Friday, September 2, 2011

Change to my bonsai soil material

I mentioned briefly at the end of last year that I have a new soil mix. Originally I had been using cat litter and pine bark for my bonsai mix and this worked well. The cat litter retained the water that it could hold and any excess simply drained out the bottom of the pot. But whilst scouring the various blogs of other bonsai enthusiasts I came across an article by Walter Pall about ‘baked loam’. Walter is one of most highly respected professionals in the bonsai world and regularly travels to give training and demonstrations. Walter has been using inorganic materials for some time and with this he is producing top class bonsai that regularly win awards. So I thought what must work for Walter must surely work for me.

Walter is using a product made by Maxit and even though the product code is different here in Finland the product is still the same with particle sizes of 2-4mm coming in 25kg bags. Unfortunately I was unable to purchase this from any store locally so I had to order a pallet of 18 bags directly from Maxit and have it delivered. At least now I have enough to keep me going for a few years.

I am not using this Maxit product neat; I am still making a mix using 7 parts Maxit, 2 parts cat litter, to add some different colour and because I still have some bags available, and 1 part pine bark, to add some organic matter to the mix. As with the cat litter earlier it is important to water and feed the bonsai on a regular basis. I am watering everyday regardless if they need it or not and feeding every couple of weeks. This type of bonsai ‘soil’ requires that you are daily tending to your bonsai but the end result is healthy trees and a higher survival rate.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Zelkova #1

During the summer holidays I visited Helsinki. This gave me the opportunity to again visit the Bonsai and Japanese garden located near there. This time I decided to buy a Zelkova (Japanese Elm). Looking at the tree it was clear that it was a little overgrown but it had a decent size truck and some potential to be good bonsai.

Ideally I wanted to re-pot the tree into more my own soil mix but with spring some months behind I am a little reluctant to take that risk now especially when it seems to be growing well. Instead I decided to at least give it a trim for the summer. Zelkova react well to trimming at this time of year and it is good to prune back to 1 or 2 leaves to keep the shape and maintain the small delicate size leaves that Zelkova have. This pruning also helps back budding and since my pruning this is starting to become apparent.

The next battle will be to see it through the winter. Apparently there are two varieties of Zelkova, one that is grown for outdoors and one for indoors. I am not sure what type this is or how to tell the difference but I am reluctant to keep this tree indoors during the winter because this can have a more negative affect than having the tree go into cold winter dormancy. I will put the tree in my pavilion during the winter months to protect it from the wind and extend the growing the season a little because of the higher temperatures created by the glass windows.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ficus - Air Layering

I had brought this ficus tree already last year from IKEA of all places. It was on offer in the sale section for only 40€. The condition of it then was much the same as it is now with growth at the top and the obvious lost branch at the bottom. The tree has many faults but the size of the trunk was the main reason I decided to buy it and then see what I could do to correct those mistakes.

The main faults with the tree are the clear marks in the bark made by the wire that was used to shape it, the unnaturally looking shape, which is not what I like personally, and then the large untreated cuts.

I was originally planning to repot the tree in a more shallow pot so that I could replace the soil with my own bonsai soil mix, but I have now decided to leave that until later in the year and instead start with phase one of my plan to turn this ficus into a better looking bonsai.

This first phase is to remove the top section of the tree that is clearly out of style with the lower part of the tree. I could simply just cut the top section off and throw it away but this straight section offers the possibility for me to get two bonsai from this one tree. To achieve this because of the size of the truck I would need make an air layering. This requires me to remove a section of the bark and then surround this area with a plastic bag filled with moss so that the new roots can grow.

I wanted to remove as much of the straight section as possible so I made a cut quite close to the join with the lower part of the tree. There was a untreated cut in that area that I removed before making two cuts approximately 2 times the diameter of the trunk.

Then using a sharp knife I removed the bark completely. It is important to remove all the underlying cambium layer, which is the green material under the bark. Failure to remove this completely could result in a lack of roots and therefore an unsuccessful air layering.

