Monday, October 22, 2007

Newsletter February 2007

Well another month already! We are still having unseasonable weather, and its yet to be seen if winter will be early or late.

As mentioned previously, there is a small window for repotting in late March early April, as these times have similar temperatures to that of spring.

While I think of it, I only have a few copies of Bonsai Europe left. The next issue will be here will be here late March.

Usually February is the hottest month of the year. For this reason your trees may slow down in their growth. The reason for this is that they are protecting new growth from being burnt. Trees that need to be watched for leaf burn are your deciduous trees. Trees such as liquid amber, maples elms etc. The first thing you can do to protect them is to make sure they are mulched well. If they are in a nursery pot just use any type of mulch. (Just be careful of red cypress as it tends to become water repellant) If your trees are in bonsai pots, make sure they have plenty of pebbles on the surface. These do tend to wash of by mid season so attend to these. The idea is to keep the roots cool. If the roots are kept cool they will have enough moisture to transfer to the leaves in hot weather. This avoids the dreaded “burnt leaves” look when you hit autumn. Instead of enjoying beautiful colour, you just have brown curled up leaves!

This is one of the reasons we defoliate trees at Christmas. By doing this the tree will produce nice new fresh leaves. These are therefore more inclined to be unmarked as you come into autumn. (yes it is to late!)

You may need to also move your deciduous trees to a shaded position, make sure you are still getting good light though. Under a tree is not the best position as trees shed what is called “lye” which will damage your trees and may also infect them with pests and disease.

I have included a picture of a liquid amber to show you what beautiful bonsai’s they make. For many of you who live close to the coast, these are ideal as a replacement for maples. Sometimes if you are to close to the beach, maples will struggle. Liquid ambers are much hardier. I have had one in my collection for 15 years or so now and it produces awesome colour. I have some stock of these, ground grown specimens, here at the moment. Some of the trunks are 5 to 7.5 cm’s + thick. They have great branching and will make lovely trees. They grow very quickly and are a very rewarding tree.

Now is the time to start fertilising your trees with liquid potash. This is obtainable from Bunnings etc and is used in a diluted form watered on. Like anything, don’t be tempted to overdo it.

You will need to do this every 3 or 4 weeks until September. This will encourage flowering and therefore fruiting on your trees.

Just remember, that if you have an abundance of fruit on trees in bonsai pots, you may need to thin the fruit out. If allowed to remain it can threaten the health of your tree, or even kill it. It is just that the demand on the tree to feed the fruit is too great.
Don’t prune your flowering trees any longer as you will be cutting of shoots that will produce the flowers.

In saying that, if your tree is still young and being shaped, never sacrifice shape for flowers. In other words, if your tree needs to be directed in a certain way for its future shape to be correct, but you don’t want to because of flowers, you will never produce a tree of quality. Better a good tree with flowers, rather than an ordinary trees with flowers!

As the weather does start to cool, (readers of this newsletter are all over Australia, so you will have to gauge your temperatures), make sure you have a good regimen of fertilizing happening again. Your tree will start to store nutrients for new growth next spring. I always recommend a balanced fertilizer, so as to produce even growth. The elements of potassium and phosphorous will be used to build strong wood both in trunks, branches and roots. This will help eliminate dieback during the winter months. Continue to fertilise until the temperature drops below 12 degrees at night. This will ensure good strong growth for next spring.

I know I have spoken about it before but you need to keep yourself inspired. Ask yourself the question, how am I going with my bonsai? Where am I going with my bonsai. You will be amazed how quickly the years go by and you are still thinking, “one day I will do that landscape” etc. Clean out your collection, get rid of stuff that will never really please you. Sell it, give it away, whatever. Refine what you are doing. Sometimes you can sell of a few trees that your not real keen on and buy something you would really like. One mans trash is another mans treasure. Or even radically alter a tree that is just not looking right. Maybe a cascade that you have had for a while but really isn’t happening, have a look at the top, maybe you could take the whole tail of and have a great informal upright. Let your imagination go. Read books, get ideas, that’s why I recommended Bonsai Europe because it is so inspirational. Its to easy to become stale!

Black pines (pinus thunbergii)
Black pines are probably regarded as the “King of Bonsai”. I think once you gain confidence with general care of bonsai, you should contemplate adding one to your collection. They are slow growing so either be prepared to wait, or buy something advanced. These trees really offer a great challenge to learning and getting closer to the art of bonsai.

There is nothing really like a well shaped pine. Practically anything can be done with them.
Don’t get these pines confused with the pines you see growing locally. These are “Radiata pines” or slash pines. They are really not suitable unless done as quite large trees. The reason for this is that they have very large needles. With black pine, the needles are able to be reduced to very small lengths down to 1-2 cm’s.

I have some small very nice prewired trees right through to larger specimens available at the nursery. Pines don’t have to be huge to be stunning, a tree 20 cm high can be absolutely awesome!

Because of enquiries I am contemplating doing a night class on black pines. These trees are really a lot different to most other trees. There are many distinctive aspects to them from trimming to repotting. I found a lot of information on them a little (lot) hard to understand. It would probably run on a Thursday night, 7.00 to 9.00 If you are interested, please let me know so I can gauge interest.

That’s all from me, Happy Bonsai-ing

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