I got a ‘Bonsai Kit ‘ for Christmas

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So I got a #bonsai kit for myself for Christmas . The sole reason was to see what is available and to see what passes as an all in one grow your own bonsai kit .

A €6 Bonsai Grow Set from my local shopping centre

I chose a kit with an impressive photo of a bonsai and a large dish . I looked impressive , so I paid and off home I went .

I opened it up and separated all the items inside , they consisted of a pack of 5 seeds a small bag of compost and a bowl , much like a large bowl for cornflakes , it had no drainage hole , which for a bonsai is vital . But on the positive side I’ll use it for my carnivorous plants .

Nice breakfast bowl , but for bonsai it’s useless. 

The seeds are of an Aleppo Pine , but I’m almost sure the tree in the photo is a Japanese White Pine . And it would take many many years of dedication to achieve such a tree .

5 Seeds of an Aleppo Pine . I dont recommend planting them indoors all year round .

I then read the instructions , a blanket statement of soak and place the seeds in the fridge for a month , then plant them out .

While it looks impressive , and for a few quid it seems value for money . It’s best to think about a few points before parting with your money .

  • Is the price reflecting the value of what you’ll recieve ?
  • Check the list of seeds coming with the kit !
  • Are they easy / difficult to get in your country ? Will they grow in your country ?
  • Google is available on everyone’s phone so this should easy to find out
  • If there is a pot with the kit , make sure it has a drainage hole !

So as it stands I have prepared the seeds and planted them in a seed tray . Now all I can do is wait . I will do a follow up in the new year on my Facebook page #Bonsai Gers Blogs to show how many , if any germinate .

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #bonsailover #happynewyear #2022

What’s possible in a year

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BONSAI PROGRESSION            ( ACER PALMATUM )

The start of my maple project

On the 20th of November 2020 , I got a delivery of Acer Palmatum from FUTURE FORESTS the whips only had 2 or 3 leaves left on them , real healthy and strong

I was so excited and for days I looked at them from all angles , trying to decide what style is within them . First I looked at the roots , the nebari will give a good indication of what way to style them .

I chose one which cried out for the Moyagi Style ( informal upright ) . I trimmed it down and placed it in a large pot,  this is to thicken the trunk and induce a taper .

Planted into a very deep pot of free draining compost to encourage root growth

There was a low lying branch which I have decided to keep as a sacrifice branch.  A sacrifice branch is let grow without interruption , this will also thicken the trunk and roots giving the tree an older appearance.  

The sacrifice branch is let grow without interruption

Throughout the summer I fed the tree well with PROBIO CARBON and continued to pinch out the soft growth to encourage branching . Pictured below is the fruits of a year of intensive feeding and pinching.Β I have trimmed and cut it back for the winter . NEXT year I am going to focus on the branch structure so watch this space for updates !

The sacrifice branch trimmed back and 2 small stumps which should die back to the trunk
A good nebari thickening up like the trunk

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Buying your first bonsai .

So you have decided to buy a bonsai , a lot of bonsai appear in department stores around Christmas . These are usually mass produced in a field and hastily dug up and stuck in a pot before being exported . They unfortunately don’t have time to acclimatise to the new country and will mostly die within weeks of being bought .

I would urge you to spend your money on a tree from a reputable grower . He will be able to give you the benefit of his or her knowledge , and most have an aftercare plan .

The best time to buy a tree is in spring , you will see if it’s in good health by observing how vigorous the tree is .

This is a sure sign of bad drainage

Now we begin the checklist of what to look for . The Soil . The soil should be moist and not waterlogged , there should be no weeds or lichen growing on the soil , this is a sign that the soil isnt draining properly and possibly the roots are dying . The Trunk , start from the pot up , the trunk should have visible roots radiating out , no crossed or knobbly roots . Next , the trunk should have a taper ( wide at the bottom and getting thinner towards the crown of the tree ) . If the tree is wired , make sure the wire is NOT cutting into the bark as this will never heal properly and will look unsightly . You are going to be spending a lot of money and you should get the best tree possible for it .

