Seed Germination

During a conversation with Noel Plowman at the National Bonsai Convention and Show in New Zealand towards the end of 2015, Noel made the statement that it is hard to get good Pine genetic material in New Zealand. Most of the seedlings propagated for the forestry industry is genetically engineered to grow straight trunks with no bark. Both of these factors are not really what Bonsai growers want. We then talked about the thousands of very old Pine trees all over New Zealand, mostly growing on farmland. The photo below shows such a scene, complete with good old New Zealand dairy cows.

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This made me look at these trees in a different light and it did not take me long to go and scavenge on a farm (with the farmers permission) to find these original genetic material in seeds for propagation purposes. This I did knowing full well that I am germinating these seeds for the next generation and not myself. The main idea was to collect the cones from trees that show thick bark.

Cones collected, the next job was to get the seeds out of the cones. This basically ended up being a good solid shake of the cone and the seeds fell out. Quite a few seeds were harvested from each cone. The wings were removed from the seeds.

The next step was to find the viable seed. This is done by placing the seeds in a container with water. The seeds that sink are more viable and the ones that float, are discarded.

I left the seeds overnight and planted the viable seeds the following day. The seeds do have a pointy end and the seed is planted with this pointy end facing downwards. Now the long wait begins as it is known that these seeds can take a long time to germinate and that they do so in a haphazard way. I will update this post as the process unfolds.

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Planted and labelled. The long waiting game now starts.

 

The waiting is over. This was quick. Only three weeks from planting to germination.

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Defoliation

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It is a well-known fact that defoliating a Bonsai tree will enhance the growth of smaller leaves. I have also read that it allows more enhanced ramification as well. I have never tried this technique before, but am also in the process of designing and babying a small Zelkova Zelkova leavesinto something resembling a Shohin Bonsai. This tree was carved and repeatedly pruned until where it is today. A lot of time and work still lies ahead. One of the things that must be done now is to reduce the size of the leaves.

 

MatchesOut comes the researcher in me and I start to do what researchers do. First step is to Google the term “defoliation”. An interesting phenomenon is that a lot of information is available on the defoliation of Cannabis plants. I have not tried to “Bonsai” one of those, but it makes sense that people who do grow these plants, do. I have also found information on the defoliation of other “forage” plants. This is done to stimulate the growth of more leaves as it is used to either feed animals or people or in the first mentioned case, smoke it (maybe it is for medicinal purposes). It is also mentioned that it stimulates overall growth of the plant.

Back to Bonsai. As said, the main purpose of defoliation is to decrease the size of the new leaves. The definition is self explanatory. It is the stripping of leaves from the plant. As leaves are the main centre for photosynthesis (producing food for the plant), one must be careful that it is done at the right time of the year as well as on some deciduous trees only. Please take note, not all deciduous trees can be defoliated safely. The best time to carry this process out is after the new spring growth has hardened off. Mid-summer is good for this. This allows the plant enough time before autumn and winter to grow the new smaller leaves. One theory of why the  new leaves are smaller, is that due to the lack of food (less photosynthesis), less energy is available for the new growth. Another theory is that plant hormones (auxins) come into play and inhibit the growth rate of the new leaves. What better example do we have than some plants that can be grown from leaf cuttings for the actions of auxins in leaves and leaf stalks in evidence.

It is also mentioned that it is better to leave as much of the leaf stalk as you can when defoliating a tree. This also has to do with the action of auxins, but to me a more pressing reason would be that the bud at the base of the stalk is protected if the stalk is still in place. I found it easier to lift the leaf up and to cut it from underneath as the stalk is more visible from that angle on especially deeply indented leaves at the base.

It is also mentioned that defoliating a tree will lead to more intense autumn colours of the leaves. This is probably due to the fact that a much smaller space of time is left to produce food for the plant and that an accumulation of sugars in the leaves lead to these more intense colour changes.

Another positive addition could be that this process will also lead to good budding closer to the trunk as these areas will now also be exposed to more sunlight.

