Been a while…..

Well its been some time since my last post, but there’s just been no time unfortunately. We sold our 5 acre property (almost overnight) back in October and had just over a month to pack 17yrs of our lives, find a new house to buy, and in the process find a way to squeeze over 350 bonsai and pre bonsai into our new much smaller 600sq mt block at the beach. Well the obvious answer is that there was no way I was going to take all those trees with me….. so it was a perfect opportunity to tackle my addiction head on and go cold turkey ruthless on my collection of trees. I’ve been doing bonsai for over 30 yrs now and have accumulated many pots and trees….all which take up valuable space when you downsize. I’ve had pots for 3 decades which have never had a tree in them so you get the picture. Anyway, when we packed the house, my dear wife used the reduce by at least a third rule and suggested I try to do the same with my shed/workshop contents, and my bonsai and nursery stock. The trouble is when you have acreage and incredibly fertile red volcanic soil, you tend to get addicted to the ground growing technique which when moving can bite you in the bum…. trust me! Fortunately I had done most of the lifting a winter or two back, so most of the heavy work was done, but there was still the case of 350 trees to sort through…. from name’ to massive. My giant Swamp Cypress which stood over 5ft tall in the pot and the pot alone was a 2 man lift when empty. I tried to sell this one real cheap, but the size simply petrified people at the thought of moving it so it was ceremoniously returned to the ground to grow as it was meant too. A few other smaller nursery stock trident maples also joined their big brothers back in the maple forest up the back of the property and will be more than happy there. I put the word out on my local forums and had a few sale days which came with bonus plants for the buyers. If you bought a dozen starters, i threw in another 6 and so on. The more you bought, the more I gave them…. Some were just beginning their bonsai journey, so it felt good giving them really quite advanced plants rather than sticks in pots. I still have over a hundred trees all told, but the hand watering has dropped from 2 hours twice a day in summer, to about 20mins, so it has been a drastic reduction. My growing aspect has also changed in our new place which has eliminated all full sun growing, but they all still get 4-5 hours a day which seems to really suit my maples particularly well. Everything has been powering in their new environment which I am happy for, and anything that doesn’t thrive here will go. I have no interest in fussing over difficult to grow trees anymore. My maples nearly did my head in last season with fungal disease and spraying chemicals every 10 days to keep on top of it was a nightmare. They got one Lime Sulphur dose last winter and thats been it, and this Spring in the new place they have shown perfect leaf structure and healthy strong growth…. the best I’ve seen in years. We are a few minutes walk to the ocean and always have a sea breeze, so i’m curious if this is the reason everything looks so good…. I know thats why we feel so good…… hahaha! Happy bonsai ing fellow bonsai junkies.

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Ficus Obliqua

This is a F. obliqua I collected growing out of a sandstone wall in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, around 20+ years ago. It had a canopy about 3ft across, and these 2 slender trunks holding the whole mass up. No idea how old it is but it must have been growing in the crack in the wall for at least 10 yrs or so to get to the size it was.??? I removed all the branches at the time and ran a saw against the wall and base cut it free. It now stands around 15ins tall and 16in wide canopy. The nebari is my biggest issue with this tree…. very one sided due to its original growing angle. Never really known how to correct or improve it, so have learned to live and work with it.
First pic was November 2011.
Frustrated and neglected for a few years.
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Here is the same tree August 2012 after a season of more attention and a regular fert program instead of neglect.
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Another year on….October 2012

 I restyled this fig with the original rear view as the new front. There is some lengthening of the RH primary branch to happen, but so far it is powering along. I shouted it a new bigger pot as well and it looks like it is enjoying the extra room….so pretty happy with the progress so far.
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January 2014

We are smack bang in the middle of a hot summer down here which is perfect time to work on our figs…. here is the result after defoliation and full rewire, sitting on one of my own home made stands.

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Overhead view below, showing good ramification developing.

Obliqua overhead ramification 11-1-14

Cute little Chinese Elm mame’ in the making.

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This started life as a little chunk of root cutting from a recent repotting I did of my oldest Chinese Elm, which is going through a massive restyling exercise. I am obsessed with root cuttings, and can’t throw out a single one, let alone something as chunky as this, with an already established nebari….better pics of that will follow in future updates. Well this is how it looked back in early September, and how it continued to look for weeks on end…. not a shoot or bud in sight. So on November 14th 2013, I thought bugger it….I will graft a new leader on and be done with waiting for nature to take its course. I have a ton of elm cuttings around so it was just a matter of finding one with a side branch a suitable length and thickness, and room in its own pot for a little hitch hiker….. Found one!!!

