Thursday, February 28, 2008

Newsletter February 2008

Again welcome to all the new readers of the newsletter! Great to have you with us.
Well the rain keeps coming, we are in our normal monsoon pattern and probably will stay this way for a few more weeks at least. Just remember after heavy rain your trees have gotten to use to a higher uptake of water. When it stops raining your trees will stay in this mode for a few days so you may have to water more than usual for a few days, as they will dry out quicker.

Where do I start?
The idea of fertilizing is even more important when we are growing container trees. They are completely dependant on the immediate surrounds of the pot for their nutrients.
One of the key aspects of fertilizing is that it obviously keeps your trees healthy! One of the forgotten up sides to this is the fact that healthy trees will attract less insects and pests! Healthy clean areas are must for healthy trees.

Many of the commercially produced fertilizers are usually high in nitrogen. This is the chemical that will produce great growth to your foliage. The problem with this is that it is “artificially” feeding the leaves. It is the roots that should be feeding the leaves! So what you need is what is called a ‘balanced” fertilizer, one that will feed all aspects of the tree. We forget that the leaves are feeding the roots and vice-versa.

Around this time of the year, the reason for fertilizing, (particularly slow release) is to allow the tree to begin to store nutrients for the coming spring. This is vital if we are to have healthy happy trees come springtime. These nutrients are stored in the trunks and larger roots until called on when the weather begins to warm.

One of the dangers of using a fertiliser high in nitrogen late in the season is that you are liable to produce late growth which may not last the colder winter months. If this happens, you may lose your tree. Trees need to go into dormancy, we all need a rest sometime. If we make it produce during this period we will threaten the trees health.

I would encourage you to do some further reading regarding fertilizing if your are serious about your bonsai. There really isn’t the space here to discuss all the issues involved, chemical verse natural etc.

You may have seen the bottled liquid fertilizer I sell at the nursery. This is an all natural “Healthy Earth” fertilizer, a balanced liquid concentrate that will keep your trees topped up with constant nutrients. This is ideal for transplanting, balancing PH, revives sick plants, and the 600 mls makes up just over 100 ltrs. This is used every 3 weeks or so.

The other new range I am now selling is “Healthy Earth” slow release. This will feed up to 3 months, doesn’t “wash out”, and doesn’t dump in hot weather.

Both of these fertilizers are safe on newly potted trees, herbs, indoor, all flowering plants, and even natives. This saves the hassle of buying different fertilizer for all your different types of trees.

I only use these fertilisers in the nursery. I have found them to be safe, environmentally friendly and extremely beneficial to my stock.

Whilst we are talking about fertilizing and growth, it is worth mentioning that as the temperatures start to drop.

We enter a period that is similar in temperature to spring, so guess what? Yep that’s right, new growth, again this is why fertilising is important at this time of the year, we want to make sure we are getting every chance of growth into our trees as we can.

BUT! Keep an eye on your wire as the branches begin to grow and expand, wire, if not checked, will begin to cut in. This can leave nasty obvious scars on the tree, which is to be avoided at all costs. Some trees will never recover from this and can spoil a great tree. If needed remove the wire and rewire if necessary, just wire it slightly adjacent to were it previously was.
It is often best to use slightly heavier wire as this will have a twofold effect, it will last longer (ie avoid what we are talking about above) and hold your tree in position more securely. Believe it or not, your tree can often produce enough pressure over a growing season to move the branch upwards, which is its natural inclination.

A common problem I often see is with the thickening of foliage, and the die back of undergrowth.
People find it difficult to understand the need for constant trimming on some trees. The varieties that are effected most are the likes of junipers. As the foliage elongates, the lower leaves or needles (now covered by shade) are no longer able to do the work they were to designed to do, ie to turn starches into sugars with the help of the sun. (UV) So once growth elongates, the bottom or inner needles die. By constantly thinning your needles/leaves during the growing season, you will create a nice thick pad, which is able to let plenty of light in to these branches. This is the secret to creating “cloud like” pads on your branches.
On varieties such as junipers, this is done by constant pinching back. Never cut the needles, otherwise you will end up with lots of brown tips. These will eventually grow out but will be unsightly for a time.

You need to keep the pads down to about 25cm in thickness. Much more than this and you will encounter the problem we are talking about.

