Self Isolation Can Be Good

I thought I might run out of things to do while in self isolation but that looks very unlikely now. I have settled into the new way of life and although I miss popping down the street for a cappuccino and a chat with friends or a ducking down the pub for a feed I am coping just fine thank you very much.

One of the tasks I am doing at the moment is making myself a few new bonsai display stands. Over the years I have acquired a reasonable amount of “second hand” timber and I am finally putting it to good use.

Firstly I decided to make a couple of tall small stands (for shohin) as I believe that shohin bonsai, when shown individually need to be on high stands so they don’t “get lost”. The local bonsai society currently has black coloured backing for their annual display, and so with this in mind I decided to paint the new stands black. The idea was that the stand should meld into the background thus giving the appearance of the tree floating. Please forgive my whimsical thoughts.

Please don’t take any notice of the trees, its the stands that are important.

Trident maple on rock

I know you aren’t supposed to be taking any notice of the trees, but that trident maple needs a trim!

Hawthorn in Autumn

I have to admit this is one of my favorite trees and this year I thought I would take a photo of it in its autumn colour.

At this stage it has some green, some yellow, some orange and some brown leaves so it is showing the whole range at the one time. There is also a few bare branches where all the leaves have already fallen.

I May Have Been a Little Harsh

A few days ago I was being critical of the autumn colour of my bonsai. I need to take it all back and just be critical of the autumn colour of the elms, they have been poor but others have stepped up to the mark.

This year I potted a ginkgo for the first time (into a real bonsai pot) and the colour show has been very good. I admit that I haven’t noticed the colour before and that is probably due to the fact that it was stuck up the back in a black plastic pot.

Now it takes its rightful place on my bench.

Small and delightful, hopefully I will be able to develop it over the coming years.

Also providing a nice display is a Japanese maple, not a bonsai but it could be in the coming years? Notice the cheeky little trident maple peeking out through the foliage.

Olive – Starting to Take Shape

I have had this Olive for a few years now and I cant remember where it came from. Around the time I acquired it I swapped some English Elms for some olives, I bought one or two and I was given a couple from good friends, I should keep better records!

I have come to like olives for their year round greenness and their toughness, both good attributes for bonsai and this one also has an interesting trunk. It still needs some work to adjust the branches (give a few straight ones some movement) but all in all it is progressing well.

At the next repot it will have some small adjustments and maybe, just maybe it will get a new/different pot.

Trying for That Windswept Coastal Look

This cotoneaster was dug in 2017 I think and goes to show that Yamadori don’t need to be large specimens. It is only about 10 cm tall and around 30 cm long. The pot was made to remind me of a sandstone outcrop at the top of a wind blown coastal escarpment where the plants need to surrender to the force of the wind, but still survive.

It flowers and fruits every year and I prefer it to have a minimum of foliage to be in keeping with the picture of harsh survival I am trying to convey.

Another English Elm

I was recently discussing the Autumn colour (or lack of it) this season and thought it appropriate to show another English Elm that I have had for a long time as a comparison.

This tree was dug from a cattle yard and had sustained considerable damage from cattle, particularly being trod on which caused some significant scaring on the main body of the trunk. On that dig some thought it was ugly but I considered it a feature and that’s how it became part of my collection.

The leaves on this tree turned very quickly and is now “naked” and from memory it is a bit earlier than normal. The ramification on this is coming along quite nicely and again I think it looks better in winter, or autumn as it is now.

Just for fun a closeup of the cattle induced scare on the trunk.

Not a Good Year for Autumn Colour

I was hopeful that this year the Autumn colour would be good but alas I have been disappointed. When I think back we have had a most difficult summer with drought and record heat coupled with string winds and then the bush fires so I am probably expecting too much. Living in hope and expectation is still OK isn’t it?

Anyway here is a small English Elm that I am very fond of. It was dug many years ago and has been a great grower over the time and some years it has bright yellow leaves in Autumn that all appear at the same time. This year some leaves turn yellow/orange then quickly turn brown and drop off while others are still green.

One of the features I like is the aged bark on this tree. This tree has been subject to a couple of critiques recently and some thought it should stay in the same style as it is but there were a few who thought it would be improved by tilting it to right to emphasis the strong right branch. From time to time I set it up to see how it would look but as yet I am just not convinced. Time will tell.

The tree has fairly reasonable ramification now and should be seen in winter when I think it is at its best. If I remember I will post another photo of it in its winter glory. It currently sits in an old Japanese pot and hasn’t been repotted for about five years. Maybe this year it will get some new substrata to live in?

Restyle of Callistemon

It is time that I set this tree on its course, and that means it needs some restyling and a change of potting position. This tree doesn’t look its best during the winter as the cold weather alters the leaf colour but that is all part of the seasons and the beauty of bonsai.

This tree was dug from a local garden in 2011 and I have had a few ideas on the styling but nothing ever really grabbed me. I am hoping with a few changes it will gain its rightful place in the collection. It has been a journey over a couple of years and started in 2017 when I took it to a workshop to get some ideas from other bonsai artists and I might say the result is/was a collaborative of a number of people who love Australian plants as bonsai.

A couple of years after collection

In 2015 it finally made it into a bonsai pot but I was still not that happy with its direction. Although it was healthy and flowered the design was not dynamic and the very straight trunk dominated.

Its first bonsai pot

Some major work at the workshop in September 2017 was the catalyst for the future direction of this tree.

A start on the new direction

A re-pot in October 2017 was the next step in the progression.

With its new shoes on

A few adjustments and wiring in 2019 convinced me that the tree orientation in the pot was not as good as it could have been so plans are in place for a new pot and front direction is in order for 2020. In my opinion Australian native plants as bonsai do better when repotting is carried out when the weather is warmer and I usually opt for October or November for this activity. A hand made pot by an Australian ceramic artist may also be in order.

A look at the deadwood and carving on the rear of the tree
The new look and orientation. More defined foliage pads and a decrease in the width are also on the cards for the coming years

About My Pots

There has been a few questions asked about what temperature I fire my pots at. Very importantly to me is the fact that where I live it gets quite cold in the winter and as such I need my pots to be resistant to frost. It is not unusual for temperatures to get down to minus nine degrees Celsius and at those temperatures pots that have not been fired to a sufficient temperature crack, in fact they may only last one season outside.

Now I have set the background, the pots are fired to 1220 degrees give or take a couple of degrees and although it has only been a short period of time there have been no issues so far. A couple more of the more traditional pots that I have made.

Rectangular with a mulberry ash glaze
An olive planted in one of my pots. A couple of years development and this might look OK