Tag Archives: first bonsai

Serissa Bonsai

Serissas make excellent bonsai with the right care and shaping. They are an evergreen shrub native to China, Japan, and Indochina (Southeast Asia) where it may be found growing in the woods and wet fields.

The serissa foetida has small oval leaves which are slightly larger than the serissa japonica’s. It may erupt with small white flowers several times per year giving it the nickname the “thousand star” serissa. Additionally, it naturally grows surface roots and an interesting bark pattern on the trunk which give them the desirable appearance of age.

Along with junipers this is one of the most common bonsai trees for beginners. Unfortunately this has also led to them getting a bad reputation for being easy to picky and easy to kill. With the right care this is not the case.

Serissa care

The most important thing learn about serissa bonsai is that they do not like change. They also do not like extremes. If a serissa bonsai is unhappy it lets you know by dropping its leaves and flowers.

Watering

Keeping your serissa watered properly is the most important part of its care. If you over or underwater your serissa it will lose its leaves. Serissas do not tolerate drying out and the shock may kill them. You should keep the soil moist but not wet or soggy. They also like a humid environment. We recommend that you place a humidity tray under its pot to create an area of humidity around the tree. Occasionally misting the leaves when the tree is not in bloom will also help. If you purchased the bonsai tree from a store that does not specialize in bonsai it may not be potted in the correct soil. Repotting your serissa in a well draining bonsai soil bonsai soil will help make it harder to overwater your serissa bonsai.

Light

Serissa can be grown indoors or outdoors. (Outdoor in warmer climates) If kept outdoors a mix of full and partial sun in most zones will be fine. If kept indoors it can do well under fluorescent lighting, but keeping it in a room where it can get indirect light from an open window and supplementary fluorescent lighting tends to work best. If the serissa does not get enough light its growth may not be compact enough to give it a nice bonsai appearance.

Special care should be taken when bringing the plant indoors after it has been living outside or outside if it has been growing indoors. As noted earlier, serissa do not like change. If it had been growing in a sunny area try gradually moving it into a shadier location before bringing it indoors. Additionally, make sure the indoor location receives a good amount of light. If you use a grow light it may need to be left on for 12 hours per day. If the tree was indoors move it into a shadier outdoor area before moving it to a very sunny spot.

Repotting

Serissa should be repotted during their growing season which is in spring. You should do this every 1-2 years when the tree is younger. Use a bonsai soil that holds moisture, but drains easily without remaining soggy. The leaves and roots tend to smell pretty bad when you prune them. This is normal.

Styling

Serissa tend to be pretty flexible on styles they can be trained into. They can be grown into informal upright, informal broom, oak style, and semi-cascade. They do not work very well as formal upright and formal broom. You can use the clip and grow method or wire on these trees. Wiring allows for more intricate designs. Serissa are often used in Chinese Penjing landscapes.

Beginner's Guide to Bonsai Gardening

Bonsai gardening is a way for you to unleash your creativity. It is a chance for you to get involved with a living piece of art. Bonsai affords you to become more relaxed because it needs a Zen-like peace of mind to start with the hobby. This will eliminate the cause of stress that you are getting from work or at home. If you are planning to start Bonsai gardening it is best to learn more about it so you can enjoy it to the fullest and achieve a healthier state of mind.

 

Patience is a virtue

 

Growing Bonsai is never easy. It takes a lot of patience to begin this hobby.  If you don’t have the patience it is best not to dabble on Bonsai gardening. If you master the art of patience it will give you better control over causes of anxiety because you have a better state of mind to begin with.

 

Look for the right Bonsai

 

Looking for the right Bonsai tree is an excellent way to start your garden. Although Bonsai can be grown from the seed, you can skip this part by choosing a tree from a Bonsai nursery. A good tree should be at least six inches tall. Choose the one with a tapered trunk and is free from any kind of blemishes. The pruning and the wiring of the tree usually starts after 24 months. You may also ask the experts or you may browse the internet for more information on the types of bonsai.  This way, you will be able to choose the kind of bonsai that you would want to take care of.

