Growing white pine bonsai

There are many varieties of white-pine (Pinus parviflora and pentaphylla), but all have one thing in common the white, central or stomatic band down the length of the leaf or needle.

The popular white-pine bonsai came from China, Japan and elsewhere in the Pacific Asian-rim area. They are generally styled very simply, with a twist or two in the trunk, and invariably grafted onto a black-pine base, which is stronger. 

Some varieties have very dense needle growth, while others have very short needle clusters. However, all are Pinus parviflora, with many various cultivar, including Kokono, Miyajima and Brevifolia. The difference between the white pine and other pine species is that the white-pine has a cluster of five needles around each bud. Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Black-pines (Pinus thunbergii) have two clusters of needles, and some species such as Red-pine (Pinus densiflora), can have clusters of two or three needles, depending on variety.

The white-pines natural growth habit is low and spreading, while as a bonsai it can take any shape. The common style however, is a pyramid form, with the branches rising in clearly defined steps to the apex, or tip of the tree.

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Watering Pines

Pines need semi-dry conditions in the winter, and the soil should be kept slightly damp in the growing season. Pine bonsai do not like very wet conditions. Only spray the needles from summer to early autumn, in the morning and late evening.

 

 Next Article: Bud development in Pines

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Fuchsia in New Zealand

Fuchsia (named after Leonhard Fuchs, a 16th century German botanist) is a genus of over 100 species of shrubs and small trees. Although there are four New Zealand native species (colensoi, excorticata, perscandens and procumbens) and one from Tahiti, the vast bulk of the genus occurs in Central and South America. 

Think of fuchsias and chances are the fancy garden hybrids come to mind first. Showy as they are, it is not difficult to see they are related to wild species such as Fuchsia magellanica, Fuchsia denticulata and Fuchsia triphylla. 
Some species, however, are less easy to distinguish. Our common native tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) has fuchsia-like flowers, though it can be hard to see the connection with the garden plants when it is not in bloom. But the likes of Fuchsia arborescens from Central America, with its panicles of tiny flowers, scarcely matches the common idea of a fuchsia. 
The most widely grown of New Zealand’s native species is Fuchsia procumbens and it too is quite unlike the garden cultivars. It is a low spreading plant with small rounded leaves and can be very hard to pick as a fuchsia until it flowers. Indeed, my initial experience of the plant was with cultivated specimens and I have to admit that I didn’t immediately recognise wild plants when I first saw them. 
This species was discovered in Northland in 1834 by Richard Cunningham. (some authorities call him Robert; in any case he should not be confused with his better known brother Allan.) However, it wasn’t introduced into Europe until 40 years later in 1874. It has at times also been known as Fuchsia prostrata and Fuchsia kirkii. 
The species occurs naturally in the north of the North Island down to northern Coromandel, often in coastal areas, and is now endangered in the wild. Though wild specimens can spread to several metres wide, cultivated plants are usually quite compact. 
The flowers, which appear from mid to late spring are sometimes hard to see among the dense, sprawling foliage. The blooms are not the usual fuchsia colours – green and yellow, not red and purple – and most unusually, they face upwards rather than being pendulous. The blue pollen-tipped anthers are also very distinctive. 
Upward facing flowers are scarcely surprising in a plant that grows so close to the ground. Nevertheless it is a feature that hybridisers have long been trying, with limited success, to breed into garden hybrids. 
The real feature, and the reason why Fuchsia procumbens is grown by enthusiasts world-wide, is the berries that follow the flower. All fuchsias bear berries, but none can match the fruit of Fuchsia procumbens. While the bright red berries of wild plants are scarcely larger than redcurrants, cultivated plants may have fruit the size of small plums. The fruit has a grape-or plum-like bloom and is particularly showy because it is carried on top the foliage, not hanging below it. Fuchsia procumbens is a plant that likes to show off its wares. 
This little trailing plant makes a superb hanging basket specimen and is very easy to grow. Despite its northerly natural distribution, it tolerates frosts and even withstands some drought. But strangely enough it is one of those New Zealand natives that is better know abroad than at home. British and American growers wouldn’t be without it, but how often do you see a good specimen in a local garden?

