Chairman's Tips

Chairman’s Chat
3 From 1
In May 2018 Collette and I did an evening talk on air layering. Last month (October 2021 meeting) I bought
along the trees that resulted from one of the Beeches we did, which had been collected a few years
previously from Biddenfield. The air layer that evening was done with Sphagnum moss wrapped in a plastic
In August 2018 I unwrapped it to see if any
roots had appeared, unfortunately none
had appeared, just a nice callused area.

August 2018 Showing Callus
So this time I cut around the callus and placed a plastic flower pot, which I cut down the side and made a
larger hole in the centre of the base so that it would fit around the trunk of the tree. I secured with string and
filled with 50% akadama and 50% sphagnum moss, at the same time, whilst working on that one, I could see
where I could do a second air layer above.
In March 2019, when I inspected for roots in the pots, I could see they had rooted so I separated the tree into
three individual trees. I fed the trees well throughout the year and allowed them to grow. In March 2020 I
repotted and checked the roots. The middle portion had a good spread of roots, so after reducing the roots
slightly, pruned and repotted the trees.
The base portion having been collected from Biddenfield 4-5 years earlier and had a lot of big roots, so I
reduced them back quite a lot to the smaller ones, then repotted.
During the following year I kept up a high feeding regime and pruned constantly.

Unfortunately we do not have a photo of the original tree air layered at the May 2018 meeting. It was a Beech about 30in tall with not very many we’ll placed branches and would probably never have made a reasonable bonsai tree,
The following photos, from last month’s meeting, shows the results you can achieve, from material that is not very promising, but through air layering can result in trees which may make reasonable bonsais.

Robert Critiquing bonsai at the October meeting
Top of Beech air layered in August 2019
Middle of Beech air layered in August 2019
Base of Beech air layered in August 2019

Chairman’s Chat

With the good news that Solent Bonsai meetings are resuming, just a short message this month,
I hope you are all well and getting back to some sort of a normal life, we are all looking forward to
getting back together and
seeing you all again on 24th September.


JULY 2021

Chairman’s Chat

A Reminder to Cultivate Healthy Habits

1. Before you water, make sure the tree actually needs it. If the soil is damp, don’t water. If its bone
dry, ensure that it doesn’t dry out again. If it rains for days, tilt the pot at an angle to encourage
2. Check the foliage and shoots for anything unusual, an odd colour, distorted leaves, wilting etc.
Drying winds and/or hot sun causes species like maples and hornbeams to develop dry leaf
margins, if this occurs, move them to a more sheltered spot.
3. Strip disfigured leaves and try to discover the cause. Examine shoots and foliage for aphids, if you
see any signs, treat immediately.
4. Check the inner areas, especially of conifers, for dry or dead leaves. This may be natural wastage,
but could also be caused by spider mites. Remove dead leaves. While you’re at it, clear the inner
areas of debris.
5. If some foliage is sick, while the rest of the plant is in good health, find out why. There may be a
tight wire or a branch might have been damaged at a fork, or where it meets the trunk. Or, the
roots directly below one or other of the branches may have died off.
6. Check trees for the tell-tale white specks left by scale insects and scrape them off.
7. While you’re looking for signs of insect damage, check that wires are not digging into the bark,
cut them away.
8. Clean the soil surface, remove weeds, fallen leaves or debris that might harbour spores or bugs.
This is important in the autumn and winter.
9. Are organic fertilizer cakes breaking down? If not, put some earth or pieces of fresh moss around each cake to introduce microbes. Don’t worry about cakes that seem to be growing hairs or those full of worms, this is part of the natural process and will do no harm.
10. Is your tree vigorous? If not, are you feeding inadequately? Is the soil too wet, or dry? Don’t automatically feed or water again, until you are sure what is causing problems, or you are sure what is causing problems, or you might make things worse.
11. Do any shoots need pinching back? During summer, broadleaved trees grow almost all the time and it’s essential to keep the pinching under control. Junipers, too, grow all the time and it is a good idea to pinch out the new tips daily, right through to mid-autumn.
12. In winter, check all trees at least once a week to make sure the soil is moist and that there is no evidence of pests.
13. Finally, stand back and take pleasure in the admiration of each of the trees in turn, this is what bonsai trees are for! Visualize the possible future development of each of them, and think about the most likely route you will take to achieve that objective, until the final, near-perfect image is firmly fixed in your mind.


