Thursday, October 25, 2007

Newsletter August 2007

Well here it is, spring!! This has to be one of the best parts of the year for Bonsai, all the new growth, new inspiration, the challenge to learn more, and create better trees.
Sorry for missing last months newsletter, I was extremely busy with unloading our latest container of pots.

We landed 15 tonnes of pots, a lot of them are unique to Red Dragon Bonsai, we are the only ones in Australia to have them, and we don’t wholesale this range. This gives our customers something different from anybody else. The colours and style are exquisite!

I have been at a few different peoples places lately looking at their collections. What I have noticed is that they have many small would be Bonsai’s which unfortunately never become the trees they hope them to be. Some have 20, 30 and 40 trees all not quite “there” People have shown me little trees that they bought of the special rack at Bunnings. Rarely will you ever come across cheap trees that will make good Bonsai specimens.

Now I don’t want to seem to harsh but as I have mentioned before, instead of spending $10 on 8 – 10 trees each, buy one tree for $80 - $100. Small stuff is fine if you are doing mame, (miniatures) or groups, but if you are serious about Bonsai, start with something decent!
Here are some tips on doing this:
When you are looking for trees, consider the base and the first 1,2, or 3 branches and what would happen if you cut the whole thing back down and grew a new apex? To often people look at a tree that is say 60cm tall and try and work out what to do with it. Now it might make a good tree, but first explore the possibilities of cutting it back severely.

What if you found a great trunk, and cutting the whole thing back to just the first branch to create a really nice cascade?

Try and develop the artistic side of Bonsai. Treat it like art, and whilst keeping the guidelines in place try being abstract.

What about creating a “literati” This is a tree that has a long slow tapering trunk, with only 3 or maybe 5 branches at the top. Or with the same tree, wire it so as to create a sideways “C” shape with the apex or head coming up in between the pot and the trunk. Sometimes the tree you will use will be of quality stock, but the results will be worth it. I am just creating a literati with a $180 black pine, and cutting all the branches of except for a couple on the top. This will grow quickly as these trees have dominant apex’s and the size of the pot will feed it well.

It doesn’t have to be expensive! You may find a $50 tree that might make a fair informal upright, but by looking around the bottom it may have a couple of great bottom branches and you could gin the rest, turning an average looking 40cm tree into a superb 10cm tree. Small pots are cheaper and often more elaborate. Something like this on the dining room table for an evening can look stunning.

If you are wondering about this, ask me next time you are at the nursery and I will show you a couple of elms I am doing this with.

You should have started fetilising by now. Again it is better to use a weak solution more frequently than a strong solution every so often. A good way of doing this is to find a tub big enough to soak your whole tree in pot and all. The water should cover the base of the trunk by 3 -5 cm’s or so. This will ensure all the old air is forced out, (you will notice the bubbles, now you know what it is) and the tree will be saturated, ensuring no dry spots in your soil which can easily happen. As you lift out the pot after say 20 minutes or so, you will notice all the water draining out the bottom. This means that new oxygen is being sucked down into the soil. This allows the continual breaking down of the nutrients, and allows them to mix with the moisture which in turn is mixed with the oxygen. This forms a gas and it is this that passes through the cell walls of the root hairs thus feeding the tree! Amazing isn’t it. This is just a brief summary but helps to understand what is going on.

Many people tend to ignore what is going on in the soil, and only observe the top growth, but guess what? Healthy roots, healthy tree!! Take some time to understand roots, soil, and watering. You will be well rewarded.

Repot, repot, repot!! Spring has come very suddenly this year. Many trees are starting to wake up, and its best to be able to repot and root prune now before they have budded. If you are busy, leave your evergreens and concentrate on your deciduous. Most deciduous varieties can be heavily root pruned. Make sure thought that you cut of the heavier roots, and leave as many of the small fibrous roots as you can. These are the roots that are feeding the tree. Make sure you put your tree somewhere warm for a week, not back in the full sun.

When root pruning make sure you get up under the rootball below the trunk. Often this part of the tree is neglected, and over the years this can become very compacted. After you have done some clearing out of old soil, hold your tree in beween your fingers upside down, allowing the roots to fall away to the sides. This should give you good access to this part of the tree. Gently comb out the old soil and loosen any compacted dirt. Sometimes the soil the tree was originally planted in will still be there, this needs to be gotten rid of!

Now also is a good time to top prune your tree, this will create less stress on the tree as you repot. As with most deciduous trees, they are best cut back heavily this time of the year.
You may decide its time for a new pot. If possible always take the tree that needs to be repotted to pick a pot. Its amazing how much smaller/bigger your tree was when you get back home. If you need help with selecting the right pot, just ask myself or Corey, we will steer you in the right direction.

