02/01/15

Japanese Holly (indoor)Last month I covered my early disappointment with indoor bonsai and I hope that the following information will help anyone new to this fascinating hobby to avoid the problems I encountered. If you have been lucky enough to receive a bonsai tree over the Christmas period it is most probably an indoor variety such as a Serissa, Chinese Elm, Carmona, Ligustrum or Ficus, all of which I have seen in local supermarkets this year.

Indoor trees need to be placed in a bright window but not direct sunlight; they also need a reasonably constant temperature, so if it is frosty or you close your curtains at night move the tree from the window into the room. It is also good practice to turn the tree around daily to ensure that all of it gets good balanced light. Make sure that the tree is kept moist, not too wet or dry — check the soil surface daily, the warmer the temperature the more often watering will be needed. Should the tree still be in the soil in which it was bought, which is often quite heavy and dense, a good method is to submerge it in water for approximately five minutes to ensure that water is absorbed evenly. It will be beneficial to change the soil in spring to a more open compost mix. Outdoor JuniperThe image (above right) is an Ilex Crenata, also known as the Japanese Holly. In the UK it is best to treat this tree as an ‘indoor bonsai’ since it is not very frost resistant.

Bonsai trees need to be fed during their growing season but much less so during winter — suitable fertiliser feeds are widely available.

Outdoor varieties also need to be cared for during the winter months, and whilst a lot of our native varieties will be okay left outside with some protection from wind and frost, more delicate trees such as Japanese maples normally found in warmer climates and any plants in small pots in which roots can become easily frozen need to be protected by moving them into a shaded greenhouse, garden shed or garage.

Deciduous trees should not be fed during the winter as they are dormant, whilst evergreens need light and can be fed a low- or zero-nitrogen fertiliser. However, should it be your intention to re-pot evergreens in spring stop feeding them six or seven weeks beforehand. This Juniper (left) will stay outside throughout the winter unless temperatures fall really low, whilst being protected in a sheltered area of the garden.

31/01/15

One of the gifts I received at Christmas is a book ‘The Bonsai School’ by Craig Cousins, who is very well respected in bonsai circles around the world. I was quite surprised to read, that in his early days in bonsai, re-potting made him very nervous such that he would delay the process often to the detriment of trees, and this reflects my own experience when I started the hobby.

Root Pruning Beech SaplingSpring is the time to carry out re-potting of most varieties of bonsai tree, but re-potting a bonsai is not the same as re-potting a house plant, and to a novice there is quite a lot to consider and a little preparation is needed.

One of my first re-potting experiences was with a Chinese Elm bought from a market trader. Before carrying out the task, I read up on pot preparation, root pruning, soil mixes (based on grit, peat and compost), and how to return the tree to the pot. Whilst books offer a vast amount of information, different authors give varying information regarding soil mixes. Several books recommended ‘basic soil mix’ for my tree… but to a novice, just what is ‘basic soil mix’?

There were a few things I needed to consider, such as how to prepare the pot, how much root I could take off without affecting the tree, as well as the best soil mix to use. I found the whole exercise to be quite stressful and wondered whether the tree would survive. Fortunately it did and needless to say, I have since re-potted several trees over the years, some of which have been straight-forward whilst others have presented some challenges, through which my experience has increased and my confidence has grown.

Here are some practical tips I have learned over the years:

