2010 – My Persian Ironwood

My Persian Ironwood

by Gloria Quintal

Hamilton Bonsai Club


I bought my Persian Ironwood on the 12 October 1996 from the Eden Garden Centre for my first ever workshop to train as bonsai. I had just joined the Waikato Bonsai Club as it was called then, after attending the Bonsai Convention held in Hamilton over Easter 1996. I found this tree with lots of low branches and a good sized trunk. It was in a black PB38 plastic planter bag and with the top of the bag turned down revealed a nicely formed root base and the beginnings of a tapered trunk. I am sorry I did not take a photo of the tree before the workshop.

The Styling:

I took my new tree to the club workshop the next day, 13 October 1996 and Bob Langholm clipped and wired it to an informal upright style for me. However in 1998 there appeared a good deal of saw dust on the surface of the soil which proved to be an infestation of borer running from the bottom of the trunk up almost to the top of the tree. We (my daughter and I) took the tree to a workshop at Jeff Richards’ place where the borer damage and some wire marks were hollowed out with an electric drill and a pocket knife by my daughter.

The Origin of the Pot:

On a trip to the Warehouse with my sister the ‘Gardening Spend Thrift, I found a set of three bonsai pots. The pots were exactly what I had been taught were the right thing for informal upright trees being: oval, unglazed, and a neutral brown colour. I potted the Ironwood for the first time in Autumn 1997 into one of these new oval bonsai pots.

What’s in a name!

The name this tree had when I bought it was Witch-hazel. However when I put it in the Bonsai Club Show for the first time I was told that was the wrong name and this it was a P#@%&!** (some botanical name that I could never remember = Porrottia Persica) Then at the Convention in 2004 I discovered the common name for it is Persian Ironwood and I have called it ‘My Ironwood” ever since.

Award winning:

In October 2003 the Ironwood won one of the first Merit Awards judged at the Hamilton Bonsai Club annual show held at the Hamilton Gardens. Then it won another Merit Award and the Lane Memorial Trophy (The Peoples Choice) in the show at the 2004 National Bonsai Convention where it was commented on by the overseas demonstrator Gary Marchal. Gary suggested cutting off an ugly root on the side of the trunk and to use a finer chip on the surface of the soil. The root was removed the next time the tree was repotted in the Spring of 2005.

The tree was chosen again for a Merit Award at the Hamilton Bonsai Club Show in 2006 but was not eligible for judging as it had won a Merit Award twice before and had to be exempt from judging for three years from 2004.

The Ironwood was used in a promotion for the Hamilton Bonsai Club’s annual show in October 2008. An article was published by the This Week newspaper with a photo of my daughter and I in front of a tree, entitled ‘Mini masterpieces’.


Over the fourteen years I have had the Ironwood it has been watered, fed and because I don’t approve of sprays and chemicals, only sprayed to kill insects if it is unavoidable. I have repotted this particular tree once every three years into the same warehouse pot and it seems happy to be in the pot.

The potting mix I use seems to suit it, which is bagged potting mix mixed with one third stone chip. It is fed with several types of fertilisers during spring and early summer. I neglect to obey my daughter’s advice to tie my trees down in the pot each time I repot, as I believe it is not needed if the tree is well tamped down.

My Vision:

My original vision as a beginner to bonsai, was to plonk the tree in front of Bob and let him make me a bonsai. Remembering that this was really the first bonsai that was my own and not a cast off from my daughter. Over the years my Ironwood (sometimes called Witch-hazel) has been trimmed by me but I have never felt that it has needed to be wired again since its first styling in October 1996.

This year I decided to lower the Ironwood in its pot when I repotted it in Autumn to improve the look of the root base.

The Future:

In future I am not going to do anything structural or drastic with my Ironwood, just continue to refine the inner branching and I intend to reduce the top just a little in future to keep it to its current height.

My Ironwood has attractive green leaves with purple edgings in Spring and Summer, turning golden yellow in Autumn, Every Spring with its new leaves it gives me much pleasure and it is a dream to look after.