Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 2010

Well the cold snap had to come! Enjoy this time of the year, there is much to see and learn during this period

Colour can be spectacular in winter, I have added a couple of shots of some maples here at the nursery.

Sometimes this can be a good time to select stock as you can see its full winter colour as trees can differ from each other even in the same species. The reason is that they may come from different root stock.

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! As soon as flowers appear stop using the potash.


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:

1. Because the temperatures are lower, there is less transpiration in progress (Water leaving the plant through the leaves) and

2. 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 and maples 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 these trees.

Reading, be inspired!

Winter is a great time to get some reading done. Now you have a bit more time use it to advance your knowledge in both horticultural and artistry. The library has some great books you can borrow on bonsai, so it wont even cost you anything!

Just remember that most books are written in the northern hemisphere, so don’t be fooled by the seasons, and type of trees they may have.

Bonsai is universal though and many of the principles are the same regardless of where you live.

We still have a few books left but in limited stock, Master Class, Shohin Bonsai, and a great book on Penjing. We always have stock of Bonsai its Art Science and Philosophy which is Australian and a brilliant book.

I lent a book recently to a friend who read about the creation of smaller trees. It inspired him to look for something that he could work on that would give him a massive trunk in a small tree. After talking for a while I showed him some average size maples, but showed him branches low down on the trunk that will allow the tree to be cut right down, just leaving a short but heavy trunk. The tree will only be 150-180mm high but has a trunk 50mm thick. This looks stunning.

(I have included a picture of a crab apple I am doing for myself after having done what I have explained above)

To often we try and use every part of the tree. Whilst we wont have an instant Bonsai, we will have an awesome specimen in a couple of years, whilst the other way we will only have a less than satisfying tree. People find it hard to spend $50 or$100 and cut the whole thing down to a stump. But remember, it has been left to grow so as it develops a good strong trunk, the top of the tree is superfluous! The bonsai is in the bottom of the tree. You need to look for it!


It is ok to start repotting any of your deciduous trees now. Your trees are in what is called a dormant period, it is like they are asleep, so doing them now is fine (this is for Queenslanders only, if you are in a colder place maybe leave it for another 4 weeks)

Take the time to refine the tree before repotting. Most deciduous trees really appreciate a good hard prune this time of the year. It will produce far better

ramification of the tree as it ages. Cutting back hard will cause the internodes to be closer which will then develop finer branching.

Again take the time to wire or rewire wherever necessary, it is so much easier to work on a defoliated tree. Just remember that the branches will need to be checked regularly in spring to watch for wire cutting in.

We have changed our supplier of potting mix after the company began to cut corners with the ingredients and quality dropped dramatically. The guy who used to do the mixing also left, and being a horticulturist, new our needs and had done a great job for the last 5 years. So our new mix is really impressive, we have been having good success with it. Currently it only comes in 12ltr bags and is well priced.

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!

Happy Bonsai-ing.

May 2010


Welcome to the new readers from the recent classes, hope all your trees are going well.

Sometimes you may notice some repeated articles in the newsletter. This is owing to the fact that after 4 years there is not a lot of new material to write for that particular month. I will always endeavor to bring fresh ideas and news to you. Remember that your input is always welcome, and subjects that you would like discussed or explained, just shoot me an email.

Also remember that the stock of pots is on the website, which allows you to browse looking for something suitable before you get to the nursery. There are other pots here that are not on the site, these are the handmade range, which are not available anywhere else.


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


April 2010


Now is the time to start watering your flowering and fruiting trees with Liquid potash. It is also available in a granular form but a friend told me about the liquid as it is much easier to use. This can be both watered and sprayed onto your trees. Do it every 2 weeks until flowering next spring. It is very high in potassium which is the goodies you need for fruit and flowers.

It Is N 0%, P 4%, K 20%.

It is available at most Bunnings or nurseries.


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.