Welcome to All in One Bonsai

Bitten by the Bug


Welcome to All in One Bonsai...a blog that aims to remind me of what I have forgotten. Over the years I have been finding out as much as I can about the art of bonsai. I hope the information in this blog will shed some light to the beginning bonsai enthusiast out there.


I saw some bonsai trees at a corner market one night in Taipei and asked the guy if he was willing to teach me how to create these miniature trees. He directed me to a night school where all the instruction was in Chinese. My Chinese ability is very ordinary at the least so although I was learning bits and pieces, I really wasn't getting all I wanted from the course. The best parts were when the teacher would start pruning a beautiful tree or when he showed us how to repot a bonsai. The mystery was still out there but my interest wasn't waning, if anything it fueled my motivation to find out more. And so I did.


Let the adventure begin...


Recently I have discovered the joy of pottery. Bonsai and pottery are close friends so it was only a matter of time before I was introduced to her. Welcome to All in One Bonsai...and pottery.


Feel free to visit my site where you can purchase some of my handmade pottery. Quite a few pieces have been wood fired as it is the prefered method here in Taiwan:

AllinoneCeramics



Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Mini Bonsai



The King of Kaohsiung

It's Christmas time here in Taiwan and I am yet again on a well deserved holiday.  Christmas time in Taiwan is not the same as I remember when I was a young boy growing up in the city by the bay.  Christmas time in Geelong in the mid 70's was a magical time, a time when I believed in Santa Claus, a time to enjoy the beach lifestyle with my family throughout the summer break.  

Christmas time as a 41 year old in Taiwan is different but still possess its own comforts.  The fever of Christmas does not hit Taiwan very hard, which I enjoy and being in the Northern hemisphere, December is when the sun isn't at the height of its power. Taipei is about 10 degrees Celsius, however, a 5 hour bus ride down south will give you another 10 degrees.  It is here in a city called Kaohsiung that we find ourselves searching for a mini bonsai teacher who is awaiting our arrival.  

I have always been drawn to small bonsai and have attempted to slowly accumulate my own collection.  Unfortunately, the end result, more often than not has been one of despair, watching them lose vigor and ultimately die.  Intuitively, I felt guilty leaving a small bonsai on my bench alone because I had the feeling that it was just a matter of time before it died, something was missing.  This fact and the need to escape the cold winter of Taipei brought us to the city of  Kaohsiung to meet a mini bonsai specialist.  He was very welcoming and very passionate about bonsai.  Meet the king of Kaohsiung, Mr.陳國生


Mr 陳國生 has an arts degree and since retiring has devoted all of his time to cultivating and teaching the joys of owning small bonsai.

We find Mr.陳國生 patiently waiting for us at the front of his daughter's apartment on the ground level, sitting at a table studying a bonsai in the palm of his hand.  He welcomes us with a big smile and calmly invites us to sit.  We begin asking a myriad of questions which makes his eyes sparkle, I assume an acknowledgement of his earlier curiosity in similar questions he once had.  

ENVIRONMENT is the key for a small bonsai to survive, he tells us.  Small bonsai that are placed is a small pot need help from what is around them to stay healthy and alive.  This makes sense!  I like it when things make sense.  The other key area is what soil you plant your tree in.  A sandy soil is extremely crucial.

A major environmental must for these trees is HUMIDITY.  You can create humidity for your mini bonsai by placing them in a tray of stones.  This is super important for the survival of your trees.  As you water your bonsai the water which drains onto the rocks will eventually be evaporated and create much needed moisture.  Small trees love this as their leaves will be constantly sucking water into them from the atmosphere that you have made.  Well done.  If you have mini bonsai, do this straight away and your trees will be happier and more importantly, healthier.  

These small guys are all placed on a tray that is covered with small pebbles, tiny pebbles.

The humidity in this tray is excellent.  
                                   
A close up of the type of rocks, pebbles, river sand, that you need to create the environment of humidity for your small bonsai.  

MOSS - another key feature that is needed to develop the ideal environment for survival.  If you can make moss grow in a pot than that is a sure sign that your bonsai will grow in the same area.  Practice your moss growing skills and perfect it.  
You can also see wire that is criss crossed over the moss.  Moss that you collect from a forest or even on a concrete wall will work out fine.  It is crucial that you just don't place this on your bonsai and expect it to grow nicely around your tree straight away.  The first thing your should do is put it is a pot and clamp it down using wire like hooks, on some soil.  The tiny moss roots need to stay connected to the soil for them to stabilise.  
                                   

Once the moss has settled down in the pot for some time and it remains healthy, remove it by cutting some of it away with scissors.  You can then place this moss to your bonsai.  Again take two pieces of bonsai wire and use them like hair pins, gently securing the moss to the soil.  The moss will eventually grow over the wire.  The key for moss to grow on your bonsai soil if you have placed it there, is for the small roots to stay connected to the soil.

I asked Mr. 陳國生 about how he deals with insects that damage his trees.  His answer was interesting.  He uses other plants to protect his bonsai.  He has researched and found out what other grasses or plants naturally grow near the trees that he is developing as bonsai. He has learnt from what nature naturally does.  He then puts these grasses and plants in pots and places them on the same tray that houses his bonsai.  He tells me that this method works very well.  