 

Learn how to style

 

In styling your Bonsai tree, you need to consider the natural characteristics of the bonsai tree. This will give you an idea on the kind of pruning method you are going to use. You need to also consider the type of pot that you will be using. Most Bonsai plants are planted off-centered; thus the need to have a pot that considers the center of gravity. Once you learn the art of putting some style on your bonsai, you can even choose to join bonsai style competition.  These competitions will allow you to be exposed to other bonsai growers and you can also learn from them, especially from those who have been taking care of several bonsai plants for many years.

 

The costs

 

You will have to spend well in order to have a respectable Bonsai plant. You can buy one at the mall but the virtues that you will learn and the amount of relaxation that you will get from growing Bonsai do not come with a price. Pruning and special instruments are needed to maintain your Bonsai plants. You would also need to have some supplies. Simply ask the nursery where you bought your plant for information on the needs and the tools that you would use in bringing up the beauty of your Bonsai.

                                                           

Check the plant’s health

 

The plant’s health is crucial in maintaining it alive. There is a chance that the soil may cause the plant to wither and die. Also don’t fiddle with the tree. Bonsai needs to be repotted annually. Bonsai is like any other plant that requires moisture. You must remember that growing bonsai takes dedication.  You have to invest time and effort in order to make this plant grow healthy and beautiful.

 

Bonsai gardening is truly a very rewarding hobby.  It gives you some sort of diversion especially when you are so stressed out from work or from doing your house chores. As you focus on tending to your bonsai garden your mind will become more relaxed.  Thus, you will be able to relieve yourself from any symptoms of stress and anxiety.  Taking care of these bonsai plants will keep you close to nature which also helps increase your environmental awareness. However, these are just few of the many benefits that you can get from bonsai gardening.  The rest of the benefits will be yours to discover and explore.

 

About the Author:

 

Ryan Rivera used to suffer from the symptoms of anxiety attacks for seven years.  He now advocates healthy living as the best weapon against anxiety and depression.  You can read more of his articles at Calm Clinic

10 Bonsai Tips for American Moms

Most of the time, the first bonsai most people buy is chosen at random on an impulse buy, usually the most reasonably priced.  Most people also learn the hard way that it turned out to be not so inexpensive if it didn’t make it past its first month.

 

  1. Buy your first bonsai at a merchant who specializes in the cultivation of bonsai (a bonsai nursery). This way, you can be sure that the tree has received proper care before you become its owner.
  2. Understand that a tree is not necessarily a bonsai just because it is in a pot. If you buy a preformed bonsai, make sure it meets the quality criteria of a bonsai cultivation.
  3. The more perfect the bonsai, the more it will cost. Many consider bonsai to be works of art, and this is reflected in the price. It takes many years of careful culture to attain a mature bonsai, so don’t think you will get one for $10 or so.
  4. Look for healthy exposed roots and make sure the tree is well rooted in its pot. You should not be able to move the tree from side to side; the roots should hold it in place firmly. The roots system of a bonsai is very important.
  5. Make sure the trunk of the tree is tapered, wider at the bottom than at the top. The trunk should also not demonstrate too many scars. (Wires are used to shape the tree, but they should be used carefully so as not to ruin the asthetics.)
  6. Look for branches that are evenly distributed around the trunk. The largest branches should be on the bottom, decreasing in size the higher up they are. There should be few to no branches for the first third of the trunk.
  7. Make sure the foliage is dense and healthy looking. The foliage is generally a good indicator of the health of the tree.
  8. The older a bonsai is, the more expensive it will be. (The oldest bonsai in the world is about 600 years old and worth approximately half a million dollars.)
  9. The look of the pot must be consistent with the tree for best aesthetics. Generally, conifers are placed in terracotta pots and deciduous trees are put in glazed pots.
  10. Choose a species that suits your environment. Tropical species require a temperature above 60 ° F all year. However, they do not require a rest period during the winter and can therefore be easier to keep indoors in winter. Hardy and semi hardy species need a rest period each year so they can go dormant. For this, they need to be below 55 ° F for two months of the year.

