Australian Native Plants as Bonsai
Catalogue Notes from the Canberra Bonsai Society's
Australian Plants as Bonsai Exhibition
held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
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(and click on "back" button on large-view photo to return to this page)
Plant Species in this Exhibition
This tree was a present from the birds; it came up near my pond. It was dug from the ground in October 1999 about 6 months after it appeared and was placed in a large black pot. In 2004 it was placed in a bonsai pot, but changed into a larger bonsai pot in July 2005 as it had grown so much.
A large coastal tree that adapts well when grown as a Bonsai. Its large leaves reduce down by about two thirds and become very compact. The bark becomes corky and fissured with age.
This tree was purchased in January 2003. It was almost 2m high and was cut back to 30cm and placed in a large growing-on pot. It was placed in a bonsai pot in 2005.
Banksia integrifolia var. compar
This 7-year-old tree, grown from a cutting, has spent a number of years in the ground maturing before being planted into a bonsai pot. This variety of banksia will grow well in coastal and in mountain areas, and will develop a rough bark. Grown in Canberra for the last year, it has not had protection from frost or sun. Frost will affect some tender foliage, however, if grown quickly, this foliage can be removed when new growth hardens in summer. The tree has been used in a number of talks and demonstrations, mainly in Victoria . The pot is Japanese made.
Dwarf Silver Banksia
One of two Banksia marginata purchased
from a nursery in mid-2003. Provenance is suspected to be Tasmania. It
was left in the original container and fed with slow release native
fertiliser and pruned quite severely. The plant responded slowly, but
consistently put on new growth. In autumn 2004, it was transplanted it
to its current pot and has settled in well. During spring and summer
‘04-’05 it commenced flowering. The flower spikes are persistent and
attractive. There are currently three flower spikes, one of which
appears to have aborted.
This tree was bought as nursery stock in 2001 and (for the moment) has
been trained in the traditional informal upright style. It has been
repotted each year since then and kept in check using the "clip and
Grown from seed in 1990 and cultivated as a bonsai since 2001. The
plant was kept in a 5cm tube for ten years and was forgotten until
2001, when it was transplanted into its current pot. Although the trunk
is squat, it does exhibit the plant’s characteristics and should
develop well over the coming years
Purchased as a bonsai starter in a 10cm pot from Grant Bowie (Duckwood
Bonsai) in 2001 the tree was repotted twice into larger training pots
in 2003 and 2005 to fatten the trunk. It was potted into a Pat Kennedy
( Mirkwood Forest) pot in 2006. Branch refinement and leaf size
reduction are now the main emphasis as the trunk has developed its
This tree was collected by a bonsai enthusiast from the Nowra area. Due
to his poor health, he sold most of his native material and I was lucky
enough to purchase this tree. The work done on this tree from
collection to what you see here has been minimal. The main leader
existed at the start, and only minor wiring on the apex was done. Also
three strong branches were removed. Side branching was selected and
encouraged to produce the Bonsai you see today. The age of this Bonsai
is indeterminate due to the original growing conditions. It was
collected from a rocky area, according to the collector. These
conditions alone would not encourage fast growth.
Dwarf Banksia 'Birthday Candles'
This semi-cascade style bonsai was purchased as a starter plant in 2004
from the Wariapendi native nursery (near Yerrinbool). The tree was
potted into a bonsai container in 2006. The tree has flowered each
year. Previous attempts to grow this species as a cascade have failed
but hopefully this one will survive.
Callistemon viminalis 'Captain Cook'
Callistemon ‘Captain Cook’
is a horticultural selection from a seedling of Callistemon viminalis. It is a dwarf form of the species, growing to about 2m height. The species is widespread in Qld and northern NSW.
The bonsai displayed here was acquired as nursery stock during the
1980s and spent the first ten or so years as a garden plant in a large
ceramic pot with very poor drainage. Despite this, it continued to
survive. In 1994 its potential as bonsai material was noticed. Then it
was transferred into a polystyrene box for future training. Apart from
occasional pruning, no styling was done until February 2000. It was
placed into its current pot in September 2003.
