Monday, 29 May 2017

Transforming a Giant Juniper

About four times a year the various bonsai clubs in my province get together for a day of talks and demonstrations. It's a great opportunity to meet some new bonsai enthusiasts and learn some new techniques. The most recent of these meetings took place on the first Saturday of May.

Among the speakers was Org Exley of Pretoria Bonsai Kai who brought along this massive Juniper Chinensis.

Juniper Chinensis - before

When I saw the tree I assumed that Org was planning to create a literati bonsai but I soon discovered that he had other ideas. This is an illustration he showed us before he started work.

On a tree of that size this was not going to be an easy undertaking. Simple wiring was not going to be enough to get any significant bends into a tree that was far from flexible.

Org showing how far the tree would bend

In order to add flexibility and create the two trunks shown in his illustration it was necessary to split almost the entire trunk.

Here's a shot of the carving - a long and difficult process during which the centre of the trunk was hollowed out.

Sawdust was flying everywhere.

Eventually the carving was done and he now had two much more flexible trunks to work with.

At this stage the tree was taken outside for wiring as the meeting moved on to another topic. Unfortunately there was too much work to do in the time remaining so the last I saw of the tree was this view, wrapped in raffia with a lot of wire applied.

Org kindly agreed to send me a photo of the completed styling. This is what it looks like right now.

I hope he'll bring it along to another meeting when it's had time to recover from its ordeal.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Return of the Mantis

The day after she laid her eggs my praying mantis was nowhere to be found. Having read that lady mantises don't live long after they lay their eggs, I feared I might never see her again. Still, every morning when I went out to water my trees I searched her stand in the hope that I'd find her.

Then yesterday she was back.

Once more she came out of hiding after getting a soaking from my hosepipe. Instead of fetching my camera this time I made a brief attempt to coax her into climbing on my hand (something I'd seen done on a YouTube video) but she simply ignored me. A little later, however, I noticed that she wanted to climb onto a leaf which was just out of her reach so I filled the gap with my hand and she was quite happy to use it as a bridge as she quickly moved across to her chosen destination.

I'm quite amazed to see how tame she is - so different from the lizards that live in my bonsai area. They run for cover as soon as they see me.

I spent most of the afternoon indoors but before closing up for the night I went to look for her. Much to my disappointment she'd vanished again. Then late last night I discovered her on a wall inside the house. She'd obviously found her way onto one of the frost-sensitive trees which I bring indoors at night when the weather gets chilly (*) and once inside she'd gone exploring. By the time I found her she was some distance from the nearest tree and the chance of her finding her way back to safety on her own seemed slim. Clearly it was up to me to rescue her.

I went outside to fetch a little tree from her stand and it didn't take too much effort to coax her onto that tree. Then I returned the tree to its home, leaving her safely in the area I usually see her, fully aware that she would go wandering again. Sure enough this morning I couldn't find her.

I just hope she chooses her destinations more wisely from now on.

(*) As I said in a previous post, moving trees in and out of the house every day is NOT recommended unless you're able to do it without exposing them to extreme changes in temperature. It only works for me because our winters are relatively mild and my house isn't heated.

Linking up with Camera CrittersSaturday Critters and Macro Monday 2

Saturday, 13 May 2017

My Bonsai Friend - the Praying Mantis

A few days ago I mentioned the white stuff I found on one of my trees. Had I first seen it as it appears in that post, I imagine I'd have been really concerned and rushed to remove it. Fortunately that was not the case.

The story begins in late March. I was watering my trees when a rather wet praying mantis appeared seemingly from nowhere, jumping from one of my trees onto the metal stand below in an attempt to escape the water streaming out of my hosepipe.

In years gone by I'd have tried to relocate the little creature to a part of the garden where there are no bonsai, but I recently discovered that the praying mantis is a carnivore which preys on the pests that harm our trees. Under the circumstances I wanted her to stay so I did my best not to disturb her any further. Of course I also wanted to see if I could get a decent photo and she kindly posed for me, even walking towards the camera at one stage, enabling me to shoot from a better angle. Even the light from my camera's flash didn't seem to bother her.

March 2017

I saw her three more times over the next few days, then she seemed to disappear and I thought I'd seen the last of her. Then about a week ago she was back in one of the trees close to where I'd first seen her. She seemed to have grown a lot fatter, a fact which first made me suspect that she was a female. An online search for photos of praying mantises convinced me that I was right.

For several days after that I saw her hanging in the same tree, then one day I couldn't see her anywhere. Next day, however, I found her on a different tree with that patch of white "stuff" behind her.

May 2017 - laying her eggs

Although I'd never seen pictures of an ootheca (egg sac) before I was confident that I was witnessing my little friend laying eggs.

I immediately went to fetch my camera. After gently moving the tree onto a nearly table I was lucky enough to get some decent photos and even some video footage.

Once she was done laying her eggs she slowly climbed out of the tree onto the table. She seemed weak and I felt she was rather vulnerable there but luckily I was able to coax her into another tree and return her to the area she'd made her home.

The bad news is, I've read that once she's laid her eggs, Mama Mantis hasn't got long to live. I'm really going to miss her.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

What's this white stuff on my bonsai tree?

This is what I found on one of my little trees today. It's about a centimetre long with a spongy texture.


I've a confession to make. I already know the answer to my question, but I'm curious to see how many people can identify this "stuff" and what they'd do if they came across something like this on one of their trees.

All will be revealed in a few days time.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

There's a Caterpillar on my Ficus Tree

With winter well and truly on the way I've already started protecting some of my more sensitive trees. As my greenhouse is too small for my requirements that gets a bit tricky. Some trees have to be moved out of it during the day so that I'm able to get inside to water the rest. I even bring a few trees into the kitchen at night because I've nowhere else to keep them.

Warning: For most people this isn't a good way to do things. I'm fortunate to live in a fairly mild climate and my house isn't heated, so my trees don't experience extreme changes in temperature when I move them around.

Moving my trees has one benefit though - I tend to examine them a bit more closely than I do during the summer months when they spend most of their time on one spot. That's how I happened to notice this little guy on one of my Ficuses a few days ago.

Luckily I noticed him while he was still quite small - less than an inch long. He'd already eaten about half a leaf, so I hate to think what damage he might have done to a relatively small tree if I hadn't noticed him until he was fully grown.

Once I'd done taking photos I removed the damaged leaf and put him into a bin with the weeds and some fallen leaves I've been clearing up. Hopefully he didn't find his way back onto my trees.