By Botanical Name

Bambusa sp.

Common Name:

Bamboo

General information:

There are a number of things called bamboo which everyone agrees are bamboo: Arundinaria sp., Bambusa sp., Phyllostachys sp., Sasa sp, and Sasaella sp. In addition, there are a number of things that look like bamboo, and are called bamboo, but aren’t, like Pogonatherum crinitum (“German bamboo”) and Peperomia ‘Bamboo Stalks.’ Then there is, of course, Nandina domestica (sacred or heavenly bamboo) which isn’t a bamboo, or even a grass, but a shrub related to barberry, and doesn’t even look much like bamboo.

Temperature:

Many bamboos need some frost protection. According to the Samsons, Bambusa sp. should never be exposed to temperatures under 66F.

Lighting:

Full sun to partial shade.

Watering:

Bamboo like lots of water, but not wet feet. They should be watered daily, but kept in fast-draining soil.

Feeding:

Use a high-nitrogen food, such as a lawn fertilizer. (It is, after all, a sort of grass!) Feed every two weeks throughout spring and summer.

Pruning and wiring:

Bamboo is generally styled as a grove, or used as an accent plant. Cut back yellowing or ratty-looking stalks. Cutting the stalks down in general will help to reduce the size of the plant. New stalks should appear almost immediately, although it is wise to leave a stalk or two uncut for good measure. The Samsons style their Bambusa as solitaires, saying that young bamboo can even be wired. Tomlinson says that large, interesting bamboo are occasionally grown alone, but that an individual stalk will only live for 5-6 years. Most shaping is done by thinning.

Propagation:

Divide the rhizomes. Bamboo are invasive, and will grow like crazy if you give them the space.

Repotting:

Every one to two years, in late spring. Use fast-draining mix, except in very shallow pots, or on slabs, where ordinary bonsai soil is OK. Murata notes that the rhizomes tend to push out of the soil and will need to be trimmed back when the plant is repotted to maintain a neat appearance. The Samsons recommend that the roots be spread evenly across the surface area of the pot.

Pests an diseases:

Red spider mite is common. Also, bamboo easily becomes pot bound.

Some species suitable for bonsai:

Bambusa multiplex - A fine stemmed bamboo, with small yellow- green leaves.

Bambusa nigra: Black bamboo - As stalks mature, the turn black. Generally safe to freezing tempertures.

Bambusa ventricosa: Buddha’s belly bamboo - Has a bright green trunk with ringed swellings that develop as the plant matures. Tomlinson pictures a Buddha’s belly bamboo he classifies as Phyllostachys aurea, an incorrect nominature.

 

Compiled by Sabrina Caine 

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Berberis sp.

Common Name:

Barberry

General Information:

The barberry is a thorny plant with yellow flowers. Some varieties are evergreen, some are deciduous. Native barberries are found on many continents, including both Americas, Europe and Asia. Barberry was once a popular hedge plant, but the tendency for some of its species, most notably B. vulgaris, to harbor fungus dangerous to corn and wheat crops has led to its virtual disuse. B. thunbergii and B. verruculosa are fairly disease-free and are making a comeback in popularity.

Lighting:

Barberries need light for their leaves to turn their vivid colours. Evergreen species can be placed in semi-shade.

Temperature:

Best grown in temperate zones. Deciduous barberries are hardy for colder zones than evergreens. All barberries have fine root structures which need a bit of frost protection if grown in shallow pots.

Watering:

Moderate watering, although the barberry prefers it a bit on the dry side.

Feeding:

Every two weeks throughout summer, using a very week liquid solution. Timed release fertilizer is a possibility, if it is not applied near the trunk. Barberries can be sensitive to salts, and the application of straight solid fertilizer can kill a tree. Barberries need little fertilizer, and plants in training pots or in the ground may need no fertilizer at all.

Pruning and wiring:

The barberry flowers on one year old shoots coming off of two year old wood. Consequently, wait until after flowering to prune. Then pinch back new growth as it occurs. Barberries bud back readily. It is easier to shape the barberry through pruning than by wiring, as many species are stiff and have nasty thorns.

Wiring can be done throughout the year, but as the barberry grows quickly, check the wiring often. The major challenge with barberry is getting a thick trunk. Choose a nursery plant which is well-developed, and prune it back gradually, over the course of several years. If you desire a single trunked bonsai, watch carefully for the emergence of suckers from the roots, and remove them immediately before they sap trunk vigour.

Propagation:

From seed, cuttings taken from softwood at the beginning of summer, or by air-layering. In addition, as the barberry suckers from the roots, it can be propagated by division.

