August has been a busy month for me and I got behind with a few bonsai jobs that needed to be sorted out. My specimen Satsuki Azalea had flowered profusely again for most of June and July. Following flowering it needs to be pruned back hard to maintain its shape, health and vigour (see ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures). I repotted it two years ago and so it will not need to be repotted again for another year or so. I eventually managed to prune the tree although it took a day and a half to do.
I noticed signs of possible mite damage on some leaves on the Satsuki and so once I had finished the pruning I gave it a thorough spray with a natural organic pest control product that is supposed to kill spider mites. Mites’ eggs hatch after seven days and so I have been re-spraying the tree every week to ensure the mites are all cleared up. I have also given the tree an application of sulphate of iron to keep the leaves a nice healthy green colour. I was a bit late pruning the tree and it may effect next years flowering. However, I had intended removing most, if not all of next years buds to give the tree a rest as it has flowered really heavily for the last five years.
Jobs for the coming month:
Another job I need to complete is treating deadwood with lime sulphur in readiness for the wet and cold weather. Lime sulphur has not been easy to find this year as I understand that it has been severely restricted due to its caustic toxicity. However, I did manage to find some and need to apply it ASAP before the wet weather turns the wood green. Apparently lime sulphur on its own is not considered to be a wood preservative, although it undoubtedly cleans and whitens wood. For small jins and shari, super glue acts as a good preserver as it forms a seal against water and mould being able to penetrate into the wood.
When I visited Japan in January 2013 the smell of lime sulphur on the trees in the bonsai nurseries was very noticeable. Apparently the Japanese use it extensively as a winter wash on nearly all of their trees to kill off any over-wintering bugs. In particular all juniper bonsai had been really covered in diluted lime sulphur. I am not sure if the lime sulphur was responsible but most of the juniper bonsai trees in the various bonsai nurseries had gone a brownish colour and looked dead or dying. When I asked about this I was told that this was normal and that they would regain their green colour in the spring. Only time will tell.
In my last blog I mentioned my bonsai holiday to Japan and the winter colour of the junipers there making them look almost dead. Well, Here is a photo that I took at the time of a row of junipers on a bench in one of the many nurseries that we visited. Notice how brown the needles have turned, much darker than anything I have seen in the UK.
The Japan trip was a real experience and so I thought I would share a few more moments and photos with you. The trees we saw were amazing; I found that the word ‘wow’ just kept coming out as we walked around the many nurseries, shows and sales areas. My only disappointment was that I could not take them back home with me. To see just a few of them please go to the Japan Visit page and believe me when I say that my photos do not do them justice, you need to see them for real to appreciate their full splendour. I have dozens more photos and maybe I can show you more in later blogs.
We visited Mr Kimura and saw his amazing trees and we went to the shunka-en Bonsai Museum of Mr Kobayashi. Mr Kimura was not as welcoming as Mr Kobayashi (who was very warm and friendly) but the day we went to see Mr Kimura it was snowing and very cold. Here are a few photos I took of the two great masters’ personal collections (the ones with snow are Mr Kimura’s trees).
Seeing the snow in the photos reminds me that winter is not too far away now and so we need to be reducing the feeding of our trees as autumn will soon be with us. You need to use low nitrogen feed to slow down any new growth. You do not want young growth now that the days are shorter and the temperature is falling overnight. I am giving my Satsuki Azalea tomato feed that is high in potash and low in nitrogen to help it develop next years flower buds.
A reasonably warm and dry September has allowed many of my trees to continue to develop their branch structures and harden off their summer growth before the cold arrives. I have reduced the feeding schedule and I am only using low/no nitrogen feed now. There is no point in allowing trees to develop new growth at this time of the year as it is unlikely to have sufficient time to harden off before the first frosts arrive.
Now is a good time to start to think about trimming and styling your trees as the sap flow will just about have finished and so any cuts made to branches will be less likely to bleed. You still need to apply cut paste to any wounds to encourage healing and to deter any pests from over wintering. This is a particularly useful time to examine the structure of your trees and remove any unnecessary branches. Unless you are expecting a colourful display of leaves you could remove the leaves from deciduous trees to allow you to see the overall shape better prior to pruning them.
We have had a very mild and relatively dry October this year. The autumn colours of trees such as maples and larch have been/are magnificent. The mild dry weather coupled with some drying winds have resulted in trees requiring more watering than usual for the time of year.
Although the weather has been mild so far, night time frosts will not be too far away and so we need to protect some of our more tender trees. I have an area in my garden behind my greenhouse that I have enclosed with fine mesh netting. Inside I have used breeze blocks and roofing laths to make simple shelving to stand trees on. This is ideal for protecting hardy trees from drying high winds. I also insulate my greenhouse with bubble wrap and keep my more tender variety trees in there during the really cold winter months. I only have three trees that I bring into the house during the winter, two ficus and a bougainvillea that will not tolerate frost.
Later this month I will be spraying all my outdoor trees with a weak solution of lime sulphur. This helps to prevent any over-wintering bugs from surviving the winter. I omitted to do this on a maple tree last year and consequently in the spring as soon as the leaves emerged they were covered in black fly resulting in the leaves being decimated and the trees growing season being disrupted.
Some of our club members attended the Bonsai Traders event in October held this year in Elsecar near Barnsley and exhibited members’ trees. It was a good event with lots of clubs exhibiting members’ trees and traders selling trees, pots and other bonsai sundries. A few of the regular traders were not at the event but it was still a worthwhile and enjoyable day with most members buying several items.
Our club negotiated a deal with one trader for some small ‘blaauws’ junipers that are ideal bonsai material for newer members. Two of our members bought initially styled junipers from the traders as examples of what they could become with a little wiring and styling. At our club meeting last Friday they were all snapped up when members saw the results that could be achieved. One member emailed me a picture of his initially styled juniper today that looks great and only cost him £7.50.
We have had our first frosts recently and most outdoor trees have gone into their dormant period. The winter frosts usually manage to kill off most of the bugs and nasties but not always. If we have a mild winter, or if trees are given protection from the worst weather, some will survive and be ready to feast on fresh spring growth. It is therefore a good idea to use a winter wash on your trees to kill off any pests and make sure that new spring growth gets the best possible start. An ideal winter wash is diluted lime sulphur. For deciduous trees a dilution of about 25:1 sprayed all over trees and left on to act as a pesticide will help to finish off any over wintering bugs. Evergreen trees will slow down their growth during the winter and bugs may well find over wintering hiding and feeding places on sheltered parts of the trees. For evergreen trees use diluted lime sulphur but at twice the dilution level of 50:1 so that the foliage is not damaged.
At our November bonsai club meeting we held a successful bring and buy sale. This allowed members to sell off any trees, raw bonsai material, pots etc. to other members. It also allowed members to pick up some relatively cheap trees or bonsai sundries whilst also adding to much needed club funds. We have a rule that 10% of any sales go to the club, although several members gave all the proceeds to the club. This year was a particularly successful event as we had some newer members wanting to build up their hobby and some quite mature raw material together with some nice pots brought in. One member even bought some shrubs and trees from a local garden centre that he had carried out some initial trimming and styling to. This showed the potential possible from simple, relatively cheap garden centre material. The trees included juniper and potentillas and proved to be popular sale items. By the end of the evening we had raised over £200 for club funds that will come in very handy for helping to fund visits or guest speakers for next year’s programme.
At our first club meeting of 2015 on 30th January we will have Steve Kitchman from China Mist pottery showing us how to make a slab for group/forrest plantings. We will be able to make our own slabs and pay Steve for the clay and for firing them.
Wishing you all a peaceful and restful Christmas period and a good New Year.