Australian Native Plants as Bonsai
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Australian Native Plants as Bonsai - 2006

Catalogue Notes from the November 2006 'Australian Plants as Bonsai' exhibition held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
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Acmena smithii


This tree was a present from the birds; it came up near my pond. It was dug from the ground in October 1999 about 6 months after it appeared and was placed in a large black pot. In 2004 it was placed in a bonsai pot, but changed into a larger bonsai pot in July 2005 as it had grown so much.

01 Lillypilly RH e 137-3773_IMG.JPG

Banksia integrifolia

Coast banksia

A large coastal tree that adapts well when grown as a Bonsai. Its large leaves reduce down by about two thirds and become very compact. The bark becomes corky and fissured with age.

17 Banksia integrifolia RH e 137-3761_IMG.JPG

Banksia integrifolia

Coast Banksia

This tree was purchased in January 2003. It was almost 2m high and was cut back to 30cm and placed in a large growing-on pot. It was placed in a bonsai pot in 2005.

02 Banksia integrifolia RH e 137-3776_IMG.JPG

Banksia integrifolia var. compar

Coast banksia

This 7-year-old tree, grown from a cutting, has spent a number of years in the ground maturing before being planted into a bonsai pot. This variety of banksia will grow well in coastal and in mountain areas, and will develop a rough bark. Grown in Canberra for the last year, it has not had protection from frost or sun. Frost will affect some tender foliage, however, if grown quickly, this foliage can be removed when new growth hardens in summer. The tree has been used in a number of talks and demonstrations, mainly in Victoria . The pot is Japanese made.

07 Banksia integrifolia var compar RH e 137-3750_IMG.JPG

Banksia marginata

Dwarf silver banksia

One of two Banksia marginata purchased from a nursery in mid-2003. Provenance is suspected to be Tasmania . It was left in the original container and fed with slow release native fertiliser and pruned quite severely. The plant responded slowly, but consistently put on new growth. In autumn 2004, it was transplanted it to its current pot and has settled in well. During spring and summer ‘04-’05 it commenced flowering. The flower spikes are persistent and attractive. There are currently three flower spikes, one of which appears to have aborted.

23 Banksia marginata RH e 137-3757_IMG.JPG

Banksia marginata

Silver banksia

This tree was bought as nursery stock in 2001 and (for the moment) has been trained in the traditional informal upright style. It has been repotted each year since then and kept in check using the "clip and grow" method.

21 Banksia marginata RH e 137-3764_IMG.JPG

Banksia serrata

Saw banksia

Grown from seed in 1990 and cultivated as a bonsai since 2001. The plant was kept in a 5cm tube for ten years and was forgotten until 2001, when it was transplanted into its current pot. Although the trunk is squat, it does exhibit the plant’s characteristics and should develop well over the coming years.

22 Banksia serrata RH e 137-3771_IMG.JPG

Banksia serrata

Saw banksia

Purchased as a bonsai starter in a 10cm pot from Grant Bowie (Duckwood Bonsai) in 2001 the tree was repotted twice into larger training pots in 2003 and 2005 to fatten the trunk. It was potted into a Pat Kennedy ( Mirkwood Forest) pot in 2006. Branch refinement and leaf size reduction are now the main emphasis as the trunk has developed its ‘pile-of-pancakes’ look.

11 Banksia serrata RH e 137-3752_IMG.JPG

Banksia serrata

Saw banksia

This tree was collected by a bonsai enthusiast from the Nowra area. Due to his poor health, he sold most of his native material and I was lucky enough to purchase this tree. The work done on this tree from collection to what you see here has been minimal. The main leader existed at the start, and only minor wiring on the apex was done. Also three strong branches were removed. Side branching was selected and encouraged to produce the Bonsai you see today. The age of this Bonsai is indeterminate due to the original growing conditions. It was collected from a rocky area, according to the collector. These conditions alone would not encourage fast growth.

18 Banksia serrata RH e 137-3758_IMG.JPG

Banksia spinulosa

Dwarf banksia ‘Birthday Candles’

This semi-cascade style bonsai was purchased as a starter plant in 2004 from the Wariapendi native nursery (near Yerrinbool). The tree was potted into a bonsai container in 2006. The tree has flowered each year. Previous attempts to grow this species as a cascade have failed but hopefully this one will survive.

12 Banksia spinulosa RH e 137-3775_IMG.JPG

Callistemon viminalis ‘Captain Cook’


Callistemon ‘Captain Cook’ is a horticultural selection from a seedling of Callistemon viminalis. It is a dwarf form of the species, growing to about 2m height. The species is widespread in Qld and northern NSW.

The bonsai displayed here was acquired as nursery stock during the 1980s and spent the first ten or so years as a garden plant in a large ceramic pot with very poor drainage. Despite this, it continued to survive. In 1994 its potential as bonsai material was noticed. Then it was transferred into a polystyrene box for future training. Apart from occasional pruning, no styling was done until February 2000. It was placed into its current pot in September 2003.

