SOLENT BONSAI SOCIETY
Chairman's Tips
SEPTEMBER 2020

Chairman’s Chat
Pruning of Beech Saplings

Pruning beech saplings are cut back before the new shoots appear in spring of the third year. Trees that are already shaped and have just been repotted are cut back as soon as the first shoots have fully developed. If you do not want longer branches, you may leave only one or two leaves on the tree. Older trees with established roots can be cut back before the new shoots have developed fully, leaving only one or two leaves in this case as well.
Within about three weeks the beech will produce new shoots, which can also be cut back to one or two leaves. The leaves remaining on the tree grow very large from now on, so, if the tree is healthy and well fed, you can proceed with leaf cutting after a further two weeks. But be careful because direct sunlight will harm the tree when it has no leaves, so put it in a shady spot until the next shoot appear.
The top branches are usually more productive than the lower ones so pruning is carried out a bit earlier at the top of the tree than it is in the lower part. The winter buds in the upper third are usually stronger and the branching is better developed than further down. This can be compensated for by greatly reducing the upper third of the crown in winter, or the spring before the new growth appears. Strong branches should be cut back in the spring shortly before the shoots appear, and the cuts sealed with a wound sealant.

Robert


AUGUST 2020

Chairman’s Chat
Pruning of Oak Saplings


Oak seedlings are cut back for the first time in spring of the third year. The common oak racks very well to
pruning. The upper shoots impede the lower ones when they grow, so, branching in the upper third of the
tree should be reduced in spring to no more than the degree of branching lower down. In most cases, only the
buds at the end of each shoot will actually develop, but if you remove these in spring, before the new shoots
appear, the side buds will also develop, so that the branching is improved.

Plants that have just been shaped but whose trunks have not yet developed to their best, should be allowed to
grow until the first new shoots in spring are at least 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) long. However, the first pruning
should take place not later than three weeks after the shoots appear. The common oak will grow new shoots
again within three weeks of the pruning, but only if it is properly fed. If growth does come to a standstill it
can be encouraged again by cutting the leaves. A well fertilised older oak can cope with two leaf cuttings a
year. At each leaf cutting you need to be careful that the growth in the top third of the tree is not too
dominant. To prevent this it is a good idea to cut back the upper branches earlier, or harder than the lower
ones.

Robert


JULY 2020

Chairman’s Chat
Pruning of most Acer saplings
.
A sapling is pruned for the first time in its second year and the height of the future bonsai trunk is
usually established at this point. If you want the tree to be about 75cm (30ins) high, you should prune
the young tree in summer to a height of 25cm (10in), just above a node. In a short time 2 new shoots
will develop near the cut. One of these can be trained into an extension of the trunk, and the other into
the first branch through further pruning after it has grown 3 pairs of leaves.
In the spring of the following year, the trunk extension is cut back before the new spring growth
appears. Ideally, the distance between the first side branch and cutting point should be a little shorter
than the length of the trunk from roots to the first branch.
Two new shoots will grow in the axils of the 2 highest leaves and again one will form the trunk
extension, and the other, through careful pruning, the second side branch. The third side branch can be
created in the same way in the early summer of the same year.
If you want to cultivate a garden centre plant or a wild seedling, a first good pruning is best carried out in spring before the shoots appear. At the same time you should prune the roots, which will prevent bleeding from the wounds. Maple species will often bleed after cutting back in early spring. This usually stops of its own accord after a few days.
After the first hard pruning in spring, an untrained tree or hedge plant will need to be cut back again when the roots have about three pairs of leaves towards the top of the tree and about seven pairs of leaves in the lower branches. The longer a shoot is allowed to grow, the stronger and thicker it will ultimately become. About 2 to 4 weeks later, a new shoot will appear and this should be cut back in order to make the tree produce a third flash of growth, which is nipped back after the first or second pair of leaves appear.
If the tree has already been shaped, all the branches at the tips of the shoots are removed before the new spring growth starts, to encourage side shoots. The shoots that then follow are cut back from a length of 3 pairs of leaves to 1 or 2. Often there will be no further shoots, and the remaining leaves continue to grow instead.
At the end of spring leaf cutting can be carried out on a healthy tree, stimulating growth that has come to a halt, and contributing to the development of smaller leaves and more delicate branches. Longer shoots will now appear, particularly in the top third of the leaf canopy. These must be cut back once they have produced three leaf pairs or nip out sooner. Any large cuts that the tree suffers between the start of the growth period and the end of spring will grow over quickly and cause no damage if they are sealed well.

