Wednesday, 26 April 2017

My Air Layering Blunder - 3 months later

In January I wrote about the bad mistake I made removing the air layer from a Ficus Ingens. I was quite concerned about the new tree's ability to survive after I accidentally removed most of the roots. Happily there was just enough root left to keep it alive and it's now full of foliage.

Ficus Ingens air layer - April 2017

It's never going to be a beauty with its two leaders, but in time I'll probably do another air layer to remove the leader growing to the right. Do I need another tree? No, but I can always sell off some of the excess when I decide which of my trees I like best.

The news isn't as good regarding the little stub which had most of the roots. It was looking promising in February, when I took this photo.

Stub with new bud - February 2017

Unfortunately that little bud at the base never developed into anything. Perhaps something else will still develop but I fear it may be suffering from root rot given the fact that I planted both in one pot and I've had to water according to the requirements of the tree which has foliage.

Of course the important part was always the parent tree. After removing the air layer all that was left was a thin leader with a few leaves.

Parent tree - January 2017

I'm reasonably happy with it's growth over the last three months.

Parent tree - April 2017

Sadly there are no signs of new branches lower down, but hopefully when I prune the tree it will stimulate new growth where I want it. With winter rapidly approaching, however, I have no plans to prune it any time soon.



Thursday, 13 April 2017

A Tree with Dramatic Curves - 19 Months Later

Shortly after I started my blog I wrote about a little Acacia Burkei which started life as mallsai. Over a period of four years its trunkline had been changed dramatically, but it had little branching.

Some of my readers were very critical of the lack of branches and with the benefit of hindsight I probably did remove too many. Regardless, what's done is done, and I had no choice but to move forward with what was left.

September 2015

Over the last 19 months I've largely allowed this tree to do its own thing, letting the branches grow long, resulting in some significant thickening to the trunk.

March 2017 - before pruning

When I have pruned however, I've cut back hard because this tree has nasty thorns and in the limited space I have to keep it, it tends to get caught up in my other trees. My March pruning was particularly dramatic.

March 2017 - after pruning

I hadn't planned to prune it again before winter, but its growth over the past month was strong, and some of the upward growth was unnecessary.

April 2017 - before trim

While I was trying to organise my greenhouse ahead of winter, I decided to give it one more minor trim.

April 2017 - after trim

Here's a 360° view:



Ideally I'd like one or two more branches between the first and second branch.

After the March pruning the tree put out one new branch here:

Unwanted new growth

Unfortunately it was in an unsuitable position, so I was forced to remove it. However it gives me hope that a better option will present itself next summer.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

What kind of worm is this?

When I finished watering my trees a little while ago I noticed a worm crawling along the rim of one of my pots. He was long and thin and at first glance I assumed he was an earthworm.


Then I realised that what appeared to be a large piece of soil at one end was in fact his head.


I wanted a clearer shot but he started moving into a position where his head was hidden, so I moved him onto a brick where he was more visible. The lighter background showed off his stripes a lot better too.


Aside from his strange appearance  something I found odd was that his length seemed to be variable. When I first noticed him he was fairly short, then, while I fetched my camera, he stretched himself out along the pot. After I moved him onto the brick he contracted again.

I have no idea whether he could do harm to my trees so I'm hoping somebody will be able to identify him for me.

I'll update this post if and when I get more information about him.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Ending Summer on a Positive Note

When I took my Schotia Brachypetala to my bonsai club for help with its initial trunk chop back in 2012 one of the senior members told me it was a slow grower and that I should plant it in the ground. As I was happy with the thickness of the trunk, I chose not to follow his advice. Based on how it has developed since then, I have no regrets.

I don't think it's so much a case of this tree growing slowly as that it needs a push every now and then to get it going. It certainly responds well every time I prune it. So perhaps it was a mistake to leave it to do its own thing for most of this summer.

At the beginning of March I decided it was time to rewire it as the old wires were starting to bite.

