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

Monday, October 18, 2010

September 2010

Once again welcome to all the new readers of the newsletter. The growth of the popularity of bonsai never ceases to amaze me!

After months of no movement, no growth, everything is springing into new colour and growth. Some trees are a little late this year, a few of my liquid ambers have still not burst bud as of yet, whilst others are growing as you watch them.


All this new growth presents us with lots of opportunities. If allowed to grow feely your tree will probably lose its shape very quickly. The answer to this is obviously trimming and pruning.

Before I go any further, I will explain a method of creating thicker trunks on your trees during this increase in growth.

By allowing a branch which is either low to the ground, or even in the apex, to grow unhindered for a year or so without trimming, will create a much thicker trunk. This really is common sense, obviously the bigger a tree grows, the thicker the trunk required to support it. You can even take it out of its pot, put it in a nursery pot, or box, and whilst keeping aspects of the tree in shape, allow this new branch to extend.

The usual name for this branch is a “sacrifice branch”. The reason for this is that the branch is never intended to be a pert of the tree, but is grown to create thickness, and is later ”sacrificed”. Wherever the branch is left on, all below it will thicken. So if you just want to thicken the base choose a branch low down, if you want to thicken the whole trunk, choose a branch in the apex.

Now to shaping.

Different types of trees require different techniques when trimming.

Leafy varieties differ to junipers in the way we cut them. With trees like elms, figs privets etc, we can fairly freely snip away with our scissors, even cutting through the leaves in places with no ill effect. Many trees once they become thick, are cut just like a hedge. Once the clouds are created, just a trimming to keep the cloud shape is all that is needed.

Junipers on the other hand, are treated differently. If you were to just cut away with the scissors, within a week you will have a half brown, half green tree.

The reason for this is that most junipers grow in what is known as “whorls” This is where all the buds grow out at a single point, whereas most “leaf” trees grow either opposing or alternate buds.

So with the junipers, it is important to “pinch out the new growth to continue to encourage new growth which will produce your cloud like foliage pads.

Now if you look closely at a small part of your juniper that has been pinched out, you will see that the stem is made up of little scale like sheaves. This is where the dormant buds. Between 2-6 new buds will shoot from this point. After allowing them to grow say 20mm they are then pinched back and each of these will produce 2-6 more buds and so on.

If these are allowed to grow to long, die back will occur underneath where the sun or light is not getting to. If this has happened you will need to cut through these stems with scissors, or cutters. The whole pad should not be much thicker than 25mm or so.

The important thing to be doing at this time is pushing growth by fortnightly fertilizing. More growth, more trimming, more fertilizing, will develop your tree. Fertilizing is best done with little more often. We use recommend and sell “Healthy Earth fertilizer in both the slow release, and liquid. I should mention that at this time your tree needs maximum sun, but don’t forget to keep up the moisture. Junipers don’t like to be wet all the time, so let them become nearly dry.

Now your leafy varieties need trimming in different ways. You need to trim your branches to produce more branches. By trimming a tree, the hormone that is in the growing tip is gone therefore the tree will produce new buds further back down the branch. This is what we are after. Always cut 5-10 mm in front of the last bud. The reason for this is so as the last bud is not damaged. You can always go back later and cut of any little stubs. If you cut

to closely you may get die back and lose the bud you wanted for growth in that direction. Always cut to the direction that you want the branch to grow in. Allow the, new shoot to lignify (harden) before you cut it back.

KEEPING CLEAN!! Cleanliness is vital for the well being and health of your trees. This means keeping your growing area free from weeds (in pots as well as under your benches) and also your tools.

We would never use a instrument used on somebody and then use it on ourselves because of the danger of cross infection.

This means cleaning your tools clean (as well as keeping them sharp, as blunt tools will tear leaving damaged ends which are more likely to become infected) and free from rust and sap.

There is a product called “Crean mate” (yes I know bit of a giggle, a slight oversight in the Japanese translation) this block is a rubberized abrasive piece used for cleaning the blades of all your tools. The one I use is probably 5 years old so they do last quite a long time.

We are selling more and more of these now as people are becoming more aware of the need for clean tools. Often this comes about after seemingly “unexplainable” die back on a tree.

Well hope some of this information helps you, but remember to let me know some suggestions on what you would like to read.