Robert




JUNE 2020

Chairman’s Chat

Some Thoughts on Bonsai From Robert

Bonsai generally refer to the Chinese art of restricting the growth of trees through special cultivation
techniques and keeping these miniature trees in tiny containers, giving them the look and power of
expression of ancient trees despite their small size. The art of bonsai spread from China to Japan in the
eleventh century, and we use the Japanese word bonsai to describe the art form as well as the trees
themselves.
The first miniature trees were introduced into Europe from Japan at the end of the nineteenth century and
from there the technique spread to the United States.
In the Asian tradition, the parts of the tree that are particular features of age, strong roots, a thick trunk or
powerful branches with a well-shaped crown of foliage are emphasised and accentuated, often to extremes.
With some Asian bonsai this led over the centuries to giant roots and excessively thick trunks and often only
a few branches.

In China, miniature trees (Penjing) are described as silent poems or living sculptures. Bonsai are indeed created, in the way a sculptor shapes a piece of stone, but with one basic difference, the one is dead, the other is living. As with any other art form, there is a great difference between simply dabbling with bonsai and creating a living work of art and few will achieve a masterpiece. A Chinese professor of art once said, a master of bonsai must be three people in one, craftsman, gardener and artist. All three must be carefully trained. First familiarise yourself with the gardening aspect. Then develop the technical skills. Only then can you successfully shape the tree without harming it. Bonsai is an interplay between creator and sculpture and growers never achieve their aims without the help of the tree. The first shaping is a suggestion to the tree to grow further in a particular direction. The tree’s willingness to respond is gauged from its reaction to this first move. If the plant does not follow the suggestion, a new way must be found, a compromise. If it does respond, and extends its branches in the desired direction, the designer can intervene again and make further alterations to the growth habit. The method used by bonsai designers to persuade the tree to grow as they want it to often appear extreme. In some cases, branches are cut off in one place to get new growth in another direction, or branches are bent down using wires, to achieve the effect of an old tree. Most of these methods of cultivation have some equivalent in nature and so the plant is well able to cope. In the wild a tree will react to having its branches torn off (= pruning) by producing especially strong new shoots, and to a heavy burden of snow on its branches (= wiring downward) by correcting its direction of growth. On rocky ground many trees have only a limited space into which they can extend their roots. In high mountain areas in particular, it is possible to find ancient trees that have remained dwarfed through lack of room for their roots to expand (= Bonsai container). All Bonsai growers must decide how much involvement they want in the tree’s development and how much they leave to chance. This decision usually evolves over time spent with the Bonsai.

Robert



MAY 2020

Chairman's Chat

Some Advise on feeding Bonsai From Robert
The first feed is given in Spring when the shoots begin to show. This can be a fertiliser with a high nitrogen
content as the need for nitrate is particularly high when growth begins. Deciduous trees need more nitrates
than conifers. After the first feed, nutrients should be given weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending on the
weather and the type of fertiliser used, for instance, liquid fertilisers are easily washed away in heavy rain so
will need to be given more regularly.
The nitrogen content of the fertiliser must be reduced as the year goes on, and by Autumn the feed should
contain no nitrates at all. To achieve this, different types of fertiliser are used throughout the feeding season.
You might start the year with rapeseed pellets and finish feeding in August with 0-10-10 fertiliser. If you
want to use only one sort of fertiliser you can get round this by giving the tree plenty during the growing
season and gradually reducing the amount towards Autumn.
Chemical fertiliser contain nutrients that the plant can use immediately, and normally take the form of
mineral salts in solution. As we have already noted, too high mineral content in the soil can damage the
plant. You should therefore be extremely careful with these fertilisers. To be on the safe side it is better to use only half the recommended concentration of fertiliser, but given relatively frequently. Before fertilising, make sure that the roots are nicely damp.
Both liquid mineral fertilisers and those in dry mixture designated as specially for Bonsai are suitable. Those available for amateur use are usually complete, which means they contain all the most important nutrients and sometimes also trace elements. The proportions in which the nutrients are present are given on the bottle so you know exactly what you are giving your Bonsai. So-called long life fertilisers, which come in pellets or granules, have become widely available. The nutrient is contained in a material which weathers over time, gradually releasing the fertiliser. Be careful with these as well. Once they are in the soil you have no further control over the nutrients available to the plant.