Callistemon viminalis 'Captain Cook'
This tree was styled by the owner during a demonstration given at the
Australian Plants as Bonsai show in 2003. The weeping style was adopted
to replicate the naturally curved and. pendulous branches of old
bottlebrush trees in nature. To retain this style, it is necessary to
constantly wire young branches, as they grow upright for a great length
until they start bending, which is not suitable for a miniaturised
tree. Judicious thinning-out and pruning of new shoots can also help in
creating a 'believable' tree of this kind. Callistemon is one of the
easiest natives to grow as bonsai, on condition of always being kept
quite moist and being fertilised regularly. This tree was found to have
a major handicap: on de-potting, it proved to have four fairly thick
roots that were completely circling the base of the trunk. The
outermost one was removed during the demonstration and the three
remaining ones were cut off at four-month intervals. The trunk-base
showed the effect of severe constriction, but over the past 2 years,
this has largely filled out.
White Cypress Pine
This tree was collected near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in 1999.
Along with other small trees collected, the tree was grown-on in a
large pot. Continual pinching back of new growth has kept the foliage
to a rounded shape. In 2004 the tree was potted in to a bonsai pot
(created by Patrick Kennedy) and the lower branches were wired to give
width to the canopy. Wiring will be continued to enhance the shape of
Gracing the shores of freshwater streams from about Cairns to Eden,
these wonderful trees provide shade and shelter from the heat of the
noonday sun. The wispy nature of the canopy, which sings with the
breezes, is an especial feature I enjoy. The diffuse canopy style in
this group picks up on the quality of the light and sound that I like
in these trees in the wild.
Cutting-grown plant, one of five pieces given by a senior bonsai
fancier and having been wrapped in a Kleenex during a trip to my place
before being planted in potting mix and treated in the normal way of
propagation. I mention this only because subsequent, more traditional
quick plant-to-cutting efforts have not been nearly so successful.
River Red Gum
This tree is believed to be 17 years old (1989). It was probably first
trained in early-mid 1990s. It changed hands in 2003 and was retrained
into its current form beginning in the same year though its essential
structure remained much the same. My aim (and I believe that of the
previous owner) is to achieve a typical river red gum style that is
reminiscent of the sort of tree you'd see if you took a drive down the
Murray or Murrumbidgee Rivers.
Evergreen medium to large tree, spreading crown, white flowers in late
summer. It grows in the valleys and marshes of the mountain regions of
NSW to southern Victoria, tolerating snow and frost, in poor clay
soils, withstanding prolonged water logging. These trees were purchased
as tube stock and stood in a bucket of water for nearly twelve months,
which demonstrates their hardiness. The group was created during a
demonstration approximately 5 years ago, and is designed to be viewed
from either side. My inspiration was the trees that grow in the Snowy
Mountains where because of prevailing weather they often grow with
crossed trunks. The surface of the group is in keeping with what would
be found in the mountains, ie moss covered stones, gravel and a little
moss. The dead branches are retained, as this is what occurs naturally.
Under bonsai cultivation, the leaves have reduced by more than half.
This tree, with a height of about 3 metres, was purchased from a local
nursery in 2000 as a stock plant in a 30cm black pot. The first metre
of the trunk was devoid of any branching, so in the early summer of
2003 I reduced the top of the tree to the first branch and two leaf
sets. This caused budding back on the trunk and three weeks later I
selected one of the new branches. This branch became the new leader and
with further development over the past two years has developed into a
natural looking eucalypt.
This tree was rescued from a property near Windsor NSW in 2001. A home
was being extended and the seedling was in the spot where a concrete
slab was to be placed. It was dug up and nurtured for the first twelve
months then placed in a small deep pot before being placed in its
current shallow pot twelve months later
Moreton Bay Fig
This fig was a gift from a bonsai colleague and one of the first trees
in the collection that began in 1988. It has a reasonable, stable life
and was only once forgotten outside in an unexpected Canberra frost.
All its leaves were burnt but quick action and removing all the leaves
helped it survive to the tree you see now. It is training-in-progress
and being grown on for the future.
Port Jackson Fig
This tree started life as a cutting from a 1949 Port Jackson bonsai.