Don’t expect your bonsai to survive for 600 years, but if you follow these tips and you will enjoy your bonsai for many years to come.

Did you know that people search can help you find anyone in the world. Try contacting any of the thousands of Bonsai enthusiasts and experts for tips, tricks or just sharing your hobby.

Bonsai Learner Permit

Someone once told me a long time ago to get a ‘Learner Permit’ for a Bonsai. I wasn’t too sure at that stage of my early Bonsai life what they meant. After all it is only a tree that just happens to live in a pot!

How wrong could I be. You see Bonsai or as I used to say ‘bon-sigh’ (Its still alive) is more than just a tree in a pot. Every aspect of the wee tree can be trained. From the root structure below ground, the root structure above ground, the trunk, dead branches hanging off the tree, if its windswept, cascade, upright like a broom, indoor, outdoor, Mame (the baby bonsai 3″ tall), shohin (slightly larger) or even three foot tall. Many things to learn old wise one!

So where do you start with your ‘Learner Bonsai Permit’?

The Single Bonsai Tree Lover.

Okay, lets look at it this way, you can have a Bonsai as a beautiful decoration with one tree that you can pay alot of attention to, even give it a name. I have never named my trees. I wonder what you would name your Bonsai as? (be clean)  

Having a single tree is the easy path to learn. In that way you can name your tree ‘Bert the Bonsai’, learn how the balance of the tree works. Watering at the right time at the right temperature, keeping the roots and leaf growth balanced, keeping a pleasing shape and when Bert the Bonsai gets too big for his boots, eh pot then having the confidence to repot your tree. 

Learner Permit Bonsai Tree

My first Bonsai was a Serissa also known as the ‘Tree of a Thousand Stars’ or the ‘Snow Rose’ for its tiny white flowers. Its the typical tree that most of the planet starts with. Other trees would be the Ligustrum also called a Privet.

Any indoor Bonsai in temperate climates can be difficult to maintain. For the first couple of weeks you have to make sure your little Bert has enough light, not direct but enough. Also that his soil doesn’t dry out too quickly. Bert is not too fond of direct heat. The soil will dry out too quickly and become very flaky and not retain water. There is a difference between water clogged soil and good water retention. If you see small pools on top of the soil or the water is not draining enough on what has gone in, then change the soil.

My first Bonsai back in 96′ was gift bought in a supermarket. If you bought your Bonsai (Bert) from a supermarket give it a once over health check and beauty treatment. You see Bonsai bought in supermarkets have a short shelf life 9excuse the pun) after spending too much time in a box, been cared for by people who are not gardeners. They dont have the best of starts. If you do happen to buy a tree from a supermarket here are some quick tips to ensure your little Bert will stand some sort of a chance.

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  • Before buying, check that leaves and branches are not damaged. 
  • Check that it is not pot bound. a pot bound tree is sure to be drained of nutrients
  • That the soil is not too flaky. It can retain water but drain properly.
  • Dont buy a tree in a cardboard box. If you must, buy one in a transparent container.
  • Make sure the Bonsai comes with a drip tray. this will ensure that the water will drain clearly and it has not been sitting in a damp container.

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Try to buy your first Bonsai from a specialist dealer or garden center, at least you have some come back and professional advice.

Three Months on and Graduation!

If your tree has survived its first three months, you can kiss your beginners indoor learner permit goodbye and look at more interesting Bonsai challenges. By now you have a strong appreciation of Bonsai although it does seem difficult it is not. Your first three months is learning about balance, the yin and yang and that patience in growing a tree educates.

Whats next? You could join a club, read copious amount of Bonsai books, spent hours reading and researching, writing articles for your favourite Bonsai website (me) about your Bonsai journey or discover the other aspects of Japanese gardening and art. 