I have now done the deed. By the way, make sure that you have a lot of time available as this is a very time consuming task. This small tree took about an hour and a half to defoliate. Other Bonsai Blogs also have more information on this process. My intention with this blog is to start a photograph trail of the process. I will post new pictures as soon as the new leaves emerge until we get to Autumn.

Pohutukawa as Bonsai

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Root over rock as Bonsai

Metrosidorus excelsa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree and in Maori, Pohutukawa, is an interesting tree to style as Bonsai.

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This looks like two smaller trees, simulating a clump style Bonsai.


   
I have recently had the opportunity to photograph a few very old Pohutukawa trees in Mt Maunganui in New Zealand. I have no idea how old they are, but their form is quite distinctive when you study the trees in nature. From this I came to the conclusion that they are best suited for informal upright, clump style or root over rock style. They naturally grow aerial roots and form good bark on exposed roots. The red coloured flowers add to the spectacle. The three Bonsai photos are mainly from the http://www.nzbonsai.co.nz website and the http://www.bonsaiforbeginners.com site.

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Masses of aerial roots makes it perfect for a root over rock style.

The photos following from there are the photos of the trees growing in Mt Maunganui, New Zealand. The first group is typical of the clump style growth that a lot of these trees show.

The next group of trees shows why I think the Pohutukawa is excellent material for root over rock style.

Some of these trees are also seen in nature as examples of an informal upright style.

I have also noticed some branches hanging very low, almost to the point of being a cascade or a semi-cascade.

I have been growing cuttings of another form of Meterosidorus, namely the Metrosideros kermadecensis. This tree has smaller leaves than the excelsa which is great for Bonsai. All these varieties are frost sensitive and needs protection in cold climates.

 

 

 

Sphagnum Moss and Bonsai

Sphagnum moss is used in a variety of ways in conjunction with growing Bonsai. The main characteristic of Sphagnum that makes it useful to Bonsai growing is its ability to hold a lot of water. Sphagnum moss plants can hold 16–26 times as much water as their dry weight.sphagnum

Sphagnum also does not decay easily as it contains phenolic compounds in its cell walls. It therefore can be used in applications that can take a long time to complete. It does not break down as easily as other growing mediums. Sphagnum originating from peat bogs is known to aid in preservation of substances due to the phenols, but also due to the fact that it grows in an anaerobic environment. Less oxygen means less decay. It is a well-known fact that bones and the remains of living organisms that end up in peat bogs tend to be quite well-preserved after a long period of time.

These mosses can also acidify its surroundings. This is something to keep in mind when the moss is used as a growing medium or part of a growing medium. It is therefore advised that sphagnum moss is not used with plants that prefer a more alkaline environment.

It is also a natural antiseptic. Sphagnum Moss was used extensively during the World Wars in field dressings to pack out wounds and under bandages to keep wounds clean.

Harvesting these mosses is hard work. It also comes from areas that could be ecologically very sensitive. These facts can contribute to the fact that good quality sphagnum moss can be quite costly. There are environmental concerns about the sustainability of moss harvesting.

In Bonsai cultivation, Sphagnum moss is mostly used in conjunction with roots and root growing. It is a well-known fact that when trees are harvested from nature (Yamadori) that it is a good idea to pack wet sphagnum moss amongst the roots. The reason for this is obvious due to the water holding abilities of the moss. During a recent dig, I not only packed the moss amongst the roots, but also wrapped it in hessian before it went into a plastic bag for the trip home. This not only held the moss in place, but aided in keeping the moisture in. I am also at the moment experimenting with two similar trees, one with Sphagnum in the soil mix and the other with normal soil mix. The question to be answered is whether the one shows more and better root growth than the other one. More on the results in a future blog.

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Sphagnum moss is also used for air-layering. Again the moss is tightly packed around the wound created for the purpose of providing a medium for root growth. The water-holding capacity is again the main reason for using the moss. In this case it also helps to allow air flow through the medium which will aid in root growth as well.

