Monthly Archives: February 2021

February Bonsai

Feb. 02, 2021 in Bonsai by admin - Comments: 1

What happens when you miss a turn in removing wire from your bonsai? You get a large swelling in the branch that destroys the smooth taper you are working for. The only rule for removing wire is to start with the end of the wire and work down the wire completely to the other end, no jumping from wire to wire. To do this you have a choice-- you can untwist the wire or you can cut each loop. If you cut it is very easy to miss a loop. The only sure way is to develop a routine. Hold the tip with pliers while you cut the next loop, remove the cut loop, lay it aside keeping your eye on the cut end, hold the new cut tip and repeat. Do not get distracted and do something else. Following a routine keeps you on the one job. February is the start of the active cycle for bonsai, first the repotting when new growth is first evident, then the refinement process starts as soon as the green comes, all the while tending to the tasks of watering, feeding and watching for insects.

Spring is a long drawn out affair and each species has it's own time table in dealing with it. To be really successful in bonsai then, you must know what each species you have will need and how it responds to YOUR OWN backyard climate. If you have kept your trees from freezing they will want to start growing much earlier than those kept outside all winter. Typically, in my collection which stays outside, the elms will be first, foliage showing about the end of February or the first of March depending on the winter, along with the earliest maples. Then later in March, the rest of the maples and most of the others. The deciduous oaks will come out around April 1st. Out here in the country I am 2 or 3 weeks later than I was in town, 30 miles away. The timetable has to be your own set by watching the trees themselves. All bonsai functions should be done when your tree tells you that the timing is right.

Repotting 'can' be done at any time during the dormancy but new roots are susceptible to freezing so you have to have some place to protect them after repotting. If not repotting this year, you can help weed control by removing the top ΒΌof soil and replace it with new soil. The best time to repot the deciduous temperate zone trees is when the buds are just beginning to swell but before green is showing. Generally this will be before the last of the freezing weather. Trees that leaf out early, maples and elms, can withstand a few degrees of frost but if repotted you should protect the newly growing roots.Sometimes this just means setting them on the ground. Some species such as the oaks and willows are naturally programmed to wait much later so that there is very little chance to get nipped.

The newer wisdom on azaleas is that you also repot them at this time. The roots will be reestablished by blooming time. This is much easier on the tree than waiting until after bloom when the temperature will be hot. Before blooming starts you will be removing a lot of excess buds anyway which will reduce the stress on the tree at that time. Remove enough buds to allow the remaining flowers to have room to fully open. This should be done in late February or early March on the early blooming species (Karume) but may go later in March for the Satsuki types.

Refinement is the process that makes a well styled tree look great, developing fine ramification and obtaining smaller leaves. Part of the refinement starts as soon as new growth appears. Keep it pinched so you keep the internodes short and develop a compact set of twigs with small leaves on the branches. On alternate leaved species (e.g. Elms) pinch when the shoot gets 4 or 5 leaves. Fingernails or shears can be used. If the twig gets too long it will be tough and you have to use shears. On opposite leaved trees (maples) pinch the central shoot as soon as it can be distinguished from the two leaves. To do this really right you need to use tweezers with a dull point.

Development pruning is difficult for beginners in that to develop thickness you need to let the new branch grow wild which destroys the look of your 'bonsai'. You also will have long internodes which will not produce buds at the right places especially on the opposite leaved species. You need to do refinement pruning the first couple of times to get some short internodes and then let the tips go wild.

Spring flowering plants will have their buds set on last year's growth so pruning them will remove some flowers. Those that bloom later in the year will generally bloom on this year's growth. Pruning them will reduce the amount of flowers. In some cases such as crape myrtle, tip pruning of the branch will result in no flowers at all. In these cases you must decide which is most important, ramification or flowers. A compromise would be to prune the branch shorter than you normally would and then let it bloom on new growth which will at the proper length, at least for the first flowering of the season. When the growth starts the tree will need fertilizer. However, use one that has a small amount of nitrogen (the first number). The tree is naturally programmed to grow rapidly at this time so you don't need to encourage it further. Feed lightly to maintain a healthy green foliage. Ideally use an organic fertilizer which provides nutrients more slowly when the weather is cool. Trace minerals should be added to help with both the foliage color and the color of blooms.

If you have not used a horticultural oil, the time is fast running out. The oil would be used to kill scale and overwintering mites and other boogers. When new growth starts oil might damage the tender foliage. When new growth starts, the problems to look for are the above mentioned mites but especially aphids and mealy bugs. These can be controlled as well as giving the plants the required fertilizer by using an organic spray (1 tablespoon each of liquid kelp, liquid fish emulsion, apple cider vinegar (5%), and molasses in one gallon of water. Or use a commercial mix like Garrett Juice. All these are available in any organic nursery.) If leaf spot, mildew or any other fungal problems appear, use a baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), potassium bicarbonate spray or a commercial fungicide.

