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.

European spruce #3

I have already collected two European spruce trees (Picea abies) during the spring this year and couldn't stop myself from going back to the same area and seeing what other potential bonsai were hiding on the side of the road. I managed to find three more that have had the same treatment of being trimmed year on year by the verge cutter.

This spruce I like for the lack of growth. It sounds funny to say but the style of the tree is already heading in a clear direction and the broken branches will make for some good jins.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Flowering Quince #1

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles) is a very colourful tree in the spring with an abundance of flowers appearing all over the tree.

This tree was purchased in the spring from a garden center near Helsinki. I repotted the tree in August because this is the recommended time for this tree, and not in the spring.
This late repotting time is acceptable because it will not be spending the winter outside. Quinces (Ruusukvittenit) do not like anything less than 5°C so I will be moving it into my house for the winter in the coming weeks when the temperature starts to get colder, for now I have moved it in our glass pavilion so it still get good sun light and stay warm at the same time.

Below is a photo of the root ball when first removed from the old bonsai pot.

The bonsai pot that the Quince came in was very nice but I wanted to put it into a more shallow pot. I decided still to use a round pot but one with less height. The roots were just perfect to fit into this pot and were nicely spread with many fine roots.

Even though they do not like the very cold temperatures they still need a level of temperature change to ensure that flowers come in the spring. I hope this will be good enough before the really cold temperatures arrive here in Finland. We shall see in the spring if it worked.

In the below photo you can see a close up of the soil mix used. It was a mix of the new fired clay with some cat litter and pine bark.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rhododendron #1

Rhododendron and Azaleas are a common shrub used for bonsai making. The flowers in the spring make them a nice bonsai to have in any collection.

A small leaf variety makes for better bonsai material but finding these are not always so easy. During the spring I came across Rhododendron ferrogineum 'Puncta' (Karoliinanalppiruusu) in a local garden centre. The leaves are much smaller than common garden Rhododendron so I decided to take this and give it a try.

The plant didn't come in any container, it was simply planted into sandy soil and had to be slightly dug out of the ground and placed into a paper bag to bring home.

I immediately set about putting it into a pot and decided that I would try to fit into one of my available bonsai pots rather than putting it into a training pot. The pot I chose was an oval shaped pot with a blue glazed finish. The oval shape in combination with the blue colour suits well the feminine side of this tree especially when it is in flower.

The original soil was quite difficult to remove and some was still attached to the underneath of the plant when I placed it into the pot. The soil mix that I used is the light weight 'gravel' that I have starting using recently mixed with approx. 30% pine bark.

As with all of my bonsai they will need some serious styling to be started next year, but the main thing now is to let them grow and establish roots after their repotting to gain the needed strength firstly to survive winter and then be ready to be chopped and pruned.

Friday, July 16, 2010

European spruce

Spring soon came and went and because of other commitments I didn’t do all that I wanted to do to my collection of bonsai trees. I have also not posted anywhere as many posts to my blog has I had planned, but hopefully now I can get back on track and start to spend more time on my own bonsai collection. Even though I was busy with other things I still found time to search for some yamadora to add to my collection. I wrote last year of a great source for some potential bonsai material and these could be found on the roadside verges. From this exact type of location I managed to find two or three pieces of material that could turn into a good bonsai. To my surprise two of the pieces I came across were European spruce (Picea abies) that have been repeatedly cut by the verge cutter, which has resulted in thick trunks to form but the height has remained low.

I potted the trees into ‘training’ pots but I could have put them straight into a normal bonsai pot because the main roots were near to the surface. I also potted them into a new bonsai soil mix I am starting to use. This material is lighter than the cat litter I have been using and the dark brown colour looks better than the lighter colour of cat litter especially when it starts to dry. I mixed about 10% pine bark as spruce like a drier soil mix. This type of soil needs real commitment each day because the soil can dry very quickly, especially with the hot temperatures we have been having here in Finland the last week or so. I am watering my bonsai daily and feeding every 10 days. You can see from the one spruce that this is already working well.

