Crazy little project...

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Crazy little project...

Postby oproudfoot » Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:36 am

VERY EXPERIMENTAL little project…

Hi all, let me start by saying that this is just a highly experimental little project that I’m attempting, and I’m not ‘recommending’ it to anyone or implying that I’ll end up with a ‘true bonsai’ or even something that looks good at the end of it, it’s just something I’m trying, for fun.

My hardest challenge to date (as usual, at the request of kids) was to create “a little tree on a hill with a tree-house and a moat” (kids think of the wackiest stuff) ! It took quite some planning to work out how to even start to bring this request to fruition!

So first I bought a nice big bonsai pot from the ‘reject’ shop for $10 (not sure why it was ‘rejected’, it’s only visible fault seems to be some glaze that has splashed onto the inside of the pot (i.e. will be covered with dirt/ unseen).

The next step was getting a hardy plant of roughly the right ‘look’ for the project, and creating the basic landscape. I chose a pittosporum, cause they’re hardy and a bit flexible when well hydrated (this was important later). I got it from Bunnings for $6 from the ‘bargain-bin’ (shelf/ rack), where it had been put because the top leaves were dying off/ starting to look ratty. I liked the look of it, because it had a pronounced ‘kink’ in the trunk about an inch up, which I thought might lend itself nicely to the project.

I put the plant into the bonsai pot (where as expected it sat very high; perfect for a ‘hill?!?) then fashioned the dirt around it into a basic ‘hill’ type contour, then cut the plant back to just a few sticks with almost no leaves left (I cut it back so severely that thought I’d killed it, actually).

Then the moat. Hmmm. A moat around a tree that’s on top of a hill is a hard thing to create, but I gave it a go… of course a round moat would’ve looked more traditional, but the best thing I could find (at least the best thing in the reject shop; I have little to no spare cash) that was potentially useful was a triangular dish with a hole in the middle (for 2 bucks). The next challenge ‘gently-squashing’ (if that is not a contradiction in terms) the plant through the little hole in the middle of the triangular ‘moat’, without ruining the plant… I was amazed that I pulled this off, with the only damage being a bit of bark-stripping on one branch which should heal up OK.

So at this point I had a bunch of sticks protruding from a mound of dirt, surrounded by a fairly ‘tacky’ looking porcelain triangle of water… hardly spiritual… obviously the next part of the challenge was to ‘dig the moat in’ a bit, and generate robust ‘ground-cover’ (rocks etc) …

Hmmm… The first thing I thought, was whenever I’ve tried to plant bonsais on too much of a hill within the pot, all the top-rocks and pebbles on the sides of the hill seem to fall off over time, especially during watering; gravity prevails. So I took the highly unorthodox step of using some of that ‘flat-rock-mosaic-paving’ that is all glued onto a mesh of some kind, and cutting it to the shapes required. As a further part of the experiment, I then ‘glued in’ some white pebbles in the gaps of a small section of the flat-rock-mosaic tiling, as a test to see if they’d ‘hang in’ after watering/ weathering etc. It’s been about a month now, and this stuff hasn’t budged/ the only question seems to be whether the mosaic tiling or glue will release anything into the soil that the tree doesn’t like/ kills the tree… I decided not to ‘go to town’ on it/ completely landscape all areas of the pot, in above fashion, in case I’d killed the tree at the ‘severe-pruning’ stage, as it would’ve all been a wasted effort…

I kept the plant well hydrated (but not ‘soggy’) over the next couple of weeks, and joyfully, it has started to sprout new wee shoots from various parts of the trunk(s). So I think I’ll go ahead with the ‘final landscaping’ part of the plan; gluing in white pebbles between the remaining gaps of the mosaic paver-type-stuff, trying to disguise the edges of the ‘moat’ using various means, trying to hide the ‘lattice/ mesh’ matrix evident at the back-right of the plant where the underside of the mosaic-paving is exposed, fixing up the moss so that it looks more confluent etc…

Then there’s the tree-house.

While I’m not usually one for incorporating ‘miniature human-structures’ (bridges/ temples/ Buddha figurines etc) into bonsais, I’m operating under orders in this case, and the order was for a tree-house, in a tree, on a hill, with a moat around it (!?). I’m still thinking about how to achieve this final tree-house step…

Anyways, see pics below of the project in progress (very much only half-cooked at the moment), and bear in mind that I’m not trying to create anything traditional or spiritual with this project, just out to have a bit of fun.

Cheers, Owen

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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby imonetwo » Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:08 am

Your a good Dad :)

Regards
Eric
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby Pam » Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:34 am

:lol: You're a good Dad indeed! For future reference, Owen, the next time you need a moat, you can buy air-drying clay at craft stores. It can be 'properly' dried in the oven, and then if you thought it needed it, you could simply seal it with one of the waterseal products.

Good luck with the tree house.

