Bonsai week workshop 2

The final workshop will now be under way at Bonsai week in Canberra and I’m sure today’s group will get as much out of it as we did yesterday.

Saturday’s group had representatives from across NSW and Victoria, representing a range of bonsai clubs. We presented a range of tree species and development for the visiting instructors to work with.

before the workshop

I had help from Sandra Grlica in the morning. She chose to work with this juniper which has a couple of tight turns in the trunk as a feature.

She identified 2 good options, both using the same side of the tree as front but with different balance for the proposed bonsai. One had more foliage to the right, the other, which I chose to follow, moved more left.

This side was chosen for the more subtle view of the tight bends. The twist will be emphasised with shari to be developed over time.

part styled
Final result

A slight change of angle to emphasise the left movement.

As with most workshop trees, branches will need to grow and fill in. Future development will probably include: widening of the shari and possible extension to emphasise the twist in the trunk; development of the apex, currently made from a single, thick branch.

Thank you Sandra for your help with this great tree.

As an interesting aside, Heike commented that she would have chosen the other side of that tree ( see picture below) as her preferred front because of the more visible bends. Another example of different preferences – not right or wrong, just different possibilities. Which side would you have emphasised?

The other side of this tree before styling

Heike van Gunst worked with me in  the afternoon session. Heike chose to style the other upright tree that I had on hand.

before

There are 2 opposing spiral branches at the top of the tree. Heike chose to use the other side of the tree as the front and used thicker branch going right to develop a semi cascade bonsai.

reduce the larger sacrifice branches to short jins

Initially the the larger sacrifice branches were reduced to jins. Later more were removed to give even  more emphasis to the right movement. The resulting jins gave a natural path for a connecting shari of dead wood.

Heike connecting the jins with a narrow shari

The end main part of the trunk already had nicely flowing, natural curves so did not need wiring. Remaining branches are long with lower parts quite bare of foliage but the twisted trunk means that dramatic twists in the branches to bring foliage closer to the trunk don’t look out of place.

A guy wire was enough to compress the main trunk a little more and bring the end of the trunk down just under the level of the trunk base.

Plans for future development: remove the larger root on the left when tree health and vigour makes this possible; Develop 3 main foliage areas with some spaces between; continue to develop the shari over a number of years to give more natural texture to the dead wood.

Olive carving

Our bonsai club has access to some areas with lots of feral olives so we have had several ‘digs’ to obtain advanced material. One of the paddocks is quite steep and rocky so I suppose these are literally ‘yamadori’ (Japanese word meaning from the mountain).

club members at an olive dig

Here’s one a couple of years ago. You can see that the original middle trunk was converted to dead wood to leave room for the better trunk to develop. A small stub was also left on the smaller left trunk.

A couple of years ago

Last year I felt that the branches had developed enough structure to merit a proper bonsai pot.

I also decided the jin was just a bit boring. Looking at images of ancient olives I saw impressive old trunks with hollows and dead wood. A little carving on the trunk below the jin adds a whole new dimension to this tree.

I can see an opportunity to add some more texture and character to the jinned branch itself but that will have to wait for another day.

While checking another of these developing olives I noticed a dead patch on the trunk

More banksias

A couple of my smaller bonsai banksias started to develop dieback in some twigs toward the end of spring.

Many people would assume that, because these are banksias, the dead shoots would be the result of phosphorus toxicity. My experience with this genus led me to a completely different conclusion.

I have noticed that banksias have very dense fine roots that develop very quickly. Here’s what I found when this one was removed from the pot.

It definitely needs repotting.

First, trim back any long, fresh shoots.

When I cut through the root ball I found exactly what I was expecting – a dry patch in the middle.

That area is dry despite a thorough water last night and again this morning. The roots are so crowded that water has great difficulty penetrating which means the tree starts each day without a full pot of water. The dead shoots have nothing to do with P toxicity. They simply show a lack of water.

The remaining roots were trimmed quite a lot.

Note that there are no visible proteoid roots on this banksia because it gets regular fertiliser. Proteoid roots appear when banksias are short of nutrients and tend to disappear when the trees are fertilised regularly so paradoxically, regular fertiliser actually helps reduce the chance of P overdose for banksias.

Then back into the pot with fresh mix.

My experience with banksias as bonsai shows that the roots grow so fast that these need repotting every year to prevent them becoming root bound and having difficulties with water absorption. Fortunately they also seem very tolerant of the repotting process during the warmer months. This repot was carried out during a string of 40+C days in early January. New shoots continued to grow and more buds have sprouted since the repot. As usual, the freshly repotted tree went straight back to its usual position on the bench. The area is covered with light shade cloth this year but no other ‘aftercare’ was given.

I’ve found banksias to be very rewarding for bonsai. Why not have a try? Shibui bonsai normally has banksias available in a range of sizes including field grown trunks – see our banksia catalogue – hhttp://shibuibonsai.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Banksias-2018-1.pdf

Canberra 2018

Canberra Bonsai show was held over the weekend of October 13 and 14.

Shibui Bonsai again had a trade table this year. Sales were even more brisk than usual and we took home very few plants after the show.

Canberra Bonsai Society always put on a great show and the quality of the trees continues to improve each year. Here are a couple of the trees that took my eye. Continue reading

Another twisted shimpaku

The recent workshop with Joe Morgan-Payler has re-inspired me to keep developing these small, contorted junipers.

While not everyone appreciates this style of bonsai, especially here in Australia where our relatively mild climate does not produce such trees in the mountains, they seem to be valued by Japanese bonsai artists. These trees simulate the types of trunks that the severe winters and harsh growing conditions in the Japanese mountains naturally produce.

Continue reading

Start a bonsai forest

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

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.