Repotting:

Every 1-2 years in early spring, before bud burst. Tolerates root pruning well, and up to half of the root mass can be removed. Evergreen species are slightly less tolerant; remove up to 1/3 of the root mass. Use basic bonsai soil.

Pests and diseases:

Sawflies, aphids, powdery mildew, verticillium wilt, and rust have been reported, but the barberry tends to stay fairly pest-free.

Species useful for bonsai:

Berberis atropurpureum

Berberis aurea

Berberis buxifolia - A semi-evergreen shrub, it gets its name from its leaves, which resemble box leaves. It has yellow flowers, and purple fruit in autumn.

Berberis candidula: paleleaf barberry

Berberis chenaultii: Chenault barberry

Berberis darwinii - An evergreen species from South America. It flowers in spring with hanging blossoms of golden yellow tinged with red, and has blue/purple fruit in autumn. It is not hardy in cold climates.

Berberis haematocarpa: red barbery

Berberis julianae: wintergreen barberry - Native to China, it is an evergreen species growing up to 8 feet tall. It has dark green 3 inch leaves which turn purplish-bronze in winter. It has yellow flowers and blue-black berries. Will grow in zones 6-8.

Berberis koreana: Korean barberry - A deciduous shrub which will grow to 6 feet. It has yellow flowers, bright red fruit, and spectacular fall coloration. It flourishes in zones 3-7.

Berberis x mentorensis: Mentor barberry - This semi-evergreen is a hybrid of B. darwinii and B. empetrifolia. It will grow to 7 feet, and has slender, arching branches and yellow flowers. It is happy in zones 5-8. Berberis stenophylla - an evergreen species. Has beautiful dark yellow, almost orange, flowers. However, forming a single trunk is reputedly difficult. It is best used with clump styles.

Berberis thunbergii: barberry, Japanese barberry - A deciduous plant, with red or purple leaves and red winter fruit. It has yellow flowers tinged with red which turn orange in autumn. The leaves are small, up to 1 1/2 inches, making it a bonsai natural. It is found in zones 4-8.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’ - a very red cultivar.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’

Berberis thunbergii ‘Bagatelle’: dwarf purple barberry - a dwarf form with foliage which turns dark red in summer.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’ - A cultivar with bronze-red leaves. Useful for bonsai because it does not sucker as readily as the species.

Berberis thunbergii ‘Kobold’ - A green-leaved cv. which does not have problems with suckering from the roots.

Berberis verruculosa: warty barberry - The branches of this shrub are covered with warts and thorns, and the autumn fruit is blue-black. It is an evergreen, with glossy green leaves. It grows only to 3 feet, and its leaves are under 1 inch long, making it choice for bonsai. It thrives in zones 5-8.

Berberis vulgaris: European barberry

Bibliography:

Tomlinson’s “Complete Book of Bonsai” “The Creative Art of Bonsai,” by the Samsons Coats’ “Garden Shrubs and Their Histories” Owen’s “Bonsai Identifier.”

Florida Bonsai XI:1:7-9

Compiled by Sabrina Caine Edited by Thomas L. Zane

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Caesalpinia coriaria

Common Name:

Divi divi

General information:

This is the national tree of Curacao. In sheltered locations, the tree is symmetrical with a spreading mounded top as shown in the illustration. Exposed to the prevailing winds, however, it leans away from the wind, and its top, growing mostly to the lee side, appears to be blown out horizontally in the wind. In this characteristic it can be confused with Crescentia cujete (calabash tree) which may do the same. The pods are a rich source of tannin. As a tree it grows to approximately 30 feet tall.

Leaves alternate, 2x even-pinnate; leaflets numerous, regularly nearly touching to overlapping; each less than 1/2” long. The leaf is as fine as the Sweet acacia. Flowers are small, in terminal clusters, white or yellow, pea- like, inconspicuous, very fragrant and attractive to bees. Fruit are small curved, dished, or twisted flat pod with rounded ends, about 1 in. wide; often little longer than wide. The trunk and branches are gnarled, with gray bark.

Family:

Leguminosai, Caesalpinioideae.

Lighting:

Full sun.

Temperature:

Warm, do not like temperatures below 40 degrees F and will drop most leaves easily if too cold, but the new growth comes back nice and colourful.

