has anyone made a raft froma Varg, Port Afra?

Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, VirginiaDecember 31, 2012

Hello Everone,

My Name is Laura and i have been a lurker for a few years now. I have always loved Bonsai and have read many books and have taken a few classes in the last few years from some exciting Bonsai experts at shows...

I have a few Bonsai trees most are in training, actualy all are always in training right? LOL... Fukien, Serissa. Star Flower, Portulacaria Afra. Hibiscus, Junniper, Ficus, Cypress, Maple, Bourgie, just beginning.. ;-)

But, the other day i found this Portulacaria Afra (Varigated) tree at this nursery and it was shaped so differently that i had to by this tree and keep looking at the potential it may hold for me. It has a long center stem that is uniform in size and is about 2o inches long. So i could cut that down abit. But what is interesting is that it has these stems that are growing at 2 inches apart and most are growing upwards in the same direction with the help of some wiring when i finally place it in a training pot.

My question is whether to leave this base of roots as is.. it isn't much to look at right now and it would be easy to gently shake off the soils and set it in a training pot sideways and try to grow as a "raft" Do you think this could be done? Do you think i should make my own training pot since my other training pots are only half the size. I think this could be rather interesting, but if you all think i should cut it back, i will...i have the Gritty Mix ready... but the question is the lenght of the training pot...

i will post some pics when my battery charges so you can see the actual size. I know you all like to use Pines as Rafts, but this tree looks so interesting that i thought i would give it a shot?

What do you all think?

I am always looking for interesting trunks and stem development. I start at my local Bonsai Botanical Meetings this Thursday and i am very excited. They only meet once a month, but they seem like a great group of people.

I just wish i had a pic... the long stem on its side is about 20 inches, with stems growing straight up every 2 inches apart. i took off some of the other stems that were growing out of the trunk, so i think it could be fun..

Thanks for listening...

i would appreciated any and all thoughts!!


This post was edited by loveplants2 on Mon, Dec 31, 12 at 1:58

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi there, Laura! Let's look at the pictures when you post them. Some of the P afras (the prostrate forms) are reluctant to form much of a trunk.

I wanted to mention that it's not uncommon for the Dec - Feb meetings to be the ones that generate the least excitement for many clubs. If you happen to end up looking at someone's slides of a trip or listening to someone talk about how to sharpen tools, don't give up, thinking all the meetings will be that way. ;-)


    Bookmark   December 31, 2012 at 1:10PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Al!!!

Thanks for the info about the meeting this time of the year!!! Even though it might be a slow time of the year for pruing, repotting etc. I am still very excited to learn as much as i can about this beautiful way of reading and learning to grow these beauties!!!

Even if they talk about tools.. I will still be excited!! I have been waiting to be able to attend a meeting. They only meet the first Thursday of the month, so it is hard with my schedule. Can't wait!! I will still have a good time!! :-)

Here are a few pics of the Port. Afra that i have pruned a few weeks ago. I know that the soil looks awful and i can't wait to get it into the Gritty, so please excuse the look..

I am a beginner, so any advice will be helpful..

Thank you AL for your help!!!

The pics show the amount that i pruned off of this tree.

This is an experimennt and i am just interested to see how it will respond to the Raft method. We shall see!!!!

Thanks for looking and for any advice from all of you!!!

Looks like it is the New Year!!!

Happy New Year to all.. i need to go outside and watch the fireworks and look at the stars...

Thanks again!!


Oh.. i can see if my DH can make a temporary training continer out of two.. or i can find another longer tray and make that work for the time being..

here are the pics..


Happy New Year!!!!


    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 12:07AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

That plant will make a nice raft if that's what you'd like to do. One issue comes in the form of the fact that the plant is difficult to wire because it is brittle, and you want SOME movement in the branch you're using to provide the trees for the raft, instead of the trees just being in a straight line. Even a lazy-S is better than a row of trees. Here's a Shimpaku juniper raft I started a few years back, wired in roughly an oval shape:

And another:

They both need to be allowed to grow awhile, now that I've wired some initial movement into the trunks.

