Monday, 13 April 2015

Post 201 Exhibition of Victorian Native Bonsai Club

I had the pleasure of attending the Victorian Native Bonsai club's 4th symposium on Australian Plants as Bonsai at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne over last weekend.
An exhibition, which was open to the public was mounted in support of the symposium. What a fabulous exhibition of Australian Trees. Big bonsai always draw you in and big natives do it all the better. These were mostly big trees and all the more impressive for it.
If you come away from these sort of events with a few bits of new information you can be pleased but you just can't replicate the boost to your enthusiasm and motivation that they bring.

50 trees in a great venue with very effective lighting.
In no particular order here is a sample:

 Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree
The 'coastals' are very much a Victorian local and deservedly much used for bonsai. A fantastic species that grows all along the east coast up to Brisbane. Every collection should have a few.

 Melaleuca stypheloides - Prickly paperbark
There were many examples of this species growing as specimens in and around the Botanic Gardens. Terrific, big and long lived in nature a perfect species for bonsai but also demonstrating the versatility of many of the dozens of species of Mels available throughout the country.

 Acacia howittii - Sticky wattle

 Leptospermum petersonii - Lemon scented tea tree


 Acacia howittii prostrate form

 Callistemon citrinus

 Callistomen viminalis 'Captain Cook'

 Banksia serrata - Old man banksia
The photo belies the size of this old man monster. You can see it sits on its carrying frame, making it a 4 man lift.

 Another  Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree, with a very clever coastal dune background.

  Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree

 Melaleuca raphiophylla - Swamp paperbark

 Melaleuca incana - Grey honey myrtle

 Banksia aemula - Wallum banksia

 Banksia marginata 'Mini Marge'

  Melaleuca stypheloides - Prickly paperbark

 Kunzia ambigua - Tick bush

 Agonis flexuosa - Willow myrtle

 Largarostrobus franklinii - Huon pine

 Callistomon viminalis 'Captain Cook'

 Callistomen citrinis - Crimson bottlebrush

 Acacia cardiophylla - Golden lace wattle

 Brachychiton populneus - Kurrajong
A very stout upright tree in the natural world so this example wins the prize for the most out of character tree.

  Agonis flexuosa - Willow myrtle
Yes the same species as  No 11 above but you wouldn't think so. Such is the difference in maintenance practices.

 Allocasuarina torulosa - Rose sheoak

 Eucalyptus camalulensis - Rive red gum

 Melaleuca stypheloides - Prickly paperbark
 This one was a particularly impressive example, mirroring much of the naturla growth patterns.

 Kunzia ericoides - Burgan

 Leucopogon parviflorus - Coastal beard heath

  Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree

  Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree

  Leptospermum laevigatum - Coastal tea tree

The last three examples of the Coastal tea tree show the versatility of styling options and differences in schools of thought from 'natural' to the more confined traditional  tighter model.
A wonderful exhibition and symposium - congratulations to the club and organizers.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Post 200 Pots in progress

Post 200 makes for quite a milestone.
I've recently amalgamated my pot numbering for the smaller and larger pots as the interface between them was becoming fuzzy. The big pot I've just made, below becomes Pot No 204.
200 pots and 200 posts, a double milestone.

I've been working on making a kiln load of small to medium pots for the market day in May. Many of these are now close to dry. And then along came an order for about 14 pots, many of them quite large and one in particular was needed sooner rather than later. So I jumped straight onto it and hope that I can accelerate the drying to something less than three weeks.

 This is work in progress. The pot is a bowed wall rectangular pot with truncated corners, a big square flange rim and a lower rib. Straight walls can be a challenge and the only answer is to slab build with a heavy wall ( this one is 11mm) with the clay quite hard leather hard and manage the movement of the material so there are no bend memory records made for the clay to revert to in firing. Much more care and attention is needed to the joints the dryer the build clay.

 After a few hours of work here is the finished pot. The final target length is about 450mm so at this point it is closer to 510mm. With all that clay it's pretty hefty to flip.