A lot of people think that if they cut of these small branches their tree will become smaller. The opposite is true. When you prune a tree, you remove the hormone in the growing tip, thus the tree responds by making more growth. So where you had one small sub branch, you will now have 3-5. This is how pads are created. (in a fairly simplistic way)

“T” Shirts. After a large demand for our T shirts, they are now available in sizes s,m,l,xl. They are as you see me wearing them on the webpage, and at the nursery. They are $25 and great quality! (mine are 2 years old!)
I’ll leave you with a bit of inspiration from the recent Bonsai show in China.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Photo Gallery

Newsletter January 2008

What great rain we have had! I think I only watered twice during the Christmas break which was a real bonus. I suppose it wasn’t so good for those on holidays though.

We are entering into perhaps the hottest part of the year. You may need to find some more protection from the sun for the next couple of months. Under a tree is not such a good idea as all trees excrete what is called lye. And will damage your bonsai. As well as this you are more likely to have more problems with insects. The best way to go is to erect some sort of shadecloth which is removable in winter. If you are choosing shadecloth go for the lowest % you can find, ie 50%. I use 30% but I think this may only be available commercially. This will help maintain moisture as well as keep the sun from burning foliage. (Really its no so much burning of foliage as it is the tree being unable to supply enough moisture to the leaves that is being lost through evaporation)
Now is probably not a good time to be repotting! There are some species that will tolerate all year round repotting such as figs, elms and junipers, but it is vital that the after care is at least 2 weeks of shade and misting. Obviously if you are doing these trees don’t take as many roots of as you would normally.

In the latest issue of Bonsai Focus, (still some in stock) there is a fantastic article on grafting. The tee that is used in the article is a shohin (miniature) maple. The method that is used is fascinating. It uses the elongated branches of the tree to whip back and be grafted into places where you would like a branch. This is a very successful method of grafting. This method can be used on other varieties but trees such as maples really lend themselves to this. I have used other methods such as using the whip, and drilling a hole through the trunk and feeding the whip through and leaving it until it has grafted. Then the original branch behind the graft is removed. The time a graft takes to become attached varies from species to species. What is also important is the time of year that the graft is done. Obviously the best time is when the sap is flowing so as to ensure a quick healing at the wound site.

Another way to graft is to use a smaller tree of the same variety, only leave it in its original pot whilst the graft takes.

After all this growth from the recent rains, be sure to check your trees which have been wired, to make sure the wire hasn’t begin to cut in. What is happening is that the branches are thickening up with the new growth, but the wire doesn’t expand. The end result can be nasty spiral scarring on your branches. On some trees this can be worse because they are softer. Trees such as azaleas, camellias, maples etc, mark very easy, and in the case of maples, very quickly (within 3 – 4 weeks!)

Obviously this is a problem if you are trying to grow the branch, but have to remove the wire every month or so, yet the branch has not set.

One of the ways around this is to use raphia. Raphia is a natural reed type product that is available in places like spotlight. It comes in strands and looks like flattened grass. What you do is soak the raphia for 30 minutes or so in cold water, then wrap the branch you intend wiring. You will need about 3 strands to make it thick enough to cover your branch. It is then wrapped around the branch quite tightly.

After doing this, wire the branch as normal. This should give you a bit more protection.
Another use for raphia is when you have a large branch you want to bend past a position that it would normally be capable of. By wrapping the branch with raphia, it is a lot less likely to break. Even if it does, it will probably hold the branch in position until it has healed. Sometimes you can bend the branch until you hear the crack and stop. This takes a bit of learning but it can be done.
With bending, don’t think it all has to be done at the one go. You can bend a branch over an entire season. The best way to do this is, once having rapia’d the branch and wired it, connect a loop of wire past the point that you want bent, and fix it to a opposite side of the tree, something to gain leverage from. You are then able to twist the wire slowly, maybe a turn every second day, until you have the desired bend. Leave this for a full growing season. For older trees, you may need to leave them for 2 – 3 years.

Whilst talking about bending, I saw an interesting article the other day on it. Instead of just bending the branch with both hands, twist the branch first with both hands until you crack the cambium. Often a crack can be heard. (This is before applying raphia) What this does is instead of putting the pressure across the cambium, it puts it along the branch instead. It is like hundreds of strands slightly separating, but not actually breaking as a branch does straight across.

I hope you are able to understand what I mean! By the way, I take no responsibility for broken branches!! Take the time to learn and practice on branches that it doesn’t matter if you do break them.