We have recently acquired some nice field grown stock. These are privet, Chinese elms, corky bark elms, flowering plum, crab apples, and some beautiful seiju elms (very small leaf)
As these are field grown the have nice root structure which will produce ideal nebari. (root flare around the trunk)

See you soon,

Newsletter September 2007

Again welcome to all the new readers to the newsletter, hope your bonsai’s are doing well and you are enjoying your new found hobby.

Annual show.
The annual Gold Coast and Tweed Bonsai show is on again this year at the Robina Town Centre. It is held in the Large auditorium outside the centre at the David Jones end. The show will be on the 10th and 11th of November. This is a great opportunity to see a wide range of styles and presentations reflecting the different aspects of Bonsai. These sort of events are a real source of inspiration and learning. You will be amazed at what can actually be done with different species.
There will also be demonstrations by Robert Stevens from Indonesia who was here last year for the AABC convention last year and was very popular. His approach to Bonsai is a little different but definitely one for pushing the boundaries, and a real gentleman! The show will have probably in excess of 200 Bonsai to view.

I find myself talking more and more to people about the type of tools they are using for bonsai.
The first aspect of tools is the steel that they are made from. Many of us just think steel is steel but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the process of steels manufacture, different methods are used to produce steel in varying degrees of “hardness”. What this translates to is that a cutting tool that is made of a hard steel will hold its cutting edge much longer, it is also able to get a much sharper edge. What this means to us Bonsai folk is that when cutting a branch or a stem, we want to make sure we are getting a nice clean cut. If this is not happening then the branch or stem is being crushed. Maybe to the naked eye it looks ok but when cells are crushed it creates a twofold problem. 1. it can cause dieback along the branch, losing the bud you were cutting to, and 2. it is much easier to transfer disease to a ragged cut.

The levels of tools available are
1. Chinese carbon steel, 2.Japanese carbon steel, and 3. Japanese stainless steel. The price of these runs accordingly. The Chinese the cheapest, the Japanese next and then the stainless. Many people just starting out will only get the Chinese tools and this is only fair enough because Bonsai might not be something they really embrace.

Once you have decided this is for you then consider good quality tools. If looked after they should last you a life time! You don’t need to buy them all at once, plan to get them one at a time. One of the tools many people neglect to use is a pair of bonsai wire cutters. These wire cutters are especially designed to easily remove wire without damaging your tree.
Remember the old adage, ‘The right tool for the right job”

Developing new trees.
I find many people coming to the nursery looking for stock to start a new tree. Most people find it difficult to select something because of all the branching going in all directions, and start trying to find something that already looks like a bonsai. We put in quite a bit of time “preshaping” our trees but they still need lots of changes and removal of branches and sometimes large amounts of trunk.

The secret to finding good stock is to start at the bottom of the tree and try and find the “tree within the tee”. What I mean is this, many trees are a lot taller than they will be when transformed into a bonsai. The trunks are allowed to grow as this is what thickens the trunk. By looking up the tree from its base try and find a new suitable apex. It may only be one third or one half up the tree, the rest is cut of and thrown away! This is where people struggle, think hang on, I paid a lot of money for this I cant throw all that away! But just remember, the tree is often grown to this size purely to get taper and thickness. I have cut trees back hard and people ask me where they came from only to be told they have been here for years!
I have included a couple of pictures of a black pine I have started working on, before and after shots. Its about 12-13 years old, and shows great potential for the future.
Most people spend the time trying to shape the rest of the tree, but this is not always the best proposal!

This tree will need some heavy wiring to bring this first branch up to become the new leader. The tree has been repotted on its side to give it more angle, and the old trunk will be jinned to give it some character.

A tree like this will look much more powerful when done this way. It creates a huge amount of taper, and in a few years you wouldn’t know it had ever happened.
We have many good sized corky bark elms that present with this type of scenario. It can also be done with junipers, seiju elms etc.
If you need help with this type of thing just ask and I can help you find the right tree.

Hopefully this has been a help in developing your trees. Just remember Bonsai is not about the destination but about the journey, enjoy yourself!!

Newsletter October 2006

Hows everybody enjoying all the new spring growth, don’t forget to increase your water and fertilizer! Make use of the growing conditions while you can.

Don’t worry to much if you haven’t completed all your repotting yet. Many trees, such as azaleas, elms and junipers all can still be done as long as you are careful with their aftercare. Other trees such as figs prefer to be done a little later in the season, so these can be safely done in the coming weeks. Trees such as black pines are now best left until Autumn, and done with care, or leave until next spring.

The most important aspect of repotting is the after care. Make sure you place your tree somewhere it will be shaded, but not in a dark or drafty place. & days should do it and then move it back to it original place.

When repotting make sure you don’t leave any air pockets around the roots as this can lead to root rot. This is best achieved by using a chopstick and gently working the soil so it is compacted around the rootball. Be gentle with this so as not to damage the tiny roots. Also the word compacting can be a little misleading. You don’t want the soil packed in so tight that the water has trouble penetrating the soil. The worst thing you can do is water your tree in and then push it down hard with your hands, this will pack the soil to tightly and cause problems.