 In these shots you can detect the bow in the walls. Its pretty small but I think makes for an attractive design, and is becoming something of a signature. Since first experimenting with bowed walls this is getting close to an answer that I'm going to be replicating. The depth of the rim and feet, combined with the flat walls and sharp edges makes for a pot that's fairly assertive in its presence, but a good looker all the same.

 The other challenge with a build like this one is the need to prepare a number for slabs of different thickness. I have found that even with a well made slab roller the roller cylinders, which are tubes, will deform while rolling and the clay at the edge of the slabs will be thinner than at the center. I might yet dissassemble it and fill the rollers with concrete. But for now the best answer comes from rolling the clay when it is softer than you might want for immediate use. The result of that strategy is sheets of clay lying around the garage drying for a couple of days before they are ready to use. For a big pot like this that means one for the floor, two for the walls, one for the feet and base props, and one more for the rim, 5 in all.

Two more shots to show the wall configuration. I've probably said it before but commissions are good to push you to do something that you might not otherwise do or to try a different technique. My normal practice has been to form the fillet between walls and base during the build, but on this one I chose to leave that until last. With leather hard walls and base a bead of malleable clay can be shaped into the fillet with a finger run without any concern for deforming the wall profile and produces a much nicer internal finish. There is something satisfying about persevering to produce an internal surface that you'd be happy to have on display. The result in making this pot will encourage me to follow the same practice more often, or at least perhaps once I see how it performs going through the firing pipeline.

 This is a low flat walled oval about 400 long with a thin rectangular rim flange.

 This is another very similar but this time with a 'riveted' rim. I've been wanting to make one of these for quite a while and will be interested to see how it feel on completion. I made a shohin of similar design too and perhaps it is better at that scale.

And this last one is just a few of the shohin pots - of about 10 that I've made recently. These are bone dry and ready to bisque but will now slot in around the big commission job.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Post 199 Coastal Tea Tree, Leptospermum laevigatum


The Coastal Tea-tree is an Australian native which had an original range around the south east of the country but has since been introduced successfully to a much broader span of coastal Australia and internationally. In south east Queensland for example it has been suggested that it has been introduced there during reafforestation after sand mining. 
It can grow as a shrub to small tree to around 8 metres high. It flowers from late winter through to mid spring, and flowering is often heavy with the bushes being covered in the white flowers which are attractive to insects.

 
 Leaves are broad, oval and blunt-tipped, to 3 cm long, stiff and flat.

 
There are a number of climate zones in this large area so it is a pretty adaptable plant.

 
Stems are fissured and the bark flakes in thin pale strips.  This picture is from California; look at that trunk.
 
Flowers are white and about 20 mm diameter. The flower-cup (calyx) is hairless. Fruit are non-woody and flat-topped capsules with 6-11 cells, perhaps 6 to 7mm across.
 
 
This picture shows again the nature of the trunk development in a completely natural setting. To replicate this in a mature bonsai would dramatic. The species is commonly used for bonsai. Here are some examples:

 
This one was at the IBC Gold Coast conference last year. It just happens to be in one of my pots which works very well I think.

 

 
This picture shows the nice tight canopy that is possible when grown as a bonsai. 

The Coastal Tea Tree will be a feature tree for demonstration at the Victorian Native Bonsai Symposium in Melbourne in April. If anyone is going bring back a bundle!

There are about 83 species of Tea-tree in Australia and 17 species in Victoria or is that Leptospermums because the name Tea-tree is also used for some Melaleucas; quite confusing.
Many grow in wet conditions but there are just as many that don't.  Many have similar and smaller leaf shape and size and similar flower so the trick is to find those species suitable to the climate zone, there will always be quite a few. The species has been widely used for hybridisation and garden use with a wide variety of foliage and flower colours and leaf shapes available in many garden centres. Finding the straight un-hybridised species, best suited to a climate zone can be challenging and laevigatum is generally available only in native plant and community nurseries.

Anyone interested in investing more time in growing Australian natives as bonsai should look closely at this one, an essential for any native collection.