Friday, 12 February 2016

Sticks in Pots

The olive trees commonly used for bonsai in South Africa are Olea Europaea subsp. Africana, often referred to as the wild olive. Its fruit are much smaller than the average olive and aren't suitable for eating so, when one of my olive trees started producing fruit two or three years ago, I didn't bother to pick them. In due course they ripened and fell unnoticed into the surrounding pots where they took root. Since then I've been finding olive seedlings popping up everywhere.

I always move those seedlings into small pots and just leave them to do their own thing until they get big enough for me to experiment with. I know these "sticks in pots" will never make quality bonsai, but experimenting can be fun, and maybe I'll learn something that will help me with my better trees later on.

Today I decided to play with a few of those little trees.

These two were the first ones I found a couple of years back. They were planted in one pot to save space, and I've decided to leave them together.

Two olive saplings

Though they're each thinner than a pencil I decided to do a trunk chop and see what develops.

Two olive saplings after chop

Right now I'm looking at the possibility of creating a tiny twin trunk formal upright. Another option is a small twin trunk literati. Time will tell which is the better option.

The next tree I worked on is a bit younger and a lot thinner.

Olive sapling with badly wired curves

As the trunk was still nice and flexible I decided to wire some big curves in an attempt to create a horai style tree.

Olive sapling showing bad attempt to wire curves

I hadn't planned to do any pruning yet as I wanted the tree to thicken substantially first but, as a result of over-ambition combined with some really lazy wiring, I snapped the trunk.

Close up of damage to olive sapling

It's possible that the break would still have healed, but the tree would always have had a weakness at that spot, so I decided to make an unplanned cut, leaving me with this:

Olive sapling after damage was removed

I hope it survives today's abuse. It certainly won't be fattening up any time soon though.

This was my third attempt at horai, trying to copy the styling from a diagram in Deborah Koreshoff's book "Bonsai - Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy". Neither of my previous attempts worked out according to plan either.

Another young olive tree I looked at today once had a natural curve right near the base and I had hoped that it would turn into an interesting feature. Unfortunately I didn't think to push a stick into the gap to keep it open as the tree thickened. It's too late now because the gap has closed up, leaving an ugly kink instead.

Ugly kink on an olive sapling

I'm not sure what I'll be able to do with this one, so for now I'll probably just let it grow and see if that kink becomes less conspicuous in time.

I've got several more of these that I haven't worked on yet. I might do a bit of wiring on some of them but that will have to wait for another day. I've got loads of better trees that are begging for my attention so I need to work on some of those first.

I'd like to end off with a little good news. I managed to catch the grasshopper I wrote about yesterday. It seems he has a damaged leg so he hadn't moved very far overnight. I've relocated him to an area where there are no bonsai.

I also managed to find out his name - Elegant Grasshopper (Zonocerus elegans). It sounds like he's quite a destructive fellow, so I was lucky he did no noticeable damage to my trees.

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