It is winter at Shibui Bonsai and time to dig the trees in the grow beds.
I’m now digging most deciduous trees every year. This will slightly reduce trunk thickening but that should be more than made up for in better nebari and better nebari seems to produce vastly improved basal flare, particularly on trident maples.
This trident has been dug and replanted each year for 3 years. The trunk is now around 5cm diameter.
After shaking off as much soil as possible the roots are cut back to give a manageable root ball.
Branches and leaders are then cut back to make the tree easier to handle before final assessment.
Final root pruning aims to further ramify lateral surface roots and completely remove roots that point downward. There is no point in producing a great bonsai if you can’t fit it into a bonsai pot at some stage in the future. Aggressive root reduction produces plenty of fine feeder roots on a compact root system.
Pruning the top regularly produces a number of leaders. These give opportunity to prune to leave an attractive trunk line with good taper while leaving several smaller scars that should heal faster than a single larger one.
Looking at the trunk from all sides and considering roots, trunk and branches I pick one or 2 possible trunk lines and remove excess growth. plenty of new buds will grow from the remaining trunks and near many of the cuts so there will be ample options to grow new branches and leaders. The other side of this tree may also yield a good front for a future bonsai so both options are left on at this stage.
I feel it is important at this stage to make sure all long internodes are removed. New shoots cannot grow from between the nodes so leaving long internodes on the tree at this stage will produce trunks and branches with bare areas lacking ramification. You may be able to get away with this on larger bonsai but such defects really show up on smaller sized trees.
The autumn colours are gone and winter is usually pretty drab in the bonsai garden unless you have flowering Japanese Quince. Also known as Chaenomeles, most of the garden varieties flower later in winter, before the leaves sprout but this variety, called ‘Chojubai’ has occasional flowers all year round and a more concentrated display right through winter.
The brilliant orange flowers are small which is an advantage for bonsai.
The trident maples in the garden at Shibui Bonsai produce huge quantities of seed each year. This results in lots of seedlings growing in the garden beds. We usually leave a few hundred to grow on for use as bonsai.
You can germinate your own seedlings under controlled conditions but I find it far easier to let nature do that for me and I just harvest the seedlings I need from our garden beds.
Today I used some to put a trident group together. It will take a few year for this group to develop into show quality bonsai but groups are one of the quickest ways to get good results from immature material. Continue reading
Leaf drop has been slow and erratic at Shibui Bonsai this year. Some of the maples still have leaves but many of the tridents are now bare. that gives the perfect opportunity to review ramification and make alterations. Continue reading
I was fortunate to get a place with Tony Tickel at this year’s Bonsai week workshops. Thanks to the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia for making these bonsai activities possible. I think everyone who attended took home a lot of new information and ideas.
I finally decided to take an old black pine. I’ve had a couple of these trees since they were small seedlings but because I did not understand pine maintenance techniques properly they both gradually grew long, bare branches with foliage only at the tips. The trunks are thick and have mature bark which is highly desirable in pines. This one also has a large, spreading root mass so I thought it was worth taking some time and effort to try to resurrect it for bonsai.
I have spent the last 7 years forcing the foliage closer to the trunk to make the trees more compact. Pruning stimulated a few back buds on bare wood which were then nurtured until strong enough to remove the longer branches. I also resorted to grafting and inarching to get growth on other branches that had refused to bud.
Here is the tree before the workshop.
Black pine before
You can see that there was plenty of branches and foliage to choose from. The tree was well fed and healthy to cope with a major restyle.
black pine nebari
After checking several options we decided to try to keep the current front because the nebari on this side is far better than the other side.
There were several options for trunk lines and we have used a fairly standard informal upright trunk line with some jin and shari.
The first branch had a really nice shape but was far too heavy for the remainder of the tree so it was removed leaving a short jin.
The apex of the tree leaned too far forward and was an awkward shape so it was also jinned. Because the old main trunk was so strong it had thickened the trunk in that area giving a slight reverse taper to the new trunk so a small area of shari surrounds the jin to reduce the visual weight and maintain better visual taper.
After the worshop
Spring should see this pine grow strongly. I’ll begin my pine maintenance schedule with this one now to try to maintain density and promote inner buds – Early summer candle pruning and needle plucking followed by autumn thinning and more needle plucking should produce more even energy distribution and promote shorter growth and smaller needles.
‘Shari’ is the Japanese term for dead wood along the trunk of a bonsai. Dead tips of branches are referred to as ‘jin’. Continue reading
The shimpaku junipers I dug from the grow beds last winter have finally decided they are going to survive the trauma and have plenty of new roots and good growth on top. Continue reading
We recently moved shibuibonsai.com.au to a new server. It appears that not all the images I have used in the posts have survived the move. It will take me some time to replace the missing files. In the meanwhile you will just have to use your imaginations to fill out the visual details of some of the posts. Please let me know if you have found a post that is vital to you and desperately needs the images to make sense and I’ll see if I can fast track replacing those files.
Apologies for the inconvenience and thanks for your patience.
For many years there has been a myth that ‘normal’ fertiliser will kill Australian plants.
The truth is that most Aussie natives don’t care. Many actually grow way better when they have access to reasonable levels of P so they grow better when fertilised with standard fertilisers. I have actually come to the conclusion that many of my early failures with Australian native plants can be attributed to starvation because I was too frightened to fertilise. Continue reading
I usually repot any native plants in November or December. There were plenty that needed doing this season because I had not repotted for a couple of years. I find that many native plants grow lots of fine roots in the pots and quickly get to the stage where there is no room in the potting mix for water or air to penetrate. This mans that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the mix hydrated and I have lost quite a few trees because I have not repotted often enough. Continue reading