Always use good soil! Don’t scrimp on soil and try and use some old stuff from a previous tree. You will transfer disease, and use soil that is denuded of needed nutrients for you growing tree. Remember your tree is in “grow mode” so it will be needing the best it can get! As mentioned before I am now having my own mix made commercially and am selling it at the nursery. It is specifically designed to promote good root growth, which will obviously promote good leaf growth! Remember, don’t try and save a dollar on a tree that is worth $100!!

Some trees will need to be repotted twice a year such as privets. It is therefore best to do these early in spring, and then again in say march. Often these trees will fill their pots with new roots very quickly.

Yep their back! Unfortunately, as we experience all this new growth, so are all the little bugs. There are various methods of keeping them under control, but the best is prevention.
Although I have hundreds of trees, I still water by hand. Sprinkler systems are fine but you will learn a lot more about your trees by hand watering. In one day you will notice a whilting, or chewing insects or yellowing etc. By being so prompt in dealing with the problem, you may avert a massive infestation. Keep your eyes open, as soon as you notice something different, find the cause.

Something to watch for is when you tree seems to be very loose in the pot, and is looking sickly. Often the cause of this is the “curl grub” These are little white grubs the size of half your little finger. These guys love to eat roots, and will be merrily munching away with you wondering what is going on. When in doubt with the health of your tree, always check the roots.
Many people fail to keep an eye on what is going on under the soil, “out of sight, out of mind”.
If you suspect a problem, check the roots, smell the soil, does it smell like its rotting? Maybe your drain holes are blocked, and water is slowly rotting the roots. Roots need oxygen to operate!

Your mix should be free draining allowing fresh air to be drawn down into the soil as you water.
Keep the area that you have your trees in nice and clean. Keep any surrounding trees free from pests also.

Tree selection.
Its important to understand when you are selecting a tree to shape as a bonsai, that often you are not looking at the entire tree. More often than not the tree has been grown to its current size just to increase the trunk thickness. Don’t try and work out how you could shape the whole tree as it is. Start at the base of the trunk and imagine a tree with good taper using maybe only one third of the tree! You may throw the rest away. Try and resist the instant bonsai pressure and begin to plan for the future, you will be surprised how fast time goes. I have recently cut of the whole top of a juniper and kept only the bottom branch, and turned it into a lovely cascade. By doing this you have a nice strong looking tree, with heaps of wow factor. If you are keen to do something like this, let me know next time you are at the nursery, and I will show you some trees that I keep my eyes on! This is a great way to expand your artistic ability and talents!

I recently purchased some small junipers, but they were larger than I needed so I am selling these for 4 for $28. (they are usually $12 each!) Let Corey know if you want these as they are only being offered to the recipients of the newsletter.

Hope this finds you and your trees all well,

Newsletter May 2007

Welcome to the new readers from the recent classes, hope all your trees are going well. From the response to classes, bonsai is definitely on the increase!!

Well the new Bonsai Europe/Bonsai Today has merged as I spoke of to now become Bonsai Focus.

I thought the magazine was good before but now by joining the 2 leading bonsai magazines in the world together it is awesome!!

I am very impressed with the content, quality, information and the general layout. It is done with the best gloss paper, and the photography is top quality. It contains lots of tips and information as well as all the wow factor trees. It has had a slight rise in price, but has much more content and is well worth it.

I find I always return later to reread articles that relate to what I am currently doing.
I think for those who are collectors this will become a collectors item being the first of a series.
As usual I only have 25 copies.

Winter is an important time to keep your trees in their best condition for the coming spring.
It is wise to spray your entire collection with a diluted amount of lime sulphur over the winter months.

Lime sulphur is a fungicide and pesticide which is fairly low in toxicity. It will keep at bay such things as sooty mould, some other funguses, and some of your minor pests.
Spray once a month for 3 months starting in say May.

The other effect it has is a lot of the little nasties that have laid eggs will be greeted (if not killed earlier) by a pesticide. Otherwise you can find you get of to a bad start in spring with all the little nasties hatching and looking for breakfast, at your place!!

Lime sulphur is available from Bunnings, use as directed.
The other use for lime sulphur is bleaching dead branches to create that old look as well as preserving the timber. When this is done it is used neat (undiluted) this is called “jinning”.

Whilst on the subject of jinning I thought it would be a good opportunity to explain a little further regarding this method of giving your trees a more “aged” look.

Remember a tree should always tell a story. It should look like the elements of nature have shaped it, not the hands of man.

This is where jinning comes in. Jinning is a method where all the cambium layer is stripped from a branch to give it a look of an older tree that has had damage done to it through either a storm or lightening, insects etc. A branch or apex can be jutting out of the top of a tree that appears to have been hit by lightening. Maybe a bottom branch that is no longer needed in the design of the tree can be stripped back to look as if over the years the branching above it has shut out the light causing it to die of.

