Saturday, 28 November 2015

Creating bonsai from nursery stock

This little tree is a Schotia Brachypetala, also known in South Africa as a Weeping Boer-bean or Huilboerboon.

It is one of the two varieties of Schotia which I've seen used as bonsai. Both have compound leaves, but the leaves of the other variety are naturally much smaller. At the time I bought my tree, I was unaware of the existence of the small-leaved variety and didn't hesitate to buy the one with larger leaves.

That's not to say I regret my purchase. I've seen very few trees of the other variety for sale, and those I've seen have all had very thin trunks. They were also priced a lot higher than what I paid for mine.

When I bought this little guy in 2012, it was about five foot tall in its nursery bag and cost me less than $10. I could barely lift it and I'm not sure I'd have been strong enough to make the first steps on its journey to bonsai without the assistance of one of the men from my bonsai club.

Nursery tree in its bag

So in early spring of 2012 I dragged it to a workshop where I was assisted in transferring it to a training pot. My helper also cut the tree back  to a stump of approximately 20cm in height, leaving it totally devoid of branches or foliage.

August 2012, after trunk chop - height approximately 20cm

I'm a nervous person by nature, so I tend to worry about my trees after such drastic work has been done. But all I could do was wait and hope that all would be well.

In this case I didn't have to wait long. Within weeks there were new buds everywhere.

October 2012 - first growth after chop

And a few weeks later it was growing really well, giving me more branches than I needed.

November 2012 - lots of options

As I didn't want my tree to develop unnecessary scars, I decided to select my branches early so I picked a left branch, a right branch and a back branch as well as a new leader, and removed everything else. Looking back at these photos now, I think I could have kept a few more.

By July 2013 I had some quite strong growth and I had wired the branches into their desired positions. (The reason that the lowest branch had its end wired upwards was to encourage it to grow thicker than those above it.)

July 2013 - branches selected and wired

Over the next two years I didn't do much other than watering and feeding the tree, allowing the branches time to thicken. The original flat cut was tidied up, and I removed the ugly root on the right hand side, and that was about it.

Then this September I finally decided to take the next step. All the branches and the leader were cut back and I once more had a naked tree.

September 2015 - all branches cut back

Not for long though. My latest photos, taken today, show the tree after another two minor trims.

November 2015 - front view

I now find myself in a quandary over what to do with the top. It looks okay in the front view photo, but when viewed from the side I feel that the leader is coming too far forward.

November 2015 - side view

I'm undecided whether to leave it that way or whether to remove the part above the branch that is currently wired to the back and pull that one upwards to form a new leader. I'll need to make my decision while that branch is still thin and flexible.

No comments yet, but I'd love to hear your view.

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