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

Climate change and my Bonsai

Tonight is the first night of snow here in Dublin . It’s going to be a big shock to some of my trees .

Larch in the snow ❄

You see , depending on where my bonsai are in the garden depends on what season they think it is .

The trees near my house think its summer and are in full leaf , whereas the trees only 10 meters away think its autumn . It really it a sight to see .

Trident maple grown from seed this year

Is anyone else experiencing similar in their garden ? I dont know what to expect when I go into the garden tomorrow. I hope the snow hasn’t killed off the Canadian maple in full leaf , or my newly grown from seed trident maples 😭

Propagation Part 2 Air Layering vs Ground Layering

In my previous blog I covered Ground Layering , the mechanics of it and my results . Now it’s the turn of Air Layering.

I was first intrigued with this method when I seen an advert for these ‘magic’ air layering balls . It looked so easy and idiot proof . Well I proved them wrong the first time . The Acer I tried last year got some fungus from my attempt.

But being the idiot I am I tried again this year, BUT I tried a different approach , I cut the bark away from the trunk of the maple as I had done before , but this time I used sphagnum moss. I wrapped it around the wound I created , I then got a small flower pot.

The bark removed , to be honest I may have taken too much

I cut it down the side and across the bottom, then I cut a hole in the middle of the bottom to fit around the trunk of the maple .I placed it around the trunk and cable tied it so it held its shape . Then I filled it with compost

Sphagnum moss in first

I was feeling happy with myself until it started sliding down the tree , I had to make a support like dungaree straps to go over the branches . I said a prayer and watered it . Nothing moved , I put the whole thing in the shade and drenched it .

Fitted with cable tie straps

As time passed I watched it very closely , making sure it didnt dry out , I watered the little pot and fertilised the larger pot , After 2 months i plucked up the courage to look for progress , the tree hadn’t died back

Look at all the strong new growth

So yesterday I bit the bullet and removed the dungaree straps and the other cable ties . Cautiously I opened the flower pot , I could have danced , there in front of me were Lots of strong white roots. I prepared the flower pot I was going to transfer it into.

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH

I cut the trunk just below the new roots , I spread the roots out as flat as I could and potted it up , I placed a stick in the pot to support it while new roots grow I gave it a good soak and placed it in the shade .

πŸ˜‚πŸ₯³SUCCESS πŸ₯³πŸ˜‚

So in conclusion to my choice of Air Layering vs Air Layering .

AIR LAYERING WINS , would you agree ?

Potted up , I’ll give it free reign more or less for a year

Propagation

LAYERING , my experience with ground layering

Ground layering ,whip layering or basic layering

Hi and welcome , in this blog I’m just going to relay my experience trying out and old way of propagation.

About 6 weeks ago I noticed the *sacrifice branch on my Acer was touching the top of the compost in the trunk thickening pot . So I wondered how easy is it really to propagate a new tree from this branch

So curiosity got the better of me , I dug a small hole about 3 inches from the trunk of the bonsai . I placed some potting grit at the bottom . I then pulled a few of the leaves off the branch where I planned to bury it .

I placed the branch in the hole and filled it in , I was careful to keep the branch pointing up forming a U shape beneath the compost then I firmed the soil down . I didnt scrape the bark or use rooting powder .

Cutting my ‘new ‘ tree from its parent tree

So I watered and fed the tree as usual and I just watched the branch growing , I was delighted it didnt wilt or die

Happy with the results

So today I decided to bite the bullet and check the progress, to my delight it has produced roots , so I cut the branch and repotted my ‘ new ‘ tree . I have also experimented with Air Layering , watch this space for my results next month 😊

All potted up and staked to prevent the new roots from being damaged

Nursery stock has potential to become twin trunk bonsai

Earlier this evening I was just pottering around the local nursery , they happened to have a few maple trees , not a huge choice though . I looked at them all to choose the best one .

This is the one I picked , it has a few things going for it ( not many mind you ) I’ll point them out to you so when you are looking yourself you’ll know what to look for

1) Good Nebari , this means good root flare . It should be like the spokes on a wheel gripping the earth .

2) A foot strong trunk without a graft bulge . These are nasty lumps where the root stock and stock tree are spliced into each other and form a bulge .

3) Trunk Taper , this should be thick at the base and gradually get thinner nearer the top of the tree

4) Plenty of branches , it’s less time consuming to remove branches than to grow new ones

My new potential bonsai doesnt tick all those boxes , the taper is non existent, so next year I will air layer the top off the tree , I have decided to grow this in a twin trunk style , I removed the unnecessary lower leggy branches .

After inspecting the roots it came to my attention that they were wrapped in cloth , this is where the grower just leaves the tree in a cloth pot and the roots have to be freed from it , so I did it . Totally the wrong time of year for this but a necessary evil . unfortunately

While I was doing this I prepared a fattening pot , this is a huge pot that I’ll transplant the maple into . I’ll give it free reign next year and style it above ground and this will let the trunk and roots thicken up . . I placed a flat piece of marble in the hole and splayed the roots out horizontally . Then covered it in with compost .

Because the roots were disturbed I cut the tree to a rough shape and sealed all the wounds up . It’s in a sheltered part of the garden until next spring, when I can work on it in earnest. Watch this space for its progress . Thank you

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 .

Greenfly look like bagpipes

So here is the follow up on my first public talk on Bonsai . To say I was scared to death is an understatement.

I prepared the previous night , cleaning up the trees I had decided to take . Then I sat down to write what I would like to say , did you ever have your mind racing faster than your hand could write ? Well that’s what happened . I ended up with a bunch of cards with scrawls on them .

My modest set up

So off I popped the next morning , I went into the room and set up . Time seemed to pass so slowly while i waited for people to arrive . But arrive they did . I counted 10 in total .Β  I began talking and i felt so self conscious

That is until people started to engage and ask questions , then you couldn’t shut me up . One person asked about aphids and what they were , I told them that they are greenfly and subsequently drew one on the whiteboard.

Couldn’t shut me up once I’d started

It was only later when I was packing up that I looked at the drawings and realised my greenfly looked like a set of demented bagpipes πŸ˜‚ I have been asked to do more talks , and I probably will in the future but I’ll never forget this , my first time . I may now need art lessons too πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Sometimes your trees are NOT a reflection on your knowledge

I’m sitting here in a power cut and thinking , next week I am doing a public talk (my first ever) on Bonsai Trees and their care . I have many thoughts rushing through my head , one is ‘ what the hell are you doing? ‘

But the one that was bothering me the most was , what are peoples perceptions on bonsai , what do they know and will I live up to their ideas , will my trees live up to their ideas of what a bonsai should look like ?

Me with my Norway Maple ( the bleeder)

I say most people picture bonsai as the tree Mr. Miagi was clipping in The Karate Kid . So in that case I’ll be fine , but my trees do not reflect on my knowledge of Bonsai and their care .

They dont reflect , the years of growing from seed , the mistakes I’ve made or the techniques I’ve learned to keep certain species alive . Some species of tree bleed when they are cut , white milky sap . Other trees will discard and drop a whole branch if they dont get enough water . It doesnt care if you spent 5 years getting the ramification of branches right , boom it’s gone!

NEVER feed your trees Pringles

These lessons are learned from experience and knowledge, that’s one reason I’m always banging on about reading about your subjects. So you are prepared and can create your best tree or trees . I dont know anyone who started and only has one tree 😊

So whatever your tree looks like just remember , it doesnt reflect your knowledge and your tree is and always will be a work in progress . I’m hoping in my next blog I can report back that my talk went well .πŸ€ Wish me luck πŸ€