March 2017 - before pruning

While I was at it, I decided to give it a quick haircut. Mostly that just consisted of reducing the groups of compound leaves to pairs, but I think I pruned one branch at the time. Despite the fact that I kept the work to a minimum it ended up looking quite naked.

March 2017 - after pruning

Not for long though. Once more the haircut stimulated a lot of new growth, and a mere 17 days later I was happy to see lots of new buds developing in the large gap between the top branch and the apex.

New buds - March 2017

Two weeks later everything has filled in nicely apart from the lowest branch on the left which has suffered a little die-back.

April 2017

I suspect that branch may not be getting enough light, so perhaps I need to turn that side towards the sun.

With winter approaching I won't be working on this tree any more for a while. When spring comes around however, it will be time for a repot. The only surface root it has at the moment is badly positioned and will probably have to go, so I really hope I can find some better roots hidden below the soil.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Hidden Threats

With so many trees in my collection it's not always possible to give them the attention they deserve and I often miss threats lurking hidden behind their foliage. I recently noticed that one of my trees had half its leaves stripped off, but I have no idea what creature was responsible.

Today, while watering my trees, I was lucky enough to notice one of these threats hidden in plain sight.


When I first spotted this arrangement of "branches" on one of my younger trees, I thought that there was a thin twig growing across a dead branch, but on closer inspection I realised that the thicker "branch" was in fact a caterpillar. Of course he had to go.

The photographer in me wouldn't let him go without one more shot, seen here on a bamboo cane I use for moving creatures I don't want to touch.


I don't believe in killing anything bigger than an ant, so when I was done I moved him into a pot full of weeds. Hopefully he'll be happy to stay there and won't find his way back onto my trees.

Monday, 20 March 2017

An Entire Growing Season Wasted

It's been a year now since I last mentioned my fig tree, so I thought it was time for a quick update. Sadly things haven't quite gone to plan.

It was doing really well in spring, but the leader was getting far too long.

October 2016 - before pruning

I decided to shorten it so that I could get some ramification.

October 2016 - after pruning

The tree responded well. Within weeks there were lots of new branches developing more or less where I wanted them.

New growth - November 2016

Then disaster struck. Four days after the photo above was taken we were hit my a massive hail storm and all that lovely new growth was ripped off, leaving this:

November 2016 - after the hail

It's now four months since that storm and sadly the tree hasn't replaced those branches. After some lesser hail late last year, it's looking worse than ever.

March 2017

With winter approaching it appears that the entire growing season has been wasted. I guess all I can do now is wait to see how it responds next spring.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Clip and Grow Ficus - the Third Chop and Beyond

This little Ficus Natalensis has far exceeded my expectations in terms of the progress it made this summer. When I wrote about its second chop back in September, I was expecting to let it grow unchecked for the rest of the season.

August 2016 - after the second chop

However when I saw how much it had grown by December 2016, I reconsidered my decision.

December 2016 - before pruning

While I knew that the new leader still needed to thicken more, I followed my mentor's advice and cut it back to the third branch to allow it and the two branches growing from it to develop in better proportion. As the leaves were looking rather ragged due to hail damage, I decided to defoliate the tree at the same time.

December 2016 - after pruning and defoliation

It soon filled out again.

February 2017 - before pruning

A few days ago when I brought it inside to get a  photo for this post,  I realised that the branch on the right was becoming too dominant so I shortened that one.

February 2017 - after pruning

And that I expect will be the last work I do on it for quite some time. Hopefully now the branches will thicken in better proportion.

The two bottom branches on the left will probably be removed at a later date as there is no branch to balance the composition on the right hand side. With the frame that is starting to develop higher up, I suspect that once the tree fattens up, it won't need branches so low down anyway.

The root cutting has finally decided it wants to become another tree.

February 2017 - base of trunk and root cutting

With winter approaching I've decided to leave it with its parent tree until early next summer, so the move to a larger pot will have to wait.