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Photo: Flora Press.

Keeping your bonsai healthy

In general, every two weeks feed bonsai with a high-nitrogen fertilizer from late spring, and then in summer feed them with a balanced fertilizer, stopping for four weeks during the hottest part of the summer and starting again in late summer with a low-nitrogen or tomato fertilizer. High-nitrogen fertilizer feeds leaves and buds, and low-nitrogen fertilizer feeds twigs, roots, trunks and branches.

Spray bonsai with foliar feed every two weeks in spring, and mist the foliage with water in the warm summer to keep the humidity levels up. To avoid lush or soft growth initially, such as in pines or maples, use a zero-based nitrogen fertilizer, 0-10-10 or at the worst a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as tomato fertilizer at the beginning of the season. to get bright autumn colours in maples, do not feed them more than twice in the entire season.

It is important to remember that using liquid feeds allows the food to pass quickly through the soil, and if the soil is correct, then some will be retained during the feeding process. While watering during rain is sometimes unavoidable, soil and foliar-feeding of bonsai with large canopies of foliage during rain is not a good idea, as the water will wash through the soil much faster.

Small trees can be immersed in a bucket or sink filled with feed, and when the bubbles stop rising the tree will have received sufficient food  and water. Do not do this every day if you have outdoor trees. On the other hand it may be the only available method for an indoor tree. (if you live in a flat or apartment) In that case, you will probably find that your tree will only need watering once or twice a week and feeding once every two weeks.

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Period Very Young Trees Trees in Training Established Trees
Winter Dormancy No Feed No Feed No Feed
Early Spring (At bud break wait until the leaf has fully opened) Start feeding high-nitrogen fertilizer at half strength. Feed every week. To avoid lush growth, feed a zero nitrogen fertilizer, such as 0-10-10, or tomato feed. Feed two weeks at half strength. Zero-nitrogen feed once in early spring.
Late Spring (Leaves are now fully developed and candles are swelling on pines. Protect from winds, as the leaves are soft) Feed at half strength every week. Increase to full strength at the end of this period. Continue to feed every two weeks, but now start introducing high-nitrogen fertilizer. Feed once with high-nitrogen fertilizer at half strength.
Early Summer (Leaves are now firming up, so continue with feeding. Protect from pests) Increase to full strength high-nitrogen feed. Use a balanced fertilizer towards the end of this period. Use a balanced fertilizer at help-strength every three weeks. Or start to use slow-release cake fertilizer: Maples, elms and zelkovas need less feed, to develop fine twigs. One feed of high-nitrogen fertilizer and plant tonic during this period. Do not overfeed established trees, as they will grow to length.
Mid-Summer (The tree enters a semi-dormant period at this stage, so it is wiser to stop feeding for between two to four weeks) Stop feed. Stop feed. Stop feed.
Late Summer (This is the period prior to leaf change, but after the heat of mid-summer) Start using a low-nitrogen fertilizer every week at full strength. Use a foliar feed as well each week. Start using a low-nitrogen fertilizer every week at full strength. Use a foliar feed as well each week. Two applications of low-nitrogen fertilizer or, even better, 0-10-10, during this period. Foliar feed once.
Autumn (Leaf change heralds the onset of dormancy in deciduous trees) Stop feeding when leaves start to change. Keep feeding evergreens. Reduce feed when leaves start to change. Keep feeding evergreens. Stop feeding deciduous trees, but give evergreens one more application in late autumn.

 

 

Always Remember:

 

  • Do not feed deciduous trees before bud break
  • Do not feed in winter, because trees cannot absorb the feed
  • Do not feed sick trees, as they will not be able to absorb nutrients easily
  • Do not feed after repotting for at least 6 to 8 weeks, as the delicate roots can be damaged