Perhaps after a couple of years when you become a Bonsai teacher you too can tell people how you started with your ‘Bonsai Learner Permit’.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be bringing you more articles from ‘Bert the Bonsai’ and the ‘Bonsai Learner Permit’ series.

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Other articles for the Bonsai Learner Permit!

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If there are any topics that you would like to see covered on bonsai.ie please email me or leave a comment at the bottom of this article. 

 

Snow Rose Bonsai image courtesy of LinuxArtist.

 

 

 

 

Beginner Bonsai – Juniper

A Juniper bonsai is one type of bonsai trees that is suitable for beginners because it is quite easy to be taken care of.

Their are many types of juniper that can be turned into bonsai, such as Shimpaku, Japanese Garden, Green Mound, Chinese Juniper, Sargents, and Needle. These trees are also adaptive as they can be placed outdoors or even indoors. This means that they are great for bringing a little greenery to a room where you might spend a lot of time reading, or spending some free time playing on websites like http://www.partycasino.com/. On the other hand, they can thrive just as well in an outdoor space, like a garden rockery. So you have plenty of options available to locate your Juniper and by following some basic rules in growing juniper bonsai, the plant will flourish without giving too many problems.

One of important characteristics of juniper bonsai is that it need a dormancy period. This period can be considered as hibernation or resting, which is required by the tree to revitalize during spring and summer.

Like other bonsai, proper watering is important for juniper bonsai. Although it prefers a dry period between each watering, you should never leave the plant dry for a long period of time as it will stress and kill it. The proper way to water the bonsai is to soak it in a tray full of water up to its trunk for five to ten minutes. Then you should allow the plant to drain properly because waterlogged soil can rot the roots of the bonsai.

On the other hand, if you use a tap water, you should repeat the process several times. You can water the juniper bonsai, wait for several minutes, and then start watering again. This repetition is to make sure that the soil and the bonsai has stored enough water to grow.

Maintain the right humidity is important for your juniper bonsai. To create the preferable environment, you can place the plant on top of tray filled with small stones and water. The stones prevent the pot to be soaked with water, while the water will evaporate and create humid environment around the plant. Another good strategy in this regard is to use moss on the trunk of the juniper bonsai. Moss will improve moisture retention and additionally it also gives a more natural look.

Sufficient amount of sunlight is another factor that you should pay attention at to take care of your juniper bonsai. Low intensity sunlight, such as in the early morning and late afternoon, is enough for the plant. If you put the juniper indoors, you can place it near a window to get the essential sunlight. Fluorescent lamps can be used as an alternative if there is no enough sunlight available. You need to expose the plant around twelve hours a day if you use this artificial light.

Every two weeks, you should fertilize the juniper bonsai so it will receive important nutrients. Organic fertilizer is the most suitable type for this purpose. Repotting the plant should be done once every year or two years. During this repotting, you should also prune the roots to keep the plant small and to reduce the pressure experienced by the roots as it is contained in a small pot.

 

Written by Cindy Heller


Bonsai bugs!

shutterstock_31707127Bonsai trees are very delicate and are susceptible to decay, disease, damage, and infestations by pests. Lack of proper care is one of the top reasons for these problems, and if your tree gets into trouble you will need to know how to treat the tree without damaging it.

Some of the problems that you may come across include spider mites, scale insects, mealy bugs, aphids, green fly, black fly, and gall aphid. There are also several different types of moths that can attack a bonsai tree. They include the goat moth, leopard moth, geometer moth, and ermine moths.

You will want to watch the leaves of your plant, spider mites and greenhouse mites attack the bottom of the leaves that will leave marks, holes and discoloration as signs that they are present. You may also notice webs on the tree, as there are some types of pests that will leave webs as an indication of infestation. You will need to treat the tree at the first sign of infestation. Spray the foliage, especially the undersides, with insecticides, mild symptoms can be handled with acaricides. You will want to use a variety of acaricides to keep the pest from adapting to the chemical. Red mites and spider mites will also attack the needles of evergreen trees and will need to be treated immediately. With evergreen trees, check the cracks in the bark for eggs, this is the mites preferred location for laying eggs.