  • Prepare the soil mix before starting (ideally this needs to be sieved to get rid of any dust and fine particles).
  • If using a new pot, prepare it before you start, fitting mesh over the drainage holes and attaching securing wires and then place a small mound of soil mix in the pot (if using a deep pot, a drainage layer of larger grit is recommended and on top of it a small mound of soil mix).
  • Before removing the tree from its old pot, check for any securing wires which should be cut beneath the pot.
  • Carefully remove the tree from the pot.
  • Gently tease the soil from the root-ball; a small rake or a blunt chopstick is useful (webmaster’s comment… I always knew that chopsticks must have a raison d’être).
  • Remove some of the compost from around the edge of the roots; you may decide that it all needs to be changed if it is hard and compacted.
  • Examine for damaged, dead or rotted roots, and long roots circling around the pot which need to be removed to create a compact root ball with fine feeder root ends.
  • Carefully trim a small amount from the root ball and importantly, keep the roots moist during re-potting.
  • Replace the tree in the pot after identifying the ‘front’ aspect
  • Gently press the tree down onto the mound of soil.
  • Secure the tree using fixing wires
  • Fill the pot with compost, carefully working it between the roots, so as not to damage them.
  • Gently water using a fine sprinkler.

After joining my local bonsai club I heard members talking about different soils (available from bonsai traders), such as Acadama, Kiriyu, Kiodama, Bimms and Kanuma and I started to realise that enthusiasts often have a preferred mix or soil for their trees and that different varieties benefit from different types or mixes of soil (the Japanese bonsai industry is huge and more bonsai soil research has been undertaken by the Japanese than by any other nation or scientific body).

Location is also a factor in considering the needs of your tree, however some basic requirements exist, such as drainage; appropriate moisture retention; allowing the roots to breath and creating space for new roots to develop.

Fortunately, you can now readily purchase suitable proprietary bonsai soils which can be used either neat or as part of a mix: as a general guide, Acadama is suitable for most deciduous trees, Kanuma for most lime-hating plants and Kiriyu is most suited for pines.

Should you wish to make your own soil mix, the following is a basic guide:

  • ‘Basic Mix’, suitable for most deciduous trees: 1 part loam, 2 parts moss peat, 2 parts grit.
  • ‘Free-draining Mix’, suitable for pines and junipers: 1 part loam, 1 part moss peat, 3 parts grit.
  • ‘Lime-free Mix’, suitable for azalea, heather, etc.: 1 part loam, 3 parts moss peat, 1 part grit.

01/03/15

Continuing the theme of my early experiences in bonsai leads me to recount my first attempts at wiring trees, which is one of the methods used to change or maintain the shape of a tree by changing the position or movement of the trunk or branches.

There are two types of wire used in bonsai, coated aluminium and copper, the latter has the advantage of better holding ability than that of aluminium as well as being less obtrusive, while aluminium is slightly easier to use.

Even though I referred to a book with a section on wiring my early attempts had varying degrees of success, ranging from absolutely no improvement and in some cases damage to branches to what I believe to be improvements. One of my earliest attempts was a Larch on which the trunk did not need any wire being almost a formal upright, but most branches were growing either in the wrong direction or needed to be brought back in towards the trunk so every branch needed to be wired. I did so in early spring for no other reason than I did not want to wire it when it had leaves.

wiringI soon learned my limitations as in the course of the process I broke at least two branches; one completely, the other cracked but I was able to save it. Why had this happened? Simply the wiring was too loose and I had not supported the branches properly where I wanted the bends, and I tried to bend the branches too far in one go! Wire should be applied at an angle of around 45 degrees and of a gauge sufficient to support the branch (around 1/3rd the branch thickness). Coils too close together may damage the bark, whilst those too wide apart will not sufficiently support the branch when bent into its new position.

wiringNeedless to say I have carried out wiring since and have improved although I am still only just slightly more than proficient and certainly not an expert.