Wire cutting into the bark

The Branches . These should be strong and undamaged , as most of the trees available have trunks in an S shape the branches should be placed on the outside of the curve . The branches should be bigger on the bottom of the tree and gradually be thinner towards the top. The leaves or needles should have a healthy colour for the species you are buying .

The Leaves . The needles or leaves on the tree should be a healthy green or red depending on which tree you choose , there should be no evidence of disease or bug infestation. Leaves stuck together may contain caterpillars, the same of pine needles . Also look for aphids .

Strong healthy coloured leaves

Questions to ask the seller . Q1. How old is the tree , what species is it and do you have a care leaflet . Q2. When was it wired and will he or she remove the wire when appropriate. Q3. Can you check the roots , make sure they are white or a cream colour , check for insect grubs which eat roots too . Q4. Do they provide after care . Some of the growers do , some will even mind the tree for you while you are on holiday for as price of course .

If you are happy that all the criteria have been met then go ahead and purchase your tree . At this point I will wish you many years of happiness with your tree 😊

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #gardening101 #maple #bonsailovers

Most Common Bonsai Mistakes #1 Wire cutting into the bark

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One of the most common mistakes you will encounter when growing , or indeed buying a bonsai is wire being left on too long and now its cutting into the bark . I can tell you nearly everyone who has grown a bonsai has done it , and yes even I have done it . So let me show you what I did to try and get rid of the marks.

Let’s start off like this , it began as a straight and beautiful seedling , after a year I wanted to create some character by introducing some bends with wire . Slowly but surely I was getting there and each time I put heavier wire on to correct its form .

Each time heavier wire was put on to hold the shape I required

The year went by , and Spring came around , I did the ritual of root pruning and the bud tip removal . I decided to apply the wire early and shape the tree some more . I fed the tree as normal and was keeping an eye on the leaf size . Unfortunately it produced so many leaves that when i would glance over i couldn’t see the trunk clearly . Summer slipped in without a thought and there were a few days of heavy rain , the trunk swelled up fast , by the time i checked the wiring it had already begun to cut in .

The damage was done !!!

As soon as I seen the damage I took the wire carefully off , my heart sank . Was this destined for the bin ? I didn’t give up hope on it , I’d grown it for a few years . I had to find some way of saving it without it looking like an ugly duckling . I scoured the internet and my books for a solution. There didn’t seem to be one , So this is what I did !!!

I smeared the bark of the trunk and the wounds with vaseline to seal and protect the damaged bark , I then placed it in a big deep pot and fed it really well , I didnt trim the new growth. I was hoping the wounds would seal quickly without scarring . My train of thought was if it has an abundance of feed and free reign to grow that the trunk would fatten up and the scars would heal quickly and hopefully unseen .

A year later and it’s almost healed

Well it appeared to work , I was lucky to catch the wire before it dug in too far . I’m not saying this is the solution to everyone’s problem, just that this worked for me . Dont forget to follow me for updates on this and all my other trees . Thank you

Close up of the scarring

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #gardening101 #maple #beech #yamadori #irishbonsai #bonsailovers

Overwintering your Bonsai

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HALLOWEEN HAS PASSED

Most Bonsai are showing off their beautiful Autumn colours,  so now we have to consider how we are going to care for our trees during the winter months .

One of my Beech trees showing its Autumn colour

You have many options ! you can build a cold frame , if you have greenhouse you can use this . Even a shed would do . If you haven’t got any of these you can use a sheltered part of the garden .

First things first , you’ll have to clean the area thoroughly,  removing leaves which can become a haven for mould and bugs . Next is to clean benches and stands .

So how do the trees prepare themselves for the winter dormancy ? Well , they slow down their metabolism,  they drop their leaves and harden off the green growth from the summer / autumn .