The needles of evergreen trees will turn a brownish color when they are infested. Caution is needed though, be aware that evergreen needles will turn this color naturally during its’ winter dormancy period. Look for the webs that the mites leave as an indicator also. If your bonsai is evergreen or deciduous you can wait until warm weather and do further treatment by removing, and destroying the affected branches, and foliage.

Another sign of infestation that you can check is the leaves for the eggs. Most pests will attach their eggs to the bottoms of the leaves, and these will show up as red spots on the leaf. The eggs can be destroyed with oil-based products, or if the eggs are found on very few leaves, you may just remove and destroy the affected leaves.

Bonsai, Pick a tree any tree

cardsIf you would like to create your own bonsai you must first decide on a method. Growing from seed is rewarding but painfully slow with some species but naturally fast growing tree’s seed might give you a good looking bonsai in a shorter period of time. My own success rate with tree seeds was not good at first but I have learnt from my failures and now germinating seeds is much easier.

Another option is to create a bonsai from nursery stock. This can be a very quick transition from a bush to a bonsai and it is much quicker than waiting for a seedling to grow. Most of my own bonsai were created from nursery stock. Many garden centres have potensai (POTential+bonSAI = potensai) in abundance and only the trained eye can spot them. Things you should look for are thick trunks, a good root spread and thicker branches towards the base of the tree and general health and vigour. I will go into pruning and wiring of potensai in a latter article.

“The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man.”-

J. Sterling Morton

The last option that I offer to you, although there are other ways is to collect a tree from the wild. This is called ‘Yamadori in Japan and the end result can be quite beautiful. The wild of coarse could be your garden, the face of a mountain or a nearby wood. You want to look for a tree that looks very old but has not grown vertically very much. Stunted trees are nature’s rejects but as bonsai they are top of the class. An old beech hedge can sometimes have many potensai to offer and if you know of someone that is clearing such a hedge it would be well worth a look.

Air-layering is another method but time consuming and sometimes not practical if you do not own the tree. You can buy ready made bonsai and there are many good quality trees’ out there but they can be expensive. There are many ways that you can grow bonsai and it is not as difficult as it may seem but you should always take your time and not rush into it if you are not ready. You should also have no fear as the worst thing you could do is kill a tree or two which you will be forgiven for.

Bonsai let's begin

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“A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to those who wield an axe to cut it down” – Buddha.

We as Bonsai lovers give the shelter, food, warmth and protection to the tree and a wonderful living organism it sure is. So many people miss or ignore the beauty of things around them in the natural world and bonsai to many people are just little tree’s in pots. I believe that many people are blind to this beauty and I myself up until a few years ago did not see anything special about bonsai. As an art form bonsai is up there with the best and is never static or finished.

As you begin your journey into the world of bonsai you may come across what is termed by many as mallsai. These are just little tree’s in pots and not in most cases bonsai. To be called bonsai a tree must have certain attributes that the vast majority of mallsai sold in hardware stores and supermarkets up and down the country are lacking. Bonsai should represent fully grown mature tree’s in nature and yet mallsai are often sold in plastic gift bags. Avoid growing malsai if you wish to expand your knowledge of bonsai and appreciation of nature and all living things.

What is bonsai you may ask? Bonsai is a tree planted in a pot but not just that as it must on a much smaller scale look like a fully grown tree and be pruned in different ways to achieve the illusion of age even on a relatively young tree. The pot also plays a big part and it must not distract from the tree and it also has to be the right size for the tree.

I have only started my journey into the world of bonsai but I already know that it is a road that I will never turn back on and as far as this road leads me I will follow it. I have a small collection of bonsai and yamadori which are tree’s collected from the wild and I hope to learn and pass on knowledge as many great bonsai masters have passed on to me through their books and videos. I guess though we all must learn the hard way at some point so what are you waiting for.