Organic fertilisers
Here the nutrients are bound in an organic form and must be broken down by microorganisms before the plant can use them. In a healthy soil the nutrients are continually released in small quantities and immediately taken up by the plant. There is therefore no danger of over fertilising. Most organic substances used as fertiliser contain nutrients in very unbalanced amounts. For example, hoof and horn and ground rapeseed contain a very high level of nitrates and bonemeal contains a very high level of phosphates. Organic bonsai fertilisers are widely available, and usually consist of different organic elements in an appropriate mix for plants.
The properties and effects of plant nutrients.
Nitrogen (N)
Pure nitrogen make up about 78% of the earth’s atmosphere. It is present in the plan as an element of chlorophyll and as a protein builder, and enables it to grow. In the soil nitrogen can then be used by the plant. Plants take nitrogen through their roots, some, such as alder, can meet their needs for nitrogen from the air, with the help of so-called root nodule bacteria. A lack of nitrogen is characterised by weak growth and pale yellow colouring in the leaves.
Phosphorus (P)
Phosphorus occurs naturally mainly in organic compounds such as protein and bones. Plants need phosphorus mainly for energy metabolism and other processes. They also use it to make nucleic acids and it promotes the development of flowers and fruit. Phosphorus is taken up through the roots and its availability depends largely on the pH value of the soil. Phosphorus is also absorbed by minerals present in clay, which can reduce its availability to the plant. A lack of phosphorus is made apparent by the plant producing weak growth, despite having green leaves, and by a lower resistance to illness and frost.
Potassium (K)
Potassium is a highly reactive element that forms part of many mineral compounds that does not occur in pure form in nature and is not found in organic compounds. It controls most metabolic procedures in plants and plays an important role because of its osmotic effect. Particularly useful for the Bonsai grower is his ability to promote frost resistance. Potassium is taken up through the roots and depending on its concentration can affect the amount of usable calcium and magnesium available to the plant, so it is important that these elements are always present in balanced quantities in the soil. Organic fertilisers always contain elements of potassium. A selective potassium feed of mineral fertiliser. A shortage of potassium can be recognised by brown or yellow edges to the leaves or entire leaves or entire leaves dying off.
Calcium (Ca)
Lime Calcium occurs in the soil in carbonate, sulphate or phosphate form, and forms part of many minerals and rocks. Its main use is to build the cell walls and it plays an important role in cell production and the growth of the roots. It is absorbed through the roots. Fertilising with lime helps to neutralise an acid soil and has a beneficial effect on the structure of the soil, on the activity of micro organisms and on the resulting availability of other nutrients. Hard water contains large amounts calcium. Calcium deficiency is characterised by weak growth, a low resistance to illness or yellow shoots.
Magnesium (Mg)
Magnesium does not occur in pure form in nature and is found in the soil mainly as carbonate. Magnesium carbonate is the main constituent of common rocks such as dolomite, which makes up entire mountain ranges. It is vital for the development of chlorophyll in plants. It also plays a part in many metabolic processes. If a plant lacks magnesium its older leaves will turn yellow with the veins remaining green.
Sulphur (S)
Sulphur is a component of several amino acids. It is available in quantity in the air in the form of sulphur dioxide and is washed into the earth by rain so it can be ignored in fertilising.
Trace elements
Boron (B) This is important for carbohydrate metabolism and the formation of cell walls. Deficiency is indicated when young shoots turn yellow and die.
Copper (Cu) Copper is a component of several enzymes and takes part in protein synthesis. A copper deficiency is visible by white tips to the leaves.
Manganese (Mn) Manganese controls many metabolic processes. If the plant is deficient in manganese, irregular brown spots will appear on the foliage. It is mostly the older leaves that are affected.
Zinc (Zn) Zinc controls the activities of enzymes and the development of hormones. It also plays a part in photosynthesis.
Cobalt (Co) Cobalt is needed by the rhizobins (nodule bacteria) for fixing nitrogen.
Molybdenum (Mo) Molybdenum helps to control nitrogen metabolism. A deficiency is usually indicated by the yellowing and malformation of the young leaves.

Robert





APRIL 2020

Chairman's Chat

Shaping a young specimen
The first objective in shaping young trees is to develop suitable primary branches whose size
harmonize with the trunk. These primary branches are important, as they form the tree’s basic
structure. Start by letting the branches grow freely until they reach the desired diameter, then begin
the shaping process. Once you have defined the basic structure of the tree, proceed with the
development of the secondary and tertiary branches.
When you let primary branches grow without restraint, the secondary branches appear automatically,
but usually with internodes (space between the buds) are too large. Also, the secondary and tertiary
branches usually grow too long, making them of little use. Pinching and defoliation help address these
issues.

