Bonsai on a budget

There seems to be a line of thought that if you buy expensive , then you will get the best tree . This isnt necessarily so , beauty is in the eye of the beholder . You may like the tracery of maples branches in winter or the brilliant Autumnal colours . Someone else may prefer the strong gnarly trunk of a pine . Either way they have to start somewhere . In the beginning most people are strapped for cash . Then this is for you 👍

Fast food gravy and mayo container make a perfect pot and drip tray

There are so many items you can use to begin your tree , in the photo above I used a KFC gravy container as a pot and the mayo container as the drip tray .

You can also use egg cartons , but a word of warning they do tend to fall apart when they are watered . No one told me this and I was left with a pile of sludge 🤣 so I switched to yogurt cartons . Dont forget drainage holes !

Potential trees can be found anywhere just be picky , the tree on the right has blackspot

Now that we have decided on the container , What shall we put in it ? A seed ? , or maybe you have seen a seedling you want to collect ? Perfect , we will deal with seed first . Look for a tree that catches your eye , maybe it has nice coloured leaves or its bark is unusual … now here is where patience comes in . May I make a suggestion . Dont collect the seed until you see it beginning to sprout on the ground , this way you can see if the seed it true to the parent tree .

Alternatively you can buy seed through many seed dealers on Ebay

These are Sequoia seeds bought on EBay The seed tray is from Tiger

The next logical way to start is with a seedling . Try to identify the tree you are collecting so you can research how to care for it . Also be sure to check for any disease or mould , as you can see in the photos above one of the trees has blackspot. So leave any dodgy trees where you found them , you want a healthy tree to start with .

Carefully remove it from where you found it making sure to collect as much of the original soil or leaf litter . And place it in your container. So far its cost you nothing , only time .

Here is the seedling Birch I found growing between paving slabs

Let your tree grow for the first year , you may need l larger container after a while , try to use a flat container like the ones blueberries come in and splay the roots out like a spider web 🕸 Cut the tap root back to make the smaller roots multiply. These are the roots which feed the tree .

Because bonsai grow in a limited amount of soil they will need fertilizer. I usually make half strength so the growth isnt too thick and out of scale to the rest of the tree . Dont feed it after August as it will be entering its dormancy phase .

Well that’s all we can do this side of winter , as spring approaches we will return to this subject .

If you have any comments or questions please post them up and I’ll get back to you

#bonsai ,#bonsaitree, #bonsailife, #bonsaiGer, #bonsaiworld, #bonsaipots, #gardening101, #bonsailovers, #seeds, #seedling, #bonsaionabudget ,

My 5 favourite Bonsai books

Just some of the books I have accumulated

Over the years of growing Bonsai I have accumulated many books on the cultivation and care of the tiny trees . In most of the blogs I have written I have said to read, knowledge will lead to experience and better trees for YOU . While we are in a technological age why use books ?, I hear you ask . Well here’s my reasoning , they dont need batteries or recharging . The pictures are usually large , although I have found myself using my forefinger and thumb to try and make them bigger 🤣. Many people cant afford the trees in the books and it is probably the closest they will get to see them as many are in other countries . So let’s progress to MY 5 favourite books .

#1 The Complete Book of Bonsai by Harry Tomlinson. I return to this book over and over again because of the brightly coloured photos , the clear and concise instructions on care and at the back is an index of trees and their care .

#2 The Creative Art of Bonsai by Isabelle & Rémy Samson While the photos are smaller there are pages designated to species , and a list of potential diseases and pests which they are susceptible to and their cure . Also at the bottom of the pages are strips of designs which are suitable for each tree

#3 BONSAI by Susan M Bachenheimer Resnick. I find this book a real chill out book , the photos are class and atmospheric. It’s a good relaxing read , and it also uses the Zones concept which I find my American friends using.

#4 Successful Bonsai Shaping by Peter D Adams. While this book doesn’t use many photos , what it certainly does is make you visualise how YOUR trees will look . It makes you plan ahead for the future shape and growth pattern of your tree . You begin to look closely at what you are doing and why . Bonsai is a slow process and what you do now to your tree will shape it for the future

#5 Bonsai Masterclass by Peter Chan Peter has produced so many quality bonsai books over the years that I’d advise you , if you see one grab it and dont let it go . Always packed with useful information and beautiful photos of his trees. He is the owner of Herons Bonsai nursery and has hands on experience every day , and he puts that into his books .

