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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Sooner or later all bonsai growers need to bend parts of a bonsai. Whether the bend is in the trunk or just moving a branch slightly there is always some fear that the tree will break instead of bending the way you want it. Continue reading →