Artist: Dorothy Koreshoff
Port Jackson Fig
The late Max Candy of Sydney grew this tree from nursery stock that was
about 10 years old. He emphasised its natural tendency to grow aerial
roots and has produced a style that is reminiscent of the figs that you
might see in coastal rain forests.
Port Jackson Fig
This tree came from a branch-cutting taken from a mature specimen at
the foot of Clyde Mountain, South Coast NSW. The tree has developed
some aerial roots which over time will introduce some maturity into the
overall appearance. A noted bonsai-feature of the Port Jackson fig is
the leaf. Generally it is smaller, shows more gloss and is most
definitely thicker in cross section than its northern counterparts.
Growth from cuttings is very successful and roots appear quickly. This
cutting was kept in a box of moist clean river sand until new growth
appeared (from 6 to 8 weeks, depending on overnight temperatures. Dec –
Jan is a very good time to ‘strike’ this material.
Ficus rubiginosa 'Little Ruby'
Port Jackson Fig
In 1987, I had a chance seedling of Port Jackson fig come up and it was
6-8 months before I could see its potential. I spent a few years trying
to propagate it from cuttings, but to no avail; wood too hard and old.
Each limb had a root going down to the potting mix and in desperation I
cut the limb off with roots attached and the first 8 separate trees
were grown this way. This tree is one of the first started out in
1994-5 as root over rock. Of course, propagation is easy when using
hardened-off new growth.
This plant was purchased from the Wariapendi nursery in 2002. Continual
pruning has given the current shape and the tree is potted in a bonsai
pot created by Roger Hnatiuk .
This native species is not actually a pine but a podocarp. It is only
found in west and south west of Tasmania, next to rivers and in boggy
areas. It is a relic of Gondwana with pollen records dating back 135
million years. The timber was used for boat building as it did not rot
and was not attacked by marine organisms due to its natural oils.
Logging has reduced the stands to less than 10500 hectares that are now
fully protected within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It
grows very slowly and one tree is known to be over 4000 years old. The
Huon pine is dioecious with male (pollen) and female (seed) cones on
separate plants. The seeds are carried on scales and are water
'Snow in Summer'
This tree was acquired in 2002 and was grown in a large training pot to
2004. It was then cut back to three branches and placed in a bonsai
pot. It was covered in small white flowers in October.
Melaleuca micromera is an unusual shrub from the south-west of Western Australia where it
grows on dry, sandy plains and in gravelly soils. It makes a large
shrub, either low and spreading, or compact and upright, when it is
then described as resembling a small conifer. The naturally twisted
branches make this interesting bonsai material. It also grows strongly
in response to trimming. The common name comes from the yellow, fluffy
flowers borne in spring.
Was an old advanced nursery grown plant found in a root-bound state.
The root base was buried deeply in the pot. No problems were met from
severely pruning the roots but the tree is kept in a permanent water
tray. The habitat of these trees is coastal and swampland .
These trees are found near fresh-water creeks and streams from about
Brisbane to Sydney. They can develop magnificent large trunks with
spreading branches, all covered with shaggy papery bark. The prickles
come from the sharp points to the leaves. The trees can be found as
individuals on their own, or in groups, such as in this planting. It is
not uncommon to find several generations of trees in the one place. I
like these trees because of the texture of the bark, and the occasional
and somewhat eclectic spurts of white flowers on a few branches.
Obtained from a Coles Supermarket some 30 years ago, it was trained as
a multi-trunk tree but then neglected. It was planted in a plastic pot
five years ago to regenerate its vigour. Two years ago it was styled
into a windswept tree. Because of the strong movement of the trunk and
root system, I feel this is a more suitable style for the tree. Rough
bark develops over time and the small leaves are perfect for bonsai.
The rough, round free-form pot enhances the style perfectly. It flowers
from late November with mauve flower clusters on the older stems. It is
re-potted annually in late August and positioned in full-sun. It
requires daily watering in summer, even twice a day in extreme heat or
windy days. Compact foliage pads are achieved with regular tip pruning.
Artist: Ray Nesci