Grewia is an evergreen native of South Africa and is a beautiful flowering plant but seldom seen in bonsai displays. I am basing this article on two short, early attempts and the grewia I have now had for two years.
In gardens, the grewia grows to be a substantial bush and is happy in sun or part shade. It is a tree that shoots rapidly and flowers develop on the ends of the branches. Keeping it in a controlled shape and flowering is a challenge in bonsai. I have seen garden bushes with substantial trunks and one bonsai with an impressive trunk, obviously collected. In a pot it grows slowly. Young branches are easy to shape but more mature branches resist movement so choice of a plant is important. Sadly, the majority of the plants you see in nurseries have been allowed to develop with very straight trunks in positions that are impossible to alter. One option is to buy a very young plant and shape it from the beginning by ground growing and wiring and rewiring.
I was fortunate to buy a grewia at a bonsai sale. It was well priced because it had been a bit neglected and was hungry and I was attracted to it because the branches had movement. The cascade branch was able to be moved forward enough to condense the tree and the apex and branches were wired to start the shaping.
As I bought it (left).
To the right, after the first styling.
Now I like my trees in pots, no matter how much they would benefit from a larger container. I view my bonsai from my dining and kitchen windows and I don’t want to see a bench of plastic pots. So I immediately condemn my trees to slower development but that’s how it is in my stable.
The grewia has been wired twice in two years, wire left on 6-9 months and there is not a wire mark anywhere. It is a slow thickener. The glory of the grewia are the small leaves and the flowers. Oh the flowers! Each flower lasts only one day but the tree flowers and flowers and flowers. Cut back hard to regain shape and in six weeks there will be flower buds on the end of the trimmed branchlets. If you stagger your pruning you will have flowers for months and months and months. It has been flowering since spring and has just started to ease off. Now that beats any azalea or camellia in my book. It is not a showy tree like the azalea and camellia with brilliant flowers that capture the attention. It is quiet and refined and draws you in by the quality of its styling and the 10c piece size flowers.
It has been flowering since spring and has just started to ease off. Now that beats any azalea or camellia in my book. It is not a showy tree like the azalea and camellia with brilliant flowers that capture the attention. It is quiet and refined and draws you in by the quality of its styling and the 10c piece size flowers.
Two years in my training and ready for a mid winter trim, unfortunately removing the remaining buds and flowers but still a necessity.
After pruning in late June.
Yes, it has styling faults, some faults I can’t correct, some I can by placing back branches to the right. I could reduce the height but I want the taller skeleton for the floral display. Another couple of years and a larger pot will see balance improved while maintaining the integrity of the tree.
For those of you who might, like me, be hunting a good stock grewia, I can only suggest attending bonsai shows with sale tables. It would be very good luck to find a potential good shape at a nursery where the gewia are let to grow as they will. There was a beautiful grewia at the Illawarra May sale and I was sorely tempted but I have one and was strong and let someone else take the prize home. And good luck to them. I have not had any trouble with pests and it is not a fussy tree. The grewia is a rewarding tree to work with, it is a quiet achiever and with its very long term flowering period is a beautiful addition to a bonsai collection.