You can see clearly in the photo below the effects that the verge cutter had on the tree with the top completely horizontal. With some removal of certain branches and shaping of others then this has excellent potential because the main trunk is already quite thick and does not need any work.

I will continue to water and feed this year and allow the trees to grow freely and then next year I will start to shape the trees.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mycorrhizal fungi

Failed again! The two pine trees collected last year again failed to survive the winter. I am not exactly sure why but it must have something to do with the roots and soil combination. We all read how important retaining some of the existing soil is important because of mycorrhizal fungi that are needed by pine trees to extract nutrients from the soil. I kept quite much of the old soil but maybe the problem the problem was that I kept too much old soil and not enough mycorrhizal fungi. My excessive watering program was maybe too much for the roots when the soil was heavy and remained wet for long periods. Pines need a dryer soil mix especially if you want to water on a daily basis.

So the problem exists how to have a dry soil mix but retain the mycorrhizal fungi. Not easy but one-way around this problem is to add mycorrhizal fungi to your own soil mix. This is possible because mycorrhizal fungi are harvested and sold in packets to use. After many years scouring the Internet looking at different websites related to bonsai I came across many different products and one of these products were packets containing mycorrhizal fungi. In my next attempt of collecting a pine tree I plan to use this harvested mycorrhizal fungi in my own soil mix. I will remove most of the old soil and only add the tips of any cut roots back into the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi grow from the tips of the roots so these should also contain the important mycorrhizal fungi.

At first I thought that mycorrhizal fungi were needed only for pine trees but further reading and research about this product I know understand that mycorrhizal fungi exists in over 90% of all plants in the world. Mycorrhizal fungi already exists in the ground and it can take nature up to 5 years for mycorrhizal fungi to find its’ way to young or newly planted plants. This number of years is simply too long to establish a replanted tree but with a sprinkle of mycorrhizal fungi it is possible to have them growing from the roots within 2-4 weeks.

rootgrow mycorrhizal friendly fungi - larch roots

I have already purchased this product in readiness for when I again go collecting pines in the autumn. The product I have purchased is manufactured in the UK and is called rootgrow™.

rootgrow mycorrhizal friendly fungi - 150g packet

Because of the benefits that mycorrhizal fungi has to nearly all plants I have also decided to purchase this product so that I can sell it through my Internet shop. Time will tell how well the product works but all I can say at the moment is that it comes with many recommendations and references and is fully endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the UK which must mean something.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fukien tea #2

I couldn't resist it, sitting there shouting at me to buy it. That is this Fukien tea tree (Carmona microphylla). I saw this on a visit to Ikea here in Raisio, Finland and after the recent loss of my Fukien tea tree I had to buy it to see if I can keep this one a live. It has a split trunk which is already quite thick at the base. Everybody has to have at least one Fukien tea tree in their collection as they are a very common indoor tree that can be purchased from many garden centres or large supermarkets.

My son Alex with the same tree. Hopefully another budding Bonsai enthusiast in the making.
As usual with Malsai trees purchased from this type of shop there are some clear areas that needed immediate attention. This tree came in a standard plastic pot, not in a bonsai pot for some reason, so that was the first task to get the tree into a pot, or at least try depending on the root structure. The other areas that needed immediate attention were the cuts on the side and top of the tree. I believe this type of untreated cut was one of the reasons why I recently lost one of these trees.