I recall doing some wiring at a workshop when I was asked by one of the instructor’s assistants “Do you know that you should wire two branches together?” This was something that I knew but then I realised that I had a number of branches wired separately; it’s easy to forget what is best practice. By wiring two branches together they support each other (see left).wiring

In my earliest wiring attempts I broke several branches where they emerged from the trunk. To prevent this, on branches that are to be bent downwards the wire should be taken down over the top of the branch, whilst on branches to be bent upwards the wire should be taken upwards under the branch (see right).

wiringWhen wiring two branches at a fork, again the technique used is to wire both together, and in these circumstances the wire needs to be applied in opposite directions on the two branches of the fork. This provides maximum support to the two branches as well as to the fork itself (see left). Wiring is a skill which needs to be developed and the techniques above are only some of the basics of one of the most important skills in bonsai (about which I would not suggest that I know everything) and over time I have learned the benefit of other techniques such as using raffia or tape to protect branches, or the use of parallel wires placed along the branch for increased support during severe bending, and the use of ‘tourniquet wiring’. I am still learning and recently read about a technique where a sharp cut is made along a branch which will then reduce spring back in some species when the wire is removed.

wiringAs stated earlier, I have improved my wiring ability over the years but I was still somewhat doubtful about how far I could bend a branch on a small Juniper. At a club meeting in 2014 I asked a visiting bonsai expert, who advised me that the branch in question could be moved through 180 degrees if I wired it properly. I thought that this was doubtful but decided to give it a go regardless, wiring it with copper wire and gently bending (listening for the branch to crack). He was correct (see above left & right)! The upper left branch on the left image has been bent through almost 180 degrees on the right image. I will only know if I have been successful in several months time when the wire is removed.

In theory you can wire trees at any time; I have done so throughout the year but there are differences of opinion: some enthusiasts opt for late winter to early spring, whilst others opt for mid to late summer as the best times. The important thing to remember is that trees grow most vigorously in spring and wire needs to be checked regularly to avoid it causing damage.

How long wire should remain in situ was something about which I had no real idea. Experience has shown me that the time varies from species to species: Evergreens tend to take longer than deciduous trees and obviously, larger branches longer than smaller. In the meantime it is important to watch for the wire digging into the branch as it grows. This means that should you need to rewire the same branches, try to apply the wire in the opposite direction to that previously.

Some common errors are: wiring too tightly or too loosely, crossing wires, not wiring to the tips of branches and leaving wire in place for too long.

01/04/15

Last month I started to give an insight into my experiences of wiring bonsai and provided some basic guides to techniques which I have practiced over the years with varying degrees of success. Trees can be classified as either broad leaf (deciduous and evergreen) or conifer, and I have found that in the case of deciduous trees wiring is easier when they are not in leaf but with evergreens and conifers we do not have that option and while the techniques used are the same as those used for deciduous trees, care needs to be taken to ensure that foliage is not unnecessarily damaged.

Evergreens can be wired at any time while conifers are best wired at their dormant stage between late autumn and early spring.

As I have stated previously, wiring is a technique which needs to be practiced if you are to become competent and wiring conifers often requires the use of small diameter wire on very fine branches which can be easily damaged as I have learned to my cost on a few occasions.

The process for wiring conifers in particular is described in the steps below which I follow from a book by the late Harry Tomlinson.

Trimmed
Trimmed
wired
upturned
Fig 1 an undefined branch
Fig 2 a trimmed branch
Fig 3 a wired branch
Fig 4 upturned branch

Fig. 1: an unrefined branch typical of a young conifer; Fig. 2: the same branch after the removal of unwanted side shoots and trimming back of long shoots; Fig. 3: after wiring, note how the main stem is wired; this is achieved by bending the branch as the wire is applied, creating what are often termed knees or elbows, making the branches more compact as well as creating movement. Each side shoot is then wired to create a flat pad, which hopefully will develop into the type of pad typical of bonsai conifers. Finally, each branch is refined further by bending it down close to the trunk with the tip of the branch turned pagesslightly upwards as shown in profile in Fig 4.

The Blaauws Juniper (left) was created from garden centre raw material and was the subject of a club night workshop covered in my Nov 2014 blog spot, using the techniques described above. Its normal habit is vertical and in order to produce this initial styling, unwanted branches were first removed and then the remaining branches were wired as described above. Wherever possible two branches were wired together and the branches were wired right to the tip and bent downwards from the trunk before the tips were turned slightly upwards. Wiring the branches downwards in this way creates an aged effect in a very young tree.