That's a good-looking tree you have there, by the way!
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby Kieran F » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:54 am

the rocks and moat would look much better airbrushed ^_^ but good job so far
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby lmrk » Thu Jan 24, 2008 9:00 am

Pam wrote:: For future reference, Owen, the next time you need a moat, you can buy air-drying clay at craft stores. It can be 'properly' dried in the oven, and then if you thought it needed it, you could simply seal it with one of the waterseal products.


Great suggestion Pam!!! (Y)
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby taffyman » Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:27 pm

That's an interesting project Owen - and creative. The wonders of a child's mind! The best reward is if they are pleased with what you've made for them. With regards to the tree-house, I've no idea where you'd put it, but have you thought about making it out of cut-down paddlepop sticks or even matchsticks? Matchsticks would look more in scale - like a miniature log cabin type of thing.
Have to agree with Pam as well - good looking tree.
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby oproudfoot » Fri Jan 25, 2008 12:36 am

Yep taffy, I was originally thinking match-sticks to create the 'log-cabin' type tree-house-look, but then it occurred to me that the tree-house (especially if kept very small) needn't be 'hollow', and could instead be 'solid-state'... it has to live outside and I can't imagine a match-stick tree-house holding up to the elements for too long... (the glue and the sticks themselves would probably fail after prolonged exposure to UV, heat and moisture... So I think I'll fashion something out of solid pieces of wood (very small ones!), and try and mount it 'squarely' in a lower section of the 'tree'. I'm thinking some kind of ladder to the ground coming from it (a mock-up rope-ladder made of twine maybe ?!?) might help lend credibility to the illusion... I'll post a pic after I've 'built and installed' the tree-house...
Cheers, Owen
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby oproudfoot » Fri Jan 25, 2008 1:09 am

Dear Kieran, I'm intreagued by the idea of 'air-brushing' the rocks, but not entirely sure what you mean ... I assume that for starters you reckon they'd look better if they were a different colour... what colour ... ? I have no 'air-compressor' or air-brush to plug into it, but am a dab hand with a wee paint-brush (good at coating a surface evenly without streaks etc)... Notably I could've gone for either grey or black 'paver' rocks and filler stones, but decided on white because I thought it might show off the green/ purple colours of the pittosperm-leaves the best, not to mention match the colour of the only 'moat' I could think of/get. At the moment the 'bright white' of the substrate is too glaring compared to the tree itself, but I'm hoping once the tree has leaves all over it/ recovers from transplanting etc I can angle some nice full branches strategically to fix up this 'brightness'/ hue imbalance. In retrospect though, I probably should've chosen the 'mottled grey' coloured paver-stuff to use... that said, the 'bright-white' colour of the stones I've used should fairly quickly fade-to-yellow/ weather to a more natural/ slightly 'nicotine-cream' colour, which would soften the look of the whole thing/ make it look more natural/ realistic...
Cheers, Owen
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby Kieran F » Mon Jan 28, 2008 7:28 pm

well, a few ideas would be to paint it in different shades of the soils color with a very large brush (Dab, not stroke)
or , find a tree with some very stringy, dark brown bark, pull some off and rip it up a little, then glue it onto the rocks.
one last suggestion, paint the edges of the rocks with wood glue, and sprinkle soil onto it untill they are completely covered with the soil
the white rocks stand out a little too much for my taste and dont exactly look "Natural" to me
but it's you're project ^_^
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby oproudfoot » Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:21 pm

Dear Kieren, your suggestions are gratefully received. They sound a bit heavy though re the paint and all that... I think I'll just hope that some natural weathering softens the look of all the white rocks which, as you say, at the moment are 'TOO' white, unbalancing the over all colour/ brightness of the landscape/ tree. To me the main reason it looks contrived is the straight edges on the 'moat'... I'm gonna try and fix them up by placement of larger rocks combined with gluing in a few small ones... not sure if this will be at all successful, but I like a challenge...

The tree itself seems to be sprouting from many points 'post-transplant/ mega-prune', which is good... see below thumb taken tonight.

As an aside, the resident bird (I think it's an Indian miner) dropped in yesterday and scratched-up/ dug around in a few of my trees... the vulnerable 'moss-section' of this one was thrown all about/ had to be 'recreated', but the area made of flat rocks glued to a mesh and interlaced with glued in pebbles was evidently impenetrable or too difficult for the bird to bother with...
A small victory against a small bird by a small tree ...
Cheers, Owen

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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby imonetwo » Mon Jan 28, 2008 11:22 pm

Gday Owen
I have a question, are the rocks at all porous,if the are make a really strong pot of black tea and soak them in it, makes a nice natural sandy tone.

Regards
Eric
PS It works a wonder on white hebel block.
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Re: Crazy little project...

Postby guzzigirl » Wed Jan 30, 2008 9:18 pm

painting your rocks with yoghurt should encourage some algae/moss/lichen growth and give them a more aged appearance - a trick use for new garden statues.
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