Well that’s my personal list , now , have you any to add to my list ? Just comment below . I’ll be back soon with a new blog and new information soon . Thank you

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #bonsailover @peterchanbonsai #harrytomlinson , #IsabelleRemySamson , #Susanmbachenheimerresnick, #peterdadams #gardening101 #gardening_is_my_therapy

Bonsai Progression


Acer Campestre { Field Maple} approximately 2 years old. Top growth was cut back to 3 inches after this

I started this tree quite by accident , at the time I was collecting leaf litter to use as compost. In the spring little leaves appeared in the left over leaf mulch . I was intrigued by the shape of the leaves which appeared . So when the plant was big enough I put it into a pot .

Acer Campestre { field maple } approx 4 years old

I let it grow , and didn’t give it much thought . It subsequently grew like mad and I just cut it back to keep it manageable. Over the next few years I continued to do this to keep it compact

Acer Campestre { Field Maple} approximately 6 years old

It grew tall and strong so I decided to cut the trunk down to half the height it was . My intention was to style it in the hokidachi style . This means broom style and it looks like an upturned broom .

After 3 more years it is beginning to look somewhat like it’s supposed to . I plan in the future to continue cutting it back hard so it will produce lots of smaller branches .

Acer Campestre { Field Maple} approximately 9 years old

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #bonsailover #gardening101 #maple #bonsaiprogression

Bonsai Care 2 ( Tools of the Trade )

In the last blog we covered 3 items , now we will continue and finish our list .

#DeWit root rake

I find the next tool great for repotting and collecting young trees . It’s the Root Rake , I have had a few in my years growing Bonsai .

Most of the others have not been up to the task and I’ve had a few mangled tree roots to show for it . The one I’m using now is made by #DeWit and it’s the strongest one I’ve ever used , it also has a pointed end like a small trowel which is great for digging up seedlings and small saplings .

Next on the list is Wire . Traditionally it was copper wire which is a nightmare to use . You can buy annealed copper wire which is more pliable , but I found Aluminium wire in an art and hobby shop . If you are only beginning you wont need thick wire as the branches will be thin and easily bent . You will only need thicker wire for shaping the trunk , this can be gotten on Amazon , you need to look for anodized aluminium. You will need a snips to cut it but any pliers can do the same job.

Wire and Branch Bender

I have decided to also include Branch Benders , these look like medieval torture tools and from past experience dont give the same result as wire , I found they also dug into the bark . Just be cautious when using them and check your tree each week for damage

The final thing you’ll need is something to cover the drainage holes in the pots , you can use broken crock or smashed terracotta, another alternative is mesh .

Plastic mesh

Finally I promised you the funny named tool , here it is ………. Knob Cutter . Have you seen old trees where a branch has died and fallen off and left a hollow in the trunk ? Well this is what this tool imitates , it looks like a bite taken out of the bonsai …. you may probably only use this once in your life .

Knob Cutter

My next post will be a case study of one of my trees . Thank you for taking the time to stay with me and as always contact me with questions and comments 😊

Bonsai care ( tools of the trade )

Bonsai Gers Blog

Some of the tools I use on the smaller bonsai

Whether you have bought a tree or grown your own you will eventually need to repot it , wire it or prune it . So I will show you some of the tools you will need .

I’m going to start this off with one of the most used tools . Pruning Shears. These are used for cutting back new growth , leaves and the fine fibrous roots when repotting your trees . I wouldn’t consider them as essential , you can use a normal household scissors until you can afford a bonsai shears. The problem I found when I started growing bonsai was I got scissors happy ,,, and my trees looked like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber 🤣 Another tool to consider getting is a secateurs , if you do, get a bypass one , not an anvil…

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Bonsai care ( tools of the trade )

Some of the tools I use on the smaller bonsai

Whether you have bought a tree or grown your own you will eventually need to repot it , wire it or prune it . So I will show you some of the tools you will need .

I’m going to start this off with one of the most used tools . Pruning Shears. These are used for cutting back new growth , leaves and the fine fibrous roots when repotting your trees . I wouldn’t consider them as essential , you can use a normal household scissors until you can afford a bonsai shears. The problem I found when I started growing bonsai was I got scissors happy ,,, and my trees looked like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber 🤣 Another tool to consider getting is a secateurs , if you do, get a bypass one , not an anvil one . The anvil shear crushes the soft tissue .

