Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to start a bonsai hobby

Some of the materials for sale in a
bonsai shop in Diliman Quezon City.
Like most hobbies, bonsai will cost money. The cost will depend on the material and the price of the material will depend on the species, size, trunk, branches and other artistic qualities. 


Materials like the Bantigue, which is found on beaches and islands, is expensive and so are other rare indigenous trees and imported materials. Definitely not for beginners.


The ones I buy are the smaller ones
beside the larger bonsais.
But  local and popular species like balete, bignay, kamuning bilog and haba, mulawin etc. are affordable and if you live in rural areas, they could be collected from mountains for free, but be informed that collecting trees in the wild is regulated by the DENR. I read that because of extensive bonsai hunting, Bantigue and other local indigenous trees are now threatened. In Japan, the practice of yamadori (bonsai hunting) almost wiped out their wild junipers and has since replenished them in the wild.  

Another thing to consider is the size of bonsai you want to keep. I live in a crowded place where I have to pass through narrow eskenitas to get to our house definitely large bonsai is not suitable in this situation. 

Many of their materials are rock grown
 and rock clasping.
So, my materials are small, easy to transport, move around, change places, and maintain. I can lift the pot on the working table without any trouble unlike large bonsai that requires two to three persons to move making it difficult to maintain.

Indoor or outdoor? Mine are all outdoors. Select species suitable for your purpose. Ficuses are suitable indoor bonsai.

Where do I get the materials? If you're like me who do not have the time and the opportunity to hunt in the wild, you can get affordable materials at UP Diliman near the Science Complex. This is where I shop for materials, relatively near where I live. 

Do not buy materials from ordinary gardens shops because they (well, most of them) think that they are selling bonsai when in fact what they are selling are materials. Once I saw a small kalyos material on display in garden shops at Taytay Market, I asked how much it costs, without blinking an eye, the shop owner told me, "Five thousand pesos." I was shocked. I told her that the kalyos is a material and not yet a bonsai, it will still take years before it become one. She was oblivious insisting that it was a bonsai by pointing at the aluminum wires wrapped around a lanky branch--might as as well wrap an aluminum wire around a tomato tree's branch and call it a bonsai.

                                                             How about tools and implements?

These are my "surgical" instruments:
1. Hacksaw blade for reducing trunks and
    cutting large branches
2. Ordinary scissors
3. Itak for cultivating
4. Aluminum wires from junkshops/
     or from meralco linemen
5. Insect spray for aphids and other bugs.
6. Malathion.
7. Sand.
8. Hammer for carving rocks etc.
8. Clipper

How much do these cost?

Clipper= 100 Pesos
Scissors=50 Pesos
Aluminum Wires=250-300 a kilo
Spray=50 Pesos
Hacksaw blade 24 tpi=30 Pesos
Malathion 50=Pesos
Sand=Free
Hammer=standard household tool. 
Every house has one.
Fertilizer=Urea, 20 pesos a month

How about pots?

Another article. I'm still learning about it.
How much does it cost?

Most of the materials I buy cost from three to five hundred pesos each, depends on how I haggle with the shop owner. I buy small materials which is six inches to a foot high. Same price as any ordinary garden plants or orchids or roses (not the mini roses).

As for the price of the larger material, they could go from a couple of thousand pesos to twenty thousand up depending on the species and other "artistic" quality of the material. 

I started my hobby with a five hundred pesos.

Of course just as important is education. Engaging in the hobby requires a lot of things to consider like training, defoliating, trimming, repotting, fertilizing, soil mixture, amount of sunlight etc

But don't be bothered by these stuffs most local trees will survive and thrive planted in ordinary soil, in direct sunlight while they are in training. Just don't forget to water the trees and fertilize them, remember they are in pots and have no access to nutrients and water or moisture from the ground. 

All information about these topics are readily available on the internet through local bonsai forums and bonsai blogs. No need to cram, believe me you have all the time in the world to learn about these things. Research.

And the most important requirement: Patience!








Monday, August 25, 2014

Holiday! Study on fusion (not nuclear fusion!)

Early morning coffee and doing the plants, a very calming and, may I say, a very spiritual activity that is much better than all that religious stuffs.

I read some interaction from a forum by bonsai hobbyist on the net and there are a lot of discussions about technical stuffs which was really helpful, but there's one advice, which was given by the more mature member of the group that stood out: patience. If you do not have patience, then bonsai is not for you for  you may end up killing a lot of trees.

And basically, this is what bonsai is all about. Achieving perfection (or beauty) is in controlling the wild nature, guiding the growth and most of all it is about waiting, patiently waiting. 

The complex
trunk of a wild banyan.
I don't know if this is true, but most bonsai artist and enthusiast are senior citizens and many of them live to very old age. There are those who claim that this is because of the calming effect of the art/hobby. I don't know about that but there's truth in the serenity the activity provides.