Mr. 陳國生's small rooftop nursery.

Unbelievably these are the same type of tree.  With careful pruning and care the small saplings on the right have the ability to develop into the beautiful bonsai tree on the left.
This tropical ficus does not need soil to grow.
It is placed on this dish of stones.  Around Mr. 陳國生's nursery he has bowls of water which add to the humidity levels, thus creating a very comfortable environment for small trees to grow.

We also made some small bonsai pots!
All in All, we enjoyed a great time learning more about small bonsai.  To see more of Mr. 陳國生's work, both trees and pottery, visit his facebook page at :  陳國生

Thank you to the King of 
Kaohsiung.




Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Pottery

A Table for Two and anyone else 

I don't know why but I do like the look of an attractive table or a door with character.  One theory:

Tables can be the place where friends or family sit down and either talk, eat or drink.  I like this image....especially with friends.

Doors are the entry and exit points from your inside and outside worlds.  A good door is also the first thing that welcomes visitors.  A good door keeps you safe at night.  Everybody should have a nice door.  

Anyway, a mate and I sit at a wooden table most Friday afternoons, beer in hand,  and talk about recent happenings.  It's a good way to end the week.  

I tried to recreate the wooden table out of clay.  It looks something like this:


It is a small table found just outside a small German restaurant.

Those cups are filled with German beer.
                                 
     The seats are also made out of wood.  Little stumps that get more comfortable after each beer.  I am yet to make them but I think I will.

Enjoy the holiday season everyone!  And may your cup always be filled...


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Bonsai Bonus

Bonsai by the Road

It was a Saturday afternoon after a healthy sleep in that Annie and I ventured up the mountain for some chicken and tofu.  Two of my favorites.  On the way, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some gigantic bonsai. The first one I saw was growing straight out of the ground!  
This tree looks like it has been planted into the ground in this spot recently.  The bamboo poles are to keep the tree stabilized while the roots re-establish themselves.  

The road was about 10 meters away from this pine tree.

You can see that this tree has been trained to remain smallish for a garden tree.  

I suspect that this tree will be sold to a park or a wealthy person's abode.

Another pine growing not far away from the mother tree.

We walked a short distance around the bend and came upon more large bonsai grown in huge pots.

A close up of the soil.  Nice granular soil that will aide the drainage process.

I think that these trees have been grown in the ground, root pruned and repotted into these large tubs. Again, sticks aide in supporting the stability of the tree during strong winds.  If the roots are damaged, the tree will suffer and die.  The roots must be held in check and feel stable for the tree to survive.  

You could take a bath in this one.

Hello Mr. Semi Cascade.

On the way out to our wheels I saw this lonely pot.  I would say it has a good story to tell.

The view from the road as we drove away.  A great little pit stop in the hills of Taiwan.

Bonsai Stock


One Year in the Ground

It is the end of November here in Taiwan and the weather seems to have changed overnight.  It is still Autumn but Winter is just around the corner.  

At the moment I am on a 4 day holiday so we decided to celebrate the one year anniversary of planting these juniper trees in the ground by checking them out.  

One year ago, exactly, I bought 70 juniper trees that were grown from cuttings.  They were grown in the ground for 6 months, dug up and given to me.  I then replanted them higher up in the Yamingshan mountains where I plan to thicken up the trunks as fast as possible and hopefully make them all into attractive bonsai trees..  

After a year, all but 2 have survived.  I want to leave them in the ground for 2 or 3 more years.  I have been wiring some trees while they have been growing to try and create some interesting shapes.  The main reason for doing this is that I want these trees appearing older than they really are and by having twists and turns in the trunk, will go a long way to achieving this desired aged look.  

There are many bonsai growers in this area and I have been told that the best thing to do is wait until winter, dig them all out again, wire them all, and then plant them back in the ground.  Winter is the safest time to do this as the trees become dormant, which means the tree's growth has almost stopped completely.   Potential damage to the roots as you dig them out will be minimized during the winter months.  The other important reason to dig them out of the ground is because at the moment, roots from neighboring junipers will be intertwining, each stealing nutrients from each other under the ground.  I need to give them more space.  This will encourage the trees to grow even quicker.  
They have all grown and are looking healthy.

In winter I will dig these junipers trees out, wire them, and then replant them further away from each other where each individual tree's roots are free to suck up as much nutrients as possible as opposed to competing with a tree growing too close to it.

I took the wire off this tree.  The branch has held its shape.  

We will revisit these guys in winter.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Ceramic Tea Pot and Tree

Lanchoo?

Tea in Taiwan is a drink that many millions of Taiwanese throughout the island enjoy.  Visit a local family and the first thing they will do is offer you tea.  It is no surprise that the local Taiwanese potters love making tea pots.  Below is a tea pot that I made under the watchful eye of Mr.Chen, our pottery teacher.

100% clay.

The tea pot is functional but many just like displaying unusual tea pots.

We studied drift wood and tried to copy the texture.



The reason it looks a little darker in some places is because I rubbed black ink into the clay with a tissue.

A close up of the handle.

It took me 16 hours to make it!

I am also making more bonsai trees.  Front view.

Right side view.  Each tree i make becomes a little better.  I think I need to make the trees lean forward slightly more.  Next time.