#BonsaiNews: Learning how to 'Bonsai,' is not just about bonsai but also about survival

in bonsai •  4 years ago 

HELL'S Bells certainly rang from the depths of Tartarus as I sought to imprison the countless evil maniacal creations that were bestowed unto this planet, some eons ago, and perhaps some deity construed that it would be entertainment of the highest order to witness the rage and anger I displayed, as I flamboyantly endeavored to collect my seedlings and young bonsai from the floor and return them to their humble abode - those that I could find of course.

To make this as easy to understand as possible, my lifelong plight is a battle better spent protecting my bonsai and seedlings as they are ripped from their beds by demons from the sky. In South Africa, we call these demons Hadida (Hadada ibis).

Their often disturbing and utterly annoying cackle can be heard in the early mornings and in my case, this symbols that death has arrived to collect what it can from my pots or my garden bed - usually, these collections are my bonsai or seedlings and their newfound purpose is to become construction material for nests made by these Hadida; if only shooting these pests were legal.

Enough with the literary writing and more to the point, I am now missing some young bonsai and some of those found may even die thanks to their (Hadida) persistent efforts to rid my garden of life.

I'm currently missing two of my baby black monkey thorn trees, of which one was a 'potsai' some five years of age - yes, Hadida will even do their best to get into a net-covered construct.

I am however more upset that they had relieved me of one of my 'flying-bonsai'- not entirely sure of the technical definition. This is when bonsai are slowly uprooted over a lengthy period of time and the roots allowed to dry out, making it appear as though the tree has 'legs'. I've only been growing this tree for four years.

Below is what these demons look like:

(IMAGE SOURCE: TheWeatherChannel)

If you hail from South Africa, you will understand why they are often referred to as the 'Flying Vuvuzela'.

So, as we have now approached the end of my rather lengthy rant, we may now proceed to delve into my seedlings and bonsai. (Also, I may need some experts to help me identify some trees).

First up, I am really happy with the progress one of my seedlings have made - Juniperus Communis.


It may be years before I am able to actually 'bonsai' this little brat but I am looking forward to that moment in time, even though I'll probably be a grandfather by that time.

Some tips on how to care for your Juniper.

How to grow a juniper from seed: #BonsaiNews: The Juniper communis is comparable to God's waiting room

Not that long ago, I shared that I had prepared some seed from a Coral Tree for planting and now, I am happy to share that these have done really well. Something interesting that I have noted was that germination rates were far less when seeds were sown in polystyrene trays as opposed to larger oblong pots. In fact, the success rates between the two measured some 1/7.

How to grow Coral Trees from seed

Have a look see at how they are doing at the moment. Some were planted in smaller containers while others were planted in larger containers - there are reasons for this however, the remaining 45 seedlings have already been distributed and I've kept a few for myself.


The Coral Tree can be quite a beautiful tree, with flowers appearing before the first leafs arrive. Another amazing feature is the tree's ability to form thorns on the leafs.

Apple trees are also a real treat and really make for beautiful bonsai, especially when they bloom. One of my youngest apple trees has just been de-wired however, I've kept a wire around the tip and hooked it onto a rock to act as a counterweight. This will help keep it growing into the desired shape while it continues to grow.


Something I learnt while growing from seed is that seedlings really take on a new form much easier when wired. My advise to you, should you wish to wire a seedling from a young age is to ensure that the wire is not left on for too long. Monitor for signs of stress weekly.

Below is a fine example of what could happen when you leave wiring on for too long, as was the case with one of my avocado trees.


It may not be the easiest thing to spot, especially since the photo is blurry, but look towards the centre of the thickest branch in the pot. Ignore the apple trees (the tiny tree to the left is another hopeful hadida survivor). That is where the stem broke after the wire I had used 'ate' through the branch.

It took an additional few months for a new branch to grow and I've since managed to slowly reduce the visual damage the tree had sustained. Fortunately, young trees heal well and I'll soon be able to rewire the tree and continue shaping it in the manner I wanted.

Below is another image of an avocado tree which I started germinating at the same time the aforementioned one got damaged. They are now the same size in the time it took for the one to recover from the damage it sustained.


You will also be able to better see the damage the tree had sustained - it is the tree in the background. The one in the front is what I tried shaping the previous avocado into however, it still requires some work to weigh the front of it down a bit more. The shape is similar to the shapes applied to most Chinese Elm trees.

Speaking of Chinese Elm, one of my older trees have just been trimmed again.