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Root development in Bonsai

Tree_roots_cross_section-e1351581137309-1024x451It pays to know something about the anatomy and physiology of roots when it comes to developing the root system of Bonsai trees. It is said that a tree mimics its above ground growth to what happens with root growth below ground level. This might be true for trees in nature, but with Bonsai it could be quite different due to the fact that we prune the roots and the roots also have to grow in a confined space.

When a root is studied under a microscope it is clear that there partsofrootsare different tissue types present in different areas of the root. On the outside is an epidermis layer consisting of cells. To increase the surface area, and therefore the absorptive area of the root, extensions of these epidermal cells grow into the soil. These are the root hairs. The main job of the root hairs is to absorb water and nutrients. They are very small and fragile and normally breaks off when a plant is pulled from the soil. This is a very good reason to be gentle when a plant is uprooted and when soil is removed from the roots.Root(cross_section)

The next layer under the epidermis is the cortex. These cells are loosely spaced to allow for the movement of gasses and dissolved nutrients to the core of the root. The middle part (core or stele) of the root consists of the vascular tissues, the xylem and the phloem. The xylem particularly is of importance here as it is through this tissue that the water and nutrients are transported to the rest of the plant. Around the vascular tissue is another layer of cells, called the endodermis and underneath this is the pericycle.

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Lateral root growing from the pericycle.

This pericycle is of particular importance to the plant and Bonsai artists as this is where lateral roots originate from. The origin of the lateral roots is therefore situated deep inside the root structure and not like the branches or side shoots of the plant that originates from adventitious buds. The only reason for this that I can think of is that it provides better protection for the roots. It also means that the vascular tissue is in close contact with the lateral root.

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Apply rooting hormone to the cut roots.

If the root is studied externally the branching of roots can be seen as starting a little bit further back up the root and not right from the root tip. The same mechanism that applies to pruning above ground is also evident here. When the apical meristem (in the root tip) is removed, the pericycle is stimulated to grow more roots. This is also due to the influence or the lack of this influence, of plant hormones. This is the science  behind root pruning. When a root is pruned, more roots will grow from that area. It will help if rooting hormone is applied to the cut area as this will help to stimulate the pericycle to produce more roots. Ensure that the rooting hormone is applied evenly for an even spread of new roots. There is some evidence that when the rooting hormone is applied to only one side of a root, that more new roots will grow on that side. I will experiment with this and report back on findings.

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Air pruning.

The term air pruning has also been used in the propagation of plants. This method can be used for Bonsai as well, especially during the early phases of development where the emphasis is on the development of branches as well as the root system. It simply means planting the tree in a container with holes in it. The roots will grow to the edge of the container and either split or not grow any further.

Well-DrainedSoilsIt was mentioned earlier that the removal of the root tip (apical meristem) will stimulate the pericycle to grow more roots. This is also true when the apical meristem is damaged. Growing the tree in a soil medium with lots of granular particles can cause the root tip to split or damage it and this will in turn stimulate more lateral roots to grow.

Also of note here is that the majority of water and nutrients are absorbed through the root hairs. As these are usually in the vicinity of the root tip (directly behind it), it can be taken for granted that these root hairs will be removed or reduced when root pruning. The uptake of water and nutrients will therefore be compromised when root pruning takes place. Be vigilant. This is the reason why the tree should be watered well and placed in the shade after root pruning. Water loss through transpiration must be avoided. Factors that increase transpiration are heat, wind and leaf surface area. It is therefore a good idea to reduce the leaves after root pruning in the case of deciduous trees. This might be another reason for re-potting and root pruning in spring before the leaves are fully grown.

938277CE-FFB2-4BE6-B1C5-98D83AA77553As roots age, they undergo secondary growth or secondary thickening. This is basically when the softer tissue becomes woody and bark is formed. This happens faster with exposed roots. The main thing to remember here is that older roots that have gone through this process will not absorb water and nutrients. When root pruning, this needs to be taken into consideration. Always leave some of the younger, finer roots to provide the plant with water and nutrients.

