Thursday, October 25, 2007

Newsletter August 2007

Well here it is, spring!! This has to be one of the best parts of the year for Bonsai, all the new growth, new inspiration, the challenge to learn more, and create better trees.
Sorry for missing last months newsletter, I was extremely busy with unloading our latest container of pots.

We landed 15 tonnes of pots, a lot of them are unique to Red Dragon Bonsai, we are the only ones in Australia to have them, and we don’t wholesale this range. This gives our customers something different from anybody else. The colours and style are exquisite!

I have been at a few different peoples places lately looking at their collections. What I have noticed is that they have many small would be Bonsai’s which unfortunately never become the trees they hope them to be. Some have 20, 30 and 40 trees all not quite “there” People have shown me little trees that they bought of the special rack at Bunnings. Rarely will you ever come across cheap trees that will make good Bonsai specimens.

Now I don’t want to seem to harsh but as I have mentioned before, instead of spending $10 on 8 – 10 trees each, buy one tree for $80 - $100. Small stuff is fine if you are doing mame, (miniatures) or groups, but if you are serious about Bonsai, start with something decent!
Here are some tips on doing this:
When you are looking for trees, consider the base and the first 1,2, or 3 branches and what would happen if you cut the whole thing back down and grew a new apex? To often people look at a tree that is say 60cm tall and try and work out what to do with it. Now it might make a good tree, but first explore the possibilities of cutting it back severely.

What if you found a great trunk, and cutting the whole thing back to just the first branch to create a really nice cascade?

Try and develop the artistic side of Bonsai. Treat it like art, and whilst keeping the guidelines in place try being abstract.

What about creating a “literati” This is a tree that has a long slow tapering trunk, with only 3 or maybe 5 branches at the top. Or with the same tree, wire it so as to create a sideways “C” shape with the apex or head coming up in between the pot and the trunk. Sometimes the tree you will use will be of quality stock, but the results will be worth it. I am just creating a literati with a $180 black pine, and cutting all the branches of except for a couple on the top. This will grow quickly as these trees have dominant apex’s and the size of the pot will feed it well.

It doesn’t have to be expensive! You may find a $50 tree that might make a fair informal upright, but by looking around the bottom it may have a couple of great bottom branches and you could gin the rest, turning an average looking 40cm tree into a superb 10cm tree. Small pots are cheaper and often more elaborate. Something like this on the dining room table for an evening can look stunning.

If you are wondering about this, ask me next time you are at the nursery and I will show you a couple of elms I am doing this with.

You should have started fetilising by now. Again it is better to use a weak solution more frequently than a strong solution every so often. A good way of doing this is to find a tub big enough to soak your whole tree in pot and all. The water should cover the base of the trunk by 3 -5 cm’s or so. This will ensure all the old air is forced out, (you will notice the bubbles, now you know what it is) and the tree will be saturated, ensuring no dry spots in your soil which can easily happen. As you lift out the pot after say 20 minutes or so, you will notice all the water draining out the bottom. This means that new oxygen is being sucked down into the soil. This allows the continual breaking down of the nutrients, and allows them to mix with the moisture which in turn is mixed with the oxygen. This forms a gas and it is this that passes through the cell walls of the root hairs thus feeding the tree! Amazing isn’t it. This is just a brief summary but helps to understand what is going on.

Many people tend to ignore what is going on in the soil, and only observe the top growth, but guess what? Healthy roots, healthy tree!! Take some time to understand roots, soil, and watering. You will be well rewarded.

Repot, repot, repot!! Spring has come very suddenly this year. Many trees are starting to wake up, and its best to be able to repot and root prune now before they have budded. If you are busy, leave your evergreens and concentrate on your deciduous. Most deciduous varieties can be heavily root pruned. Make sure thought that you cut of the heavier roots, and leave as many of the small fibrous roots as you can. These are the roots that are feeding the tree. Make sure you put your tree somewhere warm for a week, not back in the full sun.

When root pruning make sure you get up under the rootball below the trunk. Often this part of the tree is neglected, and over the years this can become very compacted. After you have done some clearing out of old soil, hold your tree in beween your fingers upside down, allowing the roots to fall away to the sides. This should give you good access to this part of the tree. Gently comb out the old soil and loosen any compacted dirt. Sometimes the soil the tree was originally planted in will still be there, this needs to be gotten rid of!

Now also is a good time to top prune your tree, this will create less stress on the tree as you repot. As with most deciduous trees, they are best cut back heavily this time of the year.
You may decide its time for a new pot. If possible always take the tree that needs to be repotted to pick a pot. Its amazing how much smaller/bigger your tree was when you get back home. If you need help with selecting the right pot, just ask myself or Corey, we will steer you in the right direction.

We have recently acquired some nice field grown stock. These are privet, Chinese elms, corky bark elms, flowering plum, crab apples, and some beautiful seiju elms (very small leaf)
As these are field grown the have nice root structure which will produce ideal nebari. (root flare around the trunk)

See you soon,

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