Carolyn Carver’s personal experience with Divi-divi. They are leggy, and twiggy and extremely slow to trunk up. The new growth is exceptionally beautiful, a copper, pink colour. I have been working a large, 13 year old one, it’s about 24” tall, 1 1/2” caliper and wired in a weeping style. The branches are very thin and brittle and I always end up cracking them but they recover and leaf out. The creamy bloom is very sweet and pretty, but it’s the bright coloured new growth that attracts attention. They are beautifully delicate.

Bibliography:

200 Tropical Plants of the Caribbean. Illustrated with Photographs Reproduced in Full Colour by John M. Kingsbury. Bullbrier Press, Ten Snyder Heights, Ithaca, NY 14850, 1988.

Email from Carolyn Carver, Jupiter Bonsai, Jupiter, FL

Compiled by: Carolyn Carver, Jupiter Bonsai, Jupiter FL. Edited by: Thomas L. Zane 

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Cotoneaster sp.

Common Name:

Cotoneaster

General information:

Pronounced “Cot-o-ne-as-ter,” the name is taken from the Greek “Kotoneon” (quince) and the Latin “ad istar” (similarity). Although it really doesn’t seem similar to quince, this plant is a popular shrub as well as a bonsai favourite. Some varieties of Cotoneaster are evergreen, some deciduous, and some, like the rockspray, will either retain their leaves or lose them depending on the climate.

Most Cotoneasters are prostrate shrubs which will also climb over rocks and walls, but a few - the most notable being C. frigidus - will grow into trees. All varieties are well-loved for their showy berries, and many Cotoneasters have attractive pink or white flowers as well. Coates points out that Cotoneasters have an advantage over most Pyracanthas - no thorns!

Lighting:

Varies according to variety, although most Cotoneasters prefer full sun.

Temperature:

Some varieties are occasionally used for indoor bonsai, but most successfully grown outdoors. Generally hardy to zones 6 or 7, but frost protection is advised. Most Cotoneasters do well in hot climates.

Watering:

The Samsons claim that Cotoneaster likes a dry soil - allow it to dry out a bit between waterings, then water it well. Tomlinson takes the opposite view - that the Cotoneaster should be kept moist at all times! Although Cotoneaster likes good drainage, it dislikes a dry atmosphere, and can benefit from regular misting.

Feeding:

Every two weeks until flowering, then monthly during growth. Use liquid bonsai fertilizer or half-strength plant food.

Pruning and wiring:

Cotoneaster likes to sucker, so if it is not being grown as a clump, suckers must be vigilantly removed to promote trunk growth. New shoots should be shortened to one or two leaves throughout the growing season. The Cotoneaster takes well to wiring, which can be performed just before bud break in spring. Protect the bark when wiring. Cotoneasters lend themselves to mame and shohin, but are harder to grow as large bonsai.

Propagation:

Cuttings may be taken in June-July, and should take about six weeks to root. Air-layering may be used as well; the most optimal time is during bud-swelling in the spring. Cotoneaster may be grown from seed collected from the berries in fall, but the Samsons claim that seed grown plants are inferior to other methods. The seeds must be cold treated and sown in early spring.

Repotting:

Annually in spring, using fast-draining soil. Up to a third of the roots may be removed. Cotoneaster does not like to be bare-rooted.

Pests and diseases:

Aphids, woolly aphids, scale, leaf blight, crown-gall and bacterial fireblight. A showy display of berries can be decimated by a hungry blackbird. C. horizontalis is particularly attractive to bees and wasps - which doesn’t bother the plant, but may be a risk to unsuspecting bonsaists!

Some species suitable for bonsai:

Cotoneaster adpressa - a deciduous cotoneaster with pink flowers, red fruit and good autumn color.

Cotoneaster adpressa praecox - similar to the above, but has better autumn color and brighter fruits.

Cotoneaster apiculata: cranberry cotoneaster .

Cotoneaster congesta: congested cotoneaster - an evergreen shrub with white flowers and red fruit. Very small, and especially good for mame.

Cotoneaster conspicuus decorus - Small-leaved evergreen with red fruit. Its most notable feature is its fragrant white flowers, which open fully to resemble wild roses. Another advantage - birds don’t seem to like the taste of this Cotoneaster’s fruit.

Cotoneaster dammeri: Skogholm cotoneaster.

Cotoneaster divaricatus: spreading cotoneaster - Native to China, this Cotoneaster grows to six feet. It has bright red berries pink flowers, and a fine show of autumn color before losing its leaves. Hardy in zones 5-8, it stands up to cold better than most Cotoneasters.