Mycorrhizal fungus – Root friends

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The white threads are Michorrizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi occurs naturally in soil. They form a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They are called mycorrhizae ,from the Greek “mukés”, meaning fungus, and “rhiza,” meaning roots. Mycorrhizae are considered to be in a mutualistic relationship because both organisms benefit. The fungus receives the products of photosynthesis from the plant and is therefore does not need to find its own sources of energy. At the same time the fungus grows out into the soil and retrieves nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen, and passes these back to the plant. It is usually seen as a network a very thin, white threads spread throughout the soil in close contact with roots.

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The root on the right has the fungus in close contact to enhance the absorptive area of the root. This means more nutrients and water can be absorbed than the root on the left.

However, in most soils that have been disturbed by residential construction, or intensive cropping practices with applications of fertilizers containing pesticides and other chemical products, the mycorrhizae content has considerably diminished, and has become insufficient to significantly enhance plant growth. Numerous experiments have shown that plants without mycorrhizae cannot cope as well with low mineral levels as those that have mycorrhizae.

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In a Bonsai pot, the soil is a very controlled environment. The Bonsai artist determines what goes into the soil, what it consists of and how much water is given.

When mycorrhizal fungi colonize the plant’s root system, they create a network that increases the plant’s capacity to absorb more water and nutrients such as phosphorus, copper and zinc. This process in turn enhances growth and favors rapid development of roots and plants. Where this fungus is present in soil, a much faster establishment rate of new roots is observed as well as a reduced water need of up to 30%. The reason for this is that the micorrhizae ensures a much larger surface area is available for the absorption of water and nutrients. The plants are healthier and grow faster.

There is also evidence that these fungi can also improve the structure of the soil. The threads grow through the growing medium and aggregates the soil. This allows for more air to move through the soil as well as enhancing drainage.

Back to Bonsai cultivation. As mentioned before, the soil in a Bonsai pot can be very sterile as it could consist of particles that do not necessarily contain living organisms or lots of organic matter. These could include valuable soil bacteria (nitrogen fixing bacteria) as well as michorrizal fungus. In the absence of these, it is important that the Bonsai artist allows for modsc_1936re (more frequent) fertilization to take place. Michorrizal fungus spores can be bought (I have not seen it in New Zealand yet), but a much less expensive way to inoculate your Bonsai soil with the spores is to use a bit of the original soil in the Bonsai pot at planting time. I find that this is especially important when I plant Pines and other conifers.

In summary: Most plants in nature live in a relationship with Micorrhizal fungi. Both organisms benefit from this relationship. Most Bonsai soils will not contain this fungus and by adding the fungus to Bonsai soil, the plant will establish faster, take up more nutrients and will need less water. Something to think about when it comes to transplanting time.

Nebari – The Root of the Matter

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These roots have grown over time, dropping of the side of a cliff.

No, we are not talking about the Nebari fictional alien race from the planet Farscape, but the Japanese term generally used to indicate the roots and specifically the root flare at the bottom of the trunk where the root region starts. It also indicates the visible surface roots.

Wikipedia refers to it as: “Also known as “buttressing”, nebari is the visible spread of roots above the growing medium at the base of a bonsai. Nebari help a bonsai seem grounded and well-anchored and make it look mature, akin to a full-sized tree.”

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My idea is to write three or so Blogs focusing on Nebari and the development of roots. There is no doubt in any Bonsai artist’s mind that the roots of a plant is where it all starts. Healthy roots = healthy plant (generally). A plant absorbs most of its water and nutrients from the soil through the roots. We therefore have to know something about soil and its water retention and draining properties. Not all soils are created equally. We also need to know something about the physiology and anatomy of roots. This knowledge will help us to understand many of the concepts around root pruning. This will come in later Blogs.

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A tree growing in a woodland area. These roots definitely add to the character of the tree and indicate that it has been there for a while.

Getting back to the Nebari, the main aim of establishing a root flair at the base of a tree is to indicate age. A wider base caused by a flaring just above the roots, helps to establish the taper of a tree. One way to develop taper is to increase the circumference of the tree at the base and to keep the top of the tree relatively thin. Young trees do not have a huge flair at the base, but older trees show this without fail. In saying that, there are trees that are used for Bonsai that do not show a big root flare. Junipers come to mind here.

