Acacias

Macca

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Hi all

I'm new to bonsai but so far I've been learning all I can, appreciating pictures and watering my trees.

My question is specifically bout acacias, I live in South Africa so we have some truly stunning indigenous trees and a number of them are acacias however I'm struggling to find any information on them as bonsai other than a few lists of species that do well as bonsai. Is there a particular reason why they don't get discussed much or is it possibly just an under-explored area?

I picked up two trees which I think have a lot of promise recently and I'm looking forward to the spring so I can start turning my ideas into reality so if anyone has any experience with acacia or could point me in the right direction I'd appreciate it.

Thanks
 

rockm

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SA has quite a bonsai population! Do some more searches online. Acacias have become a unique style to that area of the world.

Here's and interesting link (Check the "charles ceronio" link here in the gallery section too--He is a world famous bonsaiist).
http://www.saba.org.za/

and another:
http://www.sabonsai.co.za/

Check the "charles ceronio" link here too.
This tree is one of the more well-known South African bonsai and it embodies the graceful, yet rugged style that has developed there:

http://www.artofbonsai.org/art-of-bonsai-awards/2009/aob_154_buddleja_saligna.jpg
 
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Macca

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Thanks for the speedy response. SA certainly has some very knowledgeable experts and it seems a decent community as well unfortunately I'm still new and know very few people in the community which is something I plan to remedy in the near future.

I've read through all the sites you posted and www.saba.org.za was certainly useful but the problem I'm having is that I keep finding small pieces of information like cutting a centimeter away from the intended cut to allow for die-back but nothing further and then reading the opposite in the next find. I know that I'm going to find a lot of conflicting information as I continue and that the only way I'll learn is by doing and seeing but I always like to be prepared.

I hadn't seen that tree you posted before and it certainly is impressive. I love the way that the environment in Africa has created trees that in the wild look twice as old as they are owing to the hard lives they live.
 

rockm

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As far as growing native species, you're in the same boat as the rest of the world:D We face the same issues here in the U.S. with our native trees. Each species has different quirks. The best way to learn is with soeone who has worked with them for a while. Joining a club is probably the best way to get that info. Relying on the Internet is a crap shoot. You don't know who to believe--in person you can judge a tree and its maker more accurately.

The tree in the photo I posted is wonderful, BUT so is the container it's in. The artful, yet subtle, combination of the two show how sophistated the understanding of bonsai is down there...Also, the pot was specially made for the tree by someone who understands bonsai AND how to make pots (which is not all that common).
 

GerhardG

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Hi Macca

Namibian here, with not nearly enough Acacia bonsai yet!:D

The biggest problem with acacia is you have 2 options: grow from seed or buy pre-bonsai stock.
They don't like their roots messed with that I can tell you, but there is a relatively good SA bonsai book from the 80's which promotes cutting the tap root at some stage - I'm very scared of doing this on my trees....

Best advice I got buying pre-bonsai stock is to absolutely drench the nursery bag when potting, squash the rootball down as much as possible while still in the nursery bag, then remove and pot, fill in the sides.
Obviously the soil needs to be replaced at some stage, I'm leaning towards replacing half the soil one year and the rest the next......

Leaf pruning under certain conditions is neccesary to keep node lenght at bay, and YES, make you cuts 1cm'ish above a node to allow for die-back, you can cut it flush after about 2/3 months.

I think acacias are mostly clip & grow, you can obviously use other styling techniques as well, but you'd most likely have to clip the thorns to use wire effectively.
The bonus is an acacia bud shows you the direction it's going to grow in, and you would be amazed how much can be done clipping and regrowing in one season.

Leaf pruning was a daily chore for my big monkey thorn, it's now far enough along that I don't need to bother that much anymore, filling in the canopy is the next step.

I think there might be some more weedy acacias that you could dig, but unfortunatly with our conditions I don't think this will ever be an option.

There are several of our acacia species (which I'm sure you find in parts of SA as well) that I think are perfect for bonsai, if only for the fact that do what you want, they grow with a specific internode spacing - feed it more and it just grows more, no increase in node lenght.:cool:

I'm busy with a candlepod acacia started from seed, excellent example of this, but not the only one.

As far as more information is concerned, look for general information on Acacias, don't expect much from bonsai sites.

Cheers
Gerhard
 

Macca

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Thanks for the input GerhardG.

I'm fortunate in that I have a good indigenous nursery near to me and they stock a variety of acacias. I spent some time there discussing the trees and I'm going to be doing so again soon. I found two trees I liked in their stock; an acacia xanthophloea and an acacia robusta. I'm not an expert but I saw things I liked in both; for now I'm just watering them and looking at them from all sides.
 

GerhardG

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Hi

I started Fever trees from seed, for some or other reason they struggled and I gave them away to be planted in a garden.
One big reason why I wanted them was some I'd seen - their deadwood goes black, and it looks stunning against the green bark, I honestly think any xanthophloea bonsai should have deadwood.

Question - does that nursery have bonsai orientated plants? A slightly shallower nursery bag makes all the difference!:p
 

Macca

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Fever trees are just stunning, the bark, the dense canopy they can get. They're just all-round nice trees. Now I just have to wait and see how well this one turns out as a bonsai.