August 2010

Welcome to all the newcomers of the newsletter. I hope you find it instructional and inspirational!! I am amazed at the constant increase of new proponents to the art!


I don’t know if its our culture, or our technological age we live in but too often I hear people talking about bonsai as if it is an exact science!

To start with, there are some things in nature we will never understand. Even the best horticulturists will tell you they still don’t fully understand the working of soil and tree together.

Often when a tree “passes” we try and find the reason, but sometimes there is just no good reason we can find! Don’t get caught up with making it an absolute science like maths! You will be disappointed, and have missed the essence of bonsai.

Bonsai is both horticulture and art combined. It is working with material that never presents exactly the same as the last one you did.

For some reason we are so persistent in creating something because we think this is the direction it should go (according to something we have read.)

Be bold enough and game enough to begin to follow your creative instincts, sure use good horticultural guidelines, but beyond this just as they say “have a go”

Read as much as possible, glean as much information as possible, do all you can to fill your mind with images of your beloved hobby, but then as you shape, let the mixtures of the images begin to dictate to you the shape. Things such as balance, and space will become obvious.

Bonsai is not about rules! We are not building a mechanical object! Rules are there for guidelines, they had a purpose in the beginning, and its understanding is vital for the success in bonsai.

Too many people bend down to have a close look at a bonsai and stand up with a look of intelligence on their face to proclaim “Its wrong, the first branch is a back branch”. I swear if I hear someone make a statement like this again, I will scream!

The next book you are reading on bonsai you will find somewhere in the book, how the tree should have a left, right and a back branch radiating up the tree. Now go through the pictures of the book and find how many follow this pattern!

This layout is a guideline, not a rule. I have seen trees that people have forced branches to fit the criteria, and they look ridiculous.

Trees have branches at different heights and different levels because that is how a tree grows naturally. Branches will grow into the most optimal position to gain light. (this is a brief explanation)

If we are to develop both our personal and corporate world of bonsai then we need to both encourage and attempt to develop new styles, and techniques.

We must welcome the newcomer, and not baffle him/her with science and rules, but impart some enthusiasm that will inspire.

We need to “unveil” the mysteries that are so readily propagated by the few, to help people understand that bonsai is not some mysterious thing, some freak of nature, but are at the end of the day, just trees in pots! Lets not be so precious about the whole thing.

People have told me after I have complimented them on an aspect of their tree, asking how it was achieved, only to be told it was a secret!

Bonsai has a long history, and its journey has crossed many lands and cultures. It is reputed to have started in China (maybe even earlier in India) and eventually to Japan.

Pensai from China has a distinctly different look from the bonsai from Japan. Pensai has its early roots (sorry for the pun) in China and was more to do with landscapes in pots.

Whether you like Japanese or Chinese style of bonsai, doesn’t really matter, its about enjoying the art form. They are both legitimate.

There is a respect for its origins and respect for its originators.

If we allow, and indeed encourage those coming into the hobby, especially the young, we will be part of the evolution of bonsai. Bonsai styles are not fixed in time, there are guidelines to be followed, but it will continue to change and develop.

The greatest problem we face as we get older is the ability to change. We fear change around us because we don’t like the rules being changed.

The spirit of bonsai is not precious, it has humility at its heart because it doesn’t know everything. It s encouraging, it imparts all the knowledge it has, its not envious, but appreciative of others achievements.

Probably as Australians, indeed Queenslanders, we have a unique opportunity to develop the art of Bonsai. Our climate is so different, our species are different, even our climate is different.

What will happen with Australian natives? I know we are using them to some degree, but how far are we willing to go? Do we try and shape them into traditional shapes, or do we try and follow the shape of trees around us?

If we allow this sort of development in bonsai then we will all be the richer for it. Maybe everything wont work, but we wont know until we try.

We cant be rigid in all we do, otherwise we will become stuck in time.

Maybe if you feel like you are getting stale with your bonsai, its time to try something different. Go somewhere you haven’t gone before, stretch yourself!!

If we keep this type of mindset, we will be more tolerant of others, we wont be envious, and will ensure the future of one of the worlds greatest hobbies!!


I have really taken to swamp cypress as a bonsai, both as an individual tree, and as group plantings.

The Taxodium genus consists of only two species, Taxodium distichum/ The Swamp Cypress and Taxodium ascendens/ The Pond Cypress. Both a suitable for bonsai cultivation though it is the Swamp Cypress that is more commonly seen.