Of course, I didn't engage in this hobby because I want to live to a very old age. Hell, we die when we die there's nothing we can do about it. I do this for the same reason everybody else has: to engage in creative/productive activity that will disengage the mind from the daily doldrums of toiling, pressure from work and home, and the daily struggle of fighting off thoughts about the absurdity of religions, etc.

This is my favorite material to work on. The Ficus Microcarpa or the Chinese "Tigerbark" Banyan. One of our retired teachers was a bonsai enthusiasts and he gave me some cuttings to start on, aside from teaching me some stuffs about bonsai-ing

This variety of ficus is the perfect material (i.e. for me):
  • Tolerates reduction, defoliation, cutting etc. very well.
  • The tiger bark simulates age.
  • Very flexible and easy to train.
  • Grows a lot of aerial roots. One trick to encourage the growth of aerial roots is to place it in a damp or humid place. The water in the air will stimulate the growth of aerial roots.
I fused them on the upper part and left
lower part loose.
The lower part that I did not
 fuse. The loose saplings
will develop into a complex
 trunk.
This material is a study in fusion. 
I have grown a lot of microcarpas from cuttings. It would take a very long time for each individual cuttings to grow so to create a bonsai out of these little cuttings, I fused them. The process is simple: bundle all the saplings and then wrap them together with a plastic straw and then wait for about a year for fusion to happen. But remember this, the more saplings you fuse the greater the number of them dying in the process. 

Checking the branches. In this project, I
am aiming ofr the banyan style.
The focus is on the trunk and roots.



Whenever I trim my materials, I
collect the cuttings and plant
them. They grow fast if planted in
loamy soil and placed in a damp 
place.
   

    











Instead of cutting or wiring the
 branches, I decided to
plant them. This is to achieve the
complex trunk I planned
for this material.

I was thinking about waiting. I think most people have lost the art waiting,. It seems that waiting is now a waste of time. I mean, everything now has their "instant" counter part. But "instant" stuffs lose something: their uniqueness. Whether it be in food products, clothing, drinks, etc. Anyway...



I am lowering the trunk. I have
no fancy tools like clips, braces etc.
So, I'm doing it the way  the monks
used to do it, by using sticks and
 tourniquet.















I re-wrapped the trunk with plastic straw for further fusing and also this will promote the tapering by choking the wrapped trunk thereby returning the growth  or energy back to the lower trunk.

Again, my goal for this tree. That is, if I live to see it. Hararharahar...


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Morning/Three year old sampaloc


Why is it that when I water my plants, it rains? Last night this happened, again.

Woke up at seven, had my coffeee and checked some plants that I have placed in the nooks and crannies of our lot for something to work on.

Three years ago I saw a lot of sampaloc wildlings growing under the school's old sampaloc tree. I transplanted three of them them in pots. I think the other two died from drowning in the flood but this one survived. This has been in training for almost two years now and I have forgotten to remove the wires and this resulted in the angular bend of the trunk. But with age this will soften up, I hope.

I am checking which branch to keep and which branch to remove. The upper branch is larger than the lower branch which means this is older than the lower branch, but an ideally proportional tree has its bigger and older branches in the lower part of the trunk while the younger branches are in the higher part of the trunk. 


Definitely it has to go. 

(I was reading the bonsai forum on the net and I found out that many young Filipinos are into it. One reason, from what I have read, is that engaging in bonsai relieves their stress.)




This is the lower branch which needs to be older and larger than the branches in the upper part of the tree. See the grooves, the forgotten wire did that. This is a young tree and it will heal.

(I have one regret, I should have started doing this when I was in my teens. But I was into guitar then.)





Trimming, wiring and twisting the branches into position.
 This is the new profile. I wired the lower trunk to promote tapering. 

This is what I'm aiming for. 




Maybe twenty years from now hehehe. If I'm still alive!

Sorry about the feet, the electric fan is blowing the paper.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Alagaw Project




This an alagaw (Premna), a very popular bonsai material here in Rizal. There are two types of alagaws that I know of: the puno (tree) which is the broad leafed one that Tagalogs and Kapampamgans use to wrap fish like bangus in cooking paksiw and the smaller shrub alagaw locally called alagaw gubat.






Pros:

  • It is easy to grow and tolerant to pruning.
  • It can be grown from cuttings.
  • Easy to train.
  • Grows fast.
  • Grows branches and leaves almost everywhere on the tree.
  • It's leaves responds to miniaturization very well. In wild the leaves can grow from four to five inches in length but with regular defoliation and trimming, the size can be reduced to about half an inch up to, I have read, an eight of an inch.
  • It can be placed both under direct sunlight or in the shade. But this is not an indoor plant. 
  • Tolerant of insects. I think (caveat: I am not an expert) the odor emitted by the leaves acts as an insect repellent because I have not seen alagaw leaves attacked or consumed by insects. I know this from observation because we have three alagaw trees in our lot. 
Con:

I have one thing against Alagaw, it is softwood. It produces beautiful deadwood (jin or shari) but because the wood is not dense, the dead wood decays easily. I haven't tried varnish or preservative yet.