This tree still requires a lot of work and I am patiently waiting for more foliage to start growing so that I can start forming more 'fuller' looking branches as opposed to how it currently looks. The growth of this tree has been quite abrupt at times, with shoots forming around the root base more than in the upper regions of the tree, such as the branches.

The tree is also being trained currently for 'root over rock', something which I think is still a while off before I can safely transfer it to its final pot for the next three to four years.

Another of my elms, a thorny elm, is doing somewhat well and its growth over the last few months has been quite staggering. This is also one of the young ones which had been ripped from the ground by hadidas recently so, I am hoping the damage to its roots wasn't too bad and that it will recover.


Unfortunately it is not looking too good at the moment but I have some hope.

Some more good news has however arrived, and that would be about my youngest and latest addition to the thorny family. My first camel thorn has arrived. These are quite easy to grow so, if you want to grow them simply drop the seed in some hot water and leave to soak for 24-hours.

Continue to sow them as you like thereafter. Growth can be expected with 7-14 days. They are also very easy to maintain, love warm conditions and require very little maintenance in terms of watering.


Now, I am not sure if we have any tree experts on Steemit but I am hoping someone can help me identify this rescue I had below. Just a simple tree that I found ripped out alongside the road which I opted to plant some months ago.

Initially, I had assumed that it would die since its tap root had been severely damaged. It has somehow survived.


Another of my bonsai that I am happy with (although could do with more foliage as well) is my Juniper Chinensis.

The shaping of this tree has taken forever and it is still in the process of taking on its latest shape.

The long term goal with this tree is to - in about another two to three years - remove it from the current pot once it has taken shape and then plant it in a taller, vertical pot.

The left-hand-side branch will grow in a cascade (downward) style while the right-hand-side branches will grow as they are (keeping shaping in mind). This is where I wish I could still draw, just so that I could paint a better picture of the idea I have in mind.


Finally, a long-term project that I also have in mind is to grow a Jacaranda bonsai forest (Yose-ue). I've simply dropped a bunch of Jacaranda seed into a single pot, while others were planted individually, and left them to grow.

If you've never seen a Jacaranda tree in bloom, please Google it. They riddle many streets throughout Gauteng and every once in a while, those streets turn purple as the flowers cover the roads. Truly a magnificent sight to see.


Meanwhile, that's about it from me for now.

Happy Steeming.

Thanks again for reading.

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@imagedenvoz awesome read man, great work on your bonsai! keep it up :)

Where have you been all this time? Thanks for popping by. I see you have a new post. Going to check it out quick.

The word bonsai is a new word for me. Your introduction was epic! I was prepared for a paranormal story when everything became clear. You have a great sense of humour. I must say your trees are looking great. You have motivated me to read more about these small tree. Nice strategy too using the wire on the apple tree.
Your post was very informative. I am glad i was able to learn something today, all thanks to you!
Congrats on your curie vote too!

I'm glad you enjoyed it. If you want some more reading, checkout Shohin bonsai. These are miniature bonsai and some - actually all - look amazing. I intentionally misused the word in my last blog post and it seems nobody picked up on it (potsai). Potsai is actually a new term for when people try and grow cannabis as bonsai trees. Thanks for the kind words. Oh, and check out this beautiful apple tree in bloom. If I recall, it is in an American Bonsai museum and is just under or over 400 years old.


Thanks for the reply. This looks beautiful. I look forward to acquiring one of these if i can find them in my country. I would surely read up more on these amazingly beautiful miniature trees.

Hi imagendevoz,

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Again! Thank you so much @curie

Flying Vuvuzela, interesting...It is good to see the love that you put in these trees, plant them and care for them to see them grow. Only if all the people on the planet do the same thing, instead of the opposite, which is exactly what we do, everything would be better.

I think that is exactly why I do this. Not just for the hope of future 'art' but also because we need to. Sure, bonsai won't replace the planet's oxygen but, it sure is a way of contributing. Thank you for the kind words!

You are very patient with those little plants. I am trying to imagine a little Christmas tree when the Juniper Chinensis will further grow and shaped. 😃

Just few days ago, I was watching a CSI series wherein they came across bonsai. One of the characters mentioned that it will take 10-20 years to have a fully grown bonsai tree. Something that the Japanese takes care of? Is that true?

Yes, the Japanese did start the art of bon-sai (bon supposedly means tray, and sai, is to plant.)

Most people would probably imagine a Christmas tree, no doubt about that. But, you could do so much more with them. Here is a beautiful forest style planting of junipers that I keep staring at every day.


MORE INFO ON THE ABOVE TREE (GOSHIN, which means protector of the spirit) https://www.bonsaiempire.com/blog/goshin

It is a different species of Juniper but still, amazing.

