We can always learn new or different ways of working with our bonsai. Remember to also check out the Videos page.

• Bonsai calendar for Tasmania

Many bonsai enthusiasts in the Southern Hemisphere depend on books and guides published for the Northern Hemisphere market. When identifying which jobs need to be done when, it is necessary to shift the times by 6 months to accommodate Christmas in the summer and winter in July.

But even in a particular hemisphere, the timing of jobs on bonsai depends significantly on exact latitude and altitude as well as distance from the moderating influences of the ocean.

Chris Xepapas, the Society's current Vice-President, has put together a bonsai calendar that applies to southern Tasmania. It should also be useful for other cool temperate areas in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. 

To access this calendar, just click on the image below.

• A new broom!

Chris Xepapas, a member of the Society and proprietor of Heritage Bonsai Tasmania at Dysart, north of Hobart, has shared his recent approach to renovating a large Chinese elm.

He suggests that you consider developing a broom style bonsai using the V-cut method.

Chris always gives a lot of attention to the roots and preparing the the for th development of good nebari.

Using a very sharp saw, a V-cut is made in he trunk at the desired height.  The tree is then potted up and the cut is sealed, taking care not to spread the sealer past the cut.

Now it is a matter of being patient whilst nature takes its course.  the last photograph in the series below show as a zelkova that Chris applied the technique to about a year ago - it was clearly successful.

Posted 24 August 2014

  Which wire is best?

Most bonsai have to be wired at some stage in their development. It is often very hard to get a decent result without wire.

 Anodised aluminium wire is by far the most popular type of wire used for bonsai in Australia; the other choice is copper wire.

Japanese anodised aluminium wire is a a little stiffer than Chinese wire. Being stiffer, the Japanese product can be more difficult to use but does have a better holding power. It is also more expensive to buy so, even if you have to use a slightly heavier gauge of Chinese wire to achieve the same effect, it still works out much cheaper than using the Japanese one. 

Copper wire is more expensive than any aluminium wire but does have very good holding powers, especially on larger branches. But again,  for ease of use and economy, a heavier gauge of Chinese wire can do the same job.

Generally, aluminium wire should always be used on fast growing trees where the wire will need to be removed and replaced at frequent intervals.

And do remember, one of the reasons that the best Japanese bonsai look more refined than most Western ones is because Japanese bonsai artists wire all the way to the tips of smallest twigs.

This is an abridged version of an article published in Bonsai Bark, the excellent "blog" of the American bonsai tool and supplies company,  Stone Lantern.

  Growing hawthorns from seed

Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), with their attractive flowers and fruits, can make very attractive bonsai. 

Propagating hawthorns  is not, however, always easy. They are surprisingly difficult to strike from either softwood or hard wood cuttings. They can be air-layered but this is technique that not all bonsai growers are inclined to try. 

The normal way of getting new hawthorn plants is by growing them from seed. Like many tree species, the seeds need a period of dormancy before they will successfully germinate. This means at least one winter or, in the case of hawthorns, often for two winters.

The chemicals which induce dormancy in hawthorns are produced by the fleshy outer covering of the seed. If this is removed as soon as the fruit is ripe, the period of dormancy should never be longer than one winter. 

Of course, removing the flesh too early can result in seeds that are not fully formed and these will never germinate. In Tasmania, fully ripe hawthorn berries are seen from very early March onwards. A strategy worth trying would be to pick the berries  in batches at intervals of 2-3 weeks, clean off the flesh and plant the seeds. That way, you should get at least one batch where the seeds are fully  developed but have not been too influenced by the dormancy hormones. 

 Bonsai on Wikipedia

The internet is a vast source of information for all topics, including bonsai. Most people are now familiar with the peer-edited on-line encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. There can hardly be a single topic not covered by this resource and the following entries on bonsai are well worth looking at:
• Bonsai
• Bonsai cultivation and care
• Bonsai aesthetics
• Bonsai styles

• The perfect guide to wiring

Well-respected bonsai expert, Colin Lewis, has produced four excellent videos on wiring bonsai.  Colin's schematic method of teaching wiring strategy will be appreciated by bonsai beginners through to experts.

An enrolment with Craftsy is required to access the videos. Craftsy provides on-line classes in a whole range of craft areas. Normally, there is a charge to access the classes but the bonsai wiring one is free, presumably to provide a tempter for people to enrol in Colin's Bonsai Design Techniques course for which there is a fee. 

