Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 2011


After all this growth from the recent rains, be sure to check your trees which have been wired, to make sure the wire hasn’t begin to cut in. What is happening is that the branches are thickening up with the new growth, but the wire doesn’t expand. The end result can be nasty spiral scarring on your branches. On some trees this can be worse because they are softer. Trees such as azaleas, camellias, maples etc, mark very easy, and in the case of maples, very quickly (within 3 – 4 weeks!)

Obviously this is a problem if you are trying to grow the branch, but have to remove the wire every month or so, yet the branch has not set.

One of the ways around this is to use raphia. Raphia is a natural reed type product that is available in places like Spotlight (ask the wife!). It comes in strands and looks like flattened grass. What you do is soak the raphia for 30 minutes or so in cold water, then wrap the branch you intend wiring. You will need about 3 strands to make it thick enough to cover your branch. It is then wrapped around the branch quite tightly.

After doing this, wire the branch as normal. This should give you a bit more protection.

Another use for raphia is when you have a large branch you want to bend past a position that it would normally be capable of. By wrapping the branch with raphia, it is a lot less likely to break. Even if it does, it will probably hold the branch in position until it has healed. Sometimes you can bend the branch until you hear the crack and stop. This takes a bit of learning but it can be done.

A beautiful bonsai made from the pistachio. These trees have awesome colour as well as ramification. The leaves are really easy to reduce in size.

The also really lend themselves to ‘unusual’ styles of bonsai and not just the informal upright design as seen in the picture.

We have some really unusual specimens of these in stock, that will lend themselves nicely to a lot of different styles.

Description: A medium to large tree with elegant and attractive, glossy green, pinnate leaves that turn a beautiful orange red or crimson in autumn.

Styles: Formal upright; Informal Upright;Slanting;Cascade;Semi-cascade;Literate;Broom;Rock-over-root;Clasped-to-rock;Twin-trunk;Clump;Group planting; Saikei

Watering: Keep soil moist, do not let it dry out. Feeding: Fortnightly during the growing season. Leaf and Branch Pruning: Any pruning that needs to be done is best carried out in the spring. Re-potting & Growing Medium: This species strongly resents being transplanted. It is best to transplant in spring when new growth is beginning. Wiring: A very ornamental tree.. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.


With bending, don’t think it all has to be done at the one go. You can bend a branch over an entire season. The best way to do this is, once having rapia’d the branch and wired it, connect a loop of wire past the point that you want bent, and fix it to a opposite side of the tree, something to gain leverage from. You are then able to twist the wire slowly, maybe a turn every second day, until you have the desired bend. Leave this for a full growing season. For older trees, you may need to leave them for 2 – 3 years.

Whilst talking about bending, I saw an interesting article the other day on it. Instead of just bending the branch with both hands, twist the branch first with both hands until you crack the cambium. Often a crack can be heard. (This is before applying raphia) What this does is instead of putting the pressure across the cambium, it puts it along the branch instead. It is like hundreds of strands slightly separating, but not actually breaking as a branch does straight across.

I hope you are able to understand what I mean! By the way, I take no responsibility for broken branches!! Take the time to learn and practice on branches  that it doesn’t matter if you do break them.

December 2010

Chaenomeles (flowering quince)

These amazing little trees make spectacular bonsai. They are probably not created in the same way as traditional bonsai, ie informal upright etc, but are done in a more artistic fashion they come in a great range of colours (we have red orange and salmon in stock) and will produce quinces, usually yellow and sort of pear shaped.

Trees like this really stand out when used as a feature, or even as an accompanying plant.This is where all your unusual pot shapes and colour comes in, bright tree, bright pot. They tend to grow with multi trunk configurations and are often seen as raft style bonsai. So there you go! Something completely different

Merry Christmas to everyone from the whole gang here at Red Dragon Bonsai, Kath, Sam, Jesse, Thor and myself.

I would just like to thank everyone for their support and business during the year, it is very much appreciated!

Take the time to enjoy the season and remember its reason.

Watering (yes again!)

Well no we are not running out of water as I recently mentioned and as you would have noticed!

When will we learn that we are ‘a land of droughts and flooding rains’ written by Dorothea Mackellar (I think about 1918)

It is vital to remember that although we have had this extensive rain, as soon a s it stops and the sun comes out, your tree will begin to explode.

This presents a few different ‘problems’

1. Because your tree/s have been getting so much water they have increased their uptake dramatically. Whilst this is a good thing, this will continue to happen even after the rain stops. So rather than back off from your watering after it stops raining be sure to keep it up for a week or so as let the trees uptake slow down. Remember that a tree in a pot is an unnatural thing, and will have all the characteristics of a tree growing in the ground where it can travel and get all the moisture and nutrients it needs. But confined to a pot it is relying on YOU!

2. The other thing that happens during this heavy rain is that it will leach out the bulk of your fertilizer. It doesn’t matter when it was put in, most of it will be gone, especially the powdered form. We use and sell Healthy Earth fertilizer here at the nursery and find this as one of the better fertilizers.

So we will go around the whole nursery and redo the trees with this. Remember that with all this rain and humidity, the majority of your trees will have a new burst of growth. Its for this reason that it’s a good idea to fertilize them so as they are not stressed. Just remember though, more is NOT better!