I chose a light brown unglazed rectangular bonsai pot with a motif for this tree. The rounded edges of the pot gives a slightly feminine feel that goes well with this tree that normally shows masculine features in its trunk, but has a feminine side with small white flowers appearing if water is restricted for a short period. The size of the pot is 19cm and the height of the tree 29cm, matching the 2/3 'rule' for pot to tree ratio.
The depth of the pot is 4cm, almost matching the truck diameter of 3.5cm, and was perfect to fit all the roots without having to do any cutting. There are two larger roots that now are shown as nebari (surface roots flaring from the base of a tree) but more work is needed for the other areas. The lack of bigger roots also meant that I had to wire the tree into the pot using the base of the trunk. I will need to keep an eye on this and may need to repot again next year and try to position the wire away from the trunk.
The tree will now be given time to settle in and I will allow the top to grow unrestricted for a while before starting work on shaping the branches.
You may just make out the grey area in the above photo. This is the same area in the earlier photo showing the cut. I completely removed the cut and shape the trunk to follow the rest of the surrounding area. The grey colour is cut paste applied to help with the healing process.
As you can see it now as a slight slant. This was mainly because the tree sat this way better in the pot. It definitely added something to the final outcome than just having the trunks positioned upright. I need to take some better photos when it is warm enough to take the trees outside for some natural light.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Weeping Fig #2

I recently purchased this fig (Ficus Benjamina 'Wiandi'). I believe the type to be 'Wiandi' because of the very brittle branches and roots. I wasn't aware of this brittleness when I purchased the tree and it was only a few days after I had purchased it I was looking at potential shapes for my next bonsai challenge when a branch located near the middle simply snapped off in my hand.

I then searched the Internet for the types of figs with brittle branches. Two names came to the front, Ficus Benjamina 'Wiandi' and 'Rianne'. After reading about these figs on the Internet it was clear that I would not be able to wire this tree. One job less I suppose :). The good thing about this fig is that the branches grow in all directions with plenty of leaves and the the trunk and branches grow in a twisted pattern.

The first thing I wanted to do was repot the tree into a more shallow pot. I had no idea how much of the existing container the roots had developed but to my surprise the roots where fairly compact and located near the surface.

I decided on a red oval pot for this fig. The height of the tree is approx. 40cm high and the pot size is 25cm.

Because the branches are so brittle then the same relates to the roots. This made it difficult to apply wiring around the base to keep the tree in the required position in the pot. I broke a couple of the larger roots that I wanted to keep because of this brittleness.

I was a little afraid that the tree would loose many leaves because of loosing so many roots but apart from a few leaves, mainly from the lower branch, it has kept all of it's leaves. I watered the tree everyday during the first week or so to maintain a good supply of water. I also feed the tree the same day it was potted and then again a couple of weeks later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bonsai pots

The rain is falling and the temperatures are finally increasing so it looks like spring is finally here. In the coming weeks once the buds have swollen with all that energy from the roots it will be time to repot some of my trees.

As you may have already seen many of my trees are in deep plastic pots, either because they were brought from a garden centre or because I planted then into these when they were dug from the ground. With some of the trees it takes time to prepare the roots to fit them into a shallow pot.

Once the roots have been prepared to fit into a bonsai style pot then the next step is to find a pot that best suits the size and style of the tree. Unfortunately it isn't so easy here in Finland. There are many places that sell bonsai trees, mainly malsai type in 15-20cm pots, but nothing else is available from these places. The only possibility to obtain different pots is to purchase these online from another country. There are many online shops in many countries supplying pots, tools and other accessories but the biggest problem with this is the high delivery costs when shipping to this part of the world.

With this in mind, and to cater for my own needs, I decided to start an online shop back at the end of November called "Raisio Bonsai and Garden" ("Raision Bonsai ja Puutarha" in Finnish) selling bonsai pots, tools and accessories. I understand that the demand here in Finland is not very high compared to many other European countries, and this has much to do with the population of just over 5 million and the harsh climate we have in this part of the world, but there is still a demand so the company has now become part of my interest in bonsai.

Even though my initial stock wasn't very big I still tried to purchase many different shapes, sizes, styles and colours of pots. I myself was looking for bigger pots than those that come with bonsai trees normally available in garden centres. This meant that most of my pots at the moment are 20cm or bigger, but soon I will be receiving more pots and many of these will be covering the smaller sizes.

Choosing the correct pot for you bonsai

Choosing the correct pot to achieve the maximum effect for your bonsai can be a challenging decision, especially when first starting to make bonsai. The basic guide below is my conclusion from many guides that can be found on the Internet and is what I try to use when choosing the correct pot.

