Bonsai Bottle Tree
In my article about “How to Bonsai Australian native plants” I wrote about my Brachychiton rupestris, aka the Queensland Bottle Tree, that I’d been growing in a pot for sometime. I was contemplating turning it into a Bonsai.
Now as I’ve said before I’ve always liked Bonsai but never had the patience to do it properly. The other thing that put me off was I don’t really like plants that rely too much on human support to ensure their survival. Bonsai by nature do rely heavily on regular watering so for a gardener of drought tolerant plants (like myself) this is something that really goes against the grain. But then again……..having said that……..most Australian native plants are very drought tolerant and probably none more so than the Bottle Tree.
Therefore if you are going to Bonsai something and don’t want to constantly water it, then what better plant to try than the Bottle Tree.
Well recently I went ahead and did it. Now I have to say that when I started this I had no idea how it was going to turn out. It was just another gardening experiment. Anyway here’s the story of how it went.
First thing I did was soak the rootball in a solution of Seasol and water a few hours before I started as there was a fair chance that there would be some roots getting pruned.
Then the pot had to be removed. As you can see one of the roots has grown through the one of the drainage holes.
Now normally if I was to plant this in the ground I’d just cut this root off, as it was growing crooked. In this instance though I’d decided not to cut anything until the whole picture was revealed.
So the best way to go was to just cut the pot instead, so it could be removed without being damaged.
When the rootball was free of the pot, the potting mix was washed away. I then had an idea as to what I had to work with.
And wow!… have a look at this…..large tuberous roots. Now I was feeling glad I didn’t just start cutting away. I now have something to work with here. These roots just look a little to attractive to bury under the ground so the obvious thing to do here is to expose at least half of them.
So the next thing to do was give them a good wash. I used a soft bristled paint brush to give them a bit of a scrub to get the tarnish off left from the old potting mix. It was then decision time again. What sort of pot to get? So off to the garden centre to see what’s available.
There were all sorts of pots I could use. Traditional bonsai pots as well as others that may not be traditional but are effective. I took the second option. The other thing I took into account with my selection was that I wanted to try and get away without having to prune the roots. So here’s the pot I bought. I could have also gone for square or rectangular version of this but decided on the round one because I felt it would suit the shape of the plant better with regard to the round tuberous roots. I feel it’s obviously important to select a pot that will not detract from the main feature…….the plant. Hopefully I made a good selection.
The other thing about this pot was the fact that it has a false bottom with a saucer attached. This I thought was a good idea as it would help with watering as the bonsai will be grown indoors. It will also make it harder to over water it as well as it will probably be easier to put the water in the saucer rather that from above.
Ok, so the next thing to do was plant the little Bottle tree into its new home. Normally it’s best to use a special Bonsai mix but in this case because its a larger pot I’m just going to use a regular potting mix.
So here it is in its new home. I must admit it does look a little strange. It may need some of the roots at the front trimmed away, but I think I’ll leave it a little while to settle in. I’ve also left many of the smaller roots attached at this stage as I’m hoping that some of them may continue to grow. We’ll see.
The next step will be to prune the trunk to length. This I will leave until spring as it isn’t growing at the moment due to the cold winter weather. What length I will prune it to I still haven’t decided yet. The trunk itself is still quite subtle so I might even be able to train it into some sort of spiral and then crop the top to get it to form a canopy or maybe I’ll just crop it lower down. There are so many options.
So there you have it, my little Bonsai Bottle Tree. If you’ve ever thought of growing a Bonsai then the Brachychiton rupestris might just be a good option to start with.
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