In order to achieve the desired start for this bonsai it was necessary to wire every branch and almost all of the side shoots, which is not always necessary or appropriate. Over the years I have learned to wire only what is needed to improve the image of a tree and never to wire for wiring’s sake!

01/05/15

Air Layering: Although I have grown bonsai for several years I had never attempted air-layering, a technique which was included in the club’s 2014-15 programme of club-night activities and demonstrated on an Acer in the spring of 2014 by one of the club members.

Removing the bark and cambium layerThere are a number of variations to the way in which air layering can be done, the most usual being that a section of bark around the branch is cut with a sharp knife equal in length to the diameter of the branch being air-layered (Fig 1). The cambium layer is then scraped away and hormone rooting powder (mixed to a paste with water) is then applied to the underside of the cut. Damp sphagnum moss is then wrapped around the branch, held in place either in polythene or a plant pot, covering the air-layered section.

Fig I (left): A sharp knife used to remove the bark and cambium layer. I was surprised how easy the process was and fairly confident that I could do it, so decided to try. I had a juniper which had a large hole in the trunk at soil level and I decided to attempt layering the trunk above the hole to improve the tree. I had only one concern; since the damage was very close to the surface of the soil, would there be sufficient space to employ this process? I had seen a club member (thanks, Lindsay) use an alternative method involving drilling holes around the trunk and decided I would try this.

So out came the tools and I drilled a series of small holes (2.5 mm diameter) around the trunk just above the damaged area. These holes needed to penetrate the bark and cambium layer, to the core wood beneath it. These holes were then filled with hormone rooting powder (mixed with water to a thick paste) and covered with sphagnum moss in a polythene wrapping… and I hoped for the best (Fig 2).Polyethylene wrap

Fig 2 (right): Sphagnum moss applied to the air-layer and wrapped in polythene.

I kept the moss damp throughout the following months and watched as new roots developed within it. Later that year, I removed the polythene wrapping to find that the roots had filled the available space (Fig 3).

Root developmentFig 3 (left): New roots have developed and filled the space inside the polythene wrapping.

I then removed the sphagnum moss from around the new roots and was pleased to find that they were already quite strong and decided to continue the process. I carefully cut through the trunk below the newly rooted section.Root ball

To reduce the risk of the trunk rotting from the base, I sealed the sawn trunk with cut paste.

Fig 4 (right): The tree now had a completely new root system exactly the same as if I had used a normal method of air-layering.

Finally, I potted the new tree and applied support wires to the trunk to prevent it from moving about in the pot until the roots develop fully.

05/07/15

Continuing the theme of my experiences of bonsai over the years, this month I reflect on the use of deadwood created with jins and shari. Books and internet images of bonsai often shown jins and shari on very old and exquisite examples of juniper but when I began my interest in bonsai I started with deciduous trees such as Chinese elm and then acer (maple) and malus (crab apple), which are not usually found with deadwood in bonsai. It was after joining the bonsai club that I ventured towards junipers, the species which really can exhibit fantastic deadwood as both shari and jins. I started to create jins from the stumps left after removing unwanted branches on conifers. Dead WoodI still sometimes forget that jins can add something of interest to a tree and mistakenly cut unwanted branches right back to a trunk or main branch, thereby losing this option. Creating shari is something I am still very cautious about, other than in straight forward applications. I am still not sure about identifying where live veins exist in trunks that are fairly straight.

Nature often provides inspiration and did do last month when I visited the North Yorkshire Dales on holiday and while out walking in the Swaledale area I saw examples of deadwood in woodland, open spaces and hedgerows. Nature does not differentiate between species when it exerts itself and stunning deadwood can be seen in both deciduous trees and conifers, created when branches are torn down by storms, etc. Fig 1 (right): The tree was at the heart of a wood at Kiplin Hall near Richmond, surrounded by others of similar size but this big branch had been snapped off leaving this large section of deadwood.

