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Clerodendron “Tree of Little Stars” November 2018

Every tree should tell a story and this one has it!!!

“Once upon a time”… I had the pleasure of having some of the boys from Bundaberg attend my bonsai workshops in the mid 1980’s where I chanced upon Brian Inglis who was a regular at these workshop sessions.

Most of us are aware that the ‘Bundy boys’ are credited for bringing the beauty of Clerodendron to our attention for bonsai cultivation. Trend setters indeed!! Thanks Brian Inglis, Brian Bishop, Rod Lovett and Shannon Young!

Apart from being passionate about Bonsai and cleros in particular, Brian also had an enviable collection of bronzes. Like bonsai, bronzes need display bases. So it transpired Brian had a clero and Averil had an antique rosewood bonsai table. Both superfluous to their needs.

The deal was done.

The collaboration gets better….Bob and Averil were lucky enough to enjoy the hospitality of our old bonsai mate Gordon Chenery for 2 weeks at his holiday home at 1770. On our way back to Brisbane we stopped into Brian’s in Bundaberg and did the exchange. We both secretly thought that we each had the better end of the deal!!!

At one time, the clero was popularised for bonsai on the mistaken belief that it was a native – because if its prolific existence in coastal central and north Queensland, where it seems to have ‘naturalised’ so commonly that it was thought to be a native and was incorrectly labelled by bonsai hobbyists as Clerodendron inerme. However the flowers were clearly not the flowers of ‘inerme’ so Averil and Bob took the plant in flower to the Queensland Herbarium at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and had it positively identified as Clerodendron heterophyllum. The Herbarium staff explained that its introduction from overseas was most likely due to more relaxed quarantine controls at the time it was brought to our shores. Let’s hope its proliferation does not give it the same status as other introduced species so stunning for bonsai like Celtis that are now classed as noxious weeds.

The bonsai has been styled very much as they grow in nature – where it is bushy and vine like. The tree responds well to extensive root and foliage pruning, loves fertiliser, and frequent trimming does not appear to weaken the tree and leaves reduce to a very small size. It has beautiful ridged bark giving an ‘instant’ aged appearance. We have 6 as Bonsai in our collection and they certainly keep us busy – being repotted every six months because of their active root growth. Stunning for Shohin sized bonsai too.

The Bonsai now belongs to Bob, he not having a clero, and Averil eyeing off a stunning bonsai container she coveted in Bob’s bonsai pot collection. Another deal done!

Since the bonsai has been in our possession it continues to provide us with links to many wonderful memories of people whose presence in our bonsai journey is enriched by them.