Hey everybody, I figured I’d get out a blog post because I finally finished this tree and am working on a few more from the same batch. This type is Bahama berry (Nashia inaguensis), which aren’t really trees per se. I thought it turned out pretty well.
Bahama berry is native to Aruba but a few of the nurseries down in South Florida carry them. I first heard of this type from a sweet couple who used to grow them from cuttings. Incidentally, they are the ones who started me on the path to retailing bonsai back in 1997 when I bought their collection. In that collection were about ten of this type of plant, this is one of four that I still have from that original batch. In the last 17 or so years I’ve made at least a thousand cuttings from those original ten.
It is definitely a tropical, for about five years I had them in the ground and every time it got below 40, even with a frost blanket, they would lose most leaves, stop growing, and pout. Their biggest problem is that they don’t like to dry out ever. As Mary Miller stated years ago, another name for them is “I Dry, I Die”.
They have exceedingly fast root growth when young and as such can be re-potted twice a year in the summer and since they don’t like to dry out it’s not a bad idea as long as it’s hot out. Once you get their care down they are a pretty tough plant; keep them warm, in full sun, and well fertilized and you’ll be rewarded with tiny white and fragrant flowers that turn into sweet little orange berries. The other problem with Nashia is that they don’t trunken up fast at all, especially here in central Florida.
These trees have a 2-3 inch trunk but it’s been 17 or 18 years to get to that with five years being in the ground. They back-bud very well but if you cut them really hard with no low branches they tend to die back down into the ground (think serissa). Their growth is very similar to neea or ilex in that once you do the initial wiring you can almost clip and grow the rest. They are extremely brittle once they get past a certain age and it is better to just deal with younger branches when wiring because by the fourth year they’ll snap with little provocation.
Since they are a tropical I typically have them in glazed containers and because the leaves are so small shohin is an ideal size for this tree. Below is a picture of the tree three years after I cut it hard to a line, I did it in stages so it would back-bud before I cut it hard to the final height, more likely than not when you cut them hard they die right to the ground and you’re stuck with years of work and nothing to show for it.
They do have hard deadwood but it needs to be treated and if it goes down to the ground it tends to rot pretty quick, although the older wood seems to hold up much better. Here is another photo of the tree after the branches I didn’t need for the final design were removed:
As I said, the branches are extraordinarily brittle but young branches can be bent relatively successfully if you’re careful. This particular tree, because it had such small leaves was wired out pretty extensively. After about three hours and only one crack it was wired and shaped and this is the result:
Now that is was completely wired and since I had approximately two more weeks left for re-potting (cutting it close), I decided to put it in a more appropriate container. The original pot was a great chopped hexagonal Tokoname container, however it wasn’t the right pot for the tree as it was an unglazed container and had delicate feet whereas I would like to have a more powerful footed container with glazed options.
After an extensive search I found a beautiful Koyo pot from the Tokoname region of Japan. It had a beautiful Oribe glaze with greens and blues and some metallic flecks; absolutely stunning and in perfect contrast to the tiny white flowers and orange berries this piece will have next year.
I’m excited to do the next three and I have the next one on the table beside me as I type this. I’ll be sure to post photos shortly. These will be available for our October sale (the 20th – 24th), which is our first store-wide sale in years. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone who comes out for this special sale.