Bonsai Classes

By Ruth Morgan

If you’re interested in learning about how to grow a bonsai tree you should consider attending bonsai classes.

These are an excellent way to get a good grounding in bonsai so that you can grow and style your bonsai tree.

There are bonsai enthusiasts in most continents and they meet in bonsai clubs and societies. They will often organise demonstrations and classes where you can get hands on experience of caring for bonsai trees.

These can be invaluable in learning the skills and techniques of bonsai. Many people who are new to bonsai often feel overwhelmed not only by the challenge of looking after their bonsai tree but also by the unfamiliar ‘bonsai vocabulary’.

So finding bonsai classes where you can meet with more experienced bonsai growers can be a great help.

In these classes you can learn about the types of trees that are suitable for bonsai, the different styles of bonsai, whether you can grow them indoors or outdoors, the tools that you will need, how to water and feed them, how you choose a bonsai pot, how you prune and wire the tree, how you acquire a bonsai tree and what trees are suitable for beginners.

This long list (not complete!) can appear daunting, but with the right help and advice you can soon learn the basics and get going on your bonsai journey.

So how do you find bonsai classes? First of all make enquiries in your local area. Do you know someone who grows bonsai trees? If you do then ask them about local societies and clubs.

If not, go on the internet and search for bonsai and your locality. Most clubs have a website these days.

If you can’t find any classes in your area don’t let that put you off. The internet is a vast resource of bonsai information and you can find many helpful sites and videos that you can watch. The important thing is to do something that will help you to grow your own bonsai tree.

For more information about growing and styling bonsai trees visit www.BeautifulBonsaiSecrets.com.

Topics: Bonsai, bonsai care

Japanese Maple Bonsai Tree

By Ruth Morgan

If you’re looking for an elegant bonsai with brilliant coloured autumn leaves and a graceful structure you need look no further than the Japanese maple bonsai tree.

Acer palmatum is a magnificent specimen and will be admired by your family and friends. It is a popular species with bonsai enthusiasts as it responds well to bonsai styling.

Acer palmatum autumn leaves

The delicate thin 5 lobed leaves provide spectacular colour displays of intense reds and oranges in the autumn. Due to the delicate nature of the leaves, Japanese maples are susceptible to leaf scorch. They should therefore be protected from strong winds and direct sunlight.

It is possible to bring the trees indoors for short periods for display purposes but otherwise they should be kept outdoors. They will require protection from extreme frosts.

Repot Japanese maples every 1 to 3 years as the buds begin to lengthen in the spring.

The feeding regime should consist of a high nitrogen fertiliser when growth starts in the spring and then a balanced feed until late summer. A nitrogen free fertiliser should be applied in the autumn

Ensure that the soil is kept moist and bear in mind that the tree will require extra water before periods of new growth in the spring and summer.

Heavy pruning should not be carried out in the spring because maples are susceptible to profuse bleeding which can have a detrimental effect on the tree. Instead, any significant pruning should be done in the autumn or in mid-summer when the wounds heal more quickly.

For general pruning cut back new growth to 1 or 2 pairs of leaves. Pinching out the tips of new shoots will create short distances between pairs of leaves. This results in good branch ramification and dense foliage. The tips should be pinched out with tweezers once the new pair of leaves start to open.

Maples are susceptible to various pests including spring colonisation of young shoots by aphids. Caterpillars and scale insects can also be a problem.

Repotting Bonsai

By Ruth Morgan

An essential element in ensuring that your bonsai tree remains healthy is root pruning. This is carried out as part of the process of repotting bonsai.

In nature the roots of trees spread as they grow and form new roots. This pattern is not possible in a bonsai confined to a small pot and that is why root pruning and repotting are so important.

Root pruning has the effect of encouraging the development of fine feeder roots that are essential for the uptake of nutrients and water. This ensures that the tree remains healthy and less susceptible to disease.

The frequency of repotting depends on several factors. These include the age of the tree, the species and the size of the pot. The best time to repot bonsai is in the spring, just as the roots start to grow. This minimises the amount of stress that the tree will experience.

Gently ease the tree out of the pot and loosen the roots with your hand or an implement like a chopstick. Remove the soil from around the roots.

If there are any thick roots these should be cut back as far as possible. Then use sharp shears or scissors to cut off the finer roots. The bottom of the roots should be flat after cutting so that air pockets do not form when repotting.