So before you go cutting of branches, or cutting your tree down in height, consider leaving some and jinning it!

To start the jinning process you need to strip away the cambium layer from the branch to be jinned. Make sure you cut around the base of the branch where the jinning is intended to end, otherwise what can happen is when the bark is stripped of, it can tear past where you intended it to finish. This can be done with a sharp knife.

The next step is to remove the cambium layer. This is the living tissue under the bark. Beneath this is the heartwood or deadwood. This is the part we are going to bleach.
The best way to strip this bark of is with the use of jinning pliers. These are used to crush the cambium making it very easy to remove.

Remember to leave as many of the smaller branchlets on the branch being jinned, shorten them as they will add to the overall effect.

After this has been done, consider if the branch is the shape you want it to be. Because it is at this time you will get a one of chance of shaping it. You will find that it is still moist and supple and can be easily wired and trained into a new shape. You may want to twist it and get it spiraling up through the tree. This can look very effective.

You will only need to leave the wire on for about a month as the branch will quickly dry out and then become brittle. You can use heat to bend a branch further but this is fraught with danger as you can boil the sap right back down into the living tissue and kill the branch or even the whole tree!

After you have completed stripping the cambium away, make sure it is clean from any small bits of stringy pieces before you paint it.

The best way of getting the lime sulphur to be absorbed is to lightly spray the deadwood with water. By doing this it will be absorbed into the wood, which will inturn draw the lime sulphur deeper into the wood grain.

Using a small paintbrush, paint the lime sulphur on liberally, making sure it doesn’t run down the branch onto the rest of the tree, nor let it get in your soil. Cover the pot with a rag or similar to stop this happening.

Use the mixture straight from the container, don’t dilute it.
At first it will look very yellow, don’t worry as this will quickly turn white over the coming weeks. It is important to put it in the sun as this will enhance the whitening effect.
The lime sulphur will not only bleach the branch but will also work as a preservative on the timber.

You will need to do this again in a month or so and then say twice a year at any time.
Some trees respond better to jinning and bleaching. The softer timbers don’t do so well such as figs, but trees such as pines junipers swamp cypresses etc look awesome!
This all can be taken a step further if jinning presses your buttons!

This is where carving comes in. Now this can really be fun!
This ranges from using a small Dremmel, to the old “widow maker”. The process here is trying to replicate nature with carving the tree to make it look like it has been weathered for a long time. Twists can be carved into it, trunks can be hollowed, and so on. This takes a little bit of practice, but it can take an ordinary looking tree, and make it look spectacular!

The big bougainvillea on my email signature has been created in this way. Actually it is has even more carving now as I neglected to notice the ants building their home inside one of the trunks so now it has all been hollowed out and looks great.
Anyway give it a try!!

Happy Bonsai-ing

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Newsletter June 2007

Well the cold snap had to come, now all we want is some good rain, they are getting heaps down south, hopefully it will arrive here shortly.

In life all things have seasons, let your trees have a good rest, don’t try and push new growth to early.

Remember to apply liquid potash to all your flowering and fruiting trees every 2 to 3 weeks for a great spring look!

I know I speak on watering frequently but it is a vital area to healthy growth.
As the days and nights become cooler, your trees will need less water because of 2 reasons:
Because the temperatures are lower, there is less transpiration in progress (Water leaving the plant through the leaves) and Less to no root growth, which is the conduit for moisture.
If we are to ignore these factors, are trees will become constantly wet, and therefore be exposed to root rot etc. Remember trees in pots are different to those growing in the ground. Tees in the ground have areas of excess water run-off, and are therefore not so much under threat.
Allow your tree to nearly dry out before rewatering. It is having its well earned rest!

Now is a good time to clean out all the areas where your Bonsai are displayed. You will have a lot less to do, so now is a good time for some tidying up.

Reconsider where you have your trees, have they been getting enough light, are they in an awkward position, are they displayed to their best advantage?

Maybe now is the time to build or extend your racks, design bit of a Japanese garden around them, and create a bit of “ambience”

Another thing that you can do in winter is take advantage of the sparseness of growth on your deciduous trees, and reshape and rewire them. Because most of the leaves will have fallen by now, you have a much clearer view of the tree. You may even see a new shape from branches that have been growing disguised behind the foliage.

This is also a great time for rewiring, not as many leaves to get in the way! Always make sure your trees are on the dry side before wiring.

If they have just been watered, they are more likely to be brittle and snap easily. This may sound strange, but picture a stick of celery, when is it easier to snap, when it is full of moisture, or a week old? Don’t learn the hard way!

It is also a good time to cut back you elms. When I say cut back, I mean cut back. Be ruthless! (I obviously don’t mean to cut of branches, but be quite severe on all your branchlets. Elms respond well to heavy pruning this time of the year. You will be rewarded with abundant new growth in spring. This will lead to greater branch ramification, which can be a winter highlight on elms.

Take a trip to the library, you will be amazed at the books available! Take the time, become more educated, be inspired to go further and higher in Bonsai. Be challenged, be stretched, enjoy yourself, remember, this life is not a rehearsal, it’s the real thing!

For the next week and a half (up to and including the 30th of June) we are running an end of financial year sale at the nursery.

This is only available to those in receipt of the newsletter. So you must mention it when you are purchasing something.

For the sale there will be 10% of all tree stock, and 20% of all pots! This makes for great savings and gives you a chance to get in before spring. The other thing is that at the beginning of spring, most if not all trees are repotted, and consequently rise in price. So by buying them now, you will get the same tree you would have bought in spring, but at a reduced rate.
This is a good time to get the tree or pot you wanted at a discounted price.

I am predicting a fairly large increase in prices in the coming months and years. The reason for this is many. We are seeing increases in water charges, and infrastructures that are being imposed on nurseries, higher petrol prices which impact on freight, insurance increases which again impact on freight and overheads. (for larger trees freight is now around $100 a tree!)
When you couple with this the greater demand for Bonsai, and the administration created by our top heavy bureaucracy, which has increased the hours of paper work dramatically, they all add up to increases.

I have seen some stock double in the last year!
I think we have had it good for a long time, but there is a radical shake up going through the nursery industry. I think we have been spoilt for some time!

For those of you who would like one to one tuition, this is now available through the nursery. You may have a tree that you just don’t know what to do with, or you may have wanted to purchase something but didn’t know where to start, well nows your chance!

Larger carving jobs can be done and explained. It works on an hourly rate, and for work on larger collections, we can come to you.
You will need to book,

Happy Bonsai-ing.


Newsletter January 2007

special welcome to all the new readers of the newsletter, I hope you are in some way inspired and encouraged to keep going further with one of the greatest pastimes known to man…..BONSAI. (Well one of the great pastimes!)

SUMMERWhat summer? you are probably saying, well you are right, we are having very unusual weather up until now. At this time of year we are we are normally experiencing long hot days with late afternoon storms or showers. These can be great times of good growth as long as the periods of intense heat are not to long. There are unusual problems occurring with growing owing to the unseasonal temperatures.

I still think the summer season will come, just a little late. Please don’t blame global warming!! We have had record low temperatures around Australia, as well as record levels of rain. (this is another story that I wont get into here) But as someone famous once said “be carefull of what you hear!If you need to you could even sneak some repotting in now if you must, just be careful of exposure for a couple of weeks after you have repotted. BUT keep in mind the weather can swing at any time so if you don’t need to, avoid it unless you are well experienced.There are trees that should not be done this time of year, trees such as pines, cedars, azaleas etc. Interestingly enough, there are some natives that can be done. The thing with natives is to watch for the tree to go into dormancy, ie no new growth appearing, then get to it. A word of warning though go very easy with the roots, they don’t like them to be drastically cut as a rule!

Usually with the onset of summer we may experience a period of dormancy. This is the trees way of protecting itself from those hot spells where the tree is unable to supply enough moisture to the leaves, so any new growth is very susceptible to die back.For this reason pull back on your fertilizing especially your fertilizers with high nitrogen content, as this will promote new growth artificially and cause your tree to struggle in the heat. Move you more delicate trees into a bit of shade, azaleas, maples etc. Maples tend to burn around this time of the year, and the leaves can look pretty ordinary, all brown and curled up. The other thing is when autumn comes around instead of having a tree with beautifully coloured foliage its just a crinkled misery!
PESTSI have noticed a lot of trees coming into the nursery lately with major pest problems. On trees such as junipers, often it is to late as these trees tend to die from the inside out, in other words the last thing to turn brown is the needles.

Figs on the other hand will show it in their leaves first so we are often aware earlier of the problem.Most of the problems seem to be with the sap sucking variety. These are usually either white louse scale, or red spider mite, two spotted mite.These insects will attack most trees. Junipers usually begin to turn a slight olive colour, and there bark becomes a bit wrinkly. Some of the tell tale signs are very fine webs, also very small whitish specks at the base of the leaves or needles.The best way to treat these is with either Folimat, or Confidor, both available at the hardware store. Be careful spraying these, keep the can well away from the tree as the aerosol can burn the foliage.

It is also important to keep your trees healthy, and your area where they sit clean.If your trees become weak through neglect, they become a target for pests, this is their job! Also keep falling leaves etc away from your trees because these will also harbor little nasties. More often than not, if you follow simply practices you will have minimal problems with pests and disease. If your are having problems and you are going to bring your tree, just bring a small bit in a bag as I don’t like having every disease and pest brought to the nursery, as you can imagine!