Below is what the chinensis looks like as a bonsai:


This will take many years to do, and I don't think I will live that long to achieve the same.

Oh my... Those look stunning! Yes, the trunks look really old. Just keep trying. That can be an inheritance, seriously!

Exactly. Someone will one day be able to pick up where I left off. That's the great thing.


Too bad about the lost trees. Maybe this will cheer you up.




Your trees look very cleanly pruned, with nice long curving limbs. I've been trying to let mine spread out into smaller branch growth this year. The advice elders of bonsai are giving us in my area is to try to get smaller inter-node spacing by pruning often before the limbs get long, so that is a technique I have been practicing to experiment with the results, although I am starting to think that is better advice for a tree that is already finished being styled.

My Chinese Elm tree is overdue for some massive pruning this year. I'm trying to decide where I will cut one of the major limbs off this winter. I think it would look better with a new central leader that is more narrow at the top.

During the last month of summer I was having a ton of damage every day from the squirrels. They killed some of my plants by digging the roots completely out and leaving them in the sun. My water lily was being eaten and pulled out of the water every day, possibly because it attracts mosquito larvae (protein). A lot of my expensive bonsai soil was spilled all over the deck. Almost lost my azalea from the damage.

After I found out the squirrels were attracted to the smell of fertilizers I had to stop fertilizing completely. Maybe I will start fertilizing again now that the squirrels seem less crazy. I am still wondering if the animal behavior is a seasonal occurrence (maybe they are in heat, or getting playful from eating fermented apples). Keeping trees further away from the grass and trees seemed to help protect some of them. The garage finally became a good way to protect my water lily and my fragile goji berry tree. It has all the leaves eaten off, but now it is growing back thicker and more miniature in height, which is great for bonsai!


PS - I am very proud that you got the juniper to sprout. That is definitely not easy to do.

"I am very proud that you got the juniper to sprout. That is definitely not easy to do," tell me about it :)

I'm just as happy it is doing well so far.

Really glad I don't have to worry about squirrels, they are worse then our pests I think. The bad part is that we have trees everywhere and the garage I have is way to loaded with other things to even consider leaving my trees there unfortunately.

That Chinese Elm does look nice as it is from what I can see, pruning aside. I am noticing some discoloring on the leafs though. Thinking it may be the start of a bit of scorch? Not sure if I am seeing correctly.

Seriously jealous that you can grow goji berry trees where you are. I've tried but the seem to just die after a few months.

Love the hawthorne and juniper. Any idea what you intend to do with the left branch of the juniper? Looks like you are prepping it as a sacrifice branch?

But I honestly have no idea what I am doing with my elm - can't decide if I should allow the foliage to grow on the outer parts of the branches or just keep allowing them to grow along the length of the branches if that makes sense. The growth of the smaller branches were much longer at a stage but I've started trimming them back slightly every third month or so just to get them to thicken up a bit. One thing I've found with my elm is that it is very fragile with wiring. The upper left thick branch actually snapped and I left it for a very long time to heal up. It is still a little fragile but getting there again.

One way I've heard that works to keep squirrels away is to mulch your soil in pots. Not sure if that is true but worth giving a try I think. Here is some more info that may be of use.


Thanks for the article. I have no idea why the recommend blood meal as a deterrent. That was an attractant!

Chinese Elm is not very flexible, unless the shoots are very young and allowed to remain long. Even young shoots can snap if forced into a shape, because it causes too much stress on the joints. Most books recommend for this species to do selective pruning, to encourage one of the leaves lower on the branch to become a bud for a new shoot. That way you can choose what direction it should grow.

Chinese Elm, like Apple, tends to grow very long long shoots, or whips, extending out in a continuous direction. Apple usually focus most growth to the highest bud.

The leaves on my trees are losing leaves because it is Autumn here. Every day I pick off the yellow leaves to allow more sunlight on the branch tips. In a few weeks the tree will be bare.

My juniper has had a dead branch there for two years. I'm still wishing it will magically green up and form buds again, but that is wishful thinking. I'm going to let the Juniper continue as long as possible in this pot, until the water no longer percolates, and then I will give it a better inorganic soil, and perhaps a slightly bigger pot, because I want the roots to stay slightly root-bound so they hold very tight and firm. My juniper is one of my hardest plants to maintain its health, and it is supposed to be the easiest. If it dries out too much, it gets crispy needles. It the water doesn't dry out enough each day, then it can get disease/rot problems. Strong humidity seems to keep it in good balance, so I always like to keep a water source nearby as well as other leafy green plants, like lawn grass. Rainwater is its favorite fertilizer.