Shari on Juniper prior to carvingAs I explained in last month’s blog I had restyled a Juniper ‘Grey Owl’ Fig 2 (left): At a bonsai workshop. It already had some smooth, natural deadwood which followed a twist in the trunk and I thought that this feature could be improved. As the deadwood already existed I was happy that no live vein was present in that area and carving would not affect the tree’s growth pattern. Shari after carvingThis image is from before I commenced carving the deadwood.

I had never attempted carving before and thought that it could go terribly wrong, so first I experimented on a bit of branch from a recently cut conifer which I found near to home. I found this to be relatively easy, so I then started on my tree. Using a Dremel® I started carving along the existing shari with various sized cutters (including some given to me by a club member who had acquired them from a dentist (yes those used to drill teeth). I experimented until I found a combination which seemed to give me the fissured effect that I was attempting to achieve. Fig 3 (right): The shari and jin with a more defined, fissured appearance.

I obviously need more practice and confidence.

01/08/15

Pests and diseases: This month I will reflect on something which can be a problem for any gardener, namely pests and diseases. (I don’t include our web site administrator in the range of pests that most gardeners will encounter!)

When I started keeping bonsai I did not make regular checks of my trees and as a result I saw infestations of aphids, scale and mildew to name but a few. I could deal with most of these quite successfully but some of these problems occurred year on year. One of these was mildew on an oak bonsai which I would spray, whenever I noticed it, with limited success in controlling the disease, so this year I decided to seek some advice from one of the club members who had grown an oak successfully for many years. “Simple!” He said I should spray the tree before the first signs of the disease and also spray the compost, which I promptly did in early June. Towards the end of July I noticed a small amount of mildew so I repeated the process which seems to have kept the problem under control. All I can do now is wait and see.

Another recurring problem I have seen is wooly aphid on a crab apple. This is something which I have seen for a number of years and again this year it has reared its head again even though I routinely treat all of my trees with a systemic insecticide at the beginning of the spring. This bug is obviously very resilient, over-wintering either in the tree itself or the compost. The RHS recommend that this is dealt with merely by brushing off as soon as it appears, which is something I have had to do for several years. Fig 1 (left): Wooly aphid on a crab apple tree.

In early July, while performing a routine check of my trees, I noticed something on a Korean Hornbeam and a Beech that I had not seen before. They both had several leaves with quite neat elliptical segments missing at the edges. I looked around and saw that a rose also had the same damage to a lot of its leaves. Needless to say I was a little concerned; I had shown the Hornbeam at a club show a week earlier and hoped that the problem was not something which could have infected other trees. Fig 2 (right):Beech with damaged leaves.

I circulated a message to our club members, describing the damage and I was shocked when two of them responded that it might be an attack of vine weevil – something of which I have never had experience but know how serious it can be if not treated. However via the club social media page I received a couple of reassuring messages from other bonsai enthusiasts, that the damage I had described was more in keeping with the ‘Leaf Cutter Bee’ and if that was the case, no lasting damage had been done. I had never heard of this type of bee, which apparently uses the pieces of leaf it removes to seal the cells containing its larvae. I did some research and found some images of damage caused by Leaf Cutter Bees, which is the same as seen on my trees and a rose bush in the garden. I have removed the damaged leaves as recommended and checked frequently since and have found no further damage. Neither tree has lasting signs of damage. Fig 3 (left): ‘Leaf-cutter bee’ damage to leaves on a rose bush.

01/09/15

My September blog. This month I am again looking back at the development of my interest in bonsai which was initially satisfied by buying indoor trees which I discussed in my blog in December 2014 and as my interest grew I purchased trees from bonsai nurseries and suppliers.

