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.

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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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.

A few of my latest Stands

We’re into our 2nd month of Autumn here and it’s either stinking hot or pouring rain….. still! So I have been in the shed working on some new stands, and preparing timber for more to come.

The first one is another Cascade Stand made from Western Australian Jarrah….an extremely hard and heavy timber normally used for hardwood flooring. Deep red/brown colour enhanced here with a diluted mahogany stain. 5.75” x 5.75” x 19”H.

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This one is a low square design measuring 10” x 10”x 1.5”H. I’ve seen this design done by a number of makers, and always loved the simple but beautiful design of the sides. It is also my first attempt at using my new scroll saw. Made of a light cedar with a Brown Japan stain finished with Bison wax.

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Next up is another low square stand made predominately from scrap Kwila I had laying around. It has a mahogany insert in the top to change things up a little….. again finished with Brown Japan stain and Bison wax.

10” x 10” x 2”H

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Tricky double mitre joint

The first time I tried this joint, I ended up in all sorts of bother. Having a saw that cuts true and straight is a must if you plan on doing a lot of these joints, which is why I ditched my not so old Ryobi compound saw, and replaced it with a new Makita LS1040. So precise, and a joy to cut with. Provided my measuring is spot on, the saw cuts 45’s like a dream.

double mitre joint.....tricky little sucker!

double mitre joint…..tricky little sucker!

my new baby

my new baby

 

My first cascade stand

A few months ago, I put the word out locally to see if anyone knew of a good supplier of nice affordable bonsai stands….. replies came back with a few leads, but nothing too reliable, so I thought I would investigate the option of making my own. I have limited wood working experience, but like anything, if you seek good advice, and know how to follow it, you may have a chance. I have turned my hand to many things I have no formal training in over the years, and have had success with most I’m proud to say. I turned one into a 30 year professional career strangely enough. Anyway, as it turns out, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a blog from a fellow bonsai nut from Fresno, California, who also makes his own beautiful bonsai stands and has been incredibly generous with sharing his knowledge and skills on how he goes about making these bespoke pieces. Referring to his tips and using some of my own skills, I embarked on my first project…. this cascade stand.

A few years ago I began making “one off” longboard skateboards using exotic hardwoods, such as Mahogany, Birch, Maple, Black Bean, Ebony & various others. I bought a few slabs of ”hairy oak” which is a she-oak (Allocasuarina inophloia) from dry areas up in Queensland, and this is what I chose for my first project. It has amazing grain patterns and I know some purists out there will say it’s too flashy for a bonsai stand ‘cos it will distract from beauty of the tree….. I couldn’t care less about that to be honest, as I also have stands I display purely for the beauty of the stand. It doesn’t have to have a tree on it to be admired. Anyway, here it is….. the dimensions are 3.5ins x 3.5ins x 11ins tall.Image

Top detail… the top is a solid ”one piece” with routed profiles and the internal border was carved by hand. My new projects have a central ”foot print” piece plus boarders, following the traditional methods, however I will still work on some designs using a solid one piece top.

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I thought I would show the incredible variety of grain patterns in this amazing species. These pics are all from the one 6ft. piece of Hairy Oak, from both sides of the piece.

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This is why it got its name.The bark literally looks like aYetti.

This is why it got its name.
The bark literally looks like aYetti.

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These next few pics are from the one 4ft length of Silky Oak. This is sold in the USA under the name ” Australian Lacewood” .

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