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The roots are spread over a flat surface and tied to this surface.

There are multiple methods to improve the Nebari of a Bonsai tree. The first one is the continuous root pruning of downwards growing roots. For the health of the tree it is advised that this is done over time to enable the tree to grow new roots in the place of the removed roots. A second method is done through air layering. This is simply done through preparing the bottom of the trunk as one would for air layering and heaping up the soil or packing sphagnum moss around this area. Roots will over time establish themselves in that area. I have read about a method where a wire is bound tightly around the trunk just above the roots. The flow of nutrients will be impeded and that will cause new roots to grow from above the wire. I have not tried this method myself before and cannot comment on how successful it is. Other methods include drilling holes through flat tiles and tying the roots of the tree in a horizontal direction to the tile with wire through the drilled holes. It could also be done through grafting.

In the end, the Nebari plays a vital role in the aesthetics of the tree. It is crucial thfotolia_2553306_XSat some sort of Nebari be established as it indicates age, shows that the tree is balanced and sturdy and has been there for a long time.

The next Blog will address the science behind root development.

Swamp Cypress – Taxodium distichum

IMG_2943Two years ago this was a two and a half meter nursery tree. I chopped it down to about a meter at the nursery as I could not get it in my car. Then the journey began. It was potted in a Bonsai pot and left to grow, It had a light prune and a bit of a carve a year before and today it was time to revisit the shari and to get some wiring done. The buds are very fragile this time of year and great care has to be taken to not break them off.

The carving wasIMG_2945 done first. The original carving was done with very rudimentary tools. I now have a rotary carver as well as a router that I use for carving. I went deeper today and added a bit more detail to the top. Out came the burner to get rid of all the frilly bits. The bark and branches were protected by aluminium foil. It was finished off with a wire and then a nylon brush.

I used guy wires to pull the thicker branched down and then used 1 mm wire to wire and place the thinner branches. Now it has to rest and grow when Spring comes around again. I will also have to repot at a better time as I discovered that the soil was very wet. It is Winter in New Zealand now and it has been raining non-stop over the last 48 hours. These trees prefer a bit of a wetter soil, but this is just too wet at the moment.IMG_2947

This is a very easy tree to grow and it buds profusely in spring and carry on with this almost right through Summer. There are gaps on the left hand side that must be filled. I will keep an eye on any buds forming in that area like an expectant father. The top branches also must be shortened, but I will leave it as is for now as I need more buds and growth in that area to replace some of the existing branches. It has a soft foliage and contrasts well with other trees as the leaves are a very light green. These turn yellow-brown in Autumn.

Shorter days, colorful leaves.

IMG_1899For us in the Southern hemisphere the leaves of our deciduous Bonsai trees are starting to change color and they will soon be on the ground. In the Northern hemisphere Spring growth is to be seen everywhere and I have noticed a proliferation of photos indicating just that on Social Media. The difference is that the daylight hours are getting less in the South and the opposite is happening in the North. Suffice to say then that it must be the availability and intensity of light that triggers these phenomena. Today I would like to explore the color changes in leaves during Autumn.

IMG_1235We know that there is a pigment in leaves called chlorophyll. It is the site where photosynthesis takes place in leaves. This is the process where water and carbon dioxide gas with the aid of light energy is converted into sugars for plants to use as food or to be stored.

As the days (light) get shorter, there is not enough light energy for photosynthesis to take place at optimum levels. The trees must rest and basically shut down and the only food available to get through winter, is what is stored. As this progresses, chlorophyll disappears from the leaves and the bright green fades away. Chlorophyll is not the only color pigment in leaves. As the green fades, the other color pigments become visible. These are the yellows and orange colors (carotenoids). In some trees, like maples, the glucose produced during photosynthesis gets trapped in the leaves and the sunlight causes the leaves to turn this molecule into a red color. It is known that the cooler temperatures have a role to play in this. There are other pigments present as well. Red anthocyanin pigments can also be produced during this time.