15 Callistemon viminalis Captain Cook RH e 137-3774_IMG.JPG

Callistemon viminalis ‘Captain Cook’


This tree was styled by the owner during a demonstration given at the Australian Plants as Bonsai show in 2003. The weeping style was adopted to replicate the naturally curved and. pendulous branches of old bottlebrush trees in nature. To retain this style, it is necessary to constantly wire young branches, as they grow upright for a great length until they start bending, which is not suitable for a miniaturised tree. Judicious thinning-out and pruning of new shoots can also help in creating a 'believable' tree of this kind. Callistemon is one of the easiest natives to grow as bonsai, on condition of always being kept quite moist and being fertilised regularly. This tree was found to have a major handicap: on de-potting, it proved to have four fairly thick roots that were completely circling the base of the trunk. The outermost one was removed during the demonstration and the three remaining ones were cut off at four-month intervals. The trunk-base showed the effect of severe constriction, but over the past 2 years, this has largely filled out.

20 Callistemon viminalis Captain Cook RH e 137-3777_IMG.JPG

Callitris glaucophylla

White cypress pine

This tree was collected near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in 1999. Along with other small trees collected, the tree was grown-on in a large pot. Continual pinching back of new growth has kept the foliage to a rounded shape. In 2004 the tree was potted in to a bonsai pot (created by Patrick Kennedy) and the lower branches were wired to give width to the canopy. Wiring will be continued to enhance the shape of the tree.

06 Callitris glaucophylla RH e 137-3765_IMG.JPG

Casuarina cunninghamiana

River she-oak

Gracing the shores of freshwater streams from about Cairns to Eden, these wonderful trees provide shade and shelter from the heat of the noonday sun. The wispy nature of the canopy, which sings with the breezes, is an especial feature I enjoy. The diffuse canopy style in this group picks up on the quality of the light and sound that I like in these trees in the wild.

14 Casuarina cunninghamiana MW e .JPG

Casuarina equisetifolia

Beach she-oak

Cutting-grown plant, one of five pieces given by a senior bonsai fancier and having been wrapped in a Kleenex during a trip to my place before being planted in potting mix and treated in the normal way of propagation. I mention this only because subsequent, more traditional quick plant-to-cutting efforts have not been nearly so successful.

27 Casuarina equisetifolia RH e 137-3772_IMG.JPG

Eucalyptus camaldulensis

River Red Gum

This tree is believed to be 17 years old (1989). It was probably first trained in early-mid 1990s. It changed hands in 2003 and was retrained into its current form beginning in the same year though its essential structure remained much the same. My aim (and I believe that of the previous owner) is to achieve a typical river red gum style that is reminiscent of the sort of tree you'd see if you took a drive down the Murray or Murrumbidgee Rivers.

04 Eucalyptus camaldulensis RH e 137-3751_IMG.JPG

Eucalyptus camphora

Broad-leaved Sally

Evergreen medium to large tree, spreading crown, white flowers in late summer. It grows in the valleys and marshes of the mountain regions of NSW to southern Victoria, tolerating snow and frost, in poor clay soils, withstanding prolonged water logging. These trees were purchased as tube stock and stood in a bucket of water for nearly twelve months, which demonstrates their hardiness. The group was created during a demonstration approximately 5 years ago, and is designed to be viewed from either side. My inspiration was the trees that grow in the Snowy Mountains where because of prevailing weather they often grow with crossed trunks. The surface of the group is in keeping with what would be found in the mountains, ie moss covered stones, gravel and a little moss. The dead branches are retained, as this is what occurs naturally. Under bonsai cultivation, the leaves have reduced by more than half.

24 Eucalyptus camphora RH e 137-3762_IMG.JPG

Eucalyptus gunnii

Cider gum

This tree, with a height of about 3 metres, was purchased from a local nursery in 2000 as a stock plant in a 30cm black pot. The first metre of the trunk was devoid of any branching, so in the early summer of 2003 I reduced the top of the tree to the first branch and two leaf sets. This caused budding back on the trunk and three weeks later I selected one of the new branches. This branch became the new leader and with further development over the past two years has developed into a natural looking eucalypt .

19 Eucalyptus gunnii RH e 137-3778_IMG.JPG

Eucalyptus sp.

Gum tree

This tree was rescued from a property near Windsor NSW in 2001. A home was being extended and the seedling was in the spot where a concrete slab was to be placed. It was dug up and nurtured for the first twelve months then placed in a small deep pot before being placed in its current shallow pot twelve months later.

09 Eucalyptus sp RH e 137-3756_IMG.JPG

Ficus macrophylla

Moreton Bay fig

This fig was a gift from a bonsai colleague and one of the first trees in the collection that began in 1988. It has a reasonable, stable life and was only once forgotten outside in an unexpected Canberra frost. All its leaves were burnt but quick action and removing all the leaves helped it survive to the tree you see now. It is training-in-progress and being grown on for the future.

10 Ficus macrophylla RH e 137-3763_IMG.JPG

Ficus rubiginosa

Port Jackson fig

Artist: Dorothy Koreshoff

This tree started life as a cutting from a 1949 Port Jackson bonsai.