Pinching and defoliation
Generally with young trees, let the new shoots grow freely from their first appearance in spring. These
new shoots will eventually form the new structure. To maintain the size and shape you want, prune
them in autumn. However, if you want to increase the number of secondary branches, cut the tips of
these branches in late spring or early summer. This trimming also slows down the development of the
shoots.
This task, called bud pinching, also impact the development of new branches, initiating a second flush
of secondary shoots. The tree responds to this trimming by redirecting energy from the tips of the
branches to the new shoots. These new shoots emerge from buds located near the cuts or further down the branch. This is called back-budding.
Another technique for producing fine secondary and tertiary branching is complete or partial defoliation, the removal of some or all of the tree’s leaves. Generally, the best time to defoliate is the beginning of summer. Be sure not to disturb the dormant buds when you cut. These dormant buds are usually found at the base of the leaf stems. Defoliation awakens these dormant buds and leads to the development of new shoots. To avoid damaging these buds, don’t brusquely pull on the leaves as you remove them. Instead, cut them off in the middle of the leaf stem, leaving part of the petiole (leaf stem) attached. Soon the remaining stem will fall off by itself. In this way pinching and defoliation allows secondary branches to develop where only one main branch would have grown. For best results, pay special attention to the time of the year when you do this. The optimum time varies among species. Research the specific needs of each of your trees and be faithful to their requirements. The yearly pinching of buds, metsumi, together with defoliation and a subsequent selective pinching of buds, mekaki, is critical for developing and maintaining superior ramifications. Be diligent! For best results you must tend to these important tasks every year.

Once the secondary branches are developed.
At this point direct attention to the tips of the branches. Even though it may look like the tree has reached maturity, its biological reality is something else, each branch continues to grow unceasing producing new shoots. The consequences, unless you control the growth, the tree will lose the attractive shape you worked so hard to develop. In order to maintain shape, it is not enough to cut the branches every time they project outside your trees profile. This only makes the branch tips thicker and coarser.
Instead trim slightly inside the ideal profile of the tree, at points where the branches fork. This produces better ramification, eventually filling the outline with a filigree of delicate shoots.
In other words, look for buds inside the profile of the tree where you want new shoots, and prune just above these buds. Doing this in a timely fashion produces striking improvement in the overall appearance of your trees.
When pinching, don’t neglect the interior of the canopy. If the external branching is too dense or has so many leaves that air and light don’t penetrate, the interior buds will wither. Little by little the interior will become empty, with all the foliage concentrated at the tips of the branches. If for any reason one of the branches is lost, there will be no possibility of replacing it with an interior shoot. The result is an unsightly void. Letting this happen leaves no means of shortening the branches, or if you do shorten them, the tips will be an unacceptably course. Then, the only remedy, unless you take drastic measures, is to allow the branches to grow out beyond the silhouette of the tree. No one wants to face this dilemma. Once your tree has developed dense foliage, selectively defoliate the external leaves or cut them to reduce their surface area. This allows air and light to penetrate the canopy.

I do hope you are all safe and well.

Robert









MARCH 2020

Chairman’s Chat

Like most things Bonsai is governed by the weather, and each season brings about a wonderful new phase in the trees development.
As with any new hobby there is a tendency, to take as gospel, everything you read about Bonsai, but as you gain knowledge and experience you will realise that there are no hard and fast rules, only guide lines, and if it works for you, stick with it.
Apart from the weather many things can influence the timing of certain processes, the town or country location, is the Bonsai in and exposed or in a protected garden, at the top of a hill or in a valley. Even in the smallest garden conditions will differ creating micro-climates, so when using this guide do be flexible, we can still get snow in June.
To enable bonsai trees to flourish they must be repotted and March is the traditional time for this to be carried out, but again the weather can have a great influence on this, moving the optimum time as far back as mid February or even forward to early April. If we divide the trees into evergreen and deciduous some useful identification of when to repot can be gained. Firstly, evergreen trees are never fully dormant and they are reasonably safe to repot in March. However, deciduous trees do go dormant in the autumn and break dormancy in early spring, they must only be repotted when they are dormant. A good indication that a deciduous tree is coming out of dormancy is when the buds start to swell and that is the best time to repot. If the leaves have started to open it is too late and it is best left for another year.
Why do we need to repot? A bonsai needs to grow continuously in the same way that a tree growing in the ground does, consequently when the pot becomes full of roots the tree will exhaust the nourishment in the compost and will eventually become pot bound and die. Therefore, when the pot is full of roots we repot into a larger pot to allow the tree to continue its growth.
Generally, with an established Bonsai, it is usual to repot back into the old pot, to do this root pruning must be carried out and, once again, this can only be done when the tree is dormant. To root prune, lift the tree out of the pot and carefully tease out the outer roots, remove as much soil as possible without disturbing the inner ball, and then, with a sharp pair of scissors, cut off enough root all the way round to leave about two thirds, this will allow enough space for a further season’s growth. Finally, repot the bonsai using a free draining compost.
Young trees need to be repotted and root pruned annually whilst for old established trees, every two or three years is sufficient, and root pruned annually whilst for older trees, every two or three years is sufficient. After repotting, trees need to be kept out of strong sunlight and wind for three to four weeks. Be careful not to over water after root pruning has taken place until new growth is established approximately three to four weeks. Over watering at this time can lead to root rot.