Currently, my trees, and especially the Maples, are not showing the bright red colors yet. This is late for this time of year. Our night time temperatures have not dropped sufficiently for this to happen. Other climatic factors play a role as well. What is needed for all the splendor of autumn to show in our Bonsai trees is a warm, wet Spring, followed by a Summer with average temperatures and an average rainfall as well as an Autumn with many sunny days and relatively cold nights. There is nothing we can do about any of these except for controlling water, but it might be possible to shift trees in one’s garden during Summer and Autumn to make use of micro-climates caused by other plants and the layout of your garden.

Plant Hormones and Bonsai

Plant hormones have an affect on aspects of plant life. Every cell in a plant can produce plant hormones and these can act in that specific cell or it can be transported somewhere else. There are five major plant hormones; auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, ethylene and abscisic acid.

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Auxins are referred to as growth hormones. These chemicals stimulate plant cells to elongate. They are mainly found in the tips of stems and branches. with this accumulation of auxins in the tips, growth in other parts are subdued. During pruning of Bonsai these tips are removed and the excess of auxins in these areas are reduced. This in turn will allow growth to take place lower down on these branches. This is the so-called apical dominant display. When the auxins are not there, the dominance is reduced and back budding will be allowed to occur. It will also allow branches lower down the tree to develop more. Auxins are also produced in roots.IMG_1888

The phenomenon of phototropism is directly attributable to auxin concentrations. Auxin moves away from light. It accumulates in the cells further away from light and will stimulate those cells to lengthen. As this growth is only on one side of the stem, it “pushes” the stem towards the light. This growth of plants towards light is what phototropism is all about. When we wire stems and branches and bend them in a specific direction, no role is played by auxins. We manually do what auxins will normally do. This also allows us to do things against what the normal plant hormones were programmed to do. We can as an example, bend a branch to force it to grow away from light.IMG_1248

Another practical implication for Bonsai enthusiasts is to regularly turn the trees on the benches as it will stimulate growth around the plant and not only on one side.

Cytokinins promotes cell division, in other words, growth. Where auxins will inhibit lateral buds, cytokinins will promote growth all over the tree. In the absence of auxins, cytokinins will cause lateral buds and dormant buds to grow. Pruning, candle removing and pinching of new growth will all aid in reducing auxin levels and promoting more lateral growth.

Gibberellins are responsible for shoot elongation, seed germination and fruit and flower development.

Absisic acid promotes seed dormancy. It also assists with the opening and closing of stomata.

Ethylene is a gas produced by ripe fruits.

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Scientific knowledge supports Bonsai cultivation

The old debate of whether Bonsai is Art or Horticulture is actually a non-event as we all by now know that a dead tree cannot be designed as a Bonsai and be admired as a living sculpture. We need both. The tree must be kept alive and sculpted to enable the Bonsai within to be shown.

I am in the process of re-reading a lot of my quite sizable Bonsai library. The majority of these books and magazines focus on the Art side of Bonsai cultivation. It is rare to find a good solid article or chapter in a book, dedicated to the Horticulture involved in Bonsai development. A quick search on the Internet shows more of the same. There is a bit more to be found on the Internet, but a lot of this is not necessarily linked to Bonsai specifically. A few examples are of importance here.

The first to mention is the practice of defoliation. When we remove the leaves from a tree, we drastically reduce the level of transpiration (loss of water through leaves), which is an important process supporting the flow of water through a plant. Partial defoliation obviously does the same, but just less. Then there is the practice of leave cutting. This will reduce the surface area of the leaves, which in turn will also have a reduced transpiration level as an outcome. Photosynthesis levels will also drop. There are very good reasons why we do this in the cultivation of Bonsai, but it is a process rarely seen in the cultivation of other plants.