The tree is too tall for me so I reduced it by about three inches from the top.






I do not throw away the cuttings. I collect and plant them in pots because they are materials to work on in the future.

This is where the cuttings go, in a nook where there's a lot of humidity.  





Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Kalyos Material/ Visualization

This a new Kalyos material that I bought from Katipunan Avenue last Sunday. 

I got this very cheap because this is a newly dug main trunk. Judging from the growth this is already an established material.

It was heavy and I had difficulty commuting from Quezon City to Taytay but it was worth the effort.














One thing I learned from bonsai artists is visualization. 

Before I use to wire and train trees according to my whim. I often change the direction of the branches because I have no definite idea what form I want the tree to have and this results to stress, sometimes killing a tree.



Now I do sketching before I train and wire a tree. I'm learning.


















This is how I want the tree to develop. I reckon this will take about five to eight years.


Conversation with Jokath, Penjing Artist

Last week I was walking along Katipunan Avenue when I noticed an old house filled with bonsai trees. I stood outside and admired the trees. An old man came out and smiled at me. I smiled back and complimented his creations. He was Jokath. The trees started a conversation and the next thing I knew he was teaching me the basics of Penjing, the art of miniature landscaping. (According to the Tarpaulin on his door, Jokath won the Gold and Bronze price in the National Penjing Competition and Exhibition 2013 held at SM Antipolo).


 His new project.


Some of his works













Saturday, August 16, 2014

Weekend Ritual/ Stuffs about Bucida Spinoza

I almost forgot about this bucida espinosa. I bought this a bout a year ago and I have been training the trunk for almost six months now. Bucidas are "natural bonsai" material because of its small leaves and layered branch structure.

Another thing is that it is available in garden shops. A small one costs around a hundred pesos and a larger one, about a meter high, costs around five hundred pesos up.

Bucidas' trunks and branches are not flexible like the ficuses, vitex and other materials. They are rigid and breaks easily when they become woody. So, its best to train when they are still young and green.


Bucidas are tough but, due to ignorance, I have killed one of this way back about two years ago when I trimmed its roots, brutally may I say, and transferred it in a shallow dish. I was impatient then, now I know better and so the mantra is now do things softly and gradually.

I checked the wires and it's already biting into the trunk. One thing about wires is that when they become embedded into the branch, the branch swells and in the process becomes deformed like Popeye's biceps. So, though most of the times I forget, I try to routinely check the wires especially during the rainy season because this is the season when plants have their growth spurt.

I wound more wires into the base of the trunk to promote deformation that will eventually result to the tapering of the trunk.

Though many find the S-shape trunk cliche, it is still a beautiful trunk form (or structure, whatever). 

A friend, who once in a while visits, keeps telling me that I am torturing these poor trees. But I tell him that the beauty of these trees come out when their wild nature is tamed and direction is provided for their growth.

Just like pet dogs, cats, and especially people...Anyway, Buddhist monks, who invented the art, knew this all along. Actually the trimming, wiring and training can be so engrossing that I sometimes think about stuffs.  I, sort of, become a little philosophical or the activity made me think about philosophical stuffs, anyway, whatever.

                                                







I am accumulating bonsai materials and passers-by are already asking if I'm selling but I'm not. But there may come a time that I have to let go of some of these trees. But not today because I love the activity and the connection with nature that they provide for me, whatever that means. Anyway, they are still developing and so is the art of waiting.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for Pruning a Kamuning Binangonan

I slept early last night so I woke up early. I went outside and saw that the everything was very quite, no sound of pots and pans, no shouts from angry parents and no pupils going to their schools. 

Everything was very still and the weather very calm so when I opened the Tv and found out that the local government suspended classes I was both glad and worried; maybe,this was the calm before the storm. I took the time to do a little pruning and defoliating some of my neglected materials, the weeds show it.

I'm working with a Kamuning Binangonan, a tree common in Rizal Province and one of the common bonsai material available here. 


I have had this material for  quite a time now. I started training this from stump and it has now well developed main and secondary branches but there was one part of this tree that had given me eyesore (pointed by the arrow)

.




The branch was out of proportion with the whole tree and made this part of the tree looked like one of Popeye's biceps.

Covering the branch with a piece of paper to see if cutting it off would make it look better.




Finally, after a few minutes of looking again and again, I decided to cut it off. this is difficult decision because it took years  for this branch to grow this size.

After cutting, I checked, again, if I made the right decision.

Comparing the two. The profile is now sexier than before.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


The operation was over. I covered the wound with a plastic sheet to prevent dehydration.