Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Post 129 Roma St Parklands

I went for a wander through our Roma Street Parklands recently. The whole area used to be a railway shunting yard and quarry only a few years ago. It is now a beautiful park bordered by apartment buildings. There is a great garden called the Spectacle Garden there too with long term plantings and topiary intersperced with annuals. It's always a great display and a feast for the eye.

Here is a group of taxodiums - swamp cypress - growing on the edge of a large pond. They were just coming into leaf after winter at the time. With lots of water around in the gardens, much of it moving our local water dragons love it there, and they behave like a protected 
species, which of course they are.

They are beautiful animals with really long tails. When they want to they can propel themselves across the water with grace and speed.

This little pond is fringed by a wet garden and a group of tropical birch. It is amazing how these have grown over the years. I've never seen them used for bonsai but they would have to be a great candidate. Make a note to self - find a tree to get some cuttings going!

These two shots are from the Spectacle Garden.

This fella has lost the tip of his tail - no doubt the result of a territorial dispute.

I think I'll have to make a small ceramic dragon to go with my Swampy bonsai.

The big pond looking back towards the swampy planting.

And finally another swampy but this one is growing in a property in my neighbourhood. It is a great model for a bonsai with the lower branches bent down with age and the higher ones less so. They are very much single leader trunked trees when grown naturally. That natural habit is always a good lead to the style to adopt for a bonsai of any species.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Post 128 New pots

Another firing and some more new pots.

My new clay is really working well and it is great to have confidence in both bisque and glaze firing that my pots are going to make it through. I don't know why I didn't try it a long time ago. Its good to work with and on maturinty has a nice colour and texture.

The first one is a largish bowed wall retangle (compound oval) in a flat mid brown glaze, just a few tones darker than the fired clay itself.

The first one is Pot No 93, coming in at 433 x 344 x 80 on its own it feels like a big pot but that's always relative. It was made for a specific tree - a reasonably large ficus.

So when you put the two together the pot isn't so big after all, but a nice fit. In this shot you get a better idea of the pot shape too.

The next one Pot No 90 is a small oval in a subtel green glaze. Size 336 x 259 x 60

And Pot No 94, is also an oval at 400 x 300 x 75, a very useful size and in a dark brown glaze. I've used this one before and this time cut the silicon a little but I think I could go further. It is quite surprising the impact the coluourants have on the surface finish of a base glaze.

As well as these larger pots there were a number of small cascades. These ones range in height from 90 to 100 and 90 to 100 at the top

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Post 127 Swampy demonstration

I took part today in a group demo at the local society. I had a swamp cypress that I'd not styled this season in anticipation of the demo and had fed it up and let it run to a degree.

The tree is close to 20 years old and had different levels of attention over the years. I grew it from a slip of a cutting and built in some early movement which now shows a good result.There was a time when I realised the structure above the first two branches was irredeemable and so cut it off expecting new shoots to come and replace it. Well surprisingly that didn't happen and so after a couple more years the first two branches massed up really well and I decided to graft on a new leader.

More time passed and I kept looking at the scarecrow structure with those branches sticking out at right angles. Sometimes it takes a little while for the ideas to crystalise. Perhaps the new leader needed to develop more before the direction was compelling.

But the right time has arrived and that lead to the demo today. The plan was to use a little heavy engineering to get those two main branches down and then bring the rest of the tree to follow. The tree was also too far inclined to the front and I wanted to take it closer to the upright position. The front of the pot had to be inclined about 75mm to get to that position. As you can see I raffia wrapped a number of areas which were at greatest risk, although the risk of breakage with a swampy is probably lower than most.

It all worked out to plan. The tilt to the left brings the apex into the right alignment and gives the lower trunk a little inclination from the vertical which is good. When repotted to the new angle it will be a totally transformed tree, ready for the next 10 years.
The development plan from here includes bulking up the trunk above the first two branches and with a little more height, a rounded canopy. I'll be looking for rear facing budding to develop into sacrafice branches at about the 4th branch level.