GerhardG do you know how well they respond to heavy pruning, my fever tree has a particularly awkward branch that seems to be the result of a previous, healed cut and I want to try and work it out if I can.

And yes, it's a bonsai oriented nursery. :)
 

Bill S

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I'll echo a bit of what rockm said, if you can /have the ability track down Charles Ceronio, great guy, knows his trees, especially from your neck of the wood.
 

Macca

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Thanks, but my ability to track down anyone in bonsai at the moment is a bit limited; but I have time. :)
 

GerhardG

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Hi Macca

And yes, it's a bonsai oriented nursery.
Okay, you've got my attention :D , where can this wonderful place be found?:D

how well they respond to heavy pruning
No idea, sorry.
Problem is there is some variation with Acacia, Galphinii you can basically go nuts with no problems, while I've had branch die-back on my Erubescens.
If I make a guess based on how the Fever trees grown in general, I would tend to think they could take it.

BTW, that Erubescens can be a pain in the you know what, it seems like it can't pump water to the apex while lower branches grow too much. BUT, 100% worthwhile for the corky bark and the purple Autum colour.:cool:
Before you ask - autum colour I did not have time to photograph during the tree's best year...

Cheers
Gerhard
 

Macca

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This wonderful place can be found just outside of Durban but unfortunately they don't have a website.

I chatted with them about the acacia and I'm at an advantage with one of my trees; because it split young, each trunk seems to have grown outwards at slightly less of a rate than upwards so it limited its tendency to want to push vertically. I've been told that the acacias will do what they can to gain height so while I may be in for a challenge I'm hopeful; I just have to work out an ugly old pruning scar that the tree came with.

I also picked up a few more indigenous trees to start working with. :)
 

GerhardG

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This wonderful place can be found just outside of Durban
Hi

KZN is the one part of SA where I have no family or business, never been in Durbs and if I'm perfectly honest the only place I HAVE to visit is Sterkfontein....with a flyrod!

I chatted with them about the acacia and I'm at an advantage with one of my trees; because it split young, each trunk seems to have grown outwards at slightly less of a rate than upwards so it limited its tendency to want to push vertically. I've been told that the acacias will do what they can to gain height so while I may be in for a challenge I'm hopeful; I just have to work out an ugly old pruning scar that the tree came with.
My Erubescens had some serious Y-action going on when I bought it, perfect little FNB tree!:D
I cut off one arm of the Y Aug 2009, thanks to the corky bark the cut is almost gone.

I really don't understand why this tree's apex is struggling so badly, I'm pretty sure I'll just have to find a style that accomodates that.
I'll have to repot it this year, so we'll see after that.

Cheers
 

Macca

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Sterkfontein's not bad but for decent size fish and very quiet rivers Natal is grossly underestimated.

I'm incorporating the Y and using it as a genuine double trunk, there's some really nice detail on one of the trunks so I have the style in my head, now just to give it time. Sadly my only option with the pruning scar is to hide it or cut it out and give the tree a few years to hopefully replace it. I've opted for the former and so far it looks like it might work out, besides if it doesn't it's not like I can't cut it out and start again anyway. :)
 
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GerhardG

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Sterkfontein's not bad but for decent size fish and very quiet rivers Natal is grossly underestimated.
I'll take your word for it, I would love to fish that beautiful part of the world one day, but my problem is I'm just 890km away from the Orange, good friends, free accomodation, and if it ever stops raining in SA more yellows than any man should catch!:cool:

My Candlepod started from seed is a twintrunk, and a welldone twintrunk is my favourite style by a mile.

I can't remember the term for the candlepod's growth habit, but basically it makes new shoots from the base, I'm constantly having to remove attempts to turn my twintrunk into a multi trunk:D

The chop scar on my monkey thorn is not that big and it's hidden in the canopy. I just wish they'd left a little wood so I can make it look natural.

Cheers
 

jason biggs

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howzit, another south african here...galpinii,burkei + nigrescens are the 3 i use.I have a robusta with beautiful green leaves but still battling to shape it after 8 years..i have hacked off many taproots + killed 1 or 2 but 98% survive...repot in early spring [august] + you will be amazed at what u can get away with...let me know what area u are in + i"ll try + hook u up with someone.
 

Macca

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Durban, the only place to be. Sun, surf and everything in between.

I also picked up my first non-indigenous trees this last week so it's going to be a fun spring. :)
 
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Hi Im from SA as well! where is this nursery?? I struggle to find a good bonsai nursery, oh and acacia robosta is great! Try it as a bigger tree, it is larger in proportion than most acacias,I 'have' a 50 cm high natural bonsai of it and it is absolutely amazing. Another tree indigenous tree Ive had good results with is "Rhus" or as the afrikaans name Karee, Bergkaree, as well as Klipkaree-but the best is Rhus Lancea,its long trifoliate leaves reduce fast but it has some tricks- just let me know and ill tell all. Is jy Afrikaans?
 

Macca

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Hi fviljoen963, sorry it's taken me so long to reply.

The nursery is in Hillcrest just outside Durban. I'm having a tough time with my acacias at the moment but on the other hand I've managed to get a few other indigenous trees and they're showing a lot more promise.

If you're close enough and need more details I'll pass them on.
 
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