JUNE 2021

Chairman’s Chat

Do we have a new “C” word. Covid seems to be the only talking point these days.
I think we have to find a new normal and except it will never be quite the same as before. The news
that we are not opening up completely, was I think, a foregone conclusion and we may have to find
new ways of getting back together.
Another old favourite, the weather. It has been backwards and forwards each month, completely
different to last year. This has not been good for our Bonsai. The frost nipped off a lot of my new
shoots but they all seem to have recovered. It has saved me bud pruning!
Keith is now printing a monthly guide to help you with jobs for the month, which eases the pressure
on me to know what to write, but if anyone has any problems with their trees, please let me know
and I will do my best to help.
It is good to see that Keith still has his “foxy lady” in his garden this year.
Keith deserves a big thank you for all the work he put into producing the news letter, do remember,
if anyone has an item which they would like to be included in the newsletter, do send it to Keith.

Back Budding
Adventitious budding between the leaves and the trunk is very helpful in maintaining the design of
bonsai. Some refer to this phenomenon as back budding. Some species, for example, Maples are
reluctant to send out new buds on older wood of established bonsai.
Familiarity with a specific plant material’s generic programming regarding back budding is critical
to proper pruning and bud pinching practices. Regardless of the plant’s tendencies, back budding is
not likely to occur often except under favourable circumstances.
These circumstances are related to the plant’s need to capture energy from sunlight. Bud removal,
leaf pruning, leaf removal and branch pruning combine with increased sunlight availability to create
chemical signals that tend to initiate emergence of adventitious buds. The plant intends the new
buds to produce leaves for solar energy collection in a location that is newly exposed to sufficient
light. Using these techniques to restrict energy collection in the outer positions of a Bonsai shift the
plant’s energy collections efforts inward. The resulting adventitious buds in inner portions help
maintain the desired design silhouette.


MAY 2021

Chairman’s Chat

Leaf Pruning

Leaf pruning in the middle of growing season is often used to reduce leaf size or to transfer energy
to a weakened portion of the tree. Carefully done, leaf pruning in an overly active portion of a
bonsai encourages and strengthens weaker portions.
Candle pruning of pines is an example of this process. The reduced energy collection of the pruned
portions causes the tree to seek its needed energy elsewhere, namely, the unpruned weaker sections.
The weaker infrastructure then receives an increased supply of compounds from the roots,
promoting extra growth that permanently improves its capacity to support foliage in the future.
Defoliation is used in some species, Trident maple, for example, to renew the leaves and to reduce
their size. This is an energy manipulation technique also. Removal of all leaves in mid season
terminates the Bonsai’s ability to capture new energy. Energy reserves in the roots and stems are
called upon to fuel the generation of a new set of leaves.
Each bud produces several leaves. Each leaf usually produces a new bud. Thus the number of leaves
in the second growth will be greater than in the first growth due to the greater number of buds. The
greater number of leaves produced and the reduced supply of energy available for the job results in
substantial leaf size reduction and shorter internodes.
During the defoliated period, sunlight has direct access to the inner portions of the bonsai. This
often encourages the emergence of adventitious buds in this area. These results are all favourable
for the aesthetics of the bonsai. However, the benefits of defoliation should be carefully weighed
against the dangers of depleting most of the Bonsai’s reserve energy stores. Small leaves are of little
lasting value if the tree dies.

Did you know that if the descendants of a single aphid lived and reproduce, there would be more
than 5 billion by the end of the summer.


APRIL 2021

Chairman’s Chat

The importance of thinning foliage.