Now it’s up to you to get your tree through the Winter safely . Whatever the voice in your head is saying 🚫NEVER bring your dormant tree into your home , not even for one day , the fluctuation in the temperature may bring your tree out of its dormancy prematurely.Β  This could be detrimental to their health 🚫

Now while I’m on the subject , I talk mostly about native trees , but I have to mention Sub Tropical trees . These include Carmona, Sageretia and Dwarf Jade . They can be kept outdoors during the summer months but once first frosts hit they should be placed inside on a south facing windowsill.

So when do you move your bonsai to winter quarters ?  well the rule of thumb is when the first frosts make an appearance , begin to move them . But you should have the overwintering space ready and clean . If you dont have a greenhouse or cold frame you can use a sheltered part of the garden out of the drying wind . Many people put their trees in the ground IN their pots .

There are pros and Cons to this , being while doing this may protect the tree from cold , it opens the tree up to earthworms getting into the bonsai pot 

I use an old plastic aquarium and lid and it has worked for many a year for young saplings .. just check it after rain to make sure it’s not full of water .

Another thing many get worried about is Snow . Snow is predominantly good , it insulates your trees , but keep an eye out to make sure the weight of it isnt damaging your tree .

Snow can sometimes insulate the soil and prevent it freezing

During warm winter days you can open greenhouse doors and move your trees around to keep the temperatures down .

DORMANCY RULES IN A NUTSHELL

  • Always protect from the drying wind
  • Only water when the soil is dry
  • Do not expose your tree to unnatural temperatures above seasonal norm
  • Check for grubs , insects and fungal infections.  The earlier they are caught the less damage they can do .

Signs that your tree has come out of dormancy are , buds swelling and leaves opening . Hopefully this will happen in Spring , even when it does , protect new growth from frost , it can cause dieback . Especially in maple trees

#bonsai , #bonsaitree , #bonsailife, #bonsaiGer, #bonsaiworld, #bonsaipots, #gardening101, #maple, #beech, #yamadori, #irishbonsai , #bonsailovers, #autumn , #inmygarden, #gardening_is_my_therapy, #winter, #overwinter , #bonsaicare , #greenhouse , #coldframe , #candide, #facebook, #twitter, #instagram ,

Bonsai Progression

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COMMON SYCAMORE

It had been growing for over 20 years in a garden when I got it . It had been battered by a lawnmower,  cut back year after year . The owner of the garden Tommy was going to have the garden paved over and the flowerbed dug up . The stump was roughly removed with the  minimum amount of root .

The beginning of ‘ Tommy ‘

I rushed home and cut the thick roots back , I covered them with rooting powder,  placed it into free draining compost and crossed my fingers that I would see some growth .  I didnt have to wait too long 😊

Tommy in a bucket , at this point all my fingers were crossed .

I began to remove the large branches , this left a lot of open wounds which I sealed with Vaseline . This kept the cut airtight and helped the wounds begin to heal quickly . The tree continued to throw out leaves . I did breathe a sigh of relief as that was a lot to put the tree through in the first year .

The large branches were removed and the cuts sealed with Vaseline

Winter came and went , as the first leaves appeared my fingers uncrossed . I began to feed the tree , more leaves appeared this tree had sparked my interest in it . Now it was fighting the odds of survival and winning . I was giving it plant food diluted to quarter strength , by April 2019 buds began appearing from older wood , Yes ! it was beginning to form the shape I had in mind  , I constantly pinched it back hoping to form a rudimentary branch structure  .

Buds begin to pop out so I began feeding it baby bio

At this time I began to care for the wound left by the years of bashing from the lawn mower . I got my hands on some lime sulphur ( it stinks SO bad ) and painted the exposed wood and left it to dry . I continued to feed the tree over the next season with the plant food , but as soon as Autumn showed its face I switched to tomato feed . This makes the tree form young bark on the newer growth to protect it for winter

First flush of leaves in spring

I was confident that it was growing steadily and strong enough for a root prune and repotting this spring . I was more than surprised to find that it was root bound . I got the new pot I had been saving for it and potted it up . I placed a rock under the gnarly roots . The difference a pot makes ! I’m happy with combination of texture and colour .

