Bonsai School Report

I attended the NIBS Bonsai School on Saturday and really enjoyed a day that was characterised by the following:

1. High quality information regarding a number of bonsai related topics such as conifer maintenance in autumn, windswept styling and a species focus on elms.  Great stuff!

2.  High level banter between Mr Snart and Mr Eejit.

3.  A chance to peruse and purchase wares directly from Willowbog Bonsai.


I was really looking forward to the day as a number of the topics were quite relevant for me in terms of the material that I have and the work that I intend to do over the coming months.  As always I made the most of Peter’s visit and made a few purchases.  As a result I now have enough wire to see me through the forseeable future, a beautiful Walsall pot and I even grabbed a bunch of old copies of Bonsai Europe magazine.


It doesn’t matter to me that they’re over a decade old –  I love reading and these will provide valuable photographic inspiration for me.


I didn’t buy this with a particular tree in mind.  Just thought it was a beautiful pot.  I’ll fill it soon enough!


Japanese Larch progression

After my previous post that had negative overtones of my travails in the world of bonsai, I thought I would create a post showing a relatively successful project so far.  This Japanese Larch (Larix Kaempferi) was bought as raw material three years ago from Willowbog Bonsai (Peter Snart had visited for the launch of the NIBS Bonsai School). I wasn’t long as a member of the NIBS and wanted a cheap piece of raw material to work on straight away to get my future bonsai collection started.

1 apr 11


It was first styled with a lot of help back in April 2011. All branching was wired.

2 first style apr 11

That year all new growth was closely pinched to start to build up ramification of the branches.  It was very well fed.

6 aut 11

Autumn image

The following Spring I rootpruned and repotted into a mica training pot.

8 may 12

May 2012 – recovering from repot

13 sep 13

September 2013

Last Autumn it was ready for a second styling.  Wire was applied from base to tip of each branch. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo. But I was much happier with a dramatic increase in foliage and ramification over the previous year and a half.  Spring this year and I repotted the tree into a round and rough textured pot that complemented the bark.

19 mar 14

March 2014

Growth was slow this year due to substantial pruning of thick surface roots in particular but it still pushed out some new shoots which were pinched in the usual manner.  Below is the most recent image taken at the weekend with moss applied and foliage tidied up.  Following advice, the apex shall be further developed, natural moss will be developed on the soil surface and I hope to finally work on the jins/shari next year.

20 may 14

May 2014


September 2014



Not having a great time of it in bonsai world these days – some of you may have noticed that a lot of photographs are not loading on my blog or on various pages on this site.  This is because I accidently deleted most of the images from my media library and they cannot be retrieved! What’s more I didn’t save those images anywhere else, they were just loaded straight from the camera card. SCHOOLBOY ERROR!  Please bear with me while I try and refresh the affected posts/pages by replacing the images (somehow!).  Thankfully recent posts are unaffected.



I’m referring to an attempted threadgraft on an Amur Maple which I performed at the start of spring this year.

Side A

This is a poor picture of the tree back in January.  A pretty straight, mature lower trunk followed by a much younger apex and not much inbetween.  This had bothered me ever since I bought it online four years ago but this year I asked for a few opinions on the Bonsai Ireland hub as to the better front and then decided that i would try and address the lack of branching on one side by performing a thread graft using a shoot from another tree developed from cutting.

DSCN4763A hole was drilled pointing slightly downwards and the shoot threaded through from right to left in the above picture.

DSCN4764You can see after a few weeks things were going well and for the whole summer I left the threaded shoot unpruned to encourage it to thicken as much as possible.  All other shoots on the donor tree were pruned to aid this.  However a few weeks ago I noticed a deterioration in the shoot and upon closer inspection the join at the exit hole on the trunk was loose and the branch damaged at this new junction.  I now believe this to be due to the weight of the branch pulling it down and preventing the the two cambium layers effectively joining .  I pruned the new shoot back but it was too late and the remained of the branch died.  Last night I had a closer look and it just fell off.