Variegated bonsai are a little more difficult because their lack of as much chlorophyll as their all green counterparts finds them lacking the vigor with which their all green counterparts are endowed. In order to get some sinewy movement into the raft, you might consider utilizing a piece of vinyl eaves trough as your training pot. You could melt some small holes through the sides at strategic locations & loop a piece of wire over the stem with the ends being twisted together outside the trough after passing through the holes. The wire could be tightened by twisting the joined ends every so often, which would add some serpentine movement to the main stem of the raft & eliminate the boredom of a straight line grouping.

It's very often good to be able to bring any engineering skills you might have to bear in devising solutions to hurdles as they arise. ;-)

Happy New Year to you, too ..... and the family. I was at a party last night, got home late, and discovered I wasn't at all sleepy at 3am, so I read until I finished the book I was reading. I turned the light off at 0645, and got up about 90 minutes later ....... and I'm paying for it now - can't keep my eyes open. I see a nap in my immediate future. ;-)


    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:51AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

What A great looking plant! I will be looking forward to seeing it's progress!

I'm interested in learning all I can about these wonderful plants and the art of Bonsai.
I checked the web site for our local club, but there hasn't been any activity in a few yrs. :-( so I will try and contact them and see what's up.

In the meanwhile, I have here and internet and friends. ;-)

I really need to get out of this house and to a nursery! lol.

Hello Al!
Great plant! I always love seeing what you are up to. :-)


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 4:37PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, Laura, great to see you here! ;-)
You, too, JoJo! And Al is right on about this plant....slooooow growing, indeed,
porticularly when compared to the standard green version.

I'm keeping a couple plants around for future bonsai projects, but they don't do much.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:13PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone!!

Nice to see you guys!!! :-)

Al... Thanks for the infomation and i will work on a training container.. i did visit a few stores today looking for something to use and i did find a storage tray that may work with a little help. I have my DH's drill out, but i think it would be better to wait so i won't wake anyone!!! LOL..

Love the pics of your examples of your Raft trees. They look awesome and i understand that these Port Afra are really not the best candidates especially the Varigated ones to work with, but i just wanted to experiment and see what can be done. You have such a great way with your trees and your experience shows.. i know it takes time and years to get to where one feels comfortable and i also know it is a ongoing learning project with learning to grow and read these trees. I am taking baby steps and i will keep looking and learning as i can. Thank you for your advise!!!

When you speak of putting a slight s curve in the main stem, i like that idea.. but i also understand that "Raft" means as if "fallen" in nature, so even adding some curves will be natural in the art form of a natural look verses a straight "fallen" tree? I understand, so i will work on the container and make holes so i can pull from the sides a little at a time. Not to bend to hard, but to add to the look of the natural fallen tree...

Like i said.. im just trying something for the first time, so it will be fun to experiment with this kind of tree. Then as i gain some experience, i can work on others...

I will post on the pics of the container as i drill and wire the stem soon. I have my mix ready and im ready to bareroot, but the timing is not right..LOL!! It is to late!!! I think DH would have something to say!! :-)

I also bought some Twizzlers for the slide show if they try and show movies tomrrow night at the meeting..LOL!!!

Should be fun!!

Thank you again..

Hi Jojo!!!

It is a fun project.. lots to learn though... I have also looked at the library for books if you can't find a local group. Like you said, the internet and friends do help!!

Nice to see you!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Hi Josh!!

LOL.. liked the "Porticularly" Funny!!! I also have a green Port Afra that is more beautiful and is "Slant Form" has a beautiful trunk too. But, when i saw this Varig tree, i thought it was so cheap in price that it would be fun to experiment with it. I did see the Raft look to it as i looked passed the other stems, so i thought i would try...trimmed those off and here it is..