Robert








FEBRUARY 2020

Chairman’s Chat

A question was raised at a gathering I attended, how do we know when a bonsai looks right.
Bonsai growers observe and pick out the most pleasing shapes and structures for the design of the trunk, branches and canopy of a bonsai tree, so you cannot be a bonsai grower without being aware of nature. The majority of us, fortunately, live where we can see trees and shrubs growing. Even in city centres many streets are lined with trees planted to provide shade or for ornament. Then there are the parks and gardens, created for peoples enjoyment and carefully planned to anticipate how the fully grown trees would eventually dominate or complement the designed landscape.
With our busy, hurried lifestyles we sometimes forget to pause and contemplate the beauty of these trees.
Every type has its distinctive structure and also horticultural characteristics, but to be a good observer of nature we have to look beyond the obvious. For example, we can examine the intricate pattern of twigs weeping from the arching branches of a beech. Among the tangle of branches we can notice the angle at which each limb inclines outward from the trunk and we can use this observation to help us shape a weeping style Bonsai. Or by observing other weeping trees, such as the willow or the weeping ash, we can learn about the subtle differences in trees with this habit.
Those who venture out into wild country, for example to exposed mountain slopes, can study trees that have been stunted and contorted by the effects of wind, snow, or drought. These trees appear different to the same species growing in sheltered lowlands or valleys. The Driftwood style of bonsai can be used to imitate the injuries suffered by these remarkable trees.
In the same way, observation of a mature beech growing in a park shows how it develops a gigantic runk with robust and firm surface roots.
These radiate in all directions, tapering, branching out and creeping into the ground. Only mature, older trees exhibit this tendency so when a bonsai has roots like this, the viewer has the impression of an aged tree, even though the bonsai may be a great deal younger.
The eye on a tree trunk testifies to the loss of a branch but sometimes dead branches are still attached to an old tree. The bonsai grower may wish to imitate this in which case a dead branch, or jin, is left on a bonsai similarly, in nature, a large branch maybe wrenched off a tree by an animal feeding on its foliage and, in the process, a large strip of bark may be torn off the trunk exposing a lacerated surface. This effect may be imitated on a bonsai by gradually debarking, or removing the bark, from a small area of the trunk, leaving and exposed area known as a shari.

Robert








JANUARY 2020

Chairman’s Chat

Bonsai is a work of art, a creative process which has evolved over centuries and which focuses on the natural beauty of the plant.
However, as opposed to other forms of art, this can never be considered as complete. The tree is a living organism which is continually growing and must be periodically shaped. To obtain the best results constant care is necessary, together with knowledge of styles and techniques of cultivation, an artistic sense, harmony and understanding between grower and plant.
The start of this journey should always be with what you cannot see, the roots of bonsai can spread! to fill its container completely in a few years, so it is important to transplant the tree before they start to grow out of the drainage holes or when they begin to emerge above the surface of the soil.
Before repotting, prune off about a third in volume of the root system and shorten the long, thick roots to promote the growth of feeder roots. All large cuts should be sealed with a waterproof wound sealant. Carefully remove as much of the old soil as possible from the container and replaced with a well draining mixture.
The frequency of transplanting depends on the training plan of the bonsai but in general young trees should be repotted more often than older trees. Fast growing species that produce abundant roots, such as boxwood or elms, may be transplanted in alternate years, whereas less vigorous old pines may be transplanted every three to five years.
The best time to transplant a tree is when the leaf buds (not the flower buds) are swelling and about to open. Flowering Bonsai like azaleas, wisterias and forsythias should be transplanted after flowering. Remove all decaying blooms at the same time. Fruit bearing bonsai such as quinces, apples and apricots should be transplanted in autumn, while conifers should be transplanted, for preference, in spring.

Robert