I tackled some bigger garden grown trident seedlings today. Thicker roots so these took a bit more time and effort to extract than the smaller ones I usually offer.
After they are out of the ground and roots separated from each other the trunks and roots need to be trimmed
Trident trunks like this are still available bare root – until the new shoots start to open. Prices from $15 through to $30 for these XXL bare root tridents depending on how good the root base, trunk taper and trunk bends. This one priced at $20 as an indication.
XL trunks are a bit thinner, usually around finger thick – that’s about 1.5-3cm thick at the base – and priced at $10 – $15 each depending on quality as above.
As shown, XL and XXL tridents are usually tall and thin. They are good for larger groups as is but can be trunk chopped and grown on to create trunks will have good taper in a few years.
There are a small number that already have forks in the trunk which will give a natural point to chop for taper and for trunk bends. $30 for trunks like this one with good roots and a natural fork for trunk reduction. Not many of these so get in quick before they are sold.
Some have lots of side branches. Expect to pay $20 for a trunk like this. Only while stocks last.
Now that the roots have been thinned and adjusted it’s time to take a more thorough look at the overall shape in case trunk lines need any work.
When I initially planted these I tried to match trunk shape to the shapes of the rocks while also trying to get good root lines. Since then strong growth of new shoots and trunk thickening have often changed the appearance so they need to be reassessed. Some will obviously need to have slight adjustments, others may need more radical pruning and a few will just be so bad I’ll scrap them.
Many readers will already be able to assess and prune for developing trunk lines but for newer growers I’ll try to work through some of my decisions with the following tree.
Check the appearance, roots, rock, trunk line and any branching from all sides and angles.
The main trunk line seems to compliment the shape of the rock from a couple of viewing points so that’s a good start. I can see that the original trunk was wired and bent (thinner upper section) but a new shoot has grown strongly vertical. Both those lines would be Ok as a trunk but the new, thicker shoot is almost the same thickness of the lower trunk meaning almost no taper in the trunk. Also that new shoot has long, relatively straight internodes so I would not be able too develop branches where I want them if that’s chosen as the main trunk. I decide to chop that new part just above the first node. New buds will sprout and grow in the coming growing season and I’ll reassess again next year.
Both trunk and roots would be better with some more thickening so I decide to rewrap and plant it in a grow box for another season.
This one has also grown a few strong new shoots over summer which have done a great job of thickening both roots and lower trunk.
The new lower left branch is not a good candidate as new leader because it would make the new trunk line too straight and leading in the wrong direction to compliment the shape of rock and roots. It is also way too thick to be a branch on that trunk so I’ll cut it close to the trunk.
Thinner branch to the right is in a position to be a possible branch but the sweep upward won’t work and it also has long internodes so I’ll chop that one above the first node too and hope for better results next season.
After pruning the top. I’ve elected to leave 2 possible trunks to see which one looks better after another year.
A final tree to look at for this post. Note the thick lower trunk.
A closer look reveals something interesting.
The thicker trunk has spiral marks. The thinner part has more pronounced wire marks and near the end is a piece of copper wire protruding from the trunk.
This trunk is the result of some experiments with wiring very young seedlings the previous year to get really twisted trunks suitable for shohin sized trees. This is one that grew so quick I was not able to remove the wires in time and the trunk has grown right over the wire. That’s not something I would normally do or recommend but, in this case I think the results might possibly be good.
The twisted part of that trunk comes down too close to the top of the rock now. As it thickens it might obscure the view of the top of the rock. The new part is more upright so probably a better trunk line. I chop the thinner section.
After chopping the thinner part a close look shows the copper wire is now right in the middle of the trunk.
The remaining stronger, upright trunk has little taper or movement so I cut it back hard. Fortunately it does have some shorter internodes as the lower part so I’ve retained 2 nodes this time. Depending how many buds break in spring and which directions they grow I may cut further.
Removing the foil wrap is easy. Unlike some other methods the roots do not get tangled up or grow over and through the bindings.
Here’s the first after unwrapping.
And some more.
Now I can assess the shape better. Look at shape of the rock, flow of the trunk, flow of roots, etc to determine which side looks better. That can determine where the longer shoots will be chopped. These still have some growing to do so they may still change appearance. At this stage I’m just making some guesses and anticipating what may happen in the next few years and trying to direct future growth along the lines that I think will look best.
After preliminary pruning the tops.
Look at the mass of roots. Many of those finer white roots have grown since I wrapped it last winter. Provided moisture levels are adequate conditions between the rock and foil are ideal for root growth.
