Prunus Catalogue

This year’s field grown Prunus ‘Elvins’ have enough roots now to cope with delivery and a change of scenery so I’ve added the Prunus 2022-23 catalogue to the catalogue page.

The Prunus catalogue also includes some yamadori cherry plums collected from roadsides in the area. Like the field grown trees those plums have some pruning cuts but they also have thick trunks with good taper and branching.

For those who fancy Flowering Cherry (Cherry Blossom) as bonsai you’ll also find a range of cherries self sown from seed of Prunus subhirtella ‘Snowfall’ growing in our garden. ‘Snowfall’ is a strongly weeping flowering cherry but many of the seedlings don’t retain the weeping habit. Some have moderately weeping branches, others are much more upright. They do all have the lovely, small, white flowers.

see more cherries, plums and our usual field grown Prunus ‘Elvins’ flowering plums on the catalogue page – Shibui Bonsai catalogue page

Spring 2022 at Shibui Bonsai

The first new catalogues are now on the catalogue page so you can start browsing the advanced trident and prunus (including flowering cherry) stock.

Mid November is also Satsuki azalea flowering time. Satsuki were bred to flower later than the more familiar Indica azaleas we generally see in gardens here. As well as different flowering times some Satsukis have different colored flowers on the same plant and some even have different shaped flowers.

Shibui Bonsai now have 3 Satsuki varieties ready to go. $20 for smaller plants in 11 cm pots or $25 for slightly larger but still in 11 cm pots.

General garden azaleas also make good bonsai. These are generally known here as Indica type azaleas and also come in a wide range of flower colours with single, double and hose in hose flower shapes. Azaleas grow and thicken quite slowly so to get a striking, mature azalea bonsai look for plants growing in gardens, especially where owners are renovating and want to get rid of azaleas. I have dug quite a few azaleas from gardens here and have found they transplant easily at all times of the year, can have roots reduced massively and will sprout new shoots from old wood after chopping even thicker trunks.

After flowering is a great time to trim azaleas. Trimming now gets rid of spent flowers and shortens any long twigs so the new shoots will stay compact. Cut off all spent flowers. Also shorten any long shoots, even if that means cutting to bare stems. Azaleas produce new shoots easily on bare wood so don’t be frightened to cut long shoots back quite hard.

Spring also means trimming new shoots. Most trees are growing now but maples and Chinese elms grow fast and need regular maintenance.

Shibui Bonsai have lots and lots of starter trees to choose from so for beginner stock please contact Neil –

For those looking for well developed bonsai we have 2 older bonsai for sale this year. Both these have been grown and developed right here at Shibui Bonsai but there’s not enough room for these any more. A great chance to purchase 35-40 year old bonsai.

The first is a large Ficus rubiginosa. I recently cut this one back hard and new shoots are just appearing all over the remaining branches. Soon it will be a mass of new shoots. Priced at $3,300.

The second old bonsai we are offering is one of the trident maples from our personal collection. Grown from seed around 35 years ago and planted on a rock to give these snaking roots.

New Season 2022-2023 Catalogues

Spring has been conducive to recovery this year and trident maples have powered away after transplant from the grow beds last winter. I now have new roots showing in drain holes of the orchid pots which is a good indication the trees are ready for shipping.

I’ve just uploaded the trident maple catalogues to the catalogue page –

This year I have a few Chinese elms but they just need a few more weeks more for recovery. There’s also some good looking Prunus, mostly the abundant flowered Prunus ‘Elvins’ grown specially for bonsai but also a smaller number of feral plums collected from nearby roadsides and wild places.

later, because they are so much slower to recover I’ll post the few pines and Shimpaku junipers I potted up this season.

As usual, the Shibui Bonsai nursery is filled to overflowing with smaller and less advanced potensai so if you’re just looking to start with smaller, cheaper trees send me an email and we can discuss what would suit your needs.

For those with an eye to something unusual Shibui Bonsai has a few varieties of Satsuki azalea, Chojubai dwarf Japanese quince, Dawn redwood and other rare and unusual species for bonsai. Please ask if you’re looking for something different.

Shibui Shohin Bonsai

Every year my back protests more and more about lifting heavy objects. Larger bonsai look great but I’m finding myself not wanting to move them for repotting, trimming, etc. A few years ago I decided to start planning for the future so I started seriously developing much smaller trees for bonsai. Many of those trees are now looking good. Time for some pots but where do I find good small bonsai pots.

I’ve heard good things about a number of Aussie bonsai potters but actually finding them proved more difficult as I am not registered with any social media sites where it appears most of these potters hang out.

Eventually I tracked down several of these elusive Aussie potters and ordered some trial pots. Parcels began arriving just in time for spring repotting so a number of new Shibui Bonsai shohin are now sporting brand new made in Australia pots.

First up, Brendon Norton – Bad Swan pottery, WA.

Some from Val garth – Val Pots, Melbourne.

Luke Parsons – Adelaide Bonsai pottery supplied some more.

And more pots from Marie Hewartson

All these talented Aussie potters also make larger pots. Most have a small range of pots in stock but you may even be able to talk them into making a special designer pot to suit your special tree.

I still have a few pots without partners from this year’s purchases but there are still more small trees coming along for the next few years. If there are any talented bonsai potters out there making smaller pots please feel free to get in touch.

Root over Rock

I’ve done some previous posts on how to start root over rock trees. Try these links to find a couple of articles on early ROR development Shibui Bonsai style.

Today as I was digging this year’s new ROR tridents from the grow beds I realised I have probably not followed up with subsequent care so this one adds some more second and third year info.

These root over rock tridents have now had a full year in the grow beds. Trunks have thickened well but what about those roots?

Unwrapped to check progress.

The roots on these 3 have a firm grip on the rocks and have thickened well.

There are many things that can go wrong during ROR development. Here are a couple.

The root marked with a blue line goes under the other roots. As it thickens it will lift the upper root away from the rock and leave an unwanted gap.

Here you can see the space that root has already made in just 1 year. I’ve wrapped this in foil again and fingers crossed the roots will fuse and stop pushing away. Much better to ensure that major roots don’t overlap when putting your ROR together right at the start.

This time the roots are not wrapped right round the rock so they don’t hold on well. The rock drops out if I don’t hold it carefully. As the roots thicken they’ll just push the rock out of the roots.

The reverse side of the same ROR. Some of the outer roots are still flexible enough to move so I’ll try to wrap them further round to try to grab the rock tight then wrap it again.

Now for pruning: Root over rock bonsai show a tree that’s grown in adverse circumstances – either on a mountain cliff or where erosion is severe. Trees in such areas are unlikely to grow tall and straight so I’m always looking for places to add bends and taper to the trunks. Here’s one that shows the initial pruning process.

Side 1: The trunk has some nice low curves but then splits into 2 thick trunks above. Roots look OK this side

reverse side: One strong dominant root on this side and look how straight and strong the upper part appears from this side.

I’ve selected the first side and pruned the entire rear part away. The front branch now adds another bend to the trunk as well as taper. That upper section is longer than I’d like. I’m hoping for new side shoots to grow after this pruning. Fingers crossed I will be able to chop back to one next year.

From the back: The cut will take a year or so to heal over. Cutting here may even slow the growth of that thick root and allow some others to catch up.

Bare root seedlings – winter supply only

It is winter again and that means bare root seedling time at Shibui Bonsai.

Those who have purchased before will note a price increase this year. It was just not worth the time to collect the smaller seedlings at the previous price of 50c each.

Growers in West Australia and Tasmania will be aware that state Quarantine laws prohibit us sending live trees and most seed to your states. While this can be frustrating for individuals, these regulations are to protect you from many of the pests and diseases we have to contend with here in the Eastern mainland states.

Most of these seedlings have never been pruned so trunks are usually tall and straight with few side branches. Roots have not been pruned. Some have good lateral roots, others just have the early tap root. Fortunately tridents grow new roots very well so the roots can be chopped really hard with full confidence they will grow new lateral roots.

All these seedlings will be sent bare root. Roots are wrapped in wet newspaper and a plastic bag to retain moisture during delivery. Trunks will be chopped to around 40cm long to facilitate packing. Bare root seedlings are only available while they are dormant through winter – usually July and August.

Smaller seedlings $1 each. Trunk thickness up to around 3mm thick. These are flexible enough to bend if you want to try to create twisted type trident trunks or plait them to fuse together. They are suitable as smaller trees in groups and ideal to thread through holes drilled in sheet metal to promote future nebari.

Medium $2 each. Trunks from 3mm to around 6mm thick. Great to thread though metal plates as the first stage of developing great nebari.

Large $5 each. Trunks around 6-10mm thick. Too thick to bend but these are a good start toward growing larger trunks in grow boxes or in the ground. Also good as focal trees in a group planting.

Forest packs $30 each. I select a range of trunk thickness that will suit a starter group planting. Typically a group pack will have 2 large trunks, 8 medium and 10 smaller tridents. These have been very popular so only available while stocks last.

Extra large POA. These are still ‘feral’ seedlings that have grown unnoticed behind sheds or hidden among garden plants so they’ve had a chance to get a bit thicker. Please be aware that these have never had any pruning or root work so roots may or may not be ideal for bonsai. Trunks may have little taper. Bigger is not always better for bonsai.

I can also select trident seedlings to various other criteria. If you want seedlings to approach graft roots on another tree then seedlings with a low bend work better. Seedlings with bends might suit your plans better than straight trunks or really skinny trunks that are still flexible enough to wire and bend extensively. Seedlings with long roots might be useful for root over rock bonsai. If you have a project let me know and I’ll try to offer advice and find the right seedlings that will suit you best.

