Common name Singapore Holly, Dwarf Holly or Miniature Holly. This dwarf evergreen shrub is said to have its origins in the West Indies. It has dark green glossy leaves with undulate margins and spines at the tips of each lobe which is somewhat similar in appearance to the leaves of the hollies (Ilex) genus. However, it actually belongs to the Malpighiaceae or Barbados cherry family.
Malpighia coccigera or Singapore Holly grows well in well-drained humus rich soil either in full sun or in natural light shade area. It has small whitish pink colour flowers bloom all year and occasionally bearing some small bright red cherries after the bloom. It’s a specie highly recommended for condominium dwellers to grow at their balcony either as bonsai or as house hood plant.
Serissa also known as Snowrose or Tree of a Thousand Stars, is a shrub with tiny leaves and trunk not thicker than a pencil. There are many species of serissa but the most common species growing in this region is Serissa Foetida and Serissa Japonica. Many people refer Serissa Japonica is the old Latin name for Serissa Foetida, but in actual fact Japonica and Foetida are quite different. Japonica has smaller all green color leaves and Foetida has larger leaves with yellow edge all round.
Serissa Japonica grows well in a soil mix of 50% humus rich materials and 50% of granular soil. A half shady condition is simply ideal for it’s growth but MUST be kept outdoor. Serrissa’s natural tiny leaves and flexible thin trunk made it simply easy to be trained to become small or shohin bonsai, small punjin or even tanuki bonsai. It is therefore a specie recommended for beginners and those living in apartment with balcony.
Maintaining Serissa is rather easy, what you need to do is just to trim to keep it in shape and water every day. No fertilizer is needed but have to repot every one or one and a half year depending on the size of the pot you use.
Sharing below are some of my collections of Serissa bunjin and tanuki.
Wrightia religiosa known as water jasmine or “shui mei” in Chinese.
It is one of the most popular bonsai species not only in Malaysia but also among the Asian countries.
Posting here are some uncrop photos of the Wrightia exhibits taken during the recent Malaysia Bonsai Exhibition 2014 for sharing. The trees are in fully defoliated stage to show the unique structure of their branches.
Ficus or also known as Fig, is an amazing species that can grow in the cold temperate climate to the hot tropical region. It can also be subjected to full hot sun to indoor condition. It can grow to become a gigantic tree or trained to become the smallest bonsai. Ficus is among the species highly recommended for bonsai beginners and those who live in condominium. Unlike buxus, ficus can be shaped into any bonsai shape except drift wood because it’s woody stem is soft and can rot easily.
I wish not further elaborate tips on planting and caring ficus as there are already many info posted by other bonsai bloggers, but rather to mention that the most beautiful ficus bonsai I have ever seen is in Hanoi Vietnam. During my short trip to Hanoi June last year, I managed to have an hour to visit the Hoan Kien Lake park to witness the amazing display of ficus bonsai there. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring back any photo as my gadgets batteries were all out. Any body can just go to Google and search for “Vietnameses ficus bonsai” to see the images of those amazing trees there.
China is the biggest exporter of ficus bonsai in the world. It’s export range from the small ginseng ficus to the gigantic ficus microcarpa.
Gigantic ficus bonsai display along a street in chengdu China.
I am quite a ficus bonsai beginner, below are 2 progressive series of my ficus microcarpa for sharing. Comments are welcome.
Second ficus microcarpa from the yard.
Buxus Harlandii Maintainance
Maintaining buxus harlandii is rather easy. With it’s natural style that look best as a large spreading park tree, wiring is very minimum. Trimming or pruning is usually done at the internodes of the green young branches, but if you run out of patience, a quick hair cut method does no harm.
Brushing to remove dirt or mosses grown in the gaps of the tree cork bark is not advisable. A small forsap should be used to remove as much dirt or mosses as possible without breaking the bark, then water jet to shoot and wash away the remaining. It requires cleaning several times if the tree trunk is stucked with too much dirt. Planting mosses around the buxus is not only preventing dirt from accumulating at it’s bark but also help to prevent loss of soil moisture and enhance the look of the tree.
Re potting and pruning away of roots can be done every 2 years but pending on the size of the pot used.
Sharing here are some of my buxus harlandii collections which are still under training at various stage.
As mentioned earlier, buxus has shallow fibrous root system, so in hot tropical region where soil moisture evaporates easily, a mixture of higher content of fine material is required to hold back the moisture to prevent roots drying up.
Soil mixture: 3 parts of hard burnt brown soil to 2 parts of coconut fiber.
The common method of propaganda for buxus is by branch cutting. Although young green branch cutting is usually used as it can grow much more easier, however pencil thick branch cutting is preferred. Reason been when the buxus cutting started growing, you have at least a pencil thick trunk. Buxus is very slow in trunk thicking and the maxinum thickness a buxus trunk can grow is hardly 10cm.
This branch cutting is about 6 months old. It will be transferred to a larger training pot to encourage quicker growth in a year. A hard object like a piece of tile is placed directly under the main trunk for nebari development. It will then be re potted after another 4 to 5 years in a shallower training pot for further development.
The following photos show the repotting of an approx 4 years old Buxus harlandii.
Boxwood or Buxus is a genus of about 70 species of evergreen shrubs. Buxus harlandii or also known as – wang yang is the buxus specie commonly grown in our region, which is actually originated from southern China.
Buxus has many characteristic like natural mature looking cork bark even when young, small spear like leaves, short internodes, fast grow back even after hard pruning and shallow fibrous root systems that can train to produce good nebari easily.
To most bonsailist , buxus is a poor option for styling, it’s multiple trunks and branches makes it nothing more than a formal or informal mini big park looking tree. But to me, I would say buxus is actually an excellent choice for bonsai beginner in our region. And as it can be easily grown in shady outdoor area makes it becomes another good choice for those who stayed in high rise condominium where only a small balcony space is available.
Buxus can actually be shaped into many other shape and style other than formal or informal upright. However it must be started young when the stem is still flexible, but then it will take decade to grow and form up to the expected shape.
Cascading Buxus harlandii by En Noryadi Norrudin won the gold prize award in the BCI 2009.