Tag Archives: Grow Your Own Bonsai

Caring for Your Orchid

Lyndas_OrchidCaring for delicately scented Japanese orchids is a bit different than for most other garden flowers. They are epiphytes, which mean that rather than growing in soil, their roots are exposed to the air. In the wild orchids grow on other plants, using them for mechanical support. Orchids are not parasitic. They get their nutrients from the air and are sometimes called aerophytes, or air plants. Most Japanese orchids have white blossoms, but they can be found in subtle shades of pink and yellow.

The easiest way to grow them at home is to use a small flower pot filled halfway with coconut fibre. Bonsai planters will work as well, but since most of these are shallower, you must take more care with watering.

After wrapping the roots of the orchid in sphagnum moss, place the orchid in the flower pot, making sure that the crown, or top, of the orchid sits above the rim of the pot. Water just enough to dampen both the coconut fiber and the moss. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then pour the excess water out of the drain tray. It is important for the moss to be kept moist. (Do not leave your Orchid standing in water as it will drown)

If you have decided to go with a bonsai planter, you may have to adjust your watering schedule to make sure the moss in the bottom of the tray does not dry out. Using a deeper bonsai planter dish tends to hold moisture longer than a shallower tray.

Orchids like plenty of light  (but not direct light) and prefer temperatures between 24 to 30 Celsius during the day. Night temperatures should not get much below 18 degrees Celsius. Japanese orchids are more robust than most other varieties and will tolerate slightly cooler temperatures.

Use lukewarm distilled water to mist your orchids once every other day during the spring and summer seasons. Avoid tap water since it may have chemicals that might harm the plant.

Fertilize your orchid once a month from early spring until the autumn. Fertilizing is not necessary in winter since the plant won’t be actively growing. Liquid or water soluble types of orchid fertilizer are advised. Fertilizers may cause salt and mineral build up in the bottom of the flower pot. Changing the coconut fiber once a year prevents this build up from harming the orchid.

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February Bonsai News

Feb, first month of spring, first month of new growth in a new year. The Snowdrops are flowering and the daffs are pushing through. The snows on my hilly backdrop are clearing, it is still cold outside with that sharp Irish dampness that does its best not to heal your bones.

Irish Bonsai Society

Interest is growing with feedback from all parts of Ireland. Fill out the interest form or join i-bonsai.com.

Bonsai Tasks

By now you have all your pots cleaned and new soils prepared for repotting. This year for a change I am using Akadama, why. Akadama is great for retaining moisture and over time it will break down to suit the roots. Yesterday I repotted a Jack Pine and a Spruce. I always place the repotted trees in the coldframe until the harshest of the frosts has cleared, which is normally around mid-March. These trees can be repotted now as they are a native species tree and very hardy. The more tender varieties can wait till towards the end of the month.

Your Indoor trees, Serissa and Chinese elm can be repotted in late spring.

Tree Seeds

Don’t forget to inspect your tree seeds and plan the next stage, which should be transplanting if in the fridge stratifying.  My Larch seeds (about 60 seeds) were placed in the fridge six week ago and now will be planted in a fine coarse soil mixture. The Blue Jacranda seeds have already sprouted and are approximately 2 cm high. These are indoor trees. They will be kept with bottom heat until the end of March to encourage the roots.

Pruning Techniques

crab apple by walter pallWith the growing popularity of keeping bonsai and perfecting its art form over the past decade, many people may own or want to own a bonsai. Many people see beautiful pictures of bonsai that have been shaped and pruned into works of art. They themselves want to have a tree as magnificent in the photos so they buy a bonsai tree only to find out it takes special care.

Pruning Your Tree The Right Way

When it comes to caring for your tree and keeping it attractive, having the right knowledge in how to correctly prune and maintain its appearance can make all the difference. While some types of bonsai require more or less care there are some general guidelines that you can follow for all species.

  • Make sure to use flush cuts rather than concave when removing twigs and branches
  • Species such as the Jade Bonsai don’t require sealing when cut while most others do
  • Proper drainage of the soil is essential before removing large branches

Refining Your Bonsai Tree

Refining is the art of shaping the bonsai into the form that you want it to grow in. This is what the bonsai is famous for because of it’s ability to grow into different shapes and forms.