Posted 24 August 2014

• Come to the (bonsai) forum!

Most bonsai growers are keen to learn from others and to exchange ideas and pass on advice. An internet forum is an ideal way of doing this.

An internet forum (sometimes called a message board) is an online discussion site where people hold conversations in the form of posted messages.

A particular conversation is called a topic or thread. And, like all conversation, one person has to start a topic and others can then respond by posting messages. Sometimes the conversation is mainly between the originator and one person but, far more often, a whole swag of people join in the exchange.

It is usually possible to read the posts without having to be a registered member of a forum. But you will probably need to register if you want to start a new topic or thread or to post a message in an existing one. Registrations is inevitably free.

In many forums, the topics are grouped under various headings so that it is easier for the readers to home in on those that interest them.

Moderators exist in most forums to ensure that topics and posts are relevant to the forum and that good manners are observed. Quite reasonably, offensive posts will be removed and  offenders may be banned. Most forums are also careful to monitor and remove overtly commercial postings.

Excellent Australian bonsai forums can be found on the AusBonsai and Bonsai South sites. Overseas, good forums are on Bonsai Nut, Bonsai Tree and the Internet Bonsai Club sites.

More bonsai forums are listed on the Links page.

See you at the forum?

Photographing your bonsai

Even the quickest snapshot of a bonsai makes a useful record for tracking its development over time. It is helpful to have some measuring scale in the photograph if you are not methodical about keeping records of your trees.

As your trees develop into good bonsai, you will probably want to have some more polished photographs of them.  Some very useful guidelines can be found on Carl Berstrom's site "Old Mr Crow's Guide to Photographing Bonsai and Kusamono".

For some examples of beautifully photographed bonsai, have a look at Wolfgang Putz's Bonsai Gallery - you will be impressed.

Preparing bonsai for exhibition

  1. Make certain the tree is in a healthy condition and free from disease or insect infestation. 
  2. Make sure the tree is well groomed and trimmed properly. Remove dead branches, brown needles, damaged or bug eaten leaves. Trim excess growth. Clean and scrub the bark to remove dirt and algae. 
  3. Trees with excessive amounts of wire are not normally exhibited in shows. They are considered “in training” and therefore not yet ready for exhibition. A little wire here and there is OK since the truth of the matter is that all bonsai are “in training” all of their lives. 
  4. If your bonsai creation contains areas of dead wood (jin and shari) then you need to treat those areas with lime sulphur to whiten them up. 
  5. Make sure trees are thoroughly watered before bringing them to a show. Arrangements will usually be to water the bonsai on display, but it’s a good idea to water them well in advance, just to be safe. 
  6. Pull weeds, plant moss and sprinkle the soil surface with some decorative gravel or fresh bonsai soil to give the roots good delineation and to make the whole thing sparkle.
  7. Use a fine piece of steel wool or a Sandflex block and remove any water salts which may have accumulated on the outside of the container. Then wash the outside of the container thoroughly and give the exterior surface a coating of oil.  Baby oil works fine, as does a light cooking oil. After you have applied the oil you should use a lint free cloth and remove as much of the oil as you possibly can. The result will be a container which looks like a brand new pot. Make sure you remove as much oil as possible. The objective is to give the pot a pleasant patina, not to make it look greasy.
  8. Finally, make sure you know the exact times the show committee would like you to drop off your tree and pick it up after the show.

This is a shortened version of Randy Clark's excellent article  "How to Prepare a Bonsai for Exhibition".

Bonsai Learning Center guides to bonsai techniques 

There are many websites providing excellent information of nearly all aspects of growing bonsai.

One of the best is the Bonsai Learning Center. The site has excellent articles on a whole range of techniques, including the one by Randy Clark from which the guidelines on displaying bonsai on this page were extracted.

All the articles are provided as pdf documents. This means that, unlike many webpage articles, they are easy to download and print it in their entirety.

All of them have been downloaded to this site for easy access. This has been done as it is understood that their use is only restricted on commercial sites.

A catalogue of these articles with links to the pdf documents can be found on a separate page, Bonsai Learning Center Guides.

NB The Bonsai Learning Center is an American site, hence the spelling of 'Center'.

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