Taxus baccata – English Yew

English Yew (Taxus baccata) in 2019 at Swindon Winter Image Show

The English Yew can live for over a 1,000 years and it is thought that many living Yews pre-date Christ by many thousands of years. The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is claimed to be up to 9,000 years old. Here is an example of the development of a Yew tree as a bonsai starting back in the late 90’s.

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Root growth in winter

Oak roots from acorns planted in Oct 2020 already developing

Following on from the planting up of some acorns in October 2020, they are already starting to develop, even though you cannot see anything above the soil in the pot, a lot has been happening below ground in and out of the pots. So just because most of your bonsai trees will have gone dormant for the above part of the pots over winter, be aware that the roots are still active and functioning in the pots albeit at a slower rate depending on how you are over wintering them.

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Basic bonsai information

1st place, SM Korean Hornbeam
Korean Hornbeam (Carpinus)

10 basic elements to bonsai

  1. Watering often enough that they do not dry out
  2. Feeding with fertiliser when the tree is actively growing
  3. Repotting every few years to refresh the soil and prune the roots
  4. Positioning of your trees indoors if tropical and outdoors if temperate
  5. Protecting your trees from sun, rain, frost, wind and snow damage
  6. Pruning to aid with the development of your tree shape 
  7. Wiring / guying to aid with styling your tree
  8. Cleaning to remove weeds, check for pests, remove moss and algae
  9. Advanced techniques like defoliating, leaf cutting, bud pinching
  10. Displaying your bonsai on a stand in the right pot with an accent

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2nd Virtual UK Bonsai Show 2021

One of the winning trees from the 1st Virtual Show in 2020

The UK Bonsai Association is hosting their 2nd Virtual UK Bonsai Show for 2021 and you can find out more on their website.

There are currently no bonsai shows to go to due to the pandemic so to ensure we all get our bonsai fix they are compiling your bonsai tree photos and this time bonsai pots in a virtual realm. Check out the results from the first Virtual Show which had 120 bonsai tree photos submitted.

If you want to enter the 2021 virtual show then your photo of your bonsai or pot needs to be taken between the 1st Jan 2019 and the 25 November 2021.

The UK Bonsai Association membership will vote for their favourite trees and pots between the 1st December and 22nd December 2021. So you have some time to prepare your trees and pots and select a good time to photograph them if you haven’t already got a photo to submit. If you e-mail them in to ukbonsaiassociation@gmail.com

Good luck and have fun.

Indoor bonsai basics for keeping a Ginseng Fig

Ginseng Fig tree suitable as an indoor bonsai in UK

Bonsai basically is when you keep a tree in a pot and my preference is for keeping tropical species of trees as bonsai. One species that is a good beginner tree is that of the Ginseng fig, a tropical species of tree widely used in bonsai which are kept indoors in the UK due to the colder temperatures.

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Bonsai berries bonanza

Ilex serrata (Japanese holly) with stunning red berries

Autumn is a great season for admiring the autumn colour of the leaves of your bonsai but also a great time to see them fruit. Some species of tree are more prolific in their fruit production and some have very bright showy fruit. This can be enhanced with a complementary colour pot for an improved overall visual appeal. Offsetting colours that provide contrast is the name of the game here, introducing bright colours on glazed pots is great fun and worth keeping at the back of your mind when shopping round if you have a fruiting bonsai.

One of the things to remember when selecting tree species to bonsai is that you cannot reduce the size of the fruits, so the tree will try to produce fruits based on the full size regardless of the size of bonsai tree you are growing.

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Growing trees from seed

Indian Horse Chestnut seedlings

This year is a great year for tree seeds and many species have produced seeds in high volumes especially Oaks; so it is a really good source of the trees for tomorrow by collecting and planting up the seeds from today.

I went out seed gathering this season following on from last year where I collected a few conkers from a champion Indian Horse Chestnut and focused on collecting acorns this year from some fabulous oaks. Here are a few examples of my past seed collection and seed growing journeys so far.

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Autumnal bonsai delights

Trident maple (Acer buergerianum)

Autumn colours this year are stunning and none more so than on our members bonsai trees and in their gardens. Here are a few images of the wonderful array of colours that trees naturally show and we admire so much at this time of year.

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Fun with Ficus Ginseng

This year I came across some 7cm pots of Ginseng Ficus bonsai (Ficus microcarpa ‘Ginseng’) which were very reasonably priced in garden centres so I have bought a few to have some fun with. I started by selecting out some ceramic bonsai pots for them as they were in small 7cm black plastic pots and I was keen to see what the roots were like too as they were growing in pure coconut fibre.

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Swindon Project Elm 2020

Thank you to all the club members who have joined in with this years project Elm. Sixteen members have taken up this years challenge to grow, develop and style the allocated Chinese elms as per the images below. Will update on this post over the next few months to see how they are progressing.

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