Watering-essential information

Elm-forest-by-Craig-1992I would like to go into this with a little more depth, as it is very important. One of the big killers of bonsai in incorrect watering. I am sometimes weary of people that still wish to immerse pots into buckets of water in every case or do not think it’s necessary to mist the foliage.  After nearly thirty years I probably manage the watering side fairly well – or at least my wife does these days, if I am  away teaching somewhere in the world.

The roots may become either dried or rotten because of too little water or too much water.

A free draining soil will assist in the transition of water through the pot. A compacted soil is obvious as water will collect on the surface. Ideally, when you water the Bonsai the water will flow freely through the soil.

Keep the soil moist in the summer but water less in winter. In winter just keep the soil damp and do not let it dry out.  Bonsai is not a cactus and needs a damp soil to keep the roots alive through its dormant period.

In most cool to temperate climates, watering once a day during the growing period is enough, but just check your soil. In hotter months watering will need to be done up to three times a day. If in a hot country, leave the trees in some shade for part of the day to keep the tree cooler. In some countries hot winds can also damage the tree by drying it out very quickly.

If your soils surface is looking a bit on the light coloured side it’s probably dry. However check just under the surface.

How to water your Bonsai.

Automatic watering systems are very popular and reasonably easy to set up.  Use a sequenced automatic time switch, sometimes called a ‘Computer Watering System’ but are really simple timers that start and shut off the water in a desired sequence.  This is good when you want to water some of the trees at a certain time and more than once a day in hot weather. You can rig up the hoses to a gadget sometimes called an octopus that has around six to eight hose attachment nipples and these can then be set to go off in a sequence that allows a different hose to water a different section, the next time the timer starts. It’s quite easy, as the timer can be set to go on and off six times through the day and if one section needs watering twice, then you attach a Y piece to two shorter hoses at different sides of the octopus.  Here is what I set up in my own place.

One and six waters the deciduous trees for 10 minutes each. The timer is set to 7am and 5pm.

Two comes on after one and waters the pines and conifers for six minutes in hot weather. Set for 4pm.

Three comes on after that and waters the Ficus and Willows etc –water loving plants, for 12 minutes. Set for 4.30pm

Four then comes on and waters the trees growing in beds, Yamadori etc. Set for 5pm

Five waters the rest of the garden plants and borders. Set for 5.30pm

If I need to water during the day in exceptional heat I can do so by hose without touching the Computer as the water faucet is rigged with a split tap to allow a separate hose connector.

 

The kit comprises a Water computer timer, a multiple hose distributor unit for six hoses and a water reducer that changes the flow from the hose into the narrower hose for the drip feeder nipples. I also use different nipples that allow different rates of water to travel through the feeder nipples from one litre an hour to ten litres an hour.

The one thing that is not good about auto systems is their reliability. The drip feeds can clog or stop working, battery powered ones are less reliable than mains powered, junctions in the piping may come apart when pressured up suddenly after softening in the sun on a warm day. They still water when the tree does not need any during rainy spells. Some systems I have looked at have a ‘cloudy day ‘ feature but it can be very warm on a cloudy day and the soil may still need water. Therefore, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. You turn that feature off and the tree will be watered if it needs or does not need it.  Now all that is not too bad some of the time in a hot climate as the temperature is more than likely to be constant and so the trees will need watering anyway as rain would be rare in the warmer seasons. In humid climates the system is not so good of course. In any case the soil should be free draining and the water should run through fast of course. Use wooden wedges to tilt the Bonsai that need less water and will benefit from free runoff such as conifers.  Just ensure that the pot and wedge are secure and unlikely to topple of the bench. Alternatively, remove the drips from the pots every other day.

More expensive systems are available that have a sensor to determine moisture levels in the soil. Even these aren’t completely satisfactory, as one trees water needs may be radically different from another’s.