After the plastic bag was placed around the cut it was filled with moss and then the top closed. Small holes were made in the top in a few places for me to water the moss. During the next 6-8 weeks I will need to keep the moss nice and moist.

Once the top section has been removed I will review again what is the next phase. Personally I do not like the look of the unnatural bends so if my first attempt at an air layer is successful then I may do another to remove another section by cuttin the trunck as shown in the photo below. Let's see first how the first one turns out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sumo Bonsai Fertilizers

This year I will start to use fertilizers and other soil additives manufactured by SUMO BONSAI ®.

Organic fertilizers SUMO BONSAI ® are known to provide health and vitality. Indeed, the organic fertilizing matter is above all restabilizing, and ensures a natural nutrition according to the Yin Yang cycle, universal law of assimilation-regeneration which bonsai are also subjected to.

An organic nutrition recreates in the pot, a true natural environment needed for the plant's health, its harmonious development and its natural immunity.

I purchased these products at the end of last year and the range includes;

Bio-C1, Micro-Granular Fertilizer
Bio-C1 is perfect for all indoor bonsai and can also be used on outdoor bonsai during the spring.

Bio-C2, Micro-Granular Fertilizer
Bio-C2 is a new technology fertilizer supplying high quality nutriments to bonsai fertilization and is suitable for all outdoor bonsai.

Orplus, Liquid Organic Fertilizer
Orplus is a liquid organic fertilizer specially adapted for bonsai cultivation.

OE70 Foliaire, Leaf Trace Minerals
OE70 Foliaire is a nutritive, stimulative and protective foliar solution specially design for the cultivation of bonsai.

Naturel Compost, Vegetable Compost
Naturel Compost softens the substrate and reactivates the baterial environment. It can be used on all bonsai species, indoor and outdoor.
Naturel Compost maintains the quality of the soil and reinforces the organic fertilizers' assimilation.

T.O.N.U.S V, Natural Plant Fertilizer
T.O.N.U.S V stimulates the multiplication process of root cells.
The macro and micro nutriments provided by T.O.N.U.S V strongly aid the recovery of roots after repotting and strengthen the nutritive natural cycles indispensible to bonsai.

I will try to monitor how the trees repond to this new range and hopefully I am presenting nice photos of my lush trees by the end of the season.

All these products are available from our webshop Raisio Bonsai and Garden.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spring is coming

This is always an eagerly anticipated time of the year when the days start to visibly get longer and the feeling of spring is just around the corner. Unfortunately that feeling may last for another month or so but I hope it will not be as long as last year when it was already April before spring really started.

This winter has been a little backwards with much colder weather during December, which also affected many parts of Europe, and a "warmer" January compared to other years.
Soon it will be clear which of the outdoor bonsai trees have survived the harsh Finnish winter. This year I have used our pavilion to house some of the trees and I hope that the protection from the frost and the hard winds has done the trick.
As you can see from the photos I apply snow to the top of the soil. This snow is not designed to protect the plant but it is a means of keeping the soil wet. On good days the temperature inside the pavilion could be above zero and the the snow will slowly melt and "water" the plant.
The spruce trees that I collected last year have remained next to the house or next to the garage. Because of the amount of snow that we have had all the trees next to the garage have been covered already from the beginning of the winter and this should have helped to protect the trees from the frost and wind.

Friday, October 22, 2010

European spruce #5

The European spruce has many larger branches growing in many directions and it will be interesting to see which will stay and which will be turned into jins. The important thing, as with many of my collection at the moment, is to just keep it alive in this first year and then I can start to plan the styles later. Unfortunately this bonsai hobby requires a high level of patience to give time for your trees to recover from the various tasks that we perform year in year out. This is one of the reasons to have many trees if possible so you always have something ongoing.

European spruce #4

This spruce has more growth and the truck was a nice size. Once I can start to style these, hopefully next year, I hope to find hidden a nice bonsai. This is an art in itself trying to find the bonsai within a piece of material, either collected or purchased from a regular garden centre.