Another of our Bonsai specific activities is the process of deadwood carving or carving in general. Deadwood is dead and nothing much needs to be taken into consideration except for aesthetic principles. When we carve into living wood, things change a bit. Tree tissues are laid down in layers. On the outside we have bark and under this we have the phloem, the tissue that conduct the nutrients produced in the leaves through photosynthesis. The next layer is the cambium. This tissue is responsible for the secondary growth in stems as well as roots. The next layer is the xylem. This tissue transports water from the roots to the leaves. Then we get to the lignin. These are dead cells and make up what we refer to as “wood”. This is the stuff we carve. To get to the lignin, we have to go through the living layers. This needs to be done carefully as we are interfering with some very important processes when we start carving. Not only do we interrupt the flow of nutrients and water, we directly impact on growth. This works well for us as well, as the cambium layer is the one that will help with the healing on the edges of the carving. 

My advice is for Bonsai enthusiasts to read and learn about the science behind our activities as well. Not only will this knowledge help to keep more trees alive, it will help us understand the design process and principles better as well.

Maple Progression

This Acer stands 35 cm tall and is still very much in training. This photo was taken in May 2013 and it shows the tree in full Autumn splendor.

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Soon after this photo was taken the tree lost the last of its leaves and the branch structure can clearly be seen here.

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The branch on the right is too straight, but the tree does need a bit of width. The smaller branch above it still needs to grow to fill that gap. The three branches going almost straight up is also disturbing on the eye. What cannot be seen here is that the tree has very few back branches which means very little depth.

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Skip seven months and this photo is from the other side. A back branch has now been pulled down by the guy wire and the second branch on the left (previous photo right) is filling in nicely.

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This photo was taken in December 2014.

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There is now more width to the tree, but the vertical branches making up the apex have not been sorted yet. That is the next phase of development, a repot come spring and that will be in a smaller, more appropriate pot.

Wisteria – repotting

Wisteria – Just for flowers?

Most articles and books refer to the fact that Wisterias are basically used as Bonsai just to show the flowers off. In contrast to this, Colin Lewis in Bonsai Basics (2008) makes the statement that Wisteria can make interesting trees even without flowers, at the same time acknowledging that it is the flowers that make them spectacular. I find that these plants (climbers) do need to be taken care of in exactly the same way as most other deciduous Bonsai. The tasks of potting, re-potting, pruning, root work, wiring and display is just as important for this species as for any other species of Bonsai.

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I have had a nursery bought Wisteria in a smallish pot for about two years now and recently decided to repot in a larger pot. This is mainly due to the fact that the roots have developed nicely and I am afraid that the smaller pot will not balance and weight the tree down enough when it comes into bloom again. An article in Bonsai Today (96:2005) states that Wisterias reacts well to rootpruning. It also says that you can be quite fearless about cutting thick roots. This is exactly what I did when it came out of the nursery bag and as can be seen from the photo below, it has certainly grown a lot of finer roots. This article also warns against allowing the roots to grow too long as they easily become rootbound.

I have decided to plant it in a hexagonal pot as it is difficult to determine a “front” for the plant. The context of this specific species changes as it goes through its growing season. In winter it is the bare branches, then the flowers and then the leaves with rampant, long branch growth, that needs to be kept in check.  Herb Gustafson in The Bonsai Workshop (1996: 37) shows a Wisteria in a hexagonal pot that resembles my Wisteria quite well. In Bonsai Identifier (Owen, 1998:114) it is mentioned that pots for Wisteria will normally be glazed, sometimes decorated and heavy. With all of this information, the repotting session starts.

The roots as they came out of the old pot (left) and after some pruning (right).

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The plant is tied down and soil added and well worked into the roots with the aid of a chopstick.

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The finished job and ready for watering. Now it is a case of wait and see what it does when it is flowering time.

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Privet Group Progression

Dawid 022

These trees were sourced from Fernvalley Bonsai in 2014 and they arrived all together in one timber crate. At that stage they had no leaves on them and they were transplanted into this long pot.

Dawid 247

This photo was taken towards the end of 2014. These trees have never had wire on them and have only been clipped. This is the other side of the photo above.

5 April 2015 058

This photo was taken on 5 April 2015. More development is needed on the lower branches on the tree on the left. These trees could be planted as individual trees come Spring with the smaller ones in a shallow pot as a forest. What do you think?