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Blurry close up….sorry.

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Off to the greenhouse for a little vacation into a nice humid environment…….

So everything is ticking along nicely for a couple of weeks, when all of a sudden, I see bright fresh new shoots emerging from the original mini stump underneath the clear grafting tape……

Needless to say, I couldn’t believe it…. anyway, I carefully snipped away the tape and released the donor branch, and spotted multiple shoots emerging right from the very groove I’d made for the new graft to lay. A few days later and this is how it looks. Much happier I can now work with all its own branches, and so far is shooting from all the right places…. Happy days ahead for this little beauty.

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Large Port Jackson Ficus Root over Rock

I acquired this monster ficus off a good friend of mine who was the second owner. He had purchased it from a bonsai nursery some years earlier from the nursery owners private stash of projects I think, and I believe it was placed on the rock over 30 yrs ago. I’m not sure what type of rock it is, but I can tell you it is about the size of a bowling ball and weighs a TON !!!!! It came to me in a 20inch diameter nursery tub, and took the 2 of us to load it in the back of my car, so moving this thing around has had its’ challenges over the past couple of years.
Anyway, here are some pics of its progression to date.

History pic #1 from prior owner Sept.1st 2009

History pic #1 from prior owner Sept.1st 2009

History pic #2 from prior owner Nov. 2010

History pic #2 from prior owner Nov. 2010

First wiring October 2012

First wiring October 2012

I  have left this branch at the apex to run and it will be used as the new leader once it has reached the correct thickness to improve the lack of taper. It will also speed up the healing of a large chop scar at the back directly behind it.

March 2013 By the end of summer the new leader had grown to just under a meter high.

March 2013 By the end of summer the new leader had grown to just under a meter high.

November 2013 Time to chop the new leader back.

November 2013 Time to chop the new leader back.

Lots of feed and one season later and the new leader has reached about an inch or so in diameter. Just right for the first chop, and a few cuttings will be had as well…. all perfect genetics for branch grafts if needed. The new shoot will also be allowed to grow untouched, until it gets to about half an inch, then it will get pruned back to complete stage 2 taper, ready for the final piece of the new leader. This should easily be achieved this growing season.

All potted up.... Now if I can just lift it without doing an injury.

All potted up…. Now if I can just lift it without doing an injury.

Front view after potting and some tweaking.

Front view after potting and some tweaking.

Rear view

Rear view

More updates later this summer.

Ficus Retusa Shohin approach graft.

This was an ordinary upright Ficus Retusa, with not much going for it except some nice markings on the bark being a Tiger Bark. Laying it on its’ side and retaining one side branch, i figured it could make an interesting semi cascade shohin, so out came the loppers and off with the rest of the tree. A nice little pot and into the hot house it went hoping for numerous shoots to appear from the knob I had left….. well a couple of months on, and plenty of shoots in the area of the knob, but none exactly where I wanted, so it was grafting time. I had planted up cuttings from the earlier chop which had rapidly taken root and were growing strongly, so after sorting through a few, I found the perfect one…. long enough side branch with plenty of foliage already on it. This graft would give me another horizontal branch, plus a vertical one as the new leader/trunkline. Plonked them both in a bigger training pot and filled it with soil as well, to stabilize the two plants, and also provide extra room for roots to grow when they escape from the smaller pots, which in turn should speed up the whole grafting process.

F.Retusa ....sorry for the bad quality pic.:(

F.Retusa ….sorry for the bad quality pic.:(

Detail of graft area

Detail of graft area

Safely secured

Safely secured

Update time!

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Early summer here now and plenty of work to do still this season with this being the perfect time for me to work on Ficus.

The past few months have been consumed with saving my entire Trident Maple collection from the dreaded fungal leaf curl disease which affects so many people worldwide, but now I can say with a good deal of confidence, that I finally have a handle on this monster that wants to devour my favorite  species in Bonsai. With the help of some friends and an Agronimist, I have now got beautiful fresh, undeformed foliage for the first time in many years, so I will be sharing my detailed account of this in an update to come very soon.

In the meantime, I will try to catch up on my posts which will show much development to existing trees, and I will be posting some new unseen projects I have going on.