Roots do not actually need soil to grow. Humid conditions is all they need and that’s what foil wrapped rocks provide in abundance. Some of these did not even have roots sticking out the bottom of the foil last year but have since grown down and out into the soil.
From experience I know it is important to assess and manage the roots now. Too many roots may seem a good problem to have but over time they will all thicken and spread to completely hide the rock. No point having a root over Rock planting if nobody can see there’s a rock!
Also need to deal with crossing roots. As well as being confusing to the viewer, a root growing under another will push the overlying root out away from the rock as it thickens and spoil the arrangement.
After cleaning many of the new, smaller roots and removing some that cross over or under. This should allow the rock to show through the spaces even as the remaining roots thicken and spread.
The reverse side of the same tree before cleaning excess roots
and after cleaning the roots on that side.
Here’s another case of crossing roots.
A closer look at the root marked with blue….
Shows that it comes from the other side of the tree, ender the base of the trunk, under another important root then down the front of the rock.
That’s one root I will definitely remove now, before it gets the chance to start lifting the entire tree away from the rock.
A few of these little ROR starters are already good enough to pot up and begin training trunk and branches. Others still need some more grow time so those are rewrapped with fresh foil and will go back into pots or boxes so the roots and trunks thicken a little more next summer.
Now that the leaves are dropping it’s time to get some trimming done. Maples tend to ‘bleed’ clear liquid when pruned closer to spring. Losing some juice from pruning cuts does not usually seem to hurt them but when I trim earlier in autumn there’s little, if any, bleeding so I prefer to trim as soon as the leaves drop.
There’s lots of small trident maples on the sales benches in 11 cm pots and these trees often drop leaves earlier than the larger trees so I’ve started with them. Here are some examples of how I trim the smaller trees.
The older bonsai are also trimmed now but it takes much longer due to the extra branch raminfication.
The trident maple shown above is still for sale. It is around 35 years old and is actually root over rock though the rock is small and the roots have spread to almost cover it.
Group plantings are also trimmed when leaves drop. This took quite a bit longer due to all the branches and having to select which parts to remove to stop branches becoming too thick and dominant. This one definitely NOT for sale at this stage.
For bonsai growers in the southern hemisphere, now is a great time to give your deciduous bonsai a good tidy up. For the northern cousins you’ll need to way a few months.
We are now well into autumn here in North East Victoria. The deciduous trees have been progressing through their autumn colour changes before dropping leaves.
Japanese maples changed colour a little later than many of the tridents I posted a few weeks ago. These Japanese maples were at their best when these photos were taken last week.
Trident maples also develop good Autumn colours here in North East Victoria. Different trees of the same species can have different colours. Some of that is genetic, some is due to conditions – whether the tree is more protected or exposed to cold, sun, etc.
Shibui Bonsai is pleased to be asked, once again, to supply stock for the coming show and sale at Footscray, in Melbourne.
For those who have not attended before, BNW show regularly features some of the best bonsai in Melbourne on the display tables. Well worth going out of your way to attend.
As well as a great range of awe inspiring bonsai on the show benches there’s a large and varied sales area featuring all things bonsai from small starter stock plants through to aged bonsai worthy of the show bench themselves. The club stocks a range of tools and equipment, wire, pot mesh, etc and several vendors supply pots, both locally made and imported.
Bonsai Northwest exhibition and sale: Footscray Community Arts Centre, Moreland rd Footscray. Saturday and Sunday 29th and 30th April 2023, 10am-4pm, both days
April means cooler nights here at Shibui Bonsai. The trees have begun to sense winter coming and some of the deciduous trees are putting on their autumn colours.
Zelkova seems to be one of the first species to colour and lose leaves in the autumn. It is also one of the last to leaf out in spring.
It was interesting to see the Japanese maple shown above still has some green leaves on the lower section where they are still protected from the changing temperatures and sun.
Deciduous autumn colour does not last very long. Each tree usually only has coloured leaves for a week or 2 before they fall but that short period can be spectacular.
Trees do not all seem to change at the same time. Some species make the change earlier and some seem to wait for even colder weather so having a range of species in your bonsai collection can extend the autumn colour period.
Even among the same species there’s quite a lot of difference. Some of my trident maples have already dropped leaves while others are still quite green and won’t change for another week or so.