We have had some great stock come in lately. We have some really nice ground grown corky bark elms. These have been grown from root cuttings so already have great bark and trunks, and also good shape, they are about 40-50mm thick. We have some nice cedars, big pyracanthas, these have a lovely flower, followed by red berries. We also have some nice chunky black pines, some huge Chinese elms, (250mm + trunks!) some good sized maples, some awesome little stumpy olives, very unusual. Also some good sized seiju elms ( these are like Chinese elms only they have minute leaves).I am still unpacking pots and putting out new styles all the time, so if you are after something special have a look.I have also started selling “Bonsai Europe” This is an outstanding bonsai magazine, probably one of the best publications I have seen. I initially got one for myself and was that impressed decided to import them for resale at the nursery. It is printed once every 2 months and is a very classy magazine done in full gloss from cover to cover, It is full of hints tips and inspiration, and of course some amazing trees.I only have 25 copies each delivery. They are only available from the nursery I cant post them out. They are $15 and the only other place I have seen them was Brisbane and they were $19.95.

Reading this magazine you realize how big bonsai has become in the western world. I don’t think we have really started to scratch the surface here in Australia. I know just from the trade at the nursery that it is beginning to explode here. The inevitable will come out of this, higher demand bringing higher prices. But with this will also come the expansion of knowledge shared, techniques improved and greater enjoyment for all.What an exciting time to be involved with bonsai!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Newsletter April 2007

Welcome all the newcomers to the newsletter, things have been very busy lately with 10 attending all the recent classes. Hope all your trees are doing well!!
Bonsai is really growing at a rapid rate in Australia, but it still hasn’t caught up with the enthusiasm of Europe and the U.S.. I think we are developing our own unique style which is exciting to see. As I always say in my classes, the rules of bonsai are there for guidelines, not something that must be adhered to at all costs. You will never fully enjoy your bonsai until you break out of the mould and start to create pieces that YOU find pleasing. They may not all turn out spectacular but it will lead you to a more enjoyable pastime.
Its good to let pictures and other trees you see inspire you, but let that be the motivation, don’t try and copy things, this will always lead to disappointment!

Don’t forget to keep up the fertilizing at the moment. Even though the trees may seem to have stopped growing, they are still hard at work storing all their nutrients for spring. If you fail to keep this up at the moment, you will pay the price at spring time with less than efficient growth, and dieback of much of the small branchlets that take so long to develop. Remember that growth must come from somewhere, and that somewhere is nutrients stored in the trunk and large roots. This is especially important if you are trying to increase branch ramification on trees as well as fruit and flowers.

This is a good time for exploring your trees as they defoliate, it’s a great time to consider if the tree needs restyling. Often over the growing months, the tree will send shoots out all over the place. Whilst the tree might look good in full foliage, its not until you see it with out its leaves you realize that the tree is really messy. Now don’t be lazy and just leave it as it is thinking it will look good again when its got all its leaves in spring! Take the time to go through all the branches and cut of all the branches that have grown to long, have grown to far upwards, shot downward under the branch, and grown outside the overall shape of the tree. Now wire any branches into their correct position. Remember that refinement is an ongoing work on your trees. Being deciduous it just makes it easier to get to.

This will pay dividends over the years with great ramification, which is just as important as your summer look.

There is nothing more stunning than a elm or maple that has hundreds or even thousands of tiny little branchlets in winter. Believe me this wont happen naturally, it takes time, pruning, fertilizing and vision. By vision I mean seeing the future shape of the tree, by starting at each individual branch.

Most people are a little timid when it comes to pruning their deciduous trees. It is really important to be quite hard in cutting them back. Especially with trees such as elms, you need to be fairly savage. Remember to cut to the bud that you want the branch/branchlets to grow in.
By doing this you will create shorter internodes (the distance between the buds) which will give you better ramification. If this is not trimmed or pruned each year, you will gain a mass/mess of little twiglets that will not produce the fine even growth you are trying to achieve.

Pines also can be pruned quite hard now also. Remember to take out the larger candles at the top, and the smaller candles lower down as they are dominant in their apex. If this is not done then the tops will grow at the expense of the lower and inner branches.

By cutting back this way smaller buds will form at the base of the cut which will produce next seasons branchlets, which in turn will need to be thinned. This will help produce those elusive smaller needles and compact growth.

As your conifers begin to slow down in growth, you will notice that as the weather cools that you will get “die back” inside your tree. The reason for this is that sun is no longer penetrating this area so the tree stops producing new growth underneath. This leads to lots of small brown needles which if allowed to stay, will produce the ideal living place for lots of bugs (if it already hasn’t.) Much of insect infestation can be avoided by keeping your trees well groomed and clean.
The best way to remove these old needles is to use something like a chopstick to loosen all the old matter. After you have done this is then worth going over the tree and shortening all the smaller branchlets that have grown over 25mm in height above the branch. By doing this you will allow light to penetrate inside the tree which is imperative for health, good growth, and short compact ramification. This is how these lovely compact clouds are developed.

