Why am I going to Palm Bay, of all the beautiful places there are in Florida to go?
I guess it might have something to do with bonsai. It is a bonsai blog, unless I’m doing a chicken noodle soup recipe, that is.
You see, I was challenged (in the way he has of challenging, which differs from most people whom merely say “I challenge you!”) by my friend Bobby….
….to help him develop a new way of looking at sea grape bonsai and to come up with an aesthetic (one could say a new, fresh aesthetic even) and even a new tropical bonsai style to use when developing sea grape stock.
Bobby was recently in Mexico and had seen sea grapes growing off the cliffs much in the same way a juniper does in the mountains; all twisty and gnarly with deadwood and small, dense foliage. Whenever I see sea grapes by the seashore in sunny Flor’duh, they just look like big bushes (like 80’s porn) or, for those who wish to bring bonsai into the aesthetic, like the way chojubai are styled. With that in mind, I propose that chojubai clump style be called “Florida sea grape style” from now on.
I accepted Bobby’s challenge, else this would be a chicken soup recipe post.
Oh, btw, this is more in character for Bobby.
I set him to cutting back the branches and stripping off the bark of out test subject.
While he’s doing that….
….,I’m going to wander around and look at Reggie’s collection.
That’s why I was in Palm Bay, by the way, for the Brevard study group meeting hosted by Dr. Reggie Purdue.
He has a beautiful collection and I could do a post on nothing but it.
Big ilex vomitoria “schillings”
A sweet cypress swamp-adori.
Another Florida native, wild tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum).
And this big ficus.
One could even call it a ginseng ficus, if one wanted to.
Let’s check on Bobby’s status.
Good, he’s done.
He had gotten a couple of similar trees from Dragontree Nursery down in Palm City.
Here’s the before, our baseline pic.
And a few more.


Now, there isn’t much “meat on the bone”, as Dan Robinson would say, but I think I can make it work.

I prefer hollows and holes to sharp sticks, I like to make the wood look like it’s worn down naturally.
The black char is from my mini-torch.
Unfortunately, I can’t carve and take pics at the same time (I promised my wife I would come home with all my digits) so you’ll have to be content with before and after shots.
After the first pass.

I think we need some bending.
Hee hee hee!
With the application of some heat, and lateral pressure.
We can create a bend in the wood.
Cool, right?
I wasn’t sure we could do it with a sea grape, but it worked!

10 thoughts

  1. Glad to see some work on a Sea Grape. They also grow well in Galveston so I’m anxious to see where you go with the new style. One question; is it safe to completely defoliate one of them and, if so, do you expect to see smaller new leaves?
    A real rookie question, from a real rookie!


  2. Great article. I really appreciate seeing your step-by-step progress and reading your thoughts about why and how your making your decisions.

    Good luck with the new blog site. I’m looking forward to your “new chapter” online.



  3. Hi Adam, we had a lady in our Miami club several years back come with a sea-grape. We were all with a jaws to the floor because every single leaf were smaller than a quarter. I asked how long she’s been working on it. Her reply was she had never wired it, re-potted it, and never fertilized. Contrary to what we do to every tree we have. She directional pruned it and left it in the same pot for over 10 years. We learn something everyday.
    Can wait to see the new blog.

    OliCata Bonsai Studio


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