As usual I’ve been so busy growing and selling trees that it has been a long time between catalogue updates.
I’ve finally done a quick stocktake, made time to update the files and upload them to the catalogue page.
Also, as usual, discerning buyers have picked out some of the best field grown trees. I’m looking forward to whatever new trees I can dig this winter but there’s still some great potential left on the Shibui Bonsai benches.
Check out the catalogues and see if there’s anything that looks like you could develop into a great future bonsai.
Don’t forget there’s always a few trees that don’t make it to the catalogues for one reason or another. If you are looking for something particular just email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know so I can check the tables.
The first maples are now bare here at Shibui Bonsai. That means it is time to start trimming. It always amazes me how many shoots have grown unnoticed inside the canopy and now need to be removed.
Here’s is an old Japanese maple.
I usually start with any long shoots, especially if there are long internodes.
It may seem counterproductive to cut shoots like this short but buds can only develop from nodes so those long internodes will prevent you developing really dense ramification. Remove long internodes wherever you find them.
Cut back until there’s only short internodes. If necessary cut the whole shoot off. New shoots will grow from the base
In earlier development stages we put lots of effort into creating branch density and more and more ramification. Eventually that changes as advanced bonsai like this one gradually become crowded with too many shoots. Attention now turns to maintaining branch structure by thinning out dense areas and removing shoots that have grown too thick.
Next target branches that are too thick. Thick branching is fine lower on the tree but shoots at the ends of branches and in the apex look far better if they are thinner.
Remove thicker shoots to leave thinner ones as replacements.
After trimming long shoots, removing thicker parts and thinning crowded areas
Every year my back reminds me more and more to only work on smaller and lighter trees. This Port Jackson fig has been neglected for a few years as it is just a little big for me to handle alone.
I started this bonsai from seed collected at Burnley school of horticulture gardens, Melbourne in the late 1980s. This bonsai was originally 2 seedlings planted with roots wrapped round each other as a twin trunk bonsai. They were then planted in larger post to grow on fast. It spent a few years in a polystyrene fruit box and grew fast. The growing seedlings have fused completely and as the trunks thickened the space between the 2 trunks has gradually closed up so the 2nd trunk is now a large lower branch on the right side.
Asking price $3,300. Unfortunately this tree is just a little too big and too heavy to post so buyers will need to pick up in Yackandandah or arrange for transport.
Lots of beginners struggle to decide what to do after selecting a starter.
One of the biggest problems is there’s always a range of options offered so it gets confusing. Different options is not surprising as there’s usually more than one way to achieve results with plants and for any individual tree there’s a range of possibilities depending what size and shape you are aiming for.
Let’s start with worst case scenario. A beginner has selected this trident maple seedling because it is cheap but now struggling to work out what to do next.
No wonder you cannot decide how to style this tree. There’s nothing to style. The best we can do for trees like this is to grow them on to get something that we can work with. Be realistic about timeframes. This will take at least 3 years to develop a simple mallsai type bonsai and 5-20 years to develop a show worthy trident bonsai.
Even at this stage there’s a range of options on how to grow on trees like this.
Some growers prefer to just plant the whole root ball into a larger container or in the garden and allow it to grow. This approach might achieve a fat trunk quicker but can take more years after a major trunk chop to grow a new leader and heal the large scar.
I prefer to start with some trunk reduction. Pruning early leaves smaller scars that heal quickly. It also encourages more shoots to grow and I’ve found that those extra leaders will still give me great trunk thickening but thickening is staggered along the trunk as each successive shoot adds more thickening. That means the trunks end up with even better taper right from the start. Extra leaders also gives me options when pruning later. I can prune for more or less taper and for more or less trunk bends. Any reduction in trunk thickening during the growing phase is more than made up in les years spent healing large chops and growing new leaders to match the stump that’s formed using the previous grow fast method above.
Hera are some photos of initial pruning for a couple of similar tridents. Both these already had side branches to cut back to but even if there’s no side shoots just chop the trunk at about the height you’ lime your first bend or branch to be eventually. The examples below are intended to develop as quite small shohin sized bonsai.
Note the change of angle for the second tree. Just because it has been planted vertical does not mean it must always stay that way. Always look for possible improvements from tilting your trees one way or another.
Next step is to check the roots. There are growers who feel that root pruning will slow growth and development. My theory is that nebari (surface roots) is a very important part of most bonsai. A thick trunk is great for bonsai but if the roots are tangled or malformed it won’t matter how thick or how good the trunk is. Layering a trunk is possible but that process adds several years to the development timeline. Growing good roots start as early as possible and regular root pruning promotes even better nebari. Even if regular root pruning does slow growth (and I’m not convinced it does) a few extra years will pay off when you don’t need to layer to improve the nebari later.
Plenty of good roots from just one year in the pot.
Start by uncovering the upper roots. Never cut through a root ball as in the next step unless you are sure there are good roots above your cut
Cut the lower half of root ball off then trim around the trunk. This removes most tangled roots and makes it easier to comb out the remaining soil.
After combing out the soil and tilting the trunk where I want it there’s one root too high on the left side.
Fortunately there are good roots just below so the higher root is removed to leave roots on a level plane.
Finally the freshly root pruned trees is potted up – at the new angle – ready for another year of growth. because I’m aiming to develop smaller, shohin sized bonsai I’ve used another smaller pot to restrict internode size. Feel free to use a larger pot if you’re aiming for larger sized bonsai.
Here are some more initial pruning for small bonsai using other species