Removing air pockets after repotting

The new pot (or the existing pot once washed) should be prepared by placing mesh over the drainage holes and inserting some wire to secure the root ball. Place a layer of soil in the base with a small mound underneath the tree.

Position the tree with the right orientation, secure with wire and then fill with soil to just below the pot rim. Gently move the soil around the roots with your fingers (some use a chopstick) to ensure that there are no air pockets. This need to be done carefully to avoid damaging the roots. Water the tree well.

For about 4 weeks after repotting keep the bonsai tree out of the sun and wind and don’t fertilise. When new growth appears the tree can be fertilised and brought back into the sun.

Topics: Bonsai, Repotting

Flowering Bonsai

By Ruth Morgan

Flowering bonsai are a firm favourite with many people. The combination of the miniature size of the tree and the brilliant colours of the flowers create a spectacular flowering bonsai tree.

There are many species of flowering bonsai. They include Satsuki Azalea, Cotoneaster, Winter Jasmine, Crab Apple, Flowering Cherry, Wisteria, Serissa, Firethorn, Deciduous Holly, Quince, White and Red Hawthorn, Japanese Flowering Apricot and Pomegranate.

Some are suitable for the outdoors whilst others can be kept indoors. Here are some details about two popular species.

Azalea Bonsai Tree Starting to Flower

Satsuki Azalea (Rhododendron indicum) produces magnificent displays of flowers in late spring / early summer. This explains the origin of the satsuki name (meaning fifth moon in Japanese – corresponding to the time of flowering in June). The same tree can produce flowers with different colours and different markings.

For some wonderful examples of azalea flowers visit the Satsuki Azalea Society website. The Japanese have been growing these colourful azaleas for over 300 years.

A tip for buying Satsuki Azaleas is to do so during the flowering season when you can see the splendour of their colours.

Azaleas are best kept in semi-shade outdoors. During the winter they should be protected from wind and frost. It is important to use lime-free soil and to remove dead flowers quickly.

Another favourite flowering bonsai is Crab Apple (Malus species). Many varieties are available which produce flowers of different colours in spring. The colours range from white to cream to pink to cerise. The small autumnal fruits also come in different colours.

Prolific flowering is encouraged by pruning in late summer. Common varieties include Halls Crab Apple, Common Crab Apple and Nagasaki Crab Apple.

Crab Apples should be kept in full sun. Frost is not a problem, unless the bonsai are small. They need plenty of water, especially when the fruit is being formed. Because of this a deeper than normal pot should be used.

Both these trees are relatively easy to grow and so are suitable for newcomers to bonsai.

Bonsai Information

By Ruth Morgan

There are many sources of bonsai information available. These include books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, websites, YouTube videos and bonsai clubs. And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

An internet search will give you a huge choice of resources – the challenge for most  people is finding the appropriate information.

For me a great way of acquiring bonsai information is to meet up with other bonsai enthusiasts. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just chatting about different trees and techniques. Bonsai shows are great for viewing other people’s trees and getting new ideas for your own.

Last weekend I visited the Swindon Winter Image Bonsai Show. It was a fantastic event and very well attended by bonsai growers from across the UK. There were many trees on display, ranging from the small shohin bonsai to a large bonsai landscape.

The conifers were more colourful than the leafless deciduous trees. The great advantage of winter shows is that you can see all of the trunk and branch structure of deciduous bonsai trees. And some of the trees had wonderful branch ramifications with very dense intricate growth patterns.

Best in Show Korean Hornbeam

One of the trees on display was a multi-trunk yew. The inspiration for this bonsai had come from a yew tree in a graveyard and that was why a miniature graveyard landscape had been created next to the tree.

The best in show award went to a truly magnificent Korean hornbeam, a specimen worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Also at the show were several trade stands selling a wide range of bonsai trees and accessories. These included bonsai pots, bonsai tools, bonsai soil, bonsai books, bonsai stands and traditional scrolls.

So all in all it was a great opportunity to see wonderful bonsai trees on display, to meet up with other enthusiasts, to pick up new tips and to stock up on bonsai material.

If you would like more bonsai information visit www.BeautifulBonsaiSecrets.com.

Bonsai Nurseries

By Ruth Morgan

If you are interested in bonsai, be that as a beginner or a more experienced grower, a visit to a bonsai nursery will be very worthwhile.

These specialist centres have stocks of bonsai trees and bonsai accessories for sale. They are also the places where you can get good advice and answers to any questions you may have about growing bonsai trees.

When you visit bonsai nurseries you are much more likely to find good quality trees for sale rather than the ‘mallsai’ that are often sold in many supermarkets.

