Common Name: Jade [L: Portulacaria Afra]
Source: nursery stock
Broom Style (Informal Upright)
JADE (PORTULACARIA AFRA)
This is the story of a Jade bonsai. I had purchased this jade in 1991 from a reputed nursery. Since then, I kept feeding it heavily, growing it unchecked with no specific design in mind. In fact although attracted to this material, I lacked any specific knowledge about the specie and did not know how to train them. I however had the information that they easily rooted from cuttings and therefore I propagated a number of them and practiced diligently on all of them-pruning, wiring, the works; gradually I started getting the hang of training jades.
By 1994, this plant along with others – in my now quite expanded jade stock (i.e., those which survived my “experimentation”) – had grown quite big and also branched out well. I therefore decided to move ahead and train this plant as a bonsai.
The plant had a good trunkline but didn’t have any branch in its lower half. Its design was therefore a challenge. I trimmed and wired the primary branches in position amp; potted it in this rectangular-ish pot and began its training. The photograph shows the plant immediately after initial styling and potting.
I had repotted the plant in a flat round pot in the summer of 1996 to feature its surface roots which were quite attractive. I was happy that the plant showed good development of its foliage pads as well, although it frustrated all my hopes of developing branches lower down on its trunk.
On review, however, I started feeling that both the previous and the round pot were not suitable for the bonsai. The previous one due to its shape did not complement the curve of the trees’ trunk and the present one appeared to be too small after even a little growth and the tree appeared unbalanced, as if it would keel over at any moment. In fact in the present pot I had to place two heavy stones in the pot as counter weight in addition to tying the tree to the pot in order to prevent it from toppling over. (Unfortunately I do not have any photograph of this second stage).
I therefore decided to commission a much heavier rectangular pot with curved sides when repotting it in 1997.
After much deliberation, I chose this heavy rectangular pot with downward sloping sides for this bonsai in 1997. The choice seemed to be a perfect one and it appeared to have stabilized the design. Meanwhile, regular feeding and pruning had improved the density of the foliage pads to such an extent that I was forced to thin it out quite drastically; the inner growth required constant thinning in order to preserve the health of the bonsai.
I feel that it will perhaps look better with a more rounded crown in keeping with its mature image.
In 2004, this bonsai suffered a problem; its trunk was partially bitten off by a bandicoot (a member of the rodent family) lower down at the left side near its bole. In a bid to save the tree from harm, I repotted it in a blue oval pot with slightly incurving sides; the tree seemed to recover slightly and a shoot grew from above the bite wound. During the next monsoon however, in spite of the shoot, the bonsai suffered further deterioration and the bitten portion of its trunk started rotting out, whether from infection or from rain damage or whether from both, I couldn’t determine. Anyway, one day the trunk, having rotten almost completely, just broke off at the point of the bite. I was unsure whether the top part would survive, but I just had to try and save that magnificent trunk. So I cut off the trunk a little further up and to prevent further rot, dipped the cut end in “Bavistin”, a systemic fungicide. After letting it dry out for 1 day, I inserted the plant in a plastic pot consisting of even particles of brick crush and put it out in direct sunlight, leaving it undisturbed for some time to come and kept my fingers crossed, hoping for the best. I even left the wires on, as they were, to avoid further rotting in the rains.
I was delighted to find that after about 1 month the plant started to throw out new growth in every direction. Even then, I was prepared to wait for some time before I would try to restyle the tree. In 2005, however, I could wait no longer and feeling that sufficient time has elapsed I decided to restyle the tree. When I unspotted the tree I observed that the roots were abundant and decided to put the tree directly in a bonsai pot instead of potting it on. But first I decided to redesign the tree. Viewing it from all angles, I felt that instead of the right side lean as in the original design, a straighter trunkline would suit the new growth better, provided some branches were pruned off completely. Off they came, once the orientation was decided to my liking. All branches were rewired and re-oriented. I chose this semi-rectangle pot for its softer outlines. The image was much improved as the trunk was now shorter and appeared to be in harmony with the trees’ overall silhouette. The whole scale suddenly worked! I am very happy with this Jade, one of my first bonsais.