Removing the terminal bud is one of the best ways to stop a branches growth along with pinching buds and branches in key areas. Aluminum wire is the most common method used to refine bonsai because of it’s flexibility while still remaining strong. Aluminum wiring can be found at your local garden shop or hardware store and is relatively cheap. Smaller bonsai can be refined with wire down to 1mm thick while continuously increasing the thickness of the wire as the tree goes.

During the growth season a bonsai tree can grow quite quickly. Constant pruning and maintenance is required to keep things in order. During it’s smaller phases, bonsai may require pinching twice a week while larger trees can do just fine with pinching only once a week.

Bonsai Tree Pruning Tools

There are quite a few tools that master bonsai artists use to refine their trees. However, for the beginner only a few are required to make your life easier.

For most of those just getting into bonsai 2 tools are recommended when you start out. The concave pruner and the bud scissors.

Concave Pruner – The concave pruners unique shape and design allow you to cut the branches in a way that promotes proper healing of the wound.

Bud Scissors – The bud scissors are useful for trimming leaves, branches and buds. It’s design and shape allow you to efficiently and safely refine your tree without causing damage to adjacent areas.

As you grow your collection you are going to require more tools in order to fully develop and maintain your bonsai.

Wire Cutters – Essential for cutting the wire that is used to shape and refine the bonsai. Their small short blades safely remove wire that is already up against the bark and branches without harming the tree.

Root Hooks – Most people don’t realize that they also need to maintain the roots of the bonsai to keep it healthy. Root hooks allows for easy removal of tangled roots and soil.

Knob Cutter – While not always needed the knob cutter is used to remove protruding stubs. It can also be used to efficiently shape and contour the branch and trunk and while quickly removing unwanted wood.

It is said that caring for a bonsai can be a great stress reliever. People have been perfecting the art form for hundreds of years as tools and information is passed from generation to generation.

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Azalea Flowering Bonsai

Azalea bonsai are some of the more common bonsai adaptations that were introduced when bonsai was first imported over from China to Japan. It is one of the more beautiful plants to adapted to bonsai style gardening.

The Azalea bonsai is a member of the genus Rhododendron. This simply indicates that the Azalea bonsai is an evergreen that adapts itself to a shrub type formation. Small shrubs typically grow to less than 6 feet in height. The Azalea Rhododendron actually can be divided into between 500-900 species.

Since they display very large beautiful flowers they present a very stunning and elegant style of bonsai plant. This is the primary reason that the Azalea bonsai has become very popular with Bonsai gardeners.

Care of the Azalea Bonsai

It is critical for peak condition that you avoid exposing this plant to direct sun during the spring and summer months. This plant will reward for your efforts on being placed in an area of filtered or indirect sun light. The plant does not need to be brought indoors during the winter and in fact can perform well outdoors even in winter climates although it will require some protection from severe conditions. An outdoor greenhouse can provide beautiful results.

For those who want to keep their bonsai indoors year-round, the azalea is quite suitable to that application. A cool window and plenty of light is considered optimum for keeping an azalea indoors during the winter months as is the necessity for frequent misting and maintain a higher level of humidity.

When considering watering options you will find that the plants respond very well to rainwater. Collection of rainwater to a storage container will reward you with healthier plants. The azalea bonsai plant will deteriorate quickly if the roots are allowed to dry out so moisture should be maintained in the soil at all times.

You will benefit from repotting as required to maintain appropriate space for full root development and you should monitor the soil to ensure the slightly higher acidity level preferred by the azalea. PH balance needs to be 4.5 to 5.5. It is best to use a soil specifically designed for Azaleas. Repotting should be undertaken in spring after the flowers have died. Repotting is required annually for the first couple of years, and every two or three years for more mature azalea bonsai.

Fertilize your azalea at about every other week in the spring time until flowering diminishes. Thereafter, monthly feedings will satisfy nutrition requirements. You should use an acid based fertilizer such as you would find available by Miracle Gro. In the late summer or early fall, reduce nitrogen from the fertilizer mixture and begin increasing the amounts of phosphorus and potassium. This will assist your azalea bonsai to set buds and blossoms for next season.

Also, if you repot with an amended, peat based soil in spring you may not be required to fertilize until autumn. It is recommended that you discontinue fertilizing your azalea bonsai during the hottest months of the summer in order guard against burning your plants.

Pruning should be practiced in late summer taking care to seal significant wounds. This plant will produce shoots from old wood. These often occur in clumps of 5 or 6. Proper pruning will reduce the number of new shoots to one or two. The number of leaves on these new shoots should also be reduced. This will ensure that these newly formed branches will receive more that adequate nutrition and light to develop in to strong, healthy new branches.