Automatic watering systems are not a great problem though and can be a benefit if you are off on vacation. The only thing you need to ask your neighbour is to just check that all the pots are being watered and that the soil is damp. Point out the potential weaknesses in the system and a good neighbour should manage.

Using a hose:

I still need to use a hose in other locations and I always attach an adjustable trigger spray or multi-spray unit to the hose. Water pressure is crucial here and if you have a lot of trees you will need to have a powerful spray that is still fine enough not to wash the soil out or damage the buds.

Hose spraying is most growers normal method of watering as this can be a more controlled way of making sure the right trees get what they need. Use the adjustable trigger spray to control intensity of water delivery. Feeder units that are supplied by most of the major plant food companies can also be added easily.  Just make sure that you do not overfeed. I prefer using pellet feed such as Biogold. This is a rather expensive Japanese food but is excellent at developing fine feeder roots.

 

Winter and summer watering.

This depends on the climate requirements.. Essentially you may water anywhere from once to three times in any one day. I would suggest that it may be better to water twice on a hot day and mist once or twice damping down the benching and ground to create some humidity around the Bonsai or Penjing. Not essential in cooler months. Essential for species that have fine needles like Junipers

Misting the foliage

Misting is giving the foliage a fine spray. While part of the general watering, spraying the foliage acts like rain. If you have warm days the foliage may dry up through dehydration. Misting will replenish the moisture in most cases. Extra misting can be very important in warmer climates, in hot weather and under shade net. Pine – Pinus need more misting that deciduous. Species outside India that are dense such as Cryptomeria and Sequoia need daily misting while others need misting every two or three days. Misting will clean the leaves, reduce pests and, as Chase Rosade the famous master once said, highlights the small webs of spider mite. Deciduous trees can trap water between the leaves and it’s therefore best to spray deciduous trees once a week or three times in hot weather. Water droplets will not act as magnifying glasses and burn the leaves. That is a myth. In colder climates, misting is rarely done in winter. In these cooler climates, the soil is kept just barely damp through the winter months. Many deciduous trees need very little light and water when under winter storage, though there is the danger of a tendency to forget all about them. Just remind yourself to check them at least once a week. I will reiterate that while misting is not the only watering given, it forms part of the general overall watering programme and if you grow tropical trees then you will need to mist two or three times a day.

Sub Tropical

This climate is more humid and while experiencing little colder weather, some cold days can still occur. The rainy season is generally more prevalent and the summers can be extremely hot. However, in many places the humidity levels can also be a factor in this climate.

 

Tropical. Mountains and lowlands

This climate does not experience cooler weather unless there are mountains where the cooler air can get to these peaks. I find that Bonsai and Penjing growers have seen changes in weather conditions recently that can be partially attributed to what is happening in warmer climates. I would like to discuss the general climatic changes that the globe is experiencing and comment on the results of these changes . I teach Bonsai  in many countries and I live in Scotland. We have seen a marked change in temperatures, humidity levels and rainfall over the most recent years. I am an avid photographer of landscapes and have been very fortunate to travel to many countries both as a Bonsai teacher and as a photographer. The reduction of natural habitat is in, my opinion, a very serious issue and we should be aware of the changes caused by deforestation around the world.

Deforestation is causing climate changes as is other factors. This means that temperate and cooler areas are having warmer, and sometimes wetter, weather than they had in previous years. Many very hot countries have high mountains such as Nepal with its vast mountainous terrain and deep jungles in the lowlands. In Africa, where the plains can be very dry in the summer months, Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, celebrated by Ernest Hemingway in “The Snows of the Kilimanjaro” have inspired many writers is, due to its altitude, permanently covered in snow. Climate is changing all the time but this particular ice cap will probably disappear by 2020 due to the deforestation of the lower slopes for pasture. This causes a change in the microclimate of the mountain. That indicator will mean that other mountains from across the globe with glacial ice caps will lose their ice caps if similar deforestation to create grazing areas at the mountains base happens elsewhere.
Using this analogy I remember my own Bonsai teacher talking about microclimates nearly thirty years ago and teaching us that each area, each bench and each pot can have its own microclimate. What you do to that tree can affect the trees microclimate. Understand the trees microclimate and you will understand what it is telling you. Short of talking to the trees, I suppose that learning everything about what affects us in climate and conditions is the only way that we will understand what the Bonsai are saying.

