Bonsai artist notes
26. Dwarf Japanese garden juniper
Tree age: 1991. Year 1st trained/styled: 1994
I bought this plant in 1994, wired its pencil-size stem to a bamboo stake giving it a twist around the bottom and planted it in my backyard. It grew quite vigorously sending its branches toward the rotary clothes hoist, hampering its turning. It had to be dug up. Digging was tricky as the branches extended about 80 cm in radius around the centre of the plant – this was done in 2000 – and I planted it into a polystyrene box for a few years and later into a big garden pot.
After several more years of training in a round terracotta pot, it was transplanted into its present Chinese bonsai pot in 2009. I began styling the plant from the day it was dug up, but undertook the more serious styling from 2000. During the later period of training, I modified the apex into a much more adventurous shape. The plant resembles a large bird in flight, thus its name ‘The Jade Phoenix’.
1. River red gum
Tree age: c1989 Year 1st trained/styled: 1989
I purchased this tree in 2004 from a former bonsai club member when it was already 15 years old and re-shaped it but without altering the essential trunk style. I was attracted to the tree from two aspects: first, it was a native Australian tree; and second, I was entranced by its appearance. I find that the three main areas to focus on in developing this bonsai are: keeping the leaves as small as possible (it is a tree that has naturally large leaves); preserving its bark platelets from being damaged when handling the tree; and shaping the tree to appear as a River red gum looks on the flood plains of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.
I have found this to be a very tolerant tree for bonsai culture, very hardy and forgiving of some of the horticultural activities it has been put through. It is a tree for all seasons – although it looks its best in spring and summer is when. I consider it will continue to develop into a great bonsai.
33. Dwarf hinoki cypress
Tree age: 1981. Year 1st trained/styled: 1981
I was attracted to the fan-like foliage of this tree. The fans have reduced in size with age and repeated finger-pinching, done to keep the tree in shape. The tree prefers some shade during Canberra’s summer months and shelter from strong wind. The soil needs to be kept moist but must also be well-drained. Although bought in Canberra, the tree was grown on in the ground in Sydney for 2 years to speed up its naturally slow growth.
The Hinoki cypress is a tall (up to 36m) tree native to Japan. The normal form of this tree is rarely seen in gardens; however there are a number of attractive cultivars suitable for smaller gardens.