I keep forgetting you are on the other end of the planet - hence the different seasons. Junipers our side can also be tricky but they seem to do well nonetheless. I just got back from the nursery where I got some tiny pots as well as two young junipers. Considering going the potsai route with them but then again, I'd rather use the coral tree for that as the bark would look better over a few good years.

I got a juniper not that long ago that is starting to dry out now - the darn thing can't make up it's mind as to whether it wants sunlight or shade so, I've opted to drench it in water and drop a fertilizer pellet (the pellets last for around three to six months and constantly feeds it) into the mix just below the root base - let's see what happens. Kind of wishing that a hadida would rather rip the tree out and fly away with it at this stage.

I also bought a num num for once. I had no idea that they make for such nice bonsai so that will also become a potsai to avoid it growing to wildly. They really do get out of hand but when they bloom...........

I was thinking of stripping the bark off the length of the below juniper and growing the other part into a cloud formation. Just not sure if the plant can handle that much stress at the moment. Deadwood is not something I am an expert at so I was thinking of taking it through to the bonsai centre up north and getting their thoughts but the drive is way too long - call me lazy. My other concern is that I may end up ruining a perfectly fine tree, at least for the moment.


Have you ever heard of a Queensland Bottle Tree? I wonder if they can be grown into a bonsai in your area.

Is potsai slang, or typo for bonsai? ;)

You actually picked up on the 'potsai'. I was just writing back to @cheekah about this. It was intentional. 'Potsai' is when people try and grow cannabis and bonsai. Tried to see if anyone picked up on it but it seems you were the only one. The term I should have used is 'Shohin'. (Shohin are miniature bonsai).

Definitely never heard of the Queensland Bottle Tree. Checked it out now and it doesn't look familiar either. I'd compare it to a Baobab. Looks quite similar in a way. Going to see if I can find some seeds online.

I'm sorry for what I'm going to say as I know it was not fun for you BUT you made me laugh out loud when you were talking about Hadida :D I love your sense of humour with a slight hint of sarcasm :)

It seems that growing a bonsai is rather waiting, waiting, waiting, doing some adjustment and waiting, waiting, waiting and so on :) Oh boy! You have so much patience!

Unfortunately I don't know what kind of tree is the one that you rescued but I hope that someone will be able to recognize it. Great job for rescuing it! If there would be more people like you...

Thank you for this post. I had a good laugh and I admire your patience and determination.

No need to apologise. I laughed just as loud - if not louder - while writing it. Not sure if it was anger or actual humor I was dispensing in the form of laughter but who cares.

You are however absolutely correct. There is a lot of waiting required and often this can also lead to bad decision making skills when patience wears thin - such as trimming bonsai when you should not.

I'll have some more colourful content up in the morning. Just got back form the local nursery and got some tiny pots to restart some of the potsai I lost.

Unfortunately, the nursery don't have any pomegranate seedlings so that is another I'll have to wait for. Darn flying thieves took that young one as well.

Thanks for the feedback.

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I have been curious about bonsai trees for a few years now. I've considered getting on, but I tend to like the look of trees that are better grown outside, so I haven't gotten one yet.

You're really into these! You have a lot, and that's impressive. I'm sorry the birds keep ripping them up for their nests. Would it help if you put a pile of sticks and branches somewhere near the trees as an "offering" to the "demons of the sky?"

Never a better time to start than the present right? I do enjoy bonsai, it's one of the few things that actually help de-stress a person properly. My neighbor previously put out hardwood sticks for them and it - although they are territorial (technically, yeah no, not really) - literally caused them all to come flocking. But then a gain, those were not a 'few' sticks.

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Aaawww.. they are so cute @imagendevoz. I love bonsais because they are cute :) You have green hands. How did you trim your older Chinese Elm to shape in such a way?

Out of curiosity I found a picture of a Jacaranda tree. This is an indescribable delight. It looks very beautiful. I am pleased to read Your post and it is a lot of interesting information for me. I like all the plants you told us about. So now I will follow You to learn even more new information. Thank you for the detailed story.

I was always was impressed with Bonsai trees, I thought that they are just this size and simply planted but grow themselves like that, until one day we saw in Botanic garden how they were cutting and bending the branches of little bonsai, that was an explanation how to grow and what you should pay attention to. That changed my whole opinion, those trees needed attention everyday and if it is needed a certain treatment.

Thank you for such comprehensive explanation and attached pictures :)