26 Ficus rubiginosa RH e137-3749_IMG.JPG

Ficus rubiginosa

Port Jackson fig

The late Max Candy of Sydney grew this tree from nursery stock that was about 10 years old. He emphasised its natural tendency to grow aerial roots and has produced a style that is reminiscent of the figs that you might see in coastal rain forests.

16 Ficus_rubiginosa RH e 137-3768_IMG.JPG

Ficus rubiginosa

Port Jackson fig

This tree came from a branch-cutting taken from a mature specimen at the foot of Clyde Mountain, South Coast NSW. The tree has developed some aerial roots which over time will introduce some maturity into the overall appearance. A noted bonsai-feature of the Port Jackson fig is the leaf. Generally it is smaller, shows more gloss and is most definitely thicker in cross section than its northern counterparts. Growth from cuttings is very successful and roots appear quickly. This cutting was kept in a box of moist clean river sand until new growth appeared (from 6 to 8 weeks, depending on overnight temperatures. Dec – Jan is a very good time to ‘strike’ this material.

30 Ficus rubiginosa RH e 137-3770_IMG.JPG

Ficus rubiginosa ‘Little Ruby'

Port Jackson fig

In 1987, I had a chance seedling of Port Jackson fig come up and it was 6-8 months before I could see its potential. I spent a few years trying to propagate it from cuttings, but to no avail; wood too hard and old. Each limb had a root going down to the potting mix and in desperation I cut the limb off with roots attached and the first 8 separate trees were grown this way. This tree is one of the first started out in 1994-5 as root over rock. Of course, propagation is easy when using hardened-off new growth.

25 Ficus rubiginosa Little Ruby RH e 137-3769_IMG.JPG

Kunzea ambigua


This plant was purchased from the Wariapendi nursery in 2002. Continual pruning has given the current shape and the tree is potted in a bonsai pot created by Roger Hnatiuk.

05 Kunzea ambigua RH e 137-3766_IMG.JPG

Lagarostrobus franklinii

Huon pine

This native species is not actually a pine but a podocarp. It is only found in west and south west of Tasmania, next to rivers and in boggy areas. It is a relic of Gondwana with pollen records dating back 135 million years. The timber was used for boat building as it did not rot and was not attacked by marine organisms due to its natural oils. Logging has reduced the stands to less than 10500 hectares that are now fully protected within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It grows very slowly and one tree is known to be over 4000 years old. The Huon pine is dioecious with male (pollen) and female (seed) cones on separate plants. The seeds are carried on scales and are water dispersed.

29 Lagarostrobus franklinii RH e 137-3759_IMG.JPG

Melaleuca linariifolia

‘Snow in Summer’

This tree was acquired in 2002 and was grown in a large training pot to 2004. It was then cut back to three branches and placed in a bonsai pot. It was covered in small white flowers in October.

03 Melaleuca linariifolia RH e 137-3753_IMG.JPG


Melaleuca micromera

Wattle honey-myrtle

Melaleuca micromera is an unusual shrub from the south-west of Western Australia where it grows on dry, sandy plains and in gravelly soils. It makes a large shrub, either low and spreading, or compact and upright, when it is then described as resembling a small conifer. The naturally twisted branches make this interesting bonsai material. It also grows strongly in response to trimming. The common name comes from the yellow, fluffy flowers borne in spring.

08 Melaleuca micromera RH e 137-3755_IMG.JPG

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Broad-leaved paperbark

Was an old advanced nursery grown plant found in a root-bound state. The root base was buried deeply in the pot. No problems were met from severely pruning the roots but the tree is kept in a permanent water tray. The habitat of these trees is coastal and swampland .

28 Melaleuca quinquenervia RH e 137-3779_IMG.JPG

Melaleuca styphelioides

Prickly paper bark

These trees are found near fresh-water creeks and streams from about Brisbane to Sydney. They can develop magnificent large trunks with spreading branches, all covered with shaggy papery bark. The prickles come from the sharp points to the leaves. The trees can be found as individuals on their own, or in groups, such as in this planting. It is not uncommon to find several generations of trees in the one place. I like these trees because of the texture of the bark, and the occasional and somewhat eclectic spurts of white flowers on a few branches.

13 Melaleuca styphelioides RH e 137-3754_IMG.JPG

Melaleuca thymifolia

Honey myrtle

Artist: Ray Nesci

Obtained from a Coles Supermarket some 30 years ago, it was trained as a multi-trunk tree but then neglected. It was planted in a plastic pot five years ago to regenerate its vigour. Two years ago it was styled into a windswept tree. Because of the strong movement of the trunk and root system, I feel this is a more suitable style for the tree. Rough bark develops over time and the small leaves are perfect for bonsai. The rough, round free-form pot enhances the style perfectly. It flowers from late November with mauve flower clusters on the older stems. It is re-potted annually in late August and positioned in full-sun. It requires daily watering in summer, even twice a day in extreme heat or windy days. Compact foliage pads are achieved with regular tip pruning.

31 Melaleuca thymifolia RH e.jpg


Photographed by Roger Hnatiuk using available light with Canon Powershot G2 digital camera


Updated 24 December, 2007 , webmaster, ANBG (