Conditions seem to play a big part in timing and strength of autumn colour. Cold nights followed by bright sunny days seem to promote more intense colours in deciduous trees. The trees that are more exposed colour earlier and more intensely than those that are sheltered from either cold or sun.
Fortunately, the home of Shibui Bonsai in North East Victoria usually has just such autumn conditions so towns like Bright, Beechworth and Yackandandah are well known for spectacular autumn colour.
While most of us can’t manipulate the local climate we can choose species that are known to give better autumn colours, even in less than ideal conditions. Liquidambers are well known for strong autumn colours even in areas that don’t get ideal cool conditions so if you aspire to good deciduous colour in bonsai consider trying liquidamber.
Genetics also affect autumn colours. Within a single species some individuals produce different colours or timing so if you aspire to better autumn colours it’s a good idea to select your starting stock during the peak colour time in autumn. Look for individual trees that have stronger colours or a better display. All other things being equal that should give you trees that have the best potential for good autumn colour displays.
I’ve frequently noticed that trees in very shallow pots also change earlier. The trident forest pictured earlier is usually one of the first to show colour and is now almost bare while other tridents are still clothed in full colour. I guess this discrepancy is due to stresses. The shallow pots dry out more and possibly allow the roots to cool more than deeper containers.
We also know that damaged leaves do not produce the same colours as undamaged leaves. Maples are particularly prone to summer leaf damage in our hot, dry climate so to get the best autumn colour some growers defoliate damaged maples at the end of summer. Provided the new leaves have time to mature and you take care to prevent further scorching you should get a much better autumn show.
Finally found some time to pot up some more rooted cuttings. Ginkgo and Chojubai were among a few species that had rooted over summer which means Shibui Bonsai will soon have more small starter stock available.
For those wanting traditional, easy to grow species there’s plenty of maples, both trident and Japanese maples in a range of sizes and shapes starting at $10.
Also plenty of (small) Japanese black pines $10, $15 and a few still at $20, all in 11 cm pots. Very few larger than that as JBP sell quicker than they grow.
Email email@example.com to ask about any of these or enquire about other species and sizes. Plenty of larger field grown maples and Chinese elms this year for those looking to develop thick trunk bonsai a bit quicker.
This privet had to go to make way for a new garden bed. Middle of our summer but it is a privet so really tough. I think it stands a good chance of surviving.
It does have a short, fat trunk as a result of being chopped off a few times years ago. When it refused to die the gardener resorted to trimming regularly to maintain a ball shaped topiary.
After this was dug I got busy with other jobs and forgot about it so it sat overnight and part of the next day on top of the soil. By the time I picked it up the fresh shoots were quite wilted.
Root ball was soaked in water for the rest of the afternoon until I had time to deal with it.
After soaking I raked out much of the garden soil, chopped large roots and shortened all others to fit in a 30 cm orchid pot.
Finally the tree was potted into my usual bonsai potting mix, watered well and the pot placed under a bonsai bench in part shade.
I can report that 2 weeks later all the shoots are erect and looking good.
Today I had another opportunity to further trial summer transplanting. Another garden and some more trees that had to go.
First up is an Acacia cognata. I believe it is one of the compact cultivars, possibly ‘Limelight’. All trunks were chopped back a few weeks ago. The number of new shoots all over the trunks prompted me to try this transplant.
Roots were chopped back to fit a 30 cm orchid pot and most of the (hydrophobic) garden soil removed before potting up in usual bonsai potting mix.
The other trees collected today were 3 self sown desert ash – Fraxinus angustifolia. Not big trunks but definitely suitable as trials for summer collecting.
Again all these trees were watered well then placed under the bench in dappled shade. I’ll report back in a few weeks on how these trees are progressing.
Many native trees are growing strongly during summer so new shoots need regular trimming to keep the trees in shape.
Today I trimmed a Banksia integrifolia. This tree was grown from seed collected on South Coast NSW around 18 years ago.
This Melaleuca almost died from dehydration earlier in spring. It is now sitting in a tray with around 3cm of water through summer to make sure it doesn’t dry out again. It has recovered well and is now growing strongly and needed a second trim for this season.
This melaleuca grows so quick and responds to pruning so well that I generally just shear the new shoots with scissors – hedge trimming. Occasional more selective pruning helps maintain the foliage clusters and overall shape.
Shibui Bonsai has a small range of Aussie natives as starters and pre-bonsai and occasionally larger field grown specimens. We currently have a few large trunked Banksias for sale – see sample picture below. Unfortunately these are too large and too heavy to be posted so pick up or alternative delivery only.