Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bonsai in ten months

I hardly ever blog about bonsai I have done myself. In this post, I would like to talk about this particular Small-leaved Privet (Ligustrum sinense). What you see in the leftmost image was accomplished in ten months.

Although this tree requires further refinement, its basic shape is already in place. This plant was pulled out of the ground and given to me for free in August 2010. It was approximately 50 cm tall, with no fine roots and no leaves. During the following year I allowed one branch to grow freely to be the future upper trunk and kept all other brunches shorter. There was no styling of any sort at that stage. In October 2011, I chopped the trunk and wired two lowest brunches (see the trunk chop scar in the centre image). In the following months, I gradually wired the rest of the branches and pruned them to form the foliage pads. By August 2012 this tree looked pretty much as it looks in the images. So, the actual implementation of the basic design took only 10 months (Oct 2011 - Aug 2012). The tree was planted in the current training bonsai pot in March 2013 (left image). The height of the tree from apex to the rim of the pot is 17.5 cm. The rightmost image is not real. I used Photoshop to bring the pot into proportion with the tree. This is just to demonstrate the importance of planting your bonsai in a pot of appropriate size. In conclusion, the take home message here is: “For quick results use local weeds and make small trees”.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Grafting pine on thick trunk

I wanted to learn how to graft small pine scions on a thick trunk. Last October, I grafted seven Radiata Pine scions on a 6-cm-thick trunk. By the end of November 2012 two of them had new shoots. By January 2013 all scions were alive and six out of seven had new shoots. I removed the plastic protecting the grafts from drying in mid-March this year. Unfortunately, the plant died last month because I chopped off the upper trunk. I wanted to direct all the plant’s energy into the grafted branches, but my plan turned out to be deadly to the plant. Yes, I know. What was I thinking?! Anyway, below are a few images showing this plant’s progress.

A – The rootstock plant after repotting in August 2012;
B – The plant on completion of grafting in early October 2012;
C – Close-up of the grafted scions on the day of grafting in October 2012;
D – Close-up of grafted branches with new shoots in mid-December 2012.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience:
  • Advice from bonsai practitioners and the Internet was useful;
  • Peeling bark off the trunk, before making incisions, was helpful;
  • A grafting chisel is better for making incisions in the trunk;
  • Aligning cambium was easier because on a thicker trunk it is a wider band, which can be recognised by its dark orange colour;  
  • Enclosing the whole area with clear plastic with some moist sphagnum moss worked really well;
  • Once the grafts have new shoots, the plant needs more sun;
  • Don’t do anything drastic to the plant for at least a year.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pest of the month: scale insects

Over the last two years I have been taking photos of scale insects parasitising my bonsai. Only this month, I became more certain about their identities. Unlike the Brown Soft Scale I talked about last month (see these species secrete wax, which formes a protective shell over their body.  All four species shown below are invasive pests introduced to Australia from various parts of the world. All four have a wide range of host plants. The size of these insects changes as they grow, but the bits of plants shown in the photos should provide you with a rough size scale. Anyway, here they are.

A – The Pink Wax Scale (Ceroplastes rubens) on Japanese Flowering Quince;
B – The Nigra Scale (Parasaissetia nigra) on Japanese Black Pine;
C – The Fly Speck Scale (Gymnaspis aechmeae) on Port Jackson Fig;
D – The Hemispherical Scale (Saissetia coffeae) on Japanese Box.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Pest of the month: 28-spotted Potato Ladybird

It’s common knowledge that ladybirds are beneficial for your garden. Most species are predators feeding on aphids. This time however, the uninvited guest on one of my bonsai was the 28-spotted Potato Ladybird (Epilachna vigintioctopunctata), which happens to be an exotic herbivorous pest (images above show adult and larval beetles). This insect was once happily confined to its native range in the far eastern Russia. The introduction of potato from America triggered its spread to China, Japan and more recently to Australia and New Zealand. Adults and larvae of this beetle feed on leaves of many different species of plants. So, next time you see this ladybird in your garden, remember that it can be harmful.