Immediately after pruning you have to seal those cuts to prevent infection entering your bonsai . Cut Paste should be your next purchase . Here is where you can go for many different alternatives , you can opt for the Japanese Cut paste or home made alternatives, I have successfully used Vaseline . It’s used to keep infection out but it also keeps the wound moist enough to heal correctly.

Many alternatives are available to suit your budget

In my opinion the next tool is ESSENTIAL , it creates a cut that no other tool will it’s a Concave Branch Cutter,,,,, this tool is amazing , when you are designing your tree and have to remove a branch this is perfect . It removes a little piece of the trunk too which in fact helps it heal perfectly . The photos below compare the cuts healed after the branch cutter vs a secateurs .

Concave Branch cutter wound healing well
The Secateurs cut doesnt heal as well

One thing I must say is essential and that is to keep your tools sharp and clean . In my next blog I will show you one of the funniest named bonsai tools . Until then , happy growing .

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

Bonsai from Nursery Stock { 1 }

One of my local ‘hunting grounds’

We have covered growing from seed , cuttings and collecting seedlings in our past blogs , the next step most people take is to visit a garden centre or nursery .

While this is a great idea, it’s still prudent to know what you are looking for. Things to think about ;                                         Have you the knowledge to care for this tree ?                                 Where will you place it ? Can you afford it ?

Young Hedging available at many nurseries are ideal beginner material

Many garden centres carry trees for hedging which is ideal to begin forging your bonsai collection .                                Beech trees are popular and they come in green or red leaf varieties .

When purchasing tree stock there are a few things to take into consideration.

First , does it look healthy ? Are the leaves free of disease and glossy  ? Secondly , look for a tree with branches down low on the trunk , these will create taper in time , they are known as sacrifice branches as they will eventually be removed .   Thirdly , but definitely not last,  check the roots ! they should radiate in all directions and not cross over each other or be twisted .

Finally , turn the pot upside down and see if there are roots coming out of the bottom . If they are , and it’s the right time of year you may have to root prune it and repot it when you return home . Are you confident to do that ?

As with the previous methods of starting your bonsai collection there are pros and cons to taking this step.

PROS If done correctly you can have an acceptable beginner tree almost immediately . The hedging trees are relatively cheap. CONS You have to be able to ‘see’ the bonsai in the nursery stock .             Many trees snap easily when old wood is wired and bent too far so your vision may disappear quickly . So proceed slowly .

In our next blog we will enter the realm of purchasing a ‘ ready made ‘ Bonsai .

When and where to buy one and how to choose a good one . So until then I wish you happy hunting .

Bonsai Vision ( the power to see potential bonsai everywhere )

Choose one with small leaves and good colour

It’s a funny title , but in time bonsai growers develop it .

For some growing by seed is too slow , and cuttings can be very hit and miss . So the next obvious progression is to go looking for seedlings and potential trees in the wild as such .

Many potential starter trees can be found in cracks of the pavements and walls . Others can be found in parks , forests and Quarries . If the tree you require to collect is on privately owned land you will need the owners permission to remove it .

Gathering seedlings this way will give you a great chance to hone your skills at wiring and designing your tree ( I will cover these aspects in further blogs , follow me so you dont miss it )

You will see potential trees everywhere

You get to see the size and colour of the leaves , choose the best colour and smallest leaves . This will make it easier to have the proportions right in later years .

Sometimes nature lends a hand

When you collect the seedling cut the tap root off , this is the thick root pointing down , it’s the thin white roots which feed the tree . Then find a container to plant it , the flatter the better .

Get some well draining soil as you want the roots to recover quickly and sitting in water will make them rot . Put some compost in the bottom of the pot or tray then get a flat stone or tile and place the seedling on it , spread the roots out all round as flat as possible . This will benefit the beauty of the tree later , top up with compost .

Your tree will probably spend its first 5 years in this container. In my next blog I will cover growing bonsai from Nursery stock . If you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comments and I will answer you .

This Sycamore was growing in a private garden for over 25 years . Being chopped by the mower all the time .

#bonsai #bonsaitree #bonsailife #bonsaiGer #bonsaiworld #bonsaipots #gardening101 #yamadori #bonsaiblog #blog #bonsailovers