‘Mallsai’ are defined by bonsai enthusiasts as trees that have been mass produced, usually in China, without proper care and growing conditions. They are sold as ‘bonsai’ in garden centres, shopping malls and garages in many parts of the world.

A mallsai is usually cheaper than a bonsai tree that has been grown in appropriate conditions in the right soil and planted in a good quality pot. The latter are likely to be far more healthy and less susceptible to disease.

Bonsai nurseries also offer a good range of accessories for sale – ranging from bonsai tools (such as concave cutters, wound sealant, wire and root hooks) to bonsai pots and specialist bonsai soil.

In my experience the people who run bonsai nurseries have been growing bonsai trees for many years and are only too happy to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with you.

If you are new to growing bonsai and have a specialist bonsai nursery in your area the best advice I can give is to take full advantage of it. By asking questions you will get good advice to ensure that you can give your bonsai trees the right care.

If you are not within travelling distance of a bonsai nursery the good news is that many of them have excellent websites full of helpful information where you can purchase bonsai trees, tools and accessories online.

So take full advantage of the excellent resources available at bonsai nurseries.

For more information about bonsai trees visit Beautiful Bonsai Secrets.

Topics: Bonsai, bonsai care

Bonsai Tree Meaning

By Ruth Morgan

Many people who admire bonsai ask about the origin and meaning of  bonsai tree. So here are some facts.

Bonsai is an ancient art form that originated in China and Japan and is primarily focused on producing beautiful miniaturized trees and plants. Bonsai is in fact a Japanese version of the original Chinese word ‘pun-sai’ that was applied to this oriental art form.

The Chinese also created ‘penjing’ – miniature landscapes in shallow containers – which were in existence before the single bonsai tree concept was developed. There are wall paintings of penjing dating back to the Han dynasty in 200 BC. So it has been around a long time!

The art of bonsai was introduced to the west as a result of American and British troops returning home from the Far East following the second world war.

The word ‘bonsai’ is made up of two root words, ‘bon’ meaning tray and ‘sai’ which means plant. Thus, a literal translation is ‘plant in a tray’ which gives a ‘flavour’ of the art of bonsai.

Bonsai means 'Tree in a Pot'

An essential part of bonsai is that the plants are always planted in a pot of some type. There are many different forms of pot used for the purpose of growing bonsai trees.  You will often see the term ‘tree in a pot’ used to describe bonsai.

However, this represents only a hint of what bonsai is really about.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about bonsai is that it is all about aesthetics, the beauty of the tree or plant. Whilst many people understand that bonsai is something to do with growing little trees, they perhaps do not appreciate that the most important thing is to grow a majestic small tree.

A small tree or plant is not accepted as bonsai until it has been carefully pruned and trained into the desired shape. Bonsai trees are not necessarily naturally small, nor are they the shape that they are because that is the way they were going to grow anyway.

Topics: Bonsai

Bonsai Tips

By Ruth Morgan

Growing bonsai trees presents many challenges as well as giving great pleasure and a sense of achievement. There are many aspects to consider and the following bonsai tips will help to ensure that your bonsai trees develop to their full potential.

1. Watering. This is the single most important factor in maintaining healthy, thriving bonsai trees. Lack of water can cause the tree to die. The soil should be tested daily during the growing season and watered as required. In winter, outdoor bonsai require less frequent watering but still need to be checked.

2. Feeding. Bonsai trees require a regular supply of nutrients in the growing season. Three key elements (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) are applied at different ratios at different times of the year.

3. Species. Different species have different care requirements and you should find out as much as possible about your particular species. Many reference books and online resources are available.

4. Time of year. Trees need more care during the growing season than in the dormant season. Some species e.g. tropical trees that are often grown indoors require constant care throughout the year. Some outdoor bonsai may require protection from extreme cold or heavy rainfall in the winter.

5. Location. Some trees prefer shade whilst others prefer sun. Species such as Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) require protection from strong wind. Indoor bonsai need plenty of light.

6. Temperature. Tropical trees e.g. Ficus (fig) thrive in hot conditions whereas hardy varieties need a dormant period in cold conditions every year.

7. Repotting. This should be carried out on a regular basis. The frequency will depend on the species and the stage of development. The roots need to be pruned when the tree is repotted to ensure that the tree remains healthy.

8. Pruning / wiring. Bonsai trees are styled to the desired style and size using these techniques. Bonsai trees are not special dwarf varieties – they remain small because they are pruned regularly. The bark can be damaged after wiring so the tree needs to be checked regularly.

