Field Maple Thoughts

Scratch Bonsai


Thinking a bit ahead for what I want to achieve with bonsai material this year, I’ve decided that when the time is right, I’ll have a go at air layering a couple of cut back branches on this field maple growing in my hedge.


I’ve identified these two which are low down with good movement and I really like the corky ridged bark that has developed.  Fingers crossed that I get round to it and that they take root ok.

Looking around the rest of the garden I decided to inspect other field maple material in the beds.  This one was planted in the ground two years ago with a tourniquet in order to grow new nebari.  I plan to dig it up and investigate how successful it was as soon as the buds begin to swell.


Over the past year its developed a very interesting feature, corky bark similar…

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First outing for the year – Umhlanga 

Gone Birding

My first birding outing for 2017 started off very quietly as we walked through the forest of the Umhlanga Nature Reserve.

On our last visit there we had seen Tambourine Dove and Black-throated Wattle-eye all within 10 minutes of being in the reserve. This time, nothing, but some nest building Yellow Weavers and a Tawny-flanked Prinia as we crossed over the wetlands. There were no birds to be seen and they were equally quiet.

Bronze Mannikin – note the juvenile coming in for a landing as well Yellow Weaver – this bird was frantically working on this nest, much wing flapping going on
Eventually I heard something interesting, something that I knew! Well, sort of know. It sounded to me like an Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, but knowing you don’t find them in the forest I then went to the forest doves and realised it was a Tambourine Dove. After…

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Air Layering a Chinese Elm Mallsai into Two Shohin Bonsai

Bonsai Penjing & More


The Chinese elm shohin in this display was air-layered from a mallsai. This post shows the progression of the transformation.

Mallsai is a term coined in the US; it refers to mass produced bonsai sold in big-box stores, roadsides, gift shops and nurseries. The word often carries a connotation of a poor quality tree planted in a shallow pot to look like a bonsai, and sold to the uninitiated. But many people have credited mallsai, either through personal purchase or receiving it as a gift, for introducing them to and getting them hooked to the hobby.

Typical mallsai has an exaggerated S-shape trunk which lacks taper. I found some of them can be inexpensive starting materials, just like garden center trees, for bonsai development.

This post will show the progression of air layering an inexpensive S-shape Chinese elm mallsai, and it’s transformation into two shohins.

IMG_3062_(2) with arrow

The top half of this Chinese elm mallsai…

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Steve’s Work

Bonsai Eejit

During my time with Mr Warren, Steve Salisian from LA was busy working away beside me. I thought I’d share his work here for you to see.

The first tree is a Sabina Juniper with great deadwood and movement.


Portuguese Oak


Another Portuguese Oak


A raft style Yew


Japanese Maple


Thanks for adding to my experiences for the week Steve, look forward to catching up with you in LA in May. 🙂


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Doing It Wrong #3

Bonsai Iterate

Number 3 on the list of things I’ve been doing wrong for twenty years: Working with tiny plants.

Bonsai is a hobby that can eat up a lot of money, but… well, I haven’t had much of that. One of the errors I made because of this is collecting little seedlings with hopes of one day training them into bonsai. This is a rediculously slow way to end up with a good bonsai!

This collection of azaleas is a good example. They are not remotely tree-like and are years from being anything worth the time it takes to water them. This is the kind of thing I am now getting off my bench and back in the ground where they belong. If they show promise 5 or 10 years down the road, then I’ll reconsider.

There are ways to get bigger, better stock to develop your collection at little to…

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I call her “Tortilla”, the bonsai-in-training


My new favorite baby, “Tortilla” is an Euryops. She’s a bonsai-in-training now. I got her in a 2 gallon pot at the nursery and now here she is:

Euryop bonsai-in-training “Tortilla” the Euryop Bonsai tree-in-training I heavily trimmed her, but didn’t hard prune her. I liked her original height for the most part and wanted to leave her canopy of leaves growing. Plus, she was in full-bloom when I got her and I wanted to enjoy the flowers before I chopped them all off.

I also wanted to take a slower approach to pruning, deciding to prune back some of the leaves, and then prune more as flowers bloomed and died back. I figure this would allow her to start new growth where I pruned her. It’s working so far. But I have no idea if this is a good philosophy or not.

I did quickly learn one big lesson after…

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First Steps

Slow Growth


This new blog is an attempt to chronicle my new interest in learning the art of bonsai. I recently moved from sunny Southern California to the gloomy Pacific Northwest for a new job, and I chose to leave all of my cacti and succulents behind and adopt a horticultural hobby better suited for the climate up here.

I’m also interested in learning bonsai for other reasons. I’m hoping that practicing a Japanese will help me stay connected to my cultural identity after moving from Los Angeles to a fairly small, very white town in the Pacific Northwest. I’m also hoping that adopting a hobby that requires a lot of patience and intention will help me maintain a sense of calm as a begin a new and highly demanding career as a university professor. And finally, I have deep love of nature and I hope that bonsai will help me gain…

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Creating New Bonsai

Zarina Craft

I have been making bonsai ever since 1997 when I purchased this book. Over the years, the bonsai just died when I lost interest. Then, I will restart again with new plants.bonsai-book

Last month, a young family who rented a room next door brought in a few bonsai. After much conversation over the fence, I learned that the wife who was the green thumb. She loves bonsai and also reared hybrid fruit trees to be sold online.

It was that push and maybe due to a huge workload of big size quilts that prompted me to create more bonsai.

These three cuttings, destined to be bonsai are from the existing ixora plant in the garden.bonsai-ixorabonsai-ixora-3bonsai-ixora-2

These henna plants have been growing in the same pot for at least five years. I may have issues on getting a good looking plant but at least it’s a bonsai.hennabonsaihenna-bonsai-2

Yesterday, I visited a…

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