Later on in Spring I found a product being advertised on Instagram . It was being talked about by my bonsai peers so I decided to try it out . It’s made by @probio_carbon . I followed the instructions and within 2 weeks my trees began a huge growth spurt , buds began to appear from 20 year old wood and it has continued ever since . ‘Tommy’ thrived and now is the healthiest he has ever been , beautiful strong leaves with great colour . As I write this , just a few days shy of Halloween there are no sign of Autumnal colours . The photo below is a representation of what can be achieved with a little patience and knowledge . Now it’s your turn to produce your own tree . Its seed collecting time now .

Let me see yours and watch this space for updates and more progressions of my trees

Buying your first bonsai .

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So you have decided to buy a bonsai , a lot of bonsai appear in department stores around Christmas . These are usually mass produced in a field and hastily dug up and stuck in a pot before being exported . They unfortunately don’t have time to acclimatise to the new country and will mostly die within weeks of being bought .

I would urge you to spend your money on a tree from a reputable grower . He will be able to give you the benefit of his or her knowledge , and most have an aftercare plan .

The best time to buy a tree is in spring , you will see if it’s in good health by observing how vigorous the tree is .

This is a sure sign of bad drainage

Now we begin the checklist of what to look for . The Soil . The soil should be moist and not waterlogged , there should be no weeds or lichen growing on the soil , this is a sign that the soil isnt draining properly and possibly the roots are dying . The Trunk , start from the pot up , the trunk should have visible roots radiating out , no crossed or knobbly roots . Next , the trunk should have a taper ( wide at the bottom and getting thinner towards the crown of the tree ) . If the tree is wired , make sure the wire is NOT cutting into the bark as this will never heal properly and will look unsightly . You are going to be spending a lot of money and you should get the best tree possible for it .

Wire cutting into the bark

The Branches . These should be strong and undamaged , as most of the trees available have trunks in an S shape the branches should be placed on the outside of the curve . The branches should be bigger on the bottom of the tree and gradually be thinner towards the top. The leaves or needles should have a healthy colour for the species you are buying .

The Leaves . The needles or leaves on the tree should be a healthy green or red depending on which tree you choose , there should be no evidence of disease or bug infestation. Leaves stuck together may contain caterpillars, the same of pine needles . Also look for aphids .

Strong healthy coloured leaves

Questions to ask the seller . Q1. How old is the tree , what species is it and do you have a care leaflet . Q2. When was it wired and will he or she remove the wire when appropriate. Q3. Can you check the roots , make sure they are white or a cream colour , check for insect grubs which eat roots too . Q4. Do they provide after care . Some of the growers do , some will even mind the tree for you while you are on holiday for as price of course .

If you are happy that all the criteria have been met then go ahead and purchase your tree . At this point I will wish you many years of happiness with your tree 😊

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #gardening101 #maple #bonsailovers

The best bonsai trees to grow for spring colour

Well it’s been truly a mixed bag of weather this Spring , from a mini heatwave one day to hail and snow the next . But as a gardener and specifically a bonsai grower I have been waiting for signs of spring and new life in my trees .

Very popular Cherry Blossom

So let’s have a look at some easy to grow trees which will give you some nice Autumn colour , at the very beginning of spring we normally see Cherry Blossom . These are usually a variety of Prunus , of which there are many . They can be single blossom right through to clusters of flowers .

The trick to getting these to flower each year is careful pruning and feeding. As these bloom on the branches they form after flowering this year be careful of your pruning.

Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream ‘

Next up are Acers , these are the most recognisable of the Bonsai trees you will see . Some growers only grow Maple trees because the varieties and colours are so spectacular. Some give you fantastic spring colour , point in case being Acer Japonica ‘Katsura’ it is also one of the first to produce colour in Spring

One of my young Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’ in training

Another common Acer is the variety ‘Atropupureum ‘ , this gives a beautiful deep red leaf in Spring but in Autumn/ Fall it explodes into a fireball of bright reds which not many others can match. There are many many more varieties so get to the garden centre and have a look .

Acer palmatum ‘Atropupureum ‘

If you see one you arent familiar with , Google search it . Recently I have come across a tree I have been looking for , Liquidambar, it’s a sweet gum tree so I’m going to experiment with it. I also have seeds for trident maples down so fingers crossed I’ll get one or two 🀞

Spring buds bursting on my Larch

Now there is one tree I love to see in Spring , it’s the Larch . The tiny green buds well and truly tell me Spring is here . It’s an absolutely great tree . It takes all forms of punishment and still continues to grow so it is ideal for beginners. Well these are a few of my favourites. Have a look around and see what’s available and begin or increase your bonsai collection 😊

Larch in the foreground Katsura in the background

Create Bonsai from Nursery Stock

Japanese Maple ‘Katsura ‘

An instructional video showing how to start a bonsai from a nursery stock tree purchased in a garden centre you can watch it below πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡πŸ‘‡ https://youtu.be/VK3ffGOU67A

My first Bonsai project of 2022 πŸ˜Š

Every now and again something new happens in the bonsai world, at the moment I have seen where enthusiasts have begun to grow trees over statues .

This has been sitting outside on a shelf for around 2 years now

I have decided I am going to try it out for myself . I have had this statue outside among my trees on a shelf. It is really weathered and I’m going to use this .

My next challenge is to decide which of my trees to use ! Most of the examples I have seen are styled in a root over rock idea , so whichever tree I use it will have to have long , strong roots to begin with .

I had thought of using an elm or one of my maples , pictured above is a katsura maple , but on looking at other bonsai artists work I noticed a trend for strong, robust evergreen trees .

Then I remembered I had a Yew in a half pot that I have just neglected . After more research and seeing the yew in a monastery in Killarney , my mind was made up!

So there you go,all I have to do now is combine these in an aesthetic composition

So the first thing I had to do is check the roots on the yew , and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, the only thing is there is a split in the roots so it wont be able to straddle the back of the statue .

The rootball didn’t accommodate the style I had envisaged

Nevertheless I’m still going to attempt this after finally finding a position I am happy with I have draped the rootball around the neck and front leg of the lion .

This looks the most aesthetically pleasing combination

Next I prepare a deep pot so I can bury the whole lot , I made ‘mudpies’ from the compost and used it to secure the roots firmly , I will use the minimum of wire to avoid damaging the roots at this stage .

Almost finished for now , just need to add more compost

Once planted I will continue to feed and shape the tree as usual , but I will encourage a big heavy trunk by allowing the tree to grow unchecked for a while too . I will also lift it each year to see how the roots are progressing . So maybe you want to try something , send me your photos 😊

What’s in my Bonsai Bag ?

The tools I have collected over the years which I have found most beneficial to creating and caring for my Bonsai.

My go to bag of tools

In this blog I’d like to share with you the array of tools I have accumulated over my years of growing and caring for bonsai.

The first set of tools I’ll share with you are , two small towels and a little root rake , I got these in Lidl many years ago , I use these primarily on my smaller trees

Second of all are my Concave Branch cutters . I use these almost every day during growing season . Primarily used for the safe removal of branches, I also use the tips of them to remove leaves .

Next in line are my larger Root Rakes , used every Spring to remove the old compost and tease apart the roots , the ends are shaped for digging and I must say the DeWit rake is quite the beast , I havent come across such a strong rake in my years of bonsai growing .

No growers tool bag should be without a set of pruning shears and this is my set , the larger , stronger one is used mostly for removing the roots during repotting season. The smaller ones I use to remove soft growth and leaves .