In the case of worldwide deforestation, this apparently could create higher temperatures in some parts of the world causing loss of ice caps, rising waters and in some cases more rain. We can do very little about these changes but we should be aware of the climate changes that may affect us in the short term. Recently we have seen some countries with exceptional storms, high winds, freezing winters, excessive rain and unusual weather patterns. Farmers in some temperate countries have lost crops through excessive rainfall.

Anything that I suggest in caring for your trees should therefore be read with the understanding that the weather really is beyond my control.

Article written by Craig Coussins©

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Designing Bonsai

mugo pine in cascadeWhen designing bonsai trees you would shape them by trimming the branches or by wiring them into new positions.

You are dealing with living things, and you must be respectful of that. You will kill trees. This is a sad fact of the activity, especially as you start out. Commit yourself to understanding why every tree dies and what can be done to prevent it. Learn from your mistakes and do your best to prevent them in the future.

Every tree is different. Learn to care for a few different types of plants, and grow your collection from there.

How to Begin the Art of Bonsai

Remove the tree from the plastic pot by turning the pot upside down, tapping the bottom, and letting the tree slide out into your hand. The soil should not be too dry, so that the root ball remains intact. Gently scrape away the topsoil around the base of the tree, to expose the lower trunk (about one quarter to one half inch). Try not to break too many surface roots. First thing is to look at the roots of the tree and check to see if it gives the appearance of a strong foundation.

Cut off the bottom third of the soil and roots, and flatten out the remaining root mass. Prepare the bonsai pot by placing a piece of screen over each drainage hole, and pour a layer of potting soil into the bottom of the pot. Place the tree in the pot, pour in the remaining soil, and pack it firmly. Finally, submerge the bonsai, pot and all, in water, up to the base of the trunk, and let it sit in the water for a few minutes.

Interesting Bonsai Visual Effects

In bonsai, the rule of thirds states that the first (lowest and biggest) branch should be at about one third of the total height of the tree. It is the trunk that gives the tree its visual strength, and every effort should be made to have at least the bottom two-thirds of the height clear of branches at the front of the tree.

Next is checking the trunk. The shape of the trunk will basically determine the style you choose. In almost all cases, however, a thick base, which tapers gradually and gently to a thin apex, will make for a nice tree. Which style you prefer will depend on the movement of the trunk.

Look at the branching pattern. The lower branches should be thick while the upper ones should be thin. The branches should be laid out like the spokes of a wheel with some going to the back. This will give the tree depth when you look at it. No two branches should leave the trunk at the same level.

The handlebar effect is unnatural looking and, if left, will cause the trunk to swell at their level causing an ugly bulge in the trunk line. If your tree has such a fault you should, if a deciduous tree, remove one of the branches entirely. Try to avoid having branches spaced evenly down the trunk. Reduce the distance between the branches as you go toward the top of the tree.

Finally examine the plant to see if it is healthy. Be sure not to wire so tightly that you cut into the bark, or so loosely that you do not have support. Minor wire marks can sometimes add interest and show that the tree has been trained, giving branches character after several years. However, major wire marks are very ugly. To hide any marks that look unnatural you can strategically place foliage at intervals in front of the trunk, so that the trunk line is not completely visible.

It may be ten years (or longer) before your plant will actually be a bonsai. Don’t be discouraged by this, but think of it as part of the experience. Perhaps most importantly, understand that when you put a tree in a pot you are committing yourself to the care of that tree. You cannot simply ignore it or it will die. Bonsai is a responsibility as well as a hobby. If you practice it with care and patience, the rewards are tremendous.

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