Bonsai Week

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.

 

 

 

 

After

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.

 

Autumn pine work

The new shoots on Black pines have matured so it is time to thin out all the new shoots that have grown since decandling.

It is important to know that this is part of the technique used to REFINE MATURE pines. Younger, developing pines should be allowed to grow freely to gain strength and size and cut back hard every couple of years. Decandling is used to ramify the branches on trees that are closer to being mature bonsai. Continue reading

More pinching

For a while during the real heat of summer my trees slowed up and gave me a rest from pinching and pruning that is so constant during spring and early summer. The weather has started to cool a little and we have had a few light showers of rain. This is the time of year that the Australian natives just love and they have started to grow strongly. Continue reading

Triple trunk trident

This trident maple featured in this post was grown from 3 separate seedlings. They were planted close and held together until the separate trunks grafted themselves into a single trunk at the base. Multi trunk bonsai are not particularly common because every extra trunk adds complexity and the possibility of faults that would make the whole tree unattractive.Triple trun trident Continue reading

Callistemon sieberi – flowering

This year’s flowers have just started to open on this tree during the week so I thought I should share it with you.

Callistemon sieberi ‘waterswept’

The branches look a bit untidy at the moment. Callistemon flower on the tips of the shoots that grew last year. For many years I kept it well trimmed but, of course, was cutting off all the potential flowers every time I pinched the shoots. With advice from Derek, a master with Aussie plants as bonsai, I learned to allow the shoots to grow and mature so it can produce flowers. After flowering it is pruned quite hard then new shoots are again allowed to grow and mature for the following year’s flowers.

You will note that the flowers on this species are rather less impressive than many we see in gardens but I think the pale pink blush is nice on this bonsai. Flowers are also smaller than many which fits in well for a bonsai sized tree.

Winter pruning

When winter comes the leaves fall from deciduous trees making it much easier to assess the structure and ramification of your bonsai. The branches of a good bonsai should have plenty of sub branches and shoots to make it look like a real tree but if the shoots are a tangled mess the tree does not look its best and inner shoots will gradually die out.

How you prune will depend on the stage your bonsai is at but there are a few points that will help develop and maintain really good branches. Continue reading