The latest edition of bonsai Europe is also now available for sale at the nursery. Again the quality is magnificent. Bonsai Europe has now combined with Bonsai today to produce and even bigger magazine. This is a real plus for bonsai nuts. These magazines really inspire, help you understand what is happening around the world and give great insight and tips to help you grow in bonsai.

Newsletter March 2007

Looks like Autumn has dawned, caught most of us unawares, but here it comes. It really is a glorious season, all the colour, anticipation of great ramification you will see on your deciduous trees, and an end to frantic watering! (which is a lead in for this newsletter)

Yes I know watering again, but this time its for a very good reason. As you may or may not know we have 75% of our dam filled at the moment. BUT in the governments wisdom they have brought down huge water restrictions. Brisbanes dams are very low but they have included Gold Coast in this, yet we have had RECORD rainfalls all over Australia (Al Gore has a lot to answer for, this is one of the most deceptive Presidential campaigns yet!) Someone sternly told me the other day we just recorded the hottest day in March since 1965! So are you telling me it was HOTTER in 1965? If you care to read anymore click on the below link.

APC: United Nations > Articles > There is No Global Warming
I don’t want to use the newsletter as a place of debate, but hopefully people will be challenged to do some research for themselves.

If anything Bonsai will grow dramatically as people always want to have some sort of trees to look after and admire.

So I thought I would take the opportunity to help you with watering under the new guidelines. At least we are coming into winter and watering has already started to slow down.
One way of watering a lot of trees yet using very little water is done by submerging your trees for a short period of time.

What you need is a container that will take your largest tree, it doesn’t matter what its made of.
Starting with your small trees first place them in the bottom of the container and begin to fill the tub until the water is about 40-50mm above the trees ground level. Do this gently so as not to disturb the pebbles or moss.

Leave the trees in the water until all the bubbles have stopped rising to the surface. Different trees will take longer, depending on the density of the root ball. (5-15 mins)

Whilst you are doing this, you can also add your favourite liquid fertilizer to the water. This will seep through the whole rootmass. Fertilising can be continued now until the night temperatures drop to about 12 Cel. This only needs to be done every fortnight though with the fertilizer!
You can keep using the same water, obviously you will have top it up depending on how many trees you are doing, and correspondingly add more fertilizer.

You can even put a tray on top of the tub and let the water drain out and save even more especially when it is using fertilizer.

A word of caution, you wont need to water like this everyday as you have perhaps been doing when you hose. The reason is that this is a very deep watering, and much more water gets to the trees roots, and will sustain it for 2-3 days. You will just need to check your trees individually, but you will soon get the hang of it.

You will probably find your trees become a lot more healthy. It will also promote more even root growth rather than new roots just forming on the extremities of the rootmass. The reason is more often than not we water and only the outside of the rootball gets watered.

Using a gravel tray is another option for keeping your plants hydrated. This is done by using a shallow tray with the bottom covered in sand or gravel. Fill this with water until the sand or gravel is just covered. Now when you place your trees on this they will be “watered” by the evaporation that takes place. Now this is not to replace watering but will prolong the time between watering. (this is a great option during very hot weather, or for very small “mame” bonsai) Again you will need to check your trees individually. What actually happens is that the water contained in the botoom of the tray will continue to evaporate, misting the leaves of your trees. Trees can absorb moisture in this way also. One word of warning, make sure that your trees are not sitting in the water. Roots on trees such as swamp cypress are ok, but keep everything else above the water line.

Just remember that because the growing season seems to be over not to neglect your trees especially when it comes to wire. During this time of the year, often your trunk and branches will continue to thicken up. One reason is the optimal temperatures (they are very much like spring) the other is that the tree is starting to store all its goodies before winter in preparation for next spring. For this reason wire can start to cut in quite easily and leave nasty scars. Just check all your trees and have a close look to make sure wire doesn’t need to come of. Keep this in mind if you are currently wiring your tree, it will need to be checked in a month or so.

Another thing to remember at the moment is to not do anymore trimming on your azaleas. All your new flower buds will have formed, and if you cut them you wont have any flowers!
In regard to flowers and fruit, don’t forget to start using liquid potash once a fortnight (can be used with your new watering system) to produce an abundance of beautiful fruit and flowers come spring.

Its also time to move your deciduous trees into more sun. This will give greater colour as autumn approaches.

In the valley we are experiencing cooler nights already, and colour is really starting to show. My liquid amber is really starting to turn, (see picture) its going to be a great autumn!!

Happy Bonsai-ing, and remember henny penny was wrong!!

Newsletter February 2007

Well another month already! We are still having unseasonable weather, and its yet to be seen if winter will be early or late.

As mentioned previously, there is a small window for repotting in late March early April, as these times have similar temperatures to that of spring.

While I think of it, I only have a few copies of Bonsai Europe left. The next issue will be here will be here late March.