9. Pests and diseases. These affect bonsai trees just like other plants but can be treated using traditional organic or inorganic treatments. Remember that prevention is better than cure! The risk of diseases can be minimised by adopting good horticultural practice.

10. Soil. Bonsai trees are totally dependent on their roots within a confined pot to provide all the moisture and nutrients they need to thrive. The soil should therefore be porous and free draining.

For more bonsai tips see www.BeautifulBonsaiSecrets.com

Bonsai for Beginners

By Ruth Morgan

Growing bonsai is a very rewarding hobby but it can be daunting for those just starting out. To help those who are keen to learn more here are my 5 ‘Bonsai for Beginners’ tips.

1. Don’t be put off by information overload. In the world of bonsai lack of information is not the problem! If you put the word ‘bonsai’ in an internet search engine you will get millions of results. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all this information and to give up before you get a chance to start. Please don’t! What you need is some help to direct you to the appropriate reliable information. That leads me on to the next tip.

2. Find a more knowledgeable person to help you. The ideal scenario would be to find one or two bonsai enthusiasts who live in your area. Such people are usually only too happy to answer your questions and to give you advice e.g on what type of trees grow well in your climate. If you can’t find someone locally then you can join a bonsai forum on the internet. Such sites vary in quality so it’s best to get a recommendation for a helpful forum.

3. Build up your bonsai collection, toolkit and knowledge gradually. Don’t try and learn everything or acquire an extensive bonsai collection with every possible tool in 6 months. Go for the gradual approach – acquire or buy one or two or three trees.  Perhaps one fairly mature bonsai and a couple of specimens at an earlier stage of growth so that you can fashion their development. Start with a basic toolkit. Read and acquire information on a ‘little and often’ basis.

4. Practice, practice, practice …. No amount of theory can compare with the hands on experience of working on bonsai trees. That is how you will learn to grow and style bonsai in your particular environment, be that indoors or outdoors. Once you have enough basic information and tools to get started don’t be afraid to get going – and to make mistakes. That happens to everyone and it is the best way to learn.

5. Don’t ‘over fuss’ your bonsai. For the novice with one bonsai tree there is a huge temptation to give it too much attention. Certainly its moisture requirements need to be checked regularly but it doesn’t need to be pruned every time a new leaf appears. There are times when bonsai trees need to be allowed periods of growth to develop properly. That is why it is often a good idea for those new to bonsai to have more than one tree so that the risk of giving too much attention to one bonsai is reduced.

If you take on board these 5 tips you will quickly move on from the ‘bonsai beginner’ stage and become more proficient.

Flowering Bonsai – Serissa

By Ruth Morgan

There are many flowering bonsai species but if you want one with a long flowering time then Serissa is ideal. It is also known as ‘Tree of a thousand stars’.

Small trumpet shaped flower of Serissa

Serissa foetida (or Serissa japonica) produces tiny, white trumpet shaped flowers for long periods of the year. It has small glossy leaves and a twisted and rough trunk. Cultivars with variegated leaves, double or coloured flowers have also been developed.

Its vigorous growth pattern makes it a popular bonsai species. Serissa can be propagated easily by taking softwood cuttings in spring.

Serissa originates from south east Asia and is therefore a subtropical species. It needs to be kept at temperatures of between 12 to 20oC ideally though some suggest it can survive outdoors above 7oC.

In many parts of the world this means that it is an indoor bonsai. But Serissa will benefit from being outdoors in part shade for a period during the summer, provided it is not moved too much. When indoors, Serissa needs good light and should be protected from draughts.

It is important to have a good humid atmosphere for Serissa but do not overwater or stand the pot in water. If spraying, ensure that there is good circulation of air to allow the flowers to dry quickly. Apply a balanced feed every 2 weeks during the growing season and monthly during the winter.

Prune as required to maintain the shape of the tree. Pruning during the summer will result in vigorous growth of shoots.

Repotting and pruning the roots has an unpleasant side effect. Latin scholars will recognise the meaning of ‘foetida’ as foul-smelling. When the bark and roots are cut an obnoxious smell is emitted. Repotting should be carried out every 2 years in the spring.

Sometimes Serissa experiences yellowing and dropping of the leaves and this indicates a problem with the growing conditions e.g. wrong humidity levels or location.

Most styles of bonsai are suitable for Serissa but the formal upright style does not suit the twisted trunk.