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Club Meeting July 2014

by Jurie van Heerden

Jurie welcomed all members to the club meeting.

First on the list was Phil Levitt who described how he was going to transform a SYZIGIUM PANICULATUM bush into a bonsai. He also showed some photos of stunning Syzigium bonsais from various artists.

The next presenter was Dorothy Franz who spoke on Azaleas. She showed some photos of Kurume Azaleas and explained that they are grown for their small flowers. Dorothy said that the Satsuki Azalea means fifth moon in Japanese explaining "Sat" means fifth and "Suki" means moon and that the Satsuki flowers can be a variety of colours from Red to pink. She further explained that that the Kurume is more available and that the Satsuki are rarer in South Africa and have bigger flowers than the Kurume.

Some of the better characteristics of Azaleas are that they have good nebari, trunks and are easily available in nurseries and are not usually prone to pests. They also propagate easily.

Some of the bad traits of Azaleas are that they do not adapt to new soil, they are difficult to wire as they mature. They also have a thin bark and invariably have a weak apex.

Dorothy further explained that azaleas require cool and wind-free areas for best growth and should not be allowed to flower if the tree is weak. Also do not allow many flowers on the apex as this is the weakest part of the tree.

It is important to remember that when removing the flowers you must also remove the seed pods. Remember new flowers buds set in summer and that you feed up to the start of flowering and then cease while the tree is in flower.

The Judge's choice was done by Rudi Adam and he had various trees selected and gave his feedback on the trees and took questions from the rest of the members.

Terry Erasmus presented Maples and described Maples as his favoured tree– he calls it the prince of deciduous bonsais. He described a characteristic of maples is to have a strong nebari. The trunks are very muscular, powerful and lean towards Sumo style. The leaf colours are very intense during seasons with stunning red in autumn.

Terry said that in Japan the Japanese display maples in winter to show the ramification.

Terry explained that he wanted to talk more on the techniques of what he has learned in Japan and started with repotting and described the different reporting techniques he was taught. He further explained soil mixes to better assist the maple growth and that sealing of cuts was unnecessary. Securing trees in pots after repotting was necessary.

He also described grafting like thread (hole through the trunk) and approach (groove in trunk) grafting, how to defoliate your tree to produce smaller leaves and to analyse how your branch structure looks and how to allow sunlight to penetrate into the canopy to produce healthier inner leaves. He highlighted the importance of defoliation and that it could be done up to 3 times per year. General pruning must be done in summer to get back-budding when the tree is at its strongest.

On wiring and styling - Terry mentioned that wiring can be done along with defoliation and you should not do any spot wiring - styling can be done through the clip-and-grow method and there are 3 stages: Raw material, 2. Branch development and 3. Refinement and maintenance.

With wire removal you should do this in spring for mature trees and late autumn for younger trees. You should cut the wire to prevent damage to the branches. Terry explained that you must seal major cuts on maples to prevent the air from drying the exposed trunk scar tissue. Terry also described the acrylic sealant that he uses to apply to the open cuts and the general uses.

For fertilizing you must give lots of fertilizer to younger trees, minimal fertilizer for mature trees and no fertilizer in winter.

Lastly, Terry summed up the whole maple season for repotting, grafting, styling, pruning and wiring.

Phil Levitt was the last presenter and gave feedback on the Syzigium bush to bonsai progression.

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Random Bonsai Tip

So much time is spent on striving towards perfection in the foliage area of trees but little contemplation goes into the area around the nebari. Consider planting your tree at different heights in the pot which might enhance the existing taper and roots. If your tree lacks roots use moss mounded in such a way to suggest underlying roots, or you can even use sticks of similar appearance to the wood of the tree as 'fake' roots until you are able to coerce roots to fill the void. Use appropriate gravel to complete the scene.