We shall see. if it doesn't work, well i have more trimming and wiring work under my belt!! LOL...

Take care,

Nice to see you too!


    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 1:38AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello everyone!!

just wanted to follow up on my little experiment with my varg Port Afra Raft Project...

Well... I made my temp container.. looked great.. made my GRITTY Mix.. Awesome. Wired my tree after i barerooted it and gave it time to relax from the stress.. it isnt doing to well, but i haven;t given up yet. We shall see. I even enjoyed the thoughtful planning and what could have happened.. Oh well.. Pateince.. Right? ;-)

I did go to my meetng at my local Bonsai Society and im sure i will enjoy the knowledge and other interesting topics with their society. Im happy anyway.. i learned something while i was there, so that was the plan!!!

Thanks AL for all of your help. I will keep you posted!!

Josh and Jojo..sorry about the lack of pics.. nothing to really see yet.. ;-( BUMMED!! oH WELL..



    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 11:56PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

my variegated Port's are dropping leaves this time of year.
It's hard to keep them happy without supplemental light. And be sure not to let them dry out!

Don't give up hope, even if the plant defoliates completely.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 3:25PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

What progress - still living?


    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 5:00PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone!!!

Sorry it has been a while since my last post..

Lots of things happening here at my house and im trying to juggle lots of family menbers etc. ;-) hubby had a knee replacement and it is a long healing process...

Thanks Josh for the encouragement!! I really do appreciate you taking the time to post and help me. My other Port Afra is doing great, but this varigated one is giving me a few problems... It has dropped most of its leaves and i am watching it closely. IT was only 2.99 at the nursery, but i thought it was interesting and it would give me some experience.. I am keeping it moist and it is under T-5 lights, so i will keep my fingers crossed!!

Hi Al!!! Progress? LOL.. I guess most of my progress is wiring experience.

Is it living? Well... yes, but just barely. I am not to worried about it, but i sure would like for it to bounce back. It really wasn't the best time to do a major pruning and what i did to this little tree. I will just just use this as experience and hope for the best. ;-)

All of my other trees are doing great. My Fukien Tea Tree is blooming as well as my Serissa, so at least i know some are happy!! I also bought a few Varigated Bougainvillea from the same Garden Center. They look like i could have some fun with them this summer. The price was right and the trunks looked promising. So i decided to pick up three for 1.99 each!! They were looking a little rough at the time, but since under my lights they have budded up and are looking healthy.

The next meeting at my local Bonsai Society will be on collecting trees from the wild. Should be alot of fun!!

Thanks for checking in both of you!! ;-)

Take care,


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

We'll watch for the next progress report. Have fun at the next meeting!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:29PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Progress update! ;-)

I've been watering my Port's, green and variegated, as often as I dare, and they are holding most of their leaves. Laura, the first couple Winters, my variegates almost completely defoliated...leaving me wondering if they would bounce back, too. Mine have every Spring, and I think yours will.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia


Hi Guys!

Well Josh.. My Varg. Isn't doing so well.. I keep thinking of you and trying to be positive about this one, but it is looking rough. My green Port. Look wonderful. I really think I over stressed this tree and did way to much as far as cutting and bare rooting at this time of the year.. Lesson learned.

I will keep trying, though. I keep thinking of you saying it could come back.. So I will keep my fingers crossed.

Thank Josh!

Hi Al.. This weekend my group will be meeting in the country to go and search for collecting in the woods. They say dress warm.. Wear boots because it will be muddy and bring a Spade shovel and a hand saw... Sounds like I need to take the four wheel drive there too! Lol... Seriously, it should be fun and I'm looking forward to learning what to look for when I'm out in other parts of the land. Just the other day, I was in the mountains and saw these cliffs of rocks and slate.. I kept wondering what I could find on those rocks..

Thanks for checking in on me...

I'll let you all know how the country meeting goes. I'm really looking forward to this little excursion !

Have a great night everyone!


    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:13AM
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