DSC_0331The donor branch on the entry side also popped off and so now I’m back to square one except with two wounds to heal! I’m starting to wonder if I should just lop off the apex and create a much shorter ‘broom style’ tree using a shorter trunk and using the thick lowest branch as a secondary trunk? Or maybe just lop off everything and start from scratch with the bare mature trunk?  Opinions would be appreciated 😉




Winning Trees

Here’s shots of some winning trees and others from the Belfast Autumn Flower Show.  Over 60 trees were entered, I believe, and not much space to exhibit them in and also no backdrops so not ideal but the guys who set it up still made it look terrific – well done Ian B and Graham in particular.  I really enjoyed being part of it and also viewing the display.  The judge deserves a lot of credit also for providing constructive feedback for each placed tree in each class – I was a bit nosy and read all of the cards, making the most of this as a learning experience.  A lot of great trees entered!

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Set up!

This weekend is the Belfast City Autumn Fair/Flower Show held in Botanic Gardens and every year there is a display of bonsai competing in various classes.  I’ve never attended this show yet but after a bit of cajoling from Bonsaieejit to get NIBS members to enter trees, I decided I may as well gain a bit of experience and enter a tree or two.  I’m not confident that my trees can be recognised ahead of others in such a competition but we were assured that it’s all just a bit of fun and nobody takes it too seriously.  It shall be a valuable learning experience in terms of what it takes to successfully enter a tree but also perhaps some feedback from a/the judge can help me to improve the particular species I’m entering.

Anyway, out of the mostly raw material I have, I decided to enter my kifu/chuhin Chinese Elm in the ‘indoors’ class, my Satsuki Azaelea in the ‘evergreen’ class, my Japanese Larch in the ‘coniferous’ class and my Fuji Cherry in the ‘shohin’ class.  It was a bit hectic trying to prepare the trees at such short notice but I’m satisfied with how they look given the short time frame I gave myself, the level of material and with it being my first time displaying my trees publicly.

Before and after shots:

Satsuki Azaelea – dead leaves removed, moss added.

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Japanese Larch – dead/yellowing needles removed, downward growing foliage also removed to reveal cleaner branch lines.  Moss added. Wire removed but reapplied on the bottom branch which hadn’t held.

DSC_0115 DSC_0241











Fuji Cherry – had a bit of a disaster with this one! I was attempting to remove a large knuckle from a branch but got distracted and very clumsily cut too far.  The tree is now minus a primary branch! From the front, I felt it was now a bit of an ugly image with two large prominent wounds and one of them would be very fresh so I decided to show it from the opposite side which didn’t have as much colour in the foliage but was overall a nicer image. Moss added.

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Chinese Elm – didn’t have to do much with this one. Moss already growing on the surface.  Just a light trim of extending shoots and removal of dead twig ends.



I was fortunate to have quite a bit of fine moss growing on other material in the garden so I just scraped off the top soil of the trees above and placed patches of moss together to try and achieve as natural a look as possible.  I think I just about got away with it but it does look a bit coarse/artificial in places.  I was doing this right up until I left for the show so I was almost past caring anyway  🙂

I arrived at the marquee last night to find a couple of other club members placing their trees.  It turns out there were so many entries that another table to needed to extend the display.  I placed my trees in the categories that I felt they would most likely do well in and gave the pots a quick polish with a babywipe.  I had a go at picking my own winners in each class but couldn’t choose. It’ll be tough to judge so many fine trees – glad I’m not doing it! Click on the gallery below to see some shots of classes:

I apologise for the quality of the photos, lighting was poor and I’m an inexperienced photographer! These were shots from last night so the displays have probably been adjusted since entries were allowed up to 10:30am.  I’m sure someone else may take better shots over the weekend.  I hope to visit the fair with my wife and kids today as it appears to be a very child friendly event with rides, music and other activities.