2018 June Monday – Desert Ash Demonstration

The BSV was very pleased to welcome Don De Luca from Hay in NSW to talk about growing Desert Ash trees as bonsai.  Don spent time talking about the extreme weather conditions that exist in Hay and how these can have a big impact on growing techniques.  Participants were also reminded that even in Melbourne, there are many different micro-climates and bonsai enthusiasts need to be aware of these to ensure their Desert Ash can flourish.  Desert Ash examples displayed by Don are included below.

Desert Ash
Desert Ash
Desert Ash
Desert Ash

 

Desert Ash styling almost done.
Desert Ash styling almost done.

Don’s preferred area of interest is the development of the trunk and branches.  Below is a photo showing how Don trimmed a Desert Ash ready for the next seasons growth.  Significant reductions in development times can be achieved if you are able to access Yamadori trunks.  For example, techniques applied by Don can usually achieve the branching and ramification shown above in the blue pot in about 5 years from stock similar to that in the black pot below.

Desert Ash trimmed for next stage of trunk & branch development.
Desert Ash trimmed for next stage of trunk & branch development.

Don then moved on to demonstrate the fine tuning necessary to finish off the development of a Desert Ash using this process.  The tree is shown below with the master at work.

Tree has been wired and final shaping is applied.
Tree has been wired and final shaping is applied.

See below for bonsai growing wisdom from Don

  • Access to Yamadori stock such as Dave’s in Bendigo can give you a great head start in the bonsai development process.  In Hay, Don uses Styrene pots or big pots to help protect plants from the extreme weather and keep their roots cool.
  • Don finds defoliation to be a great technique for faster development.  Total defoliation works well in Hay but in Melbourne, it may need to be modified.  For example, a variant could be to remove the outer leaves but leave the inner leaves.  You may need to experiment in your own local area to find the best approach for you.
  • Trees with big bases usually mean lots of big cuts to develop attractive taper.  Don says be brutal.  If you can’t hide a wound, make it a feature.
  • Keep the future style and taper in mind when cutting back shoots.
  • Remove any growth at the wrong angle.
  • Wiring can speed the development process and is essential to finish the tree.  Don prefers starting at the bottom and working up the tree.
  • Don has found that letting the wire cut in can assist the development of the rough bark.  See examples below.

Examples of the detailed branch structure and ramification are included below.

Branch development
Branch development
Branch development
Branch development
President Victor thanking Don.
President Victor thanking Don.

Members trees on display are included below.

Continue reading 2018 June Monday – Desert Ash Demonstration

2018 May Monday – Pines Workshop

On a mild autumn evening, over 40 BSV members gathered to hear Scott talk about growing and maintaining Japanese Black Pines.  Scott briefly outlined the key aspects of growing Black Pines as bonsai and then proceeded to assist members with their own pines.

Scott talking about maintaining Japanese Black Pines
Scott talking about maintaining Japanese Black Pines

Some of the points made by Scott are listed below:

  • Autumn/Winter – bud selection, needle plucking, feeding, wiring and styling.
  • Spring – candle breaking and feeding.
  • Summer – decandling and energy balancing.
  • Many of these activities are focussed on balancing growth.  Scott promotes the “Goldilocks Approach” – not too strong and not too weak.
  • Needle plucking – best to work from top down and ensure plucking in the same direction of the needles to avoid damage to the branch.
  • Avoid spiking yourself by working up and under.
  • Black Pines need full sun and air movement.
  • Feed well in autumn and spring.
  • A significant time investment is required to properly maintained black pine bonsai.

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Some examples of the workshop activity are included below.

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Trees on show are displayed below.

Continue reading 2018 May Monday – Pines Workshop

2018 April Monday – Yamadori

At the April BSV Monday meeting, John and Dave talked about collecting Yamadori in Australia and the issues you face when collecting.

John & Dave talking about Yamadori
John & Dave talking about Yamadori

John had several recent Yamadori on display to illustrate the types of trees that could be collected.

Jade Yamadori
Jade Yamadori
Olive Yamadori
Olive Yamadori

They covered a very wide range of issues that you will need to address if you are to be successful at collecting Yamadori.  Some of their comments are included below.

  • Make sure your planned activities are legal.  There are Federal, State and Local Government laws that apply in various circumstances and permits may be required.  Urban Yamadori on private property may be an easier option.
  • Risk management plans are necessary to ensure diggers and the public are kept safe.
  • Yamadori can range from small to very large.
  • Digging and caring for Yamadori are time intensive activities so choose carefully before you start to dig.
  • Dave suggests you select your tree based on nebari, movement, taper and bark.  Branches can be grown later.
  • Some species such as Hawthorn can be temperamental so timing and aftercare are critical.
  • Different techniques such as the “Sweating Technique” and open soil mixes are being experimented with to improve success rates.  The roots need to be kept moist until the tree can be potted.  Some species such as Jade need special treatment to avoid wood rot.
  • Equipment needed depends on many things but could include hand saws, secateurs and a sharp shovel.  A chain saw may also be an option.  Pre-dig preparation can assist.

Photos of trees on display at the Meeting are included below.

Eucalyptus Yamadori
Eucalyptus Yamadori
Eucalyptus Yamadori
Eucalyptus Yamadori
Yellow Box
Yellow Box
Mugo Pine
Mugo Pine
Pine
Pine
English Elm Group
English Elm Group
Lillypilly
Lillypilly
Cotonester
Cotonester
Kingsville Box
Kingsville Box
Lillypilly
Lillypilly
Olive
Olive

2018 January Monday – Fig Demo & Workshop

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 discussing figs
Tien discussing figs
Tien trimming a fig
Tien trimming a fig
A trimmed fig.
A trimmed fig.

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.

See examples of Tien’s work below.

Fig
Fig
Fig trimmed by Tien
Fig trimmed by Tien
Applying movement to a small fig.
Applying movement to a small fig.

Examples of figs being worked on by members.

Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig

Photos of bonsai on display are included below.

Black Pine, Japanese Winterberry, Kingsville Box & Chinese Elm.
Black Pine, Japanese Winterberry, Kingsville Box & Chinese Elm.
Fig
Fig
Trident Maple
Trident Maple
Ficus watkinsiana
Ficus watkinsiana
Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig
Fig
Small Fig Group
Small Fig Group
Coastal Tea Tree
Coastal Tea Tree

2017 December AGM and Azalea Discussion

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.

Satsuki in flower
Satsuki in flower

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.
  • Trevor discussing the finer points of growing Azaleas.
    Trevor discussing the finer points of growing Azaleas.
  • 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.
  • Victor thanking Trevor.
    Victor thanking Trevor.

     

    Display trees including azaleas are included below.

Continue reading 2017 December AGM and Azalea Discussion

2017 October Monday Meeting – Bunjin

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.

Black Pine before styling.
Black Pine before styling.

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.

Re-styling design.
Re-styling design.

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.

Tien talking about the planned styling of this Black Pine.
Tien talking about the planned styling of this Black Pine.
The re-styling begins.
The re-styling begins.
Black Pine after initial styling.
Black Pine after initial styling.

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.
  • Black Pine in development.
    Black Pine in development.
    Black pine in development.
    Black pine in development.

     

  • 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.

Victor talking about the Bunjin style.
Victor talking about the Bunjin style.

 

Continue reading 2017 October Monday Meeting – Bunjin

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 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