Seedlings with low bends are good for approach grafting new roots onto existing trees.

Seedlings with existing bends. Some will have more bends while others will have gentle bends like these. Please specify small or medium size.

Japanese maples are much slower to grow. We still get good numbers of self sown seedlings growing in the garden beds but they typically only get to 3mm thick and around 10-15 cm tall in the first year. There are some Japanese maple seedlings a bit older and thicker but nowhere near as many as tridents. Small – under 3mm thick $2 and larger $5 each duet to numbers, ages and higher demand. Buyers should also note that the Japanese maple seedlings offered come from a wide variety of Japanese maple varieties. Some will have red summer leaves, some green. You may get some with brilliant red autumn leaves while others might be yellow and there’s no telling whether any will be strong growers or have long or short internodes.

I can also supply seed for those who enjoy the magic of germinating seeds and start bonsai from scratch. Japanese or trident maple seed: 10 seeds $3, 20 seeds $5, 50 seeds $10 or 100 seeds $20.

Japanese maples are notoriously variable when grown from seed. Cross pollination between different types in the garden also means there’s no way of knowing which seedings will look like the parent and which could be different but that’s one of the great things about growing from seed – there’s always the chance of growing a special type. Every new seedling is a new and unique cultivar because every seedling has a new combination of genes from each parent. Named cultivars cannot be grown from seed so don’t ask for seed from specific named Japanese maple varieties. If you are really determined to try to grow Japanese maples with specific traits, the best I can do is select seed from trees with broad characteristics such as red leaves, dwarf habit, etc but please be aware that these traits may or may not show up in all (or any?) of your seedlings.

As usual delivery will be through Aust post. I’m using express delivery this year as we experienced some delays with regular post last season. Packages under 1kg typically up to around 20 smaller seedlings are usually around $15. Allow around $20 for most orders but packs with more than 100 or some larger trunks are heavier and larger so delivery price can be higher. Post cost also depends on your location so please advise your postcode or address so I can calculate delivery price for your order.

email orders to:

Developing shohin bonsai

Occasionally my back reminds me I’m not as young as I once was. I can still do most things but the message is clear: think about downsizing the bonsai.

Large bonsai look spectacular. There’s no doubt where the eyes go at any bonsai show and it is usually backed up by the peoples choice votes. Bigger bonsai give us the potential to catch eyes with thick trunks and real ramification but the downside is the effort needed to move and repot such trees, not to mention the cost of large pots to suit them.

Smaller bonsai are more of a challenge. Harder to keep alive through summer as the tiny pots dry out so much quicker. Styling is also a challenge – giving the impression of an entire old tree in less than 25 cm is a real challenge.

I’ve finally worked out the techniques and care needed to keep these little guys alive and healthy and accepted the challenge to develop some real quality shohin bonsai. Shohin is a size classification in bonsai which is accepted as around 25cm tall (from rim of pot).

One of the downsides to shohin bonsai is that they are rarely shown as individual trees because they get lost among the larger trees on a show bench. Shohin sized bonsai are often shown as a collection of 5 or 7 trees on a multi- layer stand so that means having more small bonsai in order to be able to pick out enough in prime condition for a show.

Today I’m sharing some of the trees I’ve been developing for the Shibui Bonsai shohin stable.

I’m really enjoying the challenges that shohin bonsai pose – containing long shoots, styling well ramified branching is limited space, growing trunks with good taper in less than 20 cm, etc.

The next challenge is finding suitable pots. I’ve contacted several of our Aussie bonsai potters and asked them to design and make some pots for me to use with these and other developing shohin bonsai. I’ll let you know what turns up when they do.

Please note these trees are NOT FOR SALE. If you want to get on the small bonsai wagon I do have plenty of smaller trees with trunks with good potential to develop your own shohin but for now the trees I’ve shown today will stay on the Shibui Bonsai show benches.

Ballarat trip

I’ve just returned home after trip down to present a demonstration for the Ballarat Bonsai Society meeting as part of the AABC visiting tutor program.

It was great to see a good turnout of members from Ballarat and neighbouring clubs despite the cold, rainy winter weather. Thank you all for making the effort.

The topic for the evening was Group style bonsai so I explored both theory and practice of starting, designing and developing bonsai ‘forests’ but, as usual, topics ranged a little wider during the discussion and afterward in questions. I was too busy talking and showing to take photos but those who have access to Ballarat Bonsai newsletter will no doubt see a report and photos when the next edition comes out soon.

A big thank you to all the members who turned up and your participation in both the presentation and discussion afterward.

If your club would like to explore the possibility of a special presentation or workshops please contact me –

Catalogue update

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 and let me know so I can check the tables.

Pre-Winter trim

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