Nia… in Latin, neea buxifolia. In English, saltwood.
This tree should be used more outside of Puerto Rico and Florida.
This is why:
My friends, this is Mr. Mike Sullivan’s spectacular Nia specimen. It has won many awards; at Kawa Bonsai Society’s annual show, at the Bonsai Societies of Florida 2012 convention, to the last National show in Rochester New York (where it got best Tropical. It should have gotten best in show). It’s awesomeness is all in the details. The bark is old and craggy, the branches are refined and even in the interior, where you can’t see (unless you steal a peek like I did), is in scale and detailed.
Be you tea full!
Nia is native to Puerto Rico , St Thomas and St. John (US Virgin Islands) and Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands).
Some people use it for hedges but it’s not really used commercially. My Puerto Rican friends tell me it’s just a weed.
It will grow in moderate shade and can tolerate rocky soils.
It is more prevalent in the north of the Puerto Rican island in the moist limestone hills.
They should be easy to collect as there is no tap root but long lateral roots. The wood is so finely grained that they don’t have visible growth rings. They are slow growing. A tree in the shade will grow only a few inches a year. A tree in the open will get to be about 6 ft tall in eight years.
They tend to grow like broomsticks and telephone poles, with no taper.
Therefore, most bonsai you see will have a trunk chop like this
Unfortunately, the nia won’t heal a wound that size. Or any wound of any size it seems (except superficial ones).
Which is odd because they will emit buds from almost anywhere. They are so dense and twiggy its easy to just let them grow like a topiary. I hope this post will steer you away from that.
And after. Just needs that detail carving. And it will be a show tree soon.
The next Nia I got from Hector Morales.
For the first couple of years I had it, I just topiary trimmed it. This year I let it grow and in April I did my first real work on it.
I may or may not keep the first right hand branch. It doesn’t hurt it at the moment and it adds to the design. It creates negative space and brings the height down a bit.
The rear is filling in well. And I’m pleased with the way the front is filling in.
The next step (the same as Dave’s Nia) will be some carving.
This little Nia has a long way to go but it will be cool. When I first got it the branches were all growing straight up. Wiring and pruning has given me some horizontals. I will carve the top jin next year.
Good back branching.
The way to develop a Nia is easy. It just takes time (as with all bonsai).
Let it grow. Style it. Let it grow. Prune it. Let it grow. Cut it back. Let it grow. Rewire it. Let it…… You get the idea.
Letting your tree grow is the most important step in any bonsai. I know you feel guilty when you look at it and see all that unkempt foliage but….let it grow. You will develop the tree faster and it will be more healthy. Promise.
And then I trimmed it.
This one has a defect that is common with nursery grown Nias.
(All the previous ones were collected in Puerto Rico.) This one was either a cutting or a seedling from Jim Smith’s nursery.
The side view shows the profile and how the tree seems to be a half of a trunk. Split in twain, even.
It was this feature that drew me to it.
It’s in a “topiary” phase right now and needs some more rear branching.
This tree will be fun:
I’ll post updates as needed.
Probably not until next year though.
The Nia is a true tropical. Don’t expose it to temperatures below 34 Fahrenheit or 1-3 Celsius. It also needs lots of light.
In the winter, if it stays indoors too long in low light, all the leaves will turn black and fall off. Won’t kill it but it’s disheartening.
The leaves won’t grow back until spring.
Other than that, it’s a hell of a plant for Bonsai. Go find yourself one.