Cotoneaster horizontalis: rockspray cotoneaster - A broad-leaved shrub, hardy to zone six. The rockspray cotoneaster has white or pink flowers and very nice autumn colors in areas where it is deciduous. Its herringbone growth pattern and wide leaves are not typical of the genus, although it is one of the most popular varieties for bonsai.

Cotoneaster horizontalis ‘Variegatus’: varigated rockspray - less vigorous than the species, but has cream and green patterning on the leaves and pink fruit.

Cotoneaster integerrima: common cotoneaster.

Cotoneaster lucida: hedge cotoneaster.

Cotoneaster microphyllus - Recommended by Lesniewicz as a good candidate for indoor bonsai, this evergreen has white flowers and red fruit. Its slender, pointy leaves are glossy dark green.

Cotoneaster microphyllus ‘Cochleatus’: dwarf creeping cotoneaster - another good potential indoor bonsai.

Cotoneaster microphyllus ‘Thymifolius’: thyme-leaf cotoneaster - This plant has the smallest leaves of any Cotoneaster. It has pink flowers, red fruits, and is hardy to zone 7.

Cotoneaster multiflorus: many-flowered cotoneaster - A large and showy plant, this is the Cotoneaster to choose for large size bonsai. It has large, red, conspicuous fruit and showy clusters of white flowers. It grows to ten feet, and has two-inch leaves that turn yellow in autumn before leaf fall. Hardy in zones 5-7, another good cold-weather choice.

Cotoneaster simmonsii - This Cotoneaster can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on conditions. It has pink flowers, red fruit, and small, leathery leaves which may turn scarlet in autumn.

Cotoneaster ‘Skogholm’ - An evergreen dwarf, with large oval fruit, coral red in color.

Cotoneaster salicifolia (Willow leaf cotoneaster.) Small dark green leaves, very small pink flowers, bright red berries and reddish foliage in fall. Water heavily. Soil must be well drained and may become dry between waterings. Fertilize with half strength high phosphorus (middle number) fertilizer.

Bibliography:

Cotoneaster

Lesniewicz’s “Bonsai in Your Home”

Owen’s “Bonsai Identifier”

“Resnick’s “Bonsai”

Samson’s “Creative Art of Bonsai”

Tomlinson’s “Complete Book of Bonsai”

Species information from Coats’ “Garden Shrubs and Their Histories,” and Thomas (ed.) “The Hearst Garden Guide to Trees and Shrubs.”

Compiled by Sabrina Caine  

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Pithecellobium tortum

Common Name:

Brazilian Raintree

General Information:

Pithecellobium tortum is the scientific name of the legume commonly known as Brazilian raintree. Like most of its relatives this tree has compound leaves, hard wood and is spiny . . . very spiny.

Family:

Legume

Temperature:

Will tolerate temperatures in the upper 30F range, but not for a long time.

Lighting:

Although they grow in the full sun in nature, Brazilian raintrees as bonsai seem to appreciate some shade during hottest days of tropical summers.

Watering:

Evenly moist.

Feeding:

A regular weekly feeding program with a balanced liquid fertilizer during the growing season and once a month during cooler weather will keep the P. tortum nourished.

Pruning and Wiring:

When cutting branches and twigs leave a small nub to allow for the possible die-back that often occurs. Many artists do not use a concave cutter on the Brazilian raintree for this reason. Later this can be refined. Once the initial trunk and branch shape is established, clip-and- grow is the best way to develop a Brazilian raintree.

Marcelo also stated “ No wire is used here, only nylon due to the delicate green branches. It is very difficult to ‘educate’ the wood once it forms. It is better to use nylon strips on green branches.” If you utilize wire, do so loosely or use it to tie down branches.

Propagation:

Most of the styles used are upright because of the nature of the tree to grow straight when not affected by the winds in their natural habitat. Mame and shohin are excellent possibilities, especially when begun from air layers. I have seen somewhat large branches air-layered as good small trees!

Repotting:

The sandy growing environment in Brazil demonstrates how well P. tortum tolerates dry conditions, however it prefers to be evenly moist in a container. By planting it in a fast draining soil this can be easily accomplished. Marcelo Miller, Rio de Janeiro wrote “ when these trees are collected at seaside they are replanted in 100% pure sand (no soil).” Too much organic in the soil mix can create wet conditions which causes root rot, fungus and branch die-back.

Pests and Diseases:

Mostly pest and disease free. I f grown indoors, look for common greenhouse pests.

Bibliography:

From an email from Mary Miller in S. Florida.

Issue # 69 of Bonsai Today magazine has my (Miller’s) article on this tree with many good photographs -- some from Brazil!

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