ChamaecyparessTwo to three years ago I made my first attempt at creating a bonsai from scratch using a tree which had been in my garden in a large pot for several years and really looked quite miserable. The tree was a multi trunk chamaecypress which had originally been in a planted pot from a garden centre. The stems of the tree were growing vertically which is its natural habit and I decided that I would create a twin trunk and remembering some of the basic rules I checked the root and the stem structure to identify the best position for the front. I then removed all of the unwanted stems and wired the side branches horizontally, removing some of those on the inner sides of the two trunks, reflecting what would happen naturally. I shortened one of the trunks and then fully wired each of the side branches to commence the process of creating pads. One year later I transferred the tree to a ceramic pot, the colour of which reflects the colour of the trunk.

As this was my first attempt at creating a bonsai from scratch I am quite pleased with the result and have a great deal of satisfaction when I look at the tree. Moreover, I look back at how my confidence, knowledge and experience have increased. Since this first attempt I have started to create other bonsai trees using garden centre material, including cotoneaster and juniper.

CotoneasterAt our club meeting last month I used a cotoneaster, bought at a garden centre, to show recently new members how this could be achieved as a cheap method of starting the creation of a bonsai tree. The plant was quite large and I removed a large proportion of it before wiring the remainder, putting some movement into the trunk and positioning the branches.

Cotoneasters are very good for training as bonsai trees because they grow quite vigoroursIy, yet have small leaves. My intention is to grow this plant as a ‘shohin’ size tree, which will take a few years to achieve.

Some of the newer club members appeared quite alarmed at the amount of material I removed from the example tree and I recalled how I had had the same misgivings at my first club workshop, when the demonstrator cut off many branches from my tree!

01/10/15

Hollow TreeContinuing on my experiences of keeping bonsai over the years, this month I am reflecting on what can be an annual problem for enthusiasts, the care of our trees when we are on holiday, as well as our interest in trees in nature.

At one of our recent club meetings one of our members mentioned automatic watering systems. Some members have tried these but a high level of lime in the water of the area South of the Humber Estuary quickly blocks this type of system; other members said that they simply placed their trees in trays of water and hoped for the best.

Fig 1 (Left): hollow trunk near Grasmere

Fig 2 (Right): new growth determined to succeed!

I am very fortunate that I have an elderly neighbour who is willing to help me, his wife says that he likes to spend time sitting about in our garden; out of her sight I think, in reality. With the amount of water that he throws at them my trees are now fairly good at swimming and I get to practice my sweeping skills when I get back home clearing up the compost from the patio, etc.

Recently I have been to both the English Lake District and the Greek island of Crete; both give different insights into trees in their natural habitat…

While the Lake District can provide some stunning examples of trees stunted by the effects of nature or the sheep up on the fells, I came across two interesting examples, firstly in a hollowed tree trunk and then the start of new growth on a tree stump along the shore of Grasmere. I found both of these fascinating — you can stand inside the hollowed tree which is still alive, but the way that new growth can be seen pushing out from the top of the tree stump was really interesting.

Typical OliveOld Olive TreeWhile numerous tree varieties exist on the island, Crete like other parts of Greece is synonomous with Olive trees and olive groves are a regular feature of the landscape both growing wild and under cultivation. Whilst out walking in Hersonissos, I noticed the root spread (nebari) and tapering trunk of the old olive tree pictured Fig 3 (Left): which I wish I could replicate on some of my trees.

Fig 4 (Right): is a typical example of an olive tree with a short, squat trunk and strong primary branch structure which divides and subdivides creating impressive ramification, supporting the fruit crop for which Greece is famous… those little green or black things which I can only suffer in jam [admin’s comment: You don’t do olives, John? I eat them almost daily. Simply delightful!]

Xmas treeWhilst out walking in the same area of Hersonissos I came across a very unusual tree specimen for the area, a blue spruce of the genus: Picea, Species: Artificialaris. Sadly this was being somewhat neglected by its owner, abandoned and lying at the edge of the road and not having been watered for many months I suspect. I can really only see a short term future for it, possibly a few weeks around December and hence not a future subject for my bonsai collection.

