Bonsai Update: Spring Shoots & New Life

Spring time is upon us here in Australia, and with it comes the warmer climates and new spring growth. New shoots are growing nicely on all the bonsai trees, especially the Juniper and Harland Boxwood, and having been repotted into larger pots now, the roots have much more room to grow. Click on an image on this page to view full sized images.

The Maleleuca had a bad run over the last month. About a week after bringing it home the leaves all died off and the tree started looking really unhealthy. I did an emergency re-pot and found the roots were an absolute mess. The tree was fairly root-bound but had a solid clumb of dirt as hard as clay around the primary root, and it was essentially dying of thirst. So, after getting the roots free and giving it a new pot with new potting mix and a heavy mix of blood and bone I let it up to the tree to do the hard work. After 3 weeks, tiny green shoots started to show. Today, there are shoots coming out all over it and it’s started to look incredibly healthy again.

Maleleuca "Little Red"

The Juniper has done really well in the larger post and with the onset of spring has seen a great burst of new growth on all the branches. My goal is to have it grow another inch or two before i really start doing a lot of work on it and put it into a full bonsai pot, so for the moment it’s focussing on growing. The wiring I had done a few months ago is looking good and will stay on for another month or 2 before i take it off.

Juniper

The Harland Boxwood was repotted into a larger pot a few weeks ago, and has started to settle down nicely into its new home. New shoots started to show about a week or so back, and have really exploded from all the branches. Like the Juniper, my goal is to have the Boxwood grow at least two or three more inches before I really start doing some major work on it. I haven’t wired it yet, as am undecided on the best approach.

Harland Boxwood

The last of my trees, the Baeckea was repotted a few days back as it was really struggling with some major root-bound issues. I am hoping that, like the Maleleuca, it bounces back. I don’t have any updates photos of it at the moment.

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Two New Bonsai: Melaleuca & Baeckea Virgata

While out at Bunnings yesterday I picked up 2 new bonsai trees for my collection. Both of them came from the general shrubs section and have no training or shape to them (as yet).

The first is a Melaleuca, or more specifically the “Little Red” variety, referring to the red coloured leaves. As you can see from the image below, this tree is very “raw” and needs a lot of work. It stands close to a foot tall so is a good size for me to start working on it right away. I’m yet to decide what style I will use, so will take some time to look at it before making a decision. Wendy suggested I work with a “wind-swept” look, which would work well, but am not entirely sure just yet.

Melaleuca Little Red Melaleuca Little Red

The other tree I picked up is this tiny little hedging shrub called a Baeckae Virgata. It is part of the Myrtaceae family of trees (which includes the Myrtle). The Baeckae has been used as bonsai by others, so figured I would give it a go. This is a dwarf species, so is very small. Saying that, as you can see from the photo below, it has a nice shape and a good size trunk considering the tree only stands 3 inches tall! I will probably work this one to an upright style, but will give it time to grow before making any serious decisions.

Baeckea Virgata

In other news, my Juniper has screamed that spring is approaching. Check out the new growth in the image below. I am going to re-pot this into a larger post in the coming weeks and then let it grow for another 6 – 12 months before making any big moves with it. The growth it’s had so far is excellent though, so i’m very pleased.

Juniper

The Harland Boxwood also continues to grow and has new shoots coming up. A recent photo can be found in the photo gallery.

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New Bonsai Tree: Buxus Harlandii

Buxus Harlandii (Harland Boxwood)Now that my Juniper has been wired and repotted into a larger pot, I figured I would go out and get a new tree to work on. I had originally planned to get a semi-established tree that I could work on straight away, but when Wendy (my wife) found this little gem, I couldn’t say no.

It is a Buxus Harlandii, or Harland Boxwood. Right now, it stands at just shy of 6 inches tall and as such, has a lot of growing to do before I do any major work on it.

The Harland Boxwood is native to china, and is quite often used as a bonsai subject. It is a hardy plant that that withstand a lot of bending and can tolerate dryness very well, so is good for the warmer climates here in Australia. The leaves are small and glossy, and with time and care should become even smaller.

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Wiring The Juniper

I’ve been staring at the small Juniper for a few days and finally decided what i’m going to do with it. As the tree has a natural kink in the trunk, i’ve decided to let the tree grow with that shape and will give it an informal upright style.

Today, my task was to wire the plant and give it the overall shape I desire.

As balance is a vital part of my belief system, and central to a lot of Bonsai themes, I decided to give the initial curve in the trunk a little more twist and then re-shaped the top part of the tree back towards the top and slightly to the front. The result is a fairly natural looking curve with the top of the tree close to being aligned with the trunk.

Before and after photos:

Before Wiring After wiring

I am quite pleased with the result, especially considering this is my first time wiring a tree.

Wiring:

Double WiredI had gone out and picked up 2.5mm aluminium wire but found it too heavy for my needs for this tree, so ended up opting for the 1mm wire that I got the other day. 1 strand of wire was not quite strong enough to create the desired bend, so I used 2 of them for the lower part of the tree.

It took a few attempts to get it wired and I was worried that I might damage the tree, but it turns out this little thing is pretty damn hardy and it took a lot of punishment before I finally got the hang of what I was doing.

The picture to the right shows what I did.

Next Step:

The next step in the process is to wire the smaller branches, and then re-pot the plant. I will be wiring the smaller branches tonight and will update with new photos tomorrow.

After that, comes re-potting.

I picked up a great small pot the other day, and have all the materials ready to go, so that is the task for tomorrow.

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My New Project: I’m Learning Bonsai

My wife and I were at Bunnings (garden centre) the other day and we came across this great little Bonsai section. My dad has been growing Bonsai trees since I was knee high to a grasshopper, so it has always fascinated and interested me. I had never really felt the urge to grow my own however, mainly because I have serious patience issues and Bonsai is a life-time hobby that involves a lot of patience. As i’ve grown older though, i’ve started to appreciate the slower things in life, so while standing there in Bunnings, my wfe looks at me and suggests I buy one.

So I did.

Juniperus Squamata Prostrata

Juniperus Squamata Prostrata

This little tree to the right is a Juniperus Squamata Prostrata, or as it’s often called, a Blue Juniper, named for it’s green to blue/grey foliage. It doesn’t look like much right now, but i’m hoping I can transform it into something much more impressive. Saying that, I have just one small issue…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Well, that’s not entirely true, I did afterall grow up with a father who grew Bonsai trees, some of them even Junipers.

The Tree:

This particular tree currently stands about 6 inches tall and has a curved trunk that starts straight, leans to the right and then turns to the left. The tip of the tree tilts back towards the top again.

The photo to the right was taken the day I got the tree (last weekend) and has had no modifications.

Styling:

I am seriously thinking of either going with semi-cascade or informal upright for the style of tree. Semi-cascade would look awesome, but would involved quite a bit wiring to make it work. The informal upright (ie. tilted slightly) would be easier, but the shape needs serious growth. The other option is the slanted style, which as you can see, the tree already partially has.

Information Overload:

If you’ve ever done Bonsai and stared out with a mentor you will probably understand that finding information about Bonsai is pretty much an information overload. There is so much content, so many lessons and so many different ways to do it, that knowing what is best is simply impossible. That’s where I am right now, although I am getting a much better grasp of everything. Having a father who does Bonsai is a great help, and I will get him on Skype from time to time to help me through the steep learning curve.

I will post regular updates on how the tree is coming on.

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