The Swamp Cypress is an upright, conical, monoecious, deciduous or semi-evergreen coniferous tree found in swampy forest or by river margins from SE USA to Guatemala. In its native habitat it can reach heights of 20-40 metres. Though often found growing in wet, swampy soils, the Swamp Cypress also grows well in relatively dry soils. In wet soil conditions, Swamp Cypress develop aerial roots known as 'knees' or pneumatophores at water level.


POSITION Full sun. Fully hardy to -10°C.

WATERING Swamp Cypress should be kept moist at all times as they are thirsty trees. Although Swamp Cypress are able to adapt to wet, swampy soils it is not necessary or beneficial to stand them permanently in water.

FEEDING Swamp Cypress are very vigorous growers and require regular feeding every one or two weeks with a balanced feed.

REPOTTING Repotting should be carried out annually in Spring as new buds extend. Use a soil that is able to retain water but is still fast draining.

PRUNING Pinch out new shoots throughout the growing season to keep in shape. Hard pruning can be carried out in late Winter; this commonly results in prolific budding from the trunk.

WIRING Care should be taken when wiring, as these trees are fast growing and wires will damage the bark if not removed quickly enough. If possible use guy wires to pull down the branches.

PROPAGATION Cuttings at most times of the year and air layering in late Spring.


STYLING Formal and informal upright forms, slanting and literati, twin-trunk and group forms in all sizes.


These trees are best suited to a more of an artistic approach to bonsai. Many of these trees are used by the Japanese to do what is known as ‘Mame’, or ‘Shohin’ bonsai. These are miniature bonsai done in small pots accentuating the flowers and/or fruit.

The cut leaf mulberry’s have a very small leaf but heaps of fruit. We still have a few mulberry’s left but the bigger ones got snapped up pretty quickly.

Happy Bonsai-ing

Chris and Sam

July 2010

Well things are starting to move already and potting time is here. We will still get some cold snaps, but all your deciduous trees are asleep so they wont know a thing!


You should be preparing to repot all your trees soon. (This is assuming you are in Qld.) We are in the process of repotting the entire nursery. Some can be left to later such as pines, figs, but your elms, maples junipers etc are ready to go. What happens with the old soil is that it becomes drained of all its nutrients, we can continue to fertilise but this is not the optimum. Much of the humus has broken down, and can become quite mushy. Also the bulk of the pot will have filled up with new roots so there is little room left for new roots to develop and water retention is very difficult. It is vital that the mix you use is “open”, and “sharp”. By this I mean it is free draining, and that much of the mix is sharp in content, such as sand and gravel. The purpose of this is to cause the roots to divide constantly. The roots travel along, hit something sharp and split. This is what we are after. The better the root system, the better the foliage. That makes sense doesn’t it! Unfortunately we pay little attention to the soil or the roots, out of sight, out of mind eh?


Now is a good time to do some wiring. Many of your trees will have less foliage on them now. This allows wiring to be easy, as you can see more of your branch structure. Also take the time to remove any branchlets that are shooting out the wrong way. You can be fairly severe on elms, maple etc. cut them back hard, it will give you greater branch ramification in the future.


Now is a really good time to do some pruning and refining. Trees such as elms, and maples will respond really well to hard pruning now before leaf bud. By pruning back hard now you will create greater ramifications on your branches. There is nothing better than an elm or a maple that has hundreds of tiny twigs all exposed in winter, so now is the time to cut them back while you can see them. Keep cutting back to 2 leaves (or buds) on each branchlet and over spring and summer you will get fantastic growth. It is easy to just let them grow as they will look good, but winter will find you out with long stringy branchlets.

Take some time to assess your trees whilst they are defoliated, see what changes need to be made. Maybe its time to thin it out and remove some major branches! You may decide to reshape the whole tree, this is all part of the journey!

Its also worth noting that whilst you are trimming your trees to keep your tools sharp and clean. If your tools are blunt they may appear to be cutting but in actual fact be crushing the branchlets. This will cause die back, back up the branch. Also a cleaning block will keep rust and sap of your tools, as it is very easy to transmit virus or disease from tree to tree. These blocks are designed to eliminate this.

See you all soon,
Happy bonsai-ing,
Chris and Sam