Saturday, 22 July 2017

Carving a Big Olive Tree

The topic of our club's last meeting was carving trees. The demonstrator was Kathy Steyn of Bonsai Magic. Although Kathy isn't a member of our club I've often seen her and her trees at the meetings where members of the various clubs in my area get together and she always has the top trees in several categories.

Here are two which she brought to our meeting.

First an olive tree:

Kathy Steyn's olive tree

I'd love to have one like this in my collection but it would have to be a lot smaller than Kathy's tree as I only buy trees I can manage on my own. Maybe one day...

Her second tree was this Buddleja Salinga:

Kathy Steyn's Buddleja Salinga

Dave Wilson, a long time member of our club (Eastern Bonsai Society), brought this large, untrained olive tree for Kathy to work on.

The first step was to get rid of the excess branches.

Kathy and Dave removing unwanted branches

If this was Kathy's own tree she'd have removed all the thin branches as olives bud back well after pruning. However she respected Dave's wishes and left the best options, though it's possible that some of those will be removed later if better options present themselves.

The next step was removing a thicker branch that looked out of place.

With an electric saw that didn't take too long.

Then it was time for some serious carving:

Creating a natural look with some areas hollowed out:

Here the tree is starting to take shape. What remains of the sawed off branch now looks like natural damage rather than the result of pruning.

The side view of that branch shows a hollow:

An old cut has been turned into a jin.

Dave's tree proved to require more work than could be done in the allotted time, so Kathy took it home to finish the work. Dave has promised to bring it to another meeting so we can see the finished job. When he does I'll get some more photos so that I can write an update.

Meanwhile you can see more of Kathy's work on her Facebook Page.

If you're in Gauteng (South Africa), Kathy offers carving lessons. You can find the details on her website.

I took my own olive tree along to the meeting and Kathy gave me some advice on how to proceed. As I don't do my own carving I took it to a workshop last week and was really pleased with the work that was done there. But I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Deconstructed Ficus Pumila - six months later

In December 2016 I decided to see if I could turn my Ficus Pumila houseplant into bonsai material.

After trimming off all the excess growth and dividing up the root ball I was left with these seven small plants:

Deconstructed plant - December 2016

At that stage I simply left them to grow, and six months later they have put out a mass of new growth:

Deconstructed plant - six months later

Until this week the only work I'd done was to wire the leader of the cascading plant in an upright direction.

Cascading - December 2016

The same plant wired upright - July 2017

Hopefully that will help to thicken the trunk eventually though Ficus Pumila doesn't seen to thicken easily.

As trunk development is my major goal right now I still haven't done any pruning of substance, merely cutting off a few dead twigs and one small branch that was growing across itself. I also tried to untangle the branches but as they’re far too thin for wiring I’m sure they’ll soon get tangled up again.

I'm reasonably happy with that one's progress. I'm less happy with this one:

December 2016

It had put out a lot of new growth too:

July 2017 - before pruning

Sadly when I starting digging around underneath all that foliage I discovered that one major branch had died. To make matters worse, while cutting that off, one of the thinner branches got caught in the back of my branch cutter - a mistake I’ve now made several times. Will I ever learn?

In the end I cut this one back pretty hard as most of the new growth was in unwanted areas.

July 2017 - after pruning

Time to let it grow again and see what options it offers me.

Ficus Pumila has a tendency to ground layer itself. Some of the remaining plants are already doing that, which means they'll probably have to be deconstructed again if they're ever going to be bonsai. As I’ve got so many trees to take care of I didn’t have time to have a proper look at those right now. I suspect some may be looking for new homes in spring.

Turning these into bonsai isn't going to be as easy as I'd hoped. I like small trees but I’m starting to think these may be a bit too small.