Now is a great time to defoliate some of your trees. This works with most broadleaf varieties ie: figs, maples etc

The purpose of defoliation is twofold, firstly it will force your tree to produce new shoots sooner than it would have, thus producing smaller leaves, and secondly, it will create greater ramification (more branching because of the prompting of more growth inside the tree because of more light getting to it, see above) It will also improve autumn colour in your maples.

Just remember that after defoliation be sure as to not to over water your trees as they are not able to transpire because of the loss of leaves. Make sure you cut the growing tip off as well, this sends a signal to the tree that it has lost the provider of auxin (growing hormone) and will readily promote new growth.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 2010


Hi to all the new recipients of the newsletter, hope you enjoy its contents. The purpose of the newsletter is to keep you updated on any events, sales and hopefully to inspire you to go further with your beloved art of Bonsai!


Defoliating is the term used to describe the removal of all foliage. This is only done on broadleaf varieties. Trees such as figs, maples etc are ideal for this.

This is practiced in bonsai for a few reasons. By removing the foliage, the tree goes to work developing new leaves to keep the process of work happening in the plant. The tree cant survive without leaves.

One of the reasons for doing this is that it will increase branch ramification, (more branching and sub-branching) as there is more light allowed inside the tree. This stimulates growth on dormant buds back along the existing branches.

The second reason is leaf size. By cutting all the leaves of, the tree will prematurely produce new leaves which will be reduced in size. This is one of the other aspects we are trying to create in bonsai, small leaves.

Now a word of warning, (or 2) don’t do this to sick trees, it will put them under to much stress, and they may die. Also do this only in December as this is the optimum time for the tree to produce new leaves, left to late and the tree may not be able to produce new leaves if the temperatures drop. Again you may lose your tree. When you cut the leaf stem cut it just above the joint between branch and stem, and always use sharp scissors!!

Its worth mentioning here about the use of clean sharp tools.

Have a go this December, and watch the results. Remember to back of on the watering as they will not be transpiring as before, feel the soil before watering each time.


The reason it is so important to have sharp cutting tools is that when you cut a branch/branchlet, that the cut is clean, with no ragged edges. If you were to look at a cut nade with a blunt pair of scissors, or side cutters etc, you would notice that although it has caused separation, the cut would be jagged and the stem crushed back up from the cut. This creates a couple of problems, 1 it will cause die back along the branch and 2 it will make the branch more susceptible to disease.

This is the reason that better quality steel tools are used. The better the quality the steel, the better the cutting edge will remain sharp, and will actually be sharper because of the hardness of the steel.

I encourage people to plan the purchase of tools, they don’t all have to be bought at once but as the budget allows. If looked after, these quality will last a lifetime.

They old adage is true “you get what you pay for”

We have some Chinese scissors in stock at the moment that I have been using for the past 5 months. The are of very good quality and I am really happy with their performance. They are slightly cheaper than the Japanese scissors and I think they are slightly better quality.

These are not to be confused with the cheaper quality Chinese tools.


The need for fertilizing at the moment is twofold.

1. With all the heavy rain, your soil will “leach” out all the nutrients. In other woprds the fertilizer you have (read should) been using will be washed out of the mix by the constant flow of rain. It will need to be replaced, whether it is slow realease or liquid.

2. The other reason is to keep up the nutrients that your tree requires under such ideal growing conditions. To have rain in the evening then sun during the day creates a very moist atmosphere which enhances growth.

I have been mowing every 2 days! There is a relatively short window for this type of rapid growth, don’t miss it.

It is important to understand the working of your fertilizers.

I have gone away from chemical fertilizers as I believe they can kill good organisms in the soil, and produce rank growth because of their high nitrogen content. This may look good initially but if you are just getting new leaf growth and not root growth, you will be stressing your tree. Also as I said by introducing chemicals constantly to your soil, you are creating an unhealthy environment for your tree. Unhealthy soil, unhealthy tree, and you invite all the bugs as this is what they will attack first, a weak tree.

As some of you may know, I use and sell healthy earth fertilizer. I am extremely happy with it, my trees have never been so healthy.

This is a completely organic based fertilizer feeding the whole tree, and doesn’t sterilize the soil. Also with this heat it is good to mix a bit of concentrated liquid seaweed with it. I have really watched some stock really struggle with heat stress. We really didn’t get a spring this year, just bang, straight into summer.


The annual Gold Coast Tweed Bonsai Club will be happening on the weekend of the 13th and 14th of November. This show is always fantastic! Chris Dinola will be doing demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday at 11.00 am.

This is a great way to be inspired and enthused, talk with other bonsai fanatics, and get new ideas for your trees. There is always some great stuff to buy.

I find shows like this really re-energize me, as I always go home with fresh ideas and insights. There is always plenty of people on hand to offer advice and suggestions

You are also able to join the club, or get details regarding its operation and meetings.

The price for admission is only $5, kids free.

It is held at the Robina Community Centre, Robina drive, next to the library.

Hours are 9.00 to 4.00 Saturday and Sunday.

Happy bonsai-ing

Chris and Sam