Epiphytes on Bonsais!
How can you make bonsais more awesome? Attach epiphytes to them!
Here are some photos of a few "bonsais" that I've attached quite a few epiphytes to. I put bonsais in quotes because I really haven't trained them at all.
Here's my very first experiment...
It's a Ficus macrophylla (Australia) with several epiphytes growing on it...a NOID Anthurium, Dendrobium delicatum (large orchid from Australia), Dischidia cleistantha (Hoya relative from the Philippines), Lemmaphyllum microphyllum (a trailing fern from Japan), Microgramma vacciniifolia (a trailing fern from Brazil), Neofinetia falcata cross (small orchid from Japan), Tillandsia ionantha (a small Bromeliad relative from Mexico and Costa Rica) and probably a few other plants that I'm forgetting.
Here's a close up of the shingling Dischidia cleistantha...
Here's a more recent project...
Here are some photos showing the details...
For additional photos please see Epiphytes on Bonsais. Once you're viewing the photo page, you can right click on the photo (might take a few tries) to see larger versions.
My most recent project is a Bougainvillea that I've attached a Mystacidium capense and Brassavola nodosa to. The Bougainvillea has red flowers and the orchids have white flowers. They all bloom around the same time so it will be a living bouquet.
In terms of technique...the most important thing is making sure that the orchids are very very securely attached to the bonsai. I use a 10 to 15lb fine fishing line and tie a slip knot on one end. I wrap the fishing line around the orchid and branch, put it through the slip knot and then tightly cinch it down. You can tie it off without losing tension and then repeat the process a few times around different parts of the orchid. Personally, after I cinch it down...I continue to wrap the fishing line around the orchid. Then I create a slip knot using the leftover fishing line from the first knot to cinch it down before tying it off.
The fishing line can be removed after the orchid has firmly attached itself with its roots. Usually this takes a year.
In terms of watering...it's a good idea to attach orchids to bonsais that have roughly the same watering requirements. But you can get away with watering the bonsai more frequently by giving it better drainage. For example, my Crassula pot is filled with 3/4" rocks...so it has excellent drainage.
For orchids with very little water storage capacity (non CAM orchids)...they will benefit by being mounted with a pad of moss.
Most people kill their orchids by giving them too much water and/or insufficient drainage. This isn't a problem with orchids that are attached to branches.
I love going to bonsai shows...but their appeal could be really broadened with the addition of epiphytes. Plus, once you attach some miniature orchids to your bonsais...then you'll be able to exhibit your bonsais at orchid shows!
For inspiration...here's a group I created on flickr for photos of orchids on trees. Epiphytes are nature's ornaments...so every day would be Christmas if you attached some epiphytes to your bonsai trees!
To see more discussion on the topic...here's an older forum post... Buttonwood Bonsai.