Size of the pot depends on the size of the bonsai tree.

  • Pot depth = Trunk diameter
  • Pot length = 2/3 the height of the tree (Oval / Rectangle pots)
  • Pot diameter = 1/3 the height of the tree (Round pots)

Shape and style of the pot depends on the type and style of the bonsai tree.

  • Rectangular pots = Masculine trees such as Pines and big Maple trees.

Rectangle, 28cm, Brown, Unglazed, Motif, Saucer

  • Oval pots = Feminine trees such as Maples (Japanese) and flowering trees. Oval pots are also suitable for forests or where the tree has many trunks.

Oval, 25cm, Blue, Glazed, Saucer

  • Round pots = Feminine trees such as Pines and Maples with tall narrow trunks. Style of the tree tends to be literati.

Round, 15cm, Creme, Glazed, Saucer

Colour of the pot depends on the class of the tree, masculine or feminine, and the type of the tree.

  • Dark brown / Red / Unglazed brown = Pines and other conifers.

Rectangle, 20cm, Red, Glazed, Saucer

  • Light brown / Creme = Maples and other similar tree types such as Birch and Oak.

Rectangle, 25cm, Brown, Unglazed, Motif

  • Green = Maples and other similar tree types.

Oval, 20cm, Green, Glazed, Saucer

  • Light blue = Flowering species.

Oval, 21cm, Blue, Glazed, Saucer

  • Dark blue = Pines and Maples.

Oval, 20cm, Blue, Glazed, Saucer

There are many different shapes, sizes, styles and colours of bonsai pots available that means that the mix of pot and tree could potentially be whatever. At the end of the day it is what you feel happy with and what looks pleasing to the eye, but I hope that my basic guide helps to give some ideas.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Still waiting for spring

Last weekend I decided to move my deciduous trees back outside as the night temperature had been only minus 2-3°C for a few days and the day temperatures a couple of degrees above zero. On this basis I got excited at the prospect that spring was finally coming, but sod's law that very evening the night temperature was then back down to minus 15°C.

Fortunately the trees are placed next to the house so I hope it wasn't too cold for them. All winter they have been in the garage and even on the heater bed I made, which was turned on when the temperature inside the garage got close to minus 10°C, and then in one night I could have undone all of my hard work. Even today the snow is still coming but I hope soon that it will change quickly so I can start to do the repotting jobs that I have planned before the buds start to open.

On most of the trees it is clear that the buds are starting to swell, but the buds on the Amur maple (Acer tataricum ginnala) are not yet showing any signs of swelling.

I hope that it is just too cold for them to start appearing yet and not that the tree has died. I like the look of this trunk and it would be a pity to loose it. This tree was repotted last spring so this year I was planning to cut back the long thicker trucks to develop more smaller brackets. I will do this in the next week in readiness for spring when the energy starts to transfer from the roots back to the brackets for generating the new leaves.

Friday, March 19, 2010

First casualty of the winter

This winter has been a very long and cold one this year and we are still waiting for spring to start, but I must confess that I have already had my first casualty of the winter period. Unfortunately this has nothing to do with the 50cm or more snow or even the -15°C that we have had for most of the winter. No this casualty is one of the trees that has been snuggled up nice and warm inside my house. The Fukien Tea tree (Carmona Microphylla) has decided that this was the time to go. I am unsure of the exact reason but my theory is that the untreated cut, which is common for malsai bonsai, was the start of it's decline.

As normal for this time of year the inside of modern homes are quite dry when there are freezing temperatures outside and this dryness means that there is very little humidity in the air. This, I believe, has resulted in this untreated cut drying out and then slowing working itself down the tree. The leaves from the higher brackets fell from the tree first and the lowest branch was last to loose its leaves.

I have a cutting of the Fukien Tea tree taken a couple of years ago from another tree that also died, but fortunately this is still growing well leading me to believe it died because of the untreated cut and not the dry air during the winter months. If anybody as any other reasons why my Fukien Tea tree died in this way then I would be grateful for the information.