Next up , after all the talk of cutting and removing of branches etc is my tube of wound sealing paste . This as you can see is an import . I waited for the price to be reduced before I purchased it . Until then I used Vaseline with no problems occurring with the trees 😊

Another thing I tend not to use too much is wire , its handy to have a few thicknesses so you can deal with any branch or trunk . It’s best to use aluminium as its light and quite strong . This I think , to those who dont grow bonsai is the most enthralling part , almost mystical even !

This has to be without doubt the least used but at the same time the handiest tool in the bag , used for snipping lengths of wire , also for bending it around awkward angles . I use it for shortening woody branches so I can get the concave cutters close to the trunk and the screwdriver tightens up loose tools , another useful purchase from Lidl . Which proves it pays to look around .

What can you do with the odd shaped trees ?

Create a Bonsai Forest

Throughout the year,  occasionally you will end up with saplings which dont conform to the usual styles of bonsai .

Dont despair,  you can still use them and create a beautiful display of bonsai , you just consolidate them into a forest setting . Yes you are going to make a forest planting !

As with all styles of bonsai there are rules , but they can also be broken if the result is aesthetically pleasing..

SO , with that said , let’s begin . What do we need ? First of all you’ll need a pot to plant the forest into , traditionally a broad shallow pot is used but recently many growers have successfully grown them on a flat rock or slate , Next comes wire , this is used to anchor the trees into place . Then comes the trees and compost .

This is a traditional long shallow pot used for forest groupings

In forest plantings the trees are all the same variety , say all beech for instance . They are then grouped into size . The larger ones will be placed in the middle of the forest , these usually dont have branches lower down on the trunk as the smaller trees will be tucked in there .

The trees are designed in groups of 3 , 5 or 7 and when grouped together in the pot the canopy of branches should form a rough triangle  as with most of the bonsai styles . The larger trees to the middle and smaller trees around it , the smallest trees are placed on the edge of the grouping .

Here are some of the odd shaped trees that I had left from last year
These were let grow on in window boxes till I decide what to do with them

Fix anchor wires and fill in the pot with compost , water carefully as not to disturb the soil too much and place the whole lot in a sheltered part of the garden to recover.

In time when they begin growing and meshing as a forest you can review it and introduce more trees or remove as required.Β  This is after all YOUR creation .

Dont forget to follow me on Instagram

http://@gers_tiny_trees

New Year, New You , New Hobby πŸŒ²

As we are now almost two weeks into a new year I would bet many a person got a bonsai kit . Many people quit after trying to get the seeds to germinate . This is quite sad as growing bonsai is a great hobby , you are always learning something new .

For those who do get seeds to germinate , well done ! Now what do you do next ? , well this depends on the variety of seed you got growing .

The main train of thought is to let it grow freely for the first year to establish it . 

What I do myself is I would let the seedling grow about 3 inches high , this is to me an acceptable height to begin the first steps of the bonsai process . When it reaches this height I would pinch out the tip and at the same time I would remove the tap root.

This would be the average height I t will grow before I pinch the tip out , to encourage branching

When repotting it place it into a flat pot  , if there isnt one available put a flat stone or piece of tile beneath the cut tap root . Doing this will encourage the roots to grow out like the legs of an octopus and create a beautiful Nebari . This will add to the beauty of your tree later on .

Repot your seedling into a free draining compost with grit to keep it quite open.  This encourages smaller fibrous roots to develop.  It is these roots which feed your tree .

It is now that you can let the tree grow , because at the end of summer most of the growth will be cut away . This is done to establish a strong trunk .

The next thing to do is visit a bookshop and get a book about growing bonsai . You will spend the winter reading this and preparing for the following year.

This is the absolute basics in basic language , I wish you all a long and enthusiastic time with your trees . One word of warning , growing bonsai is addictive and within a year you will accumulate more and more 😊

Stick with me and I will help you grow and create your own bonsai, I’ll provide hints and tips , I will also be here to answer your questions .