were conducted by Howard W.. Victor, Chris and Neil continue as President, Treasurer and Committee member. The Society welcomes new Committee members Melissa as Secretary together with John H., Victor L., Andre N., Kim B. and Colin B..
Special thanks were extended to the retiring Committee members Kevin, Rob and Lyn for their contributions during this and past years.
The Committee looks forward to your continuing involvement in the Society during 2018.
Following the AGM, Trevor from Bonsai Art Nursery talked about azaleas; some of which are displayed above. Trevor focussed on the Satsuki variety in his talk.
The correct pronunciation of Satsuki can be challenging with the “u” being silent in Japanese. Trevor has a long habit of using the phonetic pronunciation for many years and finds it difficult to change.
Azaleas are part of the Rhododendron genus and the common indica, kurume and satsuki cultivars have been intensely cultivated over hundreds of years.
Satsuki azaleas are good for bonsai. They have small leaves, they flower in late spring/early summer and have new growth before flowering. They have been bred in Japan over hundreds of years to be used in bonsai. There are thousands of species with an extensive range of flower colours and shapes. Different colours and shapes can be found on the same plant and they can change over time.
Indica and kurume varieties can be used for bonsai but are generally not preferred. Indica have large leaves and flowers and kurume require more work than satsuki.
Satsuki enjoy being a bit pot bound and are suitable for many bonsai styles.
Soil needs to be well draining and watering is best applied after the surface layer dries out. Pots may need to be a bit deeper to help the plants cope with the drier conditions in Australia.
Satsuki in bloom are great indoors for short periods but avoid watering the flowers to extend their life. Soak the pot.
Satsuki are not apical dominant so be very careful when trimming the apex.
Time in the ground can help develop nebari.
The lace bug is the most common pest and will need a systemic insecticide to control.
And many other helpful hints which I am sure Trevor will be happy to share when you visit his nursery.
Display trees including azaleas are included below.
Our guest presenter for the Monday meeting was Tien from Bonsai Sensation together with a cameo appearance from Victor to talk about the Bunjin style. Tien’s task for the night was to take a well developed Black Pine and move it towards a Bunjin style.
Tien talked about the features of the tree and how they guided their thinking towards a Bunjin style which is illustrated in the following sketch. The great trunk line and nice bark are very important in this tree.
Below are several photos showing the styling adjustments and the final outcome for the night. One major branch has not been jinned at this stage as a cautious approach towards the final design. Also, remaining branches and foliage will need further development and refinement.
During the course of the re-styling, Tien also shared many of his ideas about growing bonsai.
Ensure the branches you develop are sustainable.
Tien prefers to see the trunk and branches.
When developing pines, keep the tree growth compact while letting a lower branch leader run to develop better nebari. Time in the ground can assist and ultimately the leader is removed. See the examples below.
Take advantage of back budding to develop compact growth.
Tien doesn’t like the rounded apex for older trees as the growth can lead to thicker branches which detracts from the tree design and ultimately will need to be cut off and started again. Trimming back and replacing with new growth is the preferred option.
Victor talked about the history of the Bunjin or Literati style and how it developed many years ago. Characteristics include a three-dimensional and asymmetrical form leading to a tall, elegant and slender tree. The pot needs to be understated so it doesn’t distract from the trunk line. Prominent nebari is not required as the emphasis is on the trunk and its quality, texture and line. Branches should be few in number and usually short in proportion to the height of the tree. Foliage tends to be sparse.
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.
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.
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.
Victor extending thanks to Annalea.
A selection of other trees on display are included below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The BSV thanks Rui for sharing his knowledge and experience and helping Members improve their bonsai skills.
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.
Several Member’s trees were also on display including a few with flowers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joe also offered artistic comments on the trees on display by members and some of these are included below.
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.
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?
The little glade in this group enhances the view. With tridents, need to ensure only two branches at junctions.
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.
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.
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.
This unusual tree with a wild composition has great ramification. You will find the eye wanting to investigate the many aspects of this tree.
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.
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.
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.
Hahn Tran from Baloc Nursery was our demonstrator at the March club meeting.
His talk and demonstration focussed on his very expert skills
and techniques that he uses to bend very thick branches to
create wonderful bonsai. His final creations are, to me, redolent
of the yamadori that we are unable to access in Australia.
Before Hahn works on his trees, he stops watering a trees for a
week, as it is easier to manipulate branches and trunks when
they are dry. He prefers to do his heavy bending on very hot
days. He makes sure that the tree is firmly fixed in the pot and
not loose, as this will damage the roots.
Hahn spends a lot of time planning his tree design, exploring a
number of options until he settles on what he considers is the
final design. He then plans the stages of the transition to achieve
that design and throughout the whole process he will always
consider other or better options as they may arise. By doing this
he achieves a better tree design. The process of taking raw plant
stock to a finished product may take a number of years.
He recommends working slowly never rushing as this is when
breakages occur and you lose sight of the final outcome. Before
bending a branch he manipulates it from the tip back to the
trunk. The manipulation is bending and twisting. This loosens
the fibres in the branch and prepares it for the bending that will
He starts by building the framework or structure of the
tree – the trunk and main branches. This foundation is important.
The refinement of the branches may take some time.
Hahn always ensures that he has a few options while working
especially if a branch breaks as then he will have a fall-back
position. The techniques he displayed using clamps, tourniquet,
guide wires and wiring was very skilled as he demonstrated
his incredible talent and skills.
Hahn has a number of demonstrations on you tube and all are worth watching.
The link is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/