For the sake of a little photoshopping let's see what it would look like repotted. It shows how influential the potting angle can be and how visually pleasing it can be to get that apex over the nebari.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Post 126 Tanuki No4 setup

Back in May when I came through Sydney on the way back from Canberra I was chasing some long growth juniper for tanuki work.
Bonsai South had some that fitted the bill nicely .See  Sergent Junipers
In June I set up three air layers on each of the three trees I bought.

In parallel I was working on tanuki designs and by July had finished and fired number 4 which I posted with a series of pictures. Tanuki no 4

I was anticipating having to have the layers in place until at least later this summer but noticed over the weekend that there were some roots showing on the surface of the layer pots. A little exploration showed that they were all well rooted and ready to come off; a pretty amazing performance over 4 winter months with almost no new foliage growth.

 This is one of the three trees with three air layers set up in open pots.

 Just a different view of the same tree.

 And here are the bits that came off it. Even a small branch rooted just by being immersed in the mix. It was really interesting that most of the rooting came from just being under the soil surface and damp rather than from the debarked ring.

 Here they are potted up. The one on the right is the one I had preselected to go on the tanuki. As you can see it has three leaders. In the end I kept just two but needed them both to fill the space.

All of that is a long way to get to the final picture of the tree mated to the tanuki. It is as you see still well clamped into place and wired. Coming into the growing season I'll be able to remove most of that pretty soon, particularly down lower where it is already tight.
It is currently about 360mm from tree tip to base. A different pot will come in time to get the right positioning. Engagement and growth is all I'm after right now. The future for this one looks good.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Post 125 Bottle trees

Here in Queensland we have a native species which develops a large water storing trunk like a boab. It is Brachychiton rupestris or Bottle tree. They get to be very large and make a very attractive street and park tree.
We have a few other Brachychitons here in Australia. The most showy is the Brachychiton acerifolius otherwise known as the Illawarra flame tree. It is mostly deciduous and then flowers on the bare tree with a profusion of red flowers. B populneus is the Kurrajong, another very attractive tree. Hybridisation of these three has been done to produce a variety of ornamental trees.
The picture above is on a street in my neighbourhood, a really good sign that they'll survive and thrive in my garden.

This is a picture of a 45 year old B. ruprestris that has recently come under my stewardship. It has some great movement in the trunk and was at some time in the past chopped at the point of the branching. Since then it's been in a small pot and not developed much. After 45 years in the ground it could have been between 1 and 2 meters in diameter, so there has been a bit of a lost opportunity. I'd like to take it a little further, fatten it up and so have given it a bit more space. The plan is to restore some vigour and then cut those long leaders right back to force some multiple branching and develop a more natural canopy branching off a central trunk or perhaps twin trunk.

Having my interest sparked I found them for sale at the local garden centre and so couldn't resist could I. It was fairly advanced and arrow straight but a little twist will get it pointing in the right direction. Keeping it there long enough is the trick.

In Australia we also have a boab or boabab which is endemic to the north of Western Australia. It is Adansonia gregorii and is very closely related to the African boabab. It also has very famous relatives in Madagasgar. I've recently acquired seeds of all these and am keenly awaiting germination.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Post 124 New pots

Here are my 5 pots from the last firing.
The big experiment of new shapes, new clay and new technique all come off very well and produced a satisfying result.

The first one is Pot 87, the last of the RGH clay pots. It's a bowed wall rectangular pot with final dimensions of 340 x 248 x 69; a very handy sized pot. Its finished with my butternut beige glaze layered more heavily towards the rim to get the darker tone lower down.

The other pots are all made with the YG clay which has produced a very nice sandstone toned finish in the unglazed clay. This one is Pot 88 an oval pot at 407 x 317 x 74, also in the butternut glaze.

Pot 91  is a smaller oval at 334 x 253 x 61 glazed in my antique parchment glaze.

The last two are very similar, both bowed wall rectangular pots. One was commissioned and I liked the idea, so made one for me too. The first is Pot 89 at 375 x 296 x 86 in a nice deep blue glaze. The next is Pot 92 at 384 x 294 x 88.

While these YG pots worked their way through drying and firing I've only made a couple of others which are still drying, not wanting to go full steam down a blind alley. The performance and colour of the YG clay has given me the confidence now to embrace it and get back into the groove.