Wednesday, February 6, 2008

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.

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