Usually February is the hottest month of the year. For this reason your trees may slow down in their growth. The reason for this is that they are protecting new growth from being burnt. Trees that need to be watched for leaf burn are your deciduous trees. Trees such as liquid amber, maples elms etc. The first thing you can do to protect them is to make sure they are mulched well. If they are in a nursery pot just use any type of mulch. (Just be careful of red cypress as it tends to become water repellant) If your trees are in bonsai pots, make sure they have plenty of pebbles on the surface. These do tend to wash of by mid season so attend to these. The idea is to keep the roots cool. If the roots are kept cool they will have enough moisture to transfer to the leaves in hot weather. This avoids the dreaded “burnt leaves” look when you hit autumn. Instead of enjoying beautiful colour, you just have brown curled up leaves!

This is one of the reasons we defoliate trees at Christmas. By doing this the tree will produce nice new fresh leaves. These are therefore more inclined to be unmarked as you come into autumn. (yes it is to late!)

You may need to also move your deciduous trees to a shaded position, make sure you are still getting good light though. Under a tree is not the best position as trees shed what is called “lye” which will damage your trees and may also infect them with pests and disease.

I have included a picture of a liquid amber to show you what beautiful bonsai’s they make. For many of you who live close to the coast, these are ideal as a replacement for maples. Sometimes if you are to close to the beach, maples will struggle. Liquid ambers are much hardier. I have had one in my collection for 15 years or so now and it produces awesome colour. I have some stock of these, ground grown specimens, here at the moment. Some of the trunks are 5 to 7.5 cm’s + thick. They have great branching and will make lovely trees. They grow very quickly and are a very rewarding tree.

Now is the time to start fertilising your trees with liquid potash. This is obtainable from Bunnings etc and is used in a diluted form watered on. Like anything, don’t be tempted to overdo it.

You will need to do this every 3 or 4 weeks until September. This will encourage flowering and therefore fruiting on your trees.

Just remember, that if you have an abundance of fruit on trees in bonsai pots, you may need to thin the fruit out. If allowed to remain it can threaten the health of your tree, or even kill it. It is just that the demand on the tree to feed the fruit is too great.
Don’t prune your flowering trees any longer as you will be cutting of shoots that will produce the flowers.

In saying that, if your tree is still young and being shaped, never sacrifice shape for flowers. In other words, if your tree needs to be directed in a certain way for its future shape to be correct, but you don’t want to because of flowers, you will never produce a tree of quality. Better a good tree with flowers, rather than an ordinary trees with flowers!

As the weather does start to cool, (readers of this newsletter are all over Australia, so you will have to gauge your temperatures), make sure you have a good regimen of fertilizing happening again. Your tree will start to store nutrients for new growth next spring. I always recommend a balanced fertilizer, so as to produce even growth. The elements of potassium and phosphorous will be used to build strong wood both in trunks, branches and roots. This will help eliminate dieback during the winter months. Continue to fertilise until the temperature drops below 12 degrees at night. This will ensure good strong growth for next spring.

I know I have spoken about it before but you need to keep yourself inspired. Ask yourself the question, how am I going with my bonsai? Where am I going with my bonsai. You will be amazed how quickly the years go by and you are still thinking, “one day I will do that landscape” etc. Clean out your collection, get rid of stuff that will never really please you. Sell it, give it away, whatever. Refine what you are doing. Sometimes you can sell of a few trees that your not real keen on and buy something you would really like. One mans trash is another mans treasure. Or even radically alter a tree that is just not looking right. Maybe a cascade that you have had for a while but really isn’t happening, have a look at the top, maybe you could take the whole tail of and have a great informal upright. Let your imagination go. Read books, get ideas, that’s why I recommended Bonsai Europe because it is so inspirational. Its to easy to become stale!

Black pines (pinus thunbergii)
Black pines are probably regarded as the “King of Bonsai”. I think once you gain confidence with general care of bonsai, you should contemplate adding one to your collection. They are slow growing so either be prepared to wait, or buy something advanced. These trees really offer a great challenge to learning and getting closer to the art of bonsai.

There is nothing really like a well shaped pine. Practically anything can be done with them.
Don’t get these pines confused with the pines you see growing locally. These are “Radiata pines” or slash pines. They are really not suitable unless done as quite large trees. The reason for this is that they have very large needles. With black pine, the needles are able to be reduced to very small lengths down to 1-2 cm’s.

I have some small very nice prewired trees right through to larger specimens available at the nursery. Pines don’t have to be huge to be stunning, a tree 20 cm high can be absolutely awesome!

Because of enquiries I am contemplating doing a night class on black pines. These trees are really a lot different to most other trees. There are many distinctive aspects to them from trimming to repotting. I found a lot of information on them a little (lot) hard to understand. It would probably run on a Thursday night, 7.00 to 9.00 If you are interested, please let me know so I can gauge interest.

That’s all from me, Happy Bonsai-ing