It’s an artificial Christmas Tree!

01/11/15

Hornbeam in autumnIt doesn’t seem like a year since I agreed to write a blog reflecting my bonsai experience, when I agreed to do so only because no one else in the club was willing to do so and our web administrator thought that such a blog would add interest. I am still not sure why people might find it interesting.

October has become the regular month for Elsecar Bonsai Traders event at which North East Lincolnshire Bonsai Society agreed to enter a display. Our club night in September was to select trees for the event and since I would be away on holiday for much of October, I decided that I would not submit any trees.

One of the first trees I ever bought was a hornbeam seedling; I did not even know that we had trees named hornbeam — I thought they were tropical birds with big beaks?… no, that would be hornbill! I have had it for about 18-20 years and it cost all of £2, so a bargain really. On return from holiday while speaking to our club chair, John Grimmer, I commented that it was looking quite nice in its autumn foliage. He responded that he also had such a tree, which he hoped to be taking to Elsecar if its foliage remained as good as it then was. A week later, his tree had dropped its leaves whilst mine had not and I agreed to take it along as a replacement. Preparing the tree for the display was quite easy, gently brushing the trunk and branches with a toothbrush to remove any algae, cleaning the surface of the compost, cleaning the pot and dressing the soil surface with Acadama. Fig 1 (right): Korean Hornbeam in autumn foliage.

Elsecar was a good day out and what I bought was not too expensive, even though I have never had to smuggle a tree back home or tell my wife that I won it in a raffle or that it cost less than it did as some enthusiasts claim to have done.

Root bound!Being a member of the club has not only widened my interest in the hobby but has also allowed me to help other members. Six years ago one of our members sadly died and as his wife still wishes to keep his trees. I offered to check the roots on the evergreens in the collection. I collected a pine and a juniper and found that they were both pot bound; the pine in particular was so bad that the drainage hole mesh had been lifted 2-3 cms into the root ball. Fig 2 (left): The roots below the mesh were dry and brittle and the tree had several dead branches, so I decided that removing the affected roots and replacing some of the compost as a short term remedial measure was worth trying, in an attempt to rejuvinate the tree.

The juniper is not as bad and will be repotted in the near future.

01/12/15

This month has been something of a conundrem due to the weather, starting with it being quite mild but then changing to become wet, windy and then cold with frost and finally a bit milder. This has been reflected in my bonsai related activity which has included some repotting starting with three conifers, a Japanese white pine, a mugo pine and a juniper which belong to the wife of a late member whom had died some years ago, and consequently had no real attention for over six years and all looked very untidy, the worst of the three being the two pines.

White PineThe white pine was sitting in my garage after I had repotted it and was almost shouting “Please… somebody tidy me up!” sort of thing. It lacked any basic structure; its branches were all extending upwards and there were several of them dead. I couldn’t help myself; I am a sucker for lost causes really, so I took the tree to our chairman and we discussed how it could be improved and then I set to and wired it. To say that it is not a great specimen is really an under statement and in order to achieve a basic structure each branch needed to be wired and postioned, which I did over a few days. Fig 1 (right): a White Pine, wired for the first time in more than six years and now a work in progress.

WiringFig 2 (left): Even though I had wrapped some of the thicker branches in water soaked rafia in order to protect them, I was still alarmed and cursed aloud when I heard one of the branches crack as I bent it… hopefully, it will repair itself as the crack was very minor. Usually if a branch cracks around a small section it will survive.

Each branch has been wired and the tips turned upwards towards the light. You will have to believe me when I say it looks considerably better than when I started. All of these trees are now protected from the elements in the greenhouse of one of the club members. As the weather changed with rain and high winds followed by frost, I had to move some of my smallest trees under cover as they freeze very quickly and although autumn is a suitable time to wire and repot some conifers this change has put plans on hold.

But we can always hope for something better… and it will soon be Christmas!