The weakest trait may be that the branches are relatively brittle and the bark thin and tender. For this reason, great care must be taken when wiring and shaping branches. Softer aluminum wire is recommended, accompanied by the liberal use of such as raffia to protect the delicate surfaces.

Written by Thomas Hendricks

Your First Bonsai

A majority of peoples first Bonsai are Indoor Trees. These are most likely tropical trees from Asia or the South America’s. The following points are for guidance, if you require more details see the book reviews.


These trees ahould have a minimum temperature of between 6 – 10 C in the winter and summer temperatures of between 18 – 22 C. You can place these trees outdoor on a warm summers day.


The ideal location to place your tree is on a east facing window sill or a bright north is second best. It’s best not too place your tree on a southern or western facing window as this will cause rapid drying of the soil with the heat of the afternoon sun, so be vigilant during the summer months if you have to place your trees there.

Misting and Humidity.

Indoor trees should be misted at least once daily to compensate for the low humidity in homes. This is particulary important with winter heating. Avoid placing your Bonsai near a radiator, fire or hot air duct as no amount of misting will save your tree.
You can use a humidity tray to help your Bonsai stay moist. This is best done by placing some small pebbles (Aquarium gravel) on a tray and adding some water. Rest your Bonsai on the stones making sure its not sitting on the water. As the water evaporates, it will provide a more humid environment for your tree. Also remember that misting and humidity tray will not replace proper watering techniques.


Before you water your tree it is best to leave the water standing in a container to reach room temperature. I tend to collect rain water or use filtered water. If you have a high lime cotent in your water dont use tap water on Azalea’s.

How do you know when to water?

Scratch or rub the surface of the soil. If the soil is wet leave it. if the soil is damp you can give some slight watering or soil misting and if it is dry, well it needs watering.

How to water?

The best method is to use a fine ‘rose spray watering can’ as you would use for watering seedlings. You can submerse your tree about once a month.

Do not over water your tree as you could drown the roots.

Giving nature a helping hand!

Last year after years of wishing and saving I bought what most gardeners wish for, a ‘Greenhouse’.


When I lived in Kimmage, Dublin, our humble capital. I lived in a terraced house with a backyard that was challenging to grow anything in, well almost anything. The shade loving plants thrived and for the back wall that got the sun in the morning, the glory vine was producing flowers in abundance.

My interest in growing tropical plants and Bonsai was limited by the small windows and lack of available light. I used to make frames with day light bulbs and tin foil to emulate enough light that the trees would stand a chance in getting enough light for healthy growth. As I said the backyard was challenging it was only 15 by 30 feet.

So when I moved down to Wicklow (the garden of Ireland) I had a blank canvas and a garden that is  16,000 sq feet.

16,000 sq feet… where was I to start.

The plan was straight forward. Plant grass seed, get a feel for the wind, what direction it blew strongest, what part of the garden water gathered most in and as for light, this wasn’t going to be an issue.
The back of the house is south facing with clear views of the Wicklow mountains. On the North and West side we are protected by the native species Ash tree. These stand at about 40 to 60 feet tall.

So a number of years later the garden is planted up, shade loving plants up near the Ash trees, the pond is built (it is half the size as my old houses backyard), the Bonsai trees that got too big for training are thriving in the wild and now it was time to select the greenhouse.

As with planning the garden, the greenhouse had to fit the environment. The house is aptly named ‘Windy Acre’, not after me but we do tend to have some very strong winds at times. So my criteria for selection was a sturdy greenhouse, one that was large enough for growing veg, tropical and propagating tree seeds.

Their are no greenhouse manufactures in Ireland only resellers and most of these provide the same models except for one that specialises in polytunnel’s. If I was going to invest in anything it had to have a once off install cost, I don’t mind ongoing maintenance as long as its a low cost.

So after milling over different options I went for the Eden Gardener. A strong greenhouse that has been through force 10 winds already.

gardener. copyright. eden greenhousesThe greenhouse is a way of giving nature a helping hand
and also if you enjoy eating what you grow it does help
a lot. Some people say it is a luxury, perhaps so.

What a greenhouse does is open up opportunities for growing plants that would be difficult to grow in normal

For me it is not just about Bonsai. You can’t really eat trees, can you?