An important job which many neglect saying they are not going to show any trees is to detail their trees. This makes them look their best and that helps give you incentive to follow other good practices. Start by checking the branches. Prune any out of place or too long twigs. Remove any unnecessary wire, that is wire on limbs that have set in place. Treat any jin and shari that needs it. Then move down to the pot. Be sure it is clean and all lime deposits are removed. Steel wool works great to clean pots. A coating with a very light wax polish such as leaf shine will make the pot look good and helps keep the mineral deposits from forming. Then check the soil. It should cover the outer roots. The surface of the soil must be clean of any fallen leaves or other debris. Now it looks so good you might as well take it to a show.

By John Miller Reprinted From 2015

2021 Programs

Feb. 03, 2021 in Bonsai by admin - Comments: 1

Everyone knows the difficulties we experienced in 2020, and the scheduling of programs for 2021 is still presenting a few obstacles. But we are committed to having presentations to broaden your bonsai knowledge, introduce you to local and national artists, and make bonsai enjoyable this year and in years to come. While the calendar still has some openings for 2021, we are excited to have Boon Manakitivipart join us in July. Plus the Bonsai Smiths will hopefully be joining us in the second half of 2021 for some hands-on work on your trees. Our annual Raffle and Auction will happen this June. We will keep you informed and updated of programs scheduled, and please let us know if you have any ideas for an upcoming meeting.

I Killed My Bonsai

Feb. 06, 2021 in Bonsai by admin - Comments: 1

Utter nonsense: You know why most beginner bonsai trees die? Hint: It doesn't have anything to do with the person involved, it's more likely to be the facility from which the bonsai was purchased.

Too often people settle for a mallsai(a bonsai purchased in a mall or home improvement store) without any kind of care instructions. Not knowing where to put the bonsai, some people place it on their television or other unsuitable location. Unfortunately, it's just a matter of time at that point.

This is not to say all mallsai die, but too many don't survive in their new environment. The next time you see a bonsai being sold at the mall or home improvement store, ask an associate for detailed information on the tree species, care instructions, or why there are rocks glued to the soil. Then sit back and enjoy the show as they scratch their head or hem and haw an answer that won't pass the common-sense test. Remember, there are bonsai trees for all experience levels, but you should always purchase your bonsai from a reputable nursery. It will arrive healthy, in good condition, and complete with accurate care instructions. And if you're not sure what species you should purchase for your climate, just ask. Bonsai gardeners are very helpful.

If you're not successful, the first time, try again. Hey, it happens and we've all been there. But keep these considerations in mind:

  • Location: Many bonsai are placed indoors without sufficient light or circulation. All bonsai require light and plenty of it. Some are fine to be indoors, but most will thrive outdoors. Every tree is different so always consult the care instructions.
  • Water: Bonsai need regular watering, to the point where the soil shouldn't dry out. Deep watering is best, but stop short of constantly soggy soil. Finally, don't fall into the trap that watering bonsai is like watering other plants. They're different, so familiarize yourself with the best methods for watering your bonsai.
  • Fertilizer: Bonsai trees do produce their own food, yet they do need trace minerals and nitrogen. However, too many trees are killed by the well-intended over-fertilizer, so if anything, err on the side of going easy with the fertilizer.
  • Growth: A bonsai tree's size must be kept in proportion to its container. As your tree grows, its root system could become constrained by the pot and overgrow. If your bonsai is not repotted -- or if the top growth is pruned -- it will eventually die. A good tip is that if your tree dries quickly between watering, it may already be too large for the container.

Confucius once said that a guilty conscience needs no accuser. So rest easy -- chances are it's not you, it's either the type of tree you purchased or a general lack of accurate care instructions. Visit your local bonsai garden to get back on track and enjoy your newfound success.

Credit: Bonsai Outlet

To Repot or Not

Feb. 25, 2021 in Bonsai by Steven Hendricks - Comments: 0

I reached out to Sylvia Smith with my concerns about repotting. Basically, would I do more damage to my trees by repotting after this horrible cold weather? This is what she said. (I hope she doesn't mind me sharing.)

Steven Hendricks

We keep our trees in the cold frame so we do not bury them as deeply as others if they are left outside. The few that we did leave out are either in boxes or deep plastic nursery pots and they were all nestled under the benches and not really mulched except for a few fall leaves that I scooped together for a few. That said, if you have any doubts on the health of the trees, simply do a top soil change. If drainage is poor, go a bit deeper. You can almost without fail go down to half the root ball to do this on a potted tree whether in a bonsai pot or growing container.

Our plan on what was left out is the same as our advice to members in the Dallas newsletter, wait until they push to repot. Then you should be able to see the difference between live and dead roots. If the tree looks weak or had branch damage, only do a top soil change.The hardiness is most important when storing trees but sometimes things don't go as planned and after a freeze it's pretty much a mute point. You either did it or you didn't. Even trees that are usually hardy in the cold can start off weak from insects, fungal or root issues and a cold spell can take them over the edge. If trees are left outside it is imperative that they are watered thoroughly prior to a freeze so they can freeze as a solid mass that melts as opposed to freezing dry. This will most definitely be a cause for dead roots.

Hope this all helps. Only you know what went on in your own micro-climate and the advice given from all of us hopefully will help you piece your puzzle together. I will begin repotting this Friday and will post some advice on our FB and Instagram pages (Dallas Bonsai Society).

Be well and stay safe.



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