It has been a fairly harsh start to the winter and reported to now have been the coldest on record since the Met office started recording data. So with that said how will our bonsai trees fair? Here are a few of our members trees in the snow at the end of 2010. They show a magical winter wonderland with the blanket of snow covering the bonsai trees enhancing their visual appeal.

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New shoots showing the stipule at the end of the shoot

For general pruning and to promote back budding on Taiwan figs I tend to prune back to behind new shoots (know as the stipule which is the point at the end of the shoot) and this helps if you want a denser crown with smaller leaves.

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Trunk of mature Ginkgo tree

Maidenhair trees (Ginkgos) are also popular subjects for growing as penjing and bonsai; they can be kept artificially small and tended over centuries. They are amazing trees in that they are the sole surviving species of a group of Gymnosperms that flourished 65 million years ago, around the time of the dinosaurs.

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Taiwan Fig at first purchase in February 2006 from Lodders in Holland

This is the story so far of my first bonsai tree purchase which was a Taiwan fig and to share possibly common themes with others who are just starting out with a bonsai tree and hopefully to encourage them to along the way. The following explains a stage of events from a healthy tree to an unhealthy tree and its recovery. In February 2006 I purchased a Taiwan Fig from Lodders Bonsai nursery in Holland (www.lodderbonsai.nl/).  It was kept in my flat on a south facing window sill as an indoor bonsai and was in good health. By February 2007 my Taiwan Fig was fruiting profusely and very healthy but it was still in its original deep blue pot which made it hard to water as it was tightly bound in pot by roots. So in March 2007 I re-potted my Taiwan Fig in shallower Walsall pot and in order to do this I cut off one large root.  I re-potted the fig in Edo bonsai soil mix and carried out no pruning to canopy at time of root pruning and re-potting.

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Lonicera bonsai

This Lonicera clump was collected from a hedge at a condemned hospital in 1991. It was joined to a big trunked Lonicera which had fallen over and a large branch had rooted its self to the ground to form a raft. In the gap left after it had fallen it looked as though a lot of new sucker growth had sprung up and eventually fused together to form a tangled clump.

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This Hawthorn was collected in 1990 from the side of a disused railway line. It was planted in a deep tub because most of the  root I was able to get out with it was about 4 inches higher up the trunk than the soil level I eventually wanted

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This tree was grown from a cutting taken in 1980 and planted to grow up the side of a house. In 1995 it had grown too large and it was decided to take it out. There was no care  taken in digging it out as it was only afterwards that it was realized that it might make a good Bonsai. It had hardly any roots but this didn’t prove to be a problem, it budded up straight away and grew strongly all summer. Over the next five years, as the tree was being trained, any flower that appeared was cut off so that all the energy went into branch development.

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The seed for this Alder was collected in the autumn of 1987, from a local tree, planted in standard seed compost and left outside to germinate. For the first three years growth was very slow. I decided to do some research into Alders and found out that they grew close to water. From then on I stood it in water during the summer and it immediately started to grow very fast. In the spring of 1992 it was planted in a washing up bowel, stood in a tray of water and fed every two weeks with Chem pack No 8. By the end of the year I was standing it in half strength Chem Pack solution and the growth was strong and fast. In the winter it was pruned back hard to create a good trunk taper. The hard pruning also had the effect of creating a lot of back budding which was also allowed to grow, the effect of this was to fatten the trunk up very quickly. This method of growing and pruning hard continued until the winter of 1997 when the first of the branches were selected and wired into place.

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