Since the foliage collects all the energy for the Bonsai it is the prime indicator of the quantity and quality of
life activity taking place during the growing season. The health and vigour of each twig and limb is directly
dependent on the performance of the foliage held in place by those twigs and limbs. The foliage is also a
main design element, giving shape, texture, colour, and visual mass to the Bonsai.
Uniform healthy foliage, where foliage is required by the design of the Bonsai, is the result of energy being
equally distributed through the foliage mass. The importance of the foliage receiving sufficient sunlight is
often overlooked by Bonsai growers. Most plants will not waste resources in the production and maintenance
of foliage where light intensity is insufficient.
Exterior foliage that is allowed to become too dense will heavily shade interior portions of the Bonsai. This
results in weakening or loss of interior foliage which is likely to thwart the intended design.
Appropriate control of the amount of exterior foliage will allow light energy to penetrate to the interior of the
Bonsai. The plant will respond by supporting foliage in the interior portions sufficient to capture that energy.
The same principle causes decline in a branch that is heavily shaded by a branch just above.
Good design would usually preclude branches being located in this manner but it does happen. It has been
recommended to allow space for the butterflies to pass through in the design. This also will allow light to
penetrate and provide energy to the interior.


MARCH 2021

Chairman’s Chat

Growing a healthy potted tree in the desired shape is the essence of the art of bonsai. Since
the desired shape and size are invariably not the natural shape and size of the plant material
used, the bonsai artist must use his knowledge and skill to modify the plant’s natural growth.
While it is simple enough to force the plant into the desired shape through pruning, wiring,
carving, and other means, an accommodation of the horticultural needs of the plant is
necessary if the artistic creation is to remain alive and healthy.

There are many useful techniques which, if thoughtfully applied, bring a high level of
perfection to the look of a finished Bonsai. The same techniques can bring disaster or death to
the tree if applied in an inappropriate manner or time.

Root pruning in the production of pre-bonsai is energy related as well. Roots gather nutrients
and store energy in their fleshy parts. Pruning large roots back encourages the production of
large numbers of small roots then would otherwise occur near the base of the trunk.
Regular root pruning is critical to the development of top quality pre-bonsai material.
Because of the labour involved, this is seldom adequately done by commercial plant
nurseries. Root pruning distribute the plant’s stored energy among a large number of small
roots that are closer to the trunk, thus compensating for the energy volume lost in removing
the large roots. This facilitates successful transplantation into small containers. More surface
roots also improve the appearance of the final bonsai design.

Once the design of a bonsai has been decided and implemented, the artist’s activities are
directed towards maintaining health of the tree whilst refining the details of the bonsai. Limbs
and trunk have been trained to the position, shape and size desired by the artist.

The buds of most plants control the amount and location of growth that takes place when they open in the spring. Large buds, usually at the branch terminal, produce rank growth when they open and chemically suppress the development of smaller buds. The plant produces the dominant buds in quantities and location on the plant that attempt to assure the successful creation of the plant habit inherent in its genetic program.

Large buds also suppress the development of adventitious buds on older wood of species capable of reliable back budding. This fact is a great aid to the grower in redirecting the energy of the plant during the subsequent growing season. Removal of large buds divert energy to smaller buds on that limb, encouraging weaker shoots. These shoots will have smaller leaves and shorter internodes, both desirable in the miniaturization process. Adventitious budding on that limb is also encouraged later in the season or for next year. In the areas where a plant is attempting to express its own ideas about where it wants to grow, removal of enough large buds causes the plant to distribute its energy more informally through the plant in an attempt to find an unhindered path of growth. This is very important in sustaining the foliage in those portions of the bonsai design that would not be naturally supported by the plant habit of the medium. Bud removal and other energy redistribution techniques are all directed towards the goal of having uniform bud size throughout the bonsai. Uniform bud size over the entire bonsai is a sign of uniform energy distribution and a properly maintained tree.

As the buds open, shoots and leaves are produced from the buds. In the quest to intercept as much of the sun’s energy as possible, the leaves grow and the shoots lengthen. Large leaves and long shoots are not desired for bonsai. At this stage of growth, pinching of the new shoots is undertaken to further manage the energy of the bonsai. Removal of the extending terminal of the shoot sends a chemical message to the bonsai that further extension in that direction from that branch is likely to be unsuccessful. Internode distance is greatly reduced for a pinched shoot and the remaining leaves of the shoot do not develop to full size. Larger buds will produce more vigorous shoots. However, if bud removal has been done carefully, most buds on the bonsai will be of similar vigor. Many species will produce secondary shoots in the axils of the remaining leaves after shoot pinching. This helps increase ramification but requires a second round of shoot pinching as the secondary shoots extend. Locating the bonsai where ample light intensity is available is particularly critical during the opening of the buds, extension of shoots, and maturing of the leaves. If insufficient light intensity is available, the new leaves will be larger than desirable and the internode distance will be too long. Low light energy causes the plant to attempt to reach out for more energy and grow larger collectors to compensate. Light energy incident on the foliage can be controlled by various means. One of the simplest is to move the bonsai to a more appropriate location in the growing area. Controlling the incident light energy is a useful means of responding to the seasonal variation of day length and sun elevation angle. For example, a Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, may enjoy almost full sun during early spring days when the daylight hours are reduced and the sun is not so high in the sky. In late spring, much more shade is appropriate a leaf formation is mostly complete and concern increases for leaf burn and excessive root temperatures.



Chairman’s Chat

Here we are once again starting a bonsai new year. I do hope you came through Christmas
and the new year safe and well, and enjoyed the time as much as possible.
We are still in trying times, but with Bonsai, we can work on them safely.
You may have the most beautiful Bonsai in the world, but if you cannot keep it alive, your
bonsai is of no use except perhaps to remind you of your future.

Bonsai is a living art and you must keep horticultural principles in mind.
Growing bonsai requires skills in both art and science. From science, you learn about pH,
fertilizers, fungicides, identification of harmful insects, and most importantly watering. The
art aspects include studying the different styles and designs of bonsai at exhibitions, from
books, and taking lessons.

When creating a new bonsai, remember that it should be protected from freezing
temperatures after root pruning. Don’t over water the plant for at least two weeks if you have
cut off most of the roots, pruned branches, and planted into a fair amount of fresh soil. It
takes, at least, that long for the roots to regenerate. Water thoroughly immediately after it is
created, then wait two or three days and water again. At the end of the two weeks you can
begin a regular watering cycle. Misting the plant during this time is helpful.

A newly collected plant has suffered shock and should be treated as an intensive care victim
since many of its roots may have been sacrificed to collect the plant. It is wise to replant in
the ground or a large pot for a year, to help it grow a good root system near the trunk. The
Japanese recommend that you do one drastic operation at a time. Prune, then wait to wire,
then perhaps repot in another operation.



Chairman's Chat

Saikei and Bonkei
In Japan there are art forms which are of interest to us Bonsai enthusiasts; Bonsai is what we
associate with along with others, such as Saikei and Bonkei.
Bonsai is explained as consisting of two words, bon, a pot or tray, and sai, planting, therefore
bonsai is translated as a plant in a tray or pot.
Saikei, sai as in planting (the second written character of bonsai) and kei means landscape thus
saikei is translated as a planted landscape.
Now put the written characters bonsai and saikei together and take away the redundant sai and sai,
you end up with
bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.
Saikei was founded after World War 2 by Toshio Kawamoto in Japan. Saikei means much the same
as bonkei, the difference being that bonkei is essentially a dry landscape where living plants are
seldom used and saikei which depends exclusively on living plants for effect.

Saikei is the art of creating a planted tray landscapes that combine miniature living trees with soil,
rocks, water, and related vegetation (like ground cover) in a single tray or similar container
The term saikei means the art of creating a miniature landscape. This too is a form of Bonsai, which
goes back to the tradition of the most celebrated Japanese gardens, even though the origins of this
type of composition are to be found in China.

Saikei can be found with miniature statues, tiny houses, and other landscape items, contained within them. However, in its purest form, this type of Bonsai calls exclusively for natural items, such as trees, soil, rock and sand.
In order to create a Bonsai landscape, you will go about it in exactly the same way as if preparing a forest group. Plants of the same species are generally chosen, but of different ages and sizes even though they should all be relatively young. The trees should then be introduced into the landscape itself.
At this point the imagination of the Bonsai enthusiast comes into play; who, through an inspired choice of miniature rocks and stones, should open up the widest horizons. It is also a question of experimenting with sizes and proportions, colours and perspectives, to create a scene that is both remarkable and individual.

We hope, when meetings resume, to have David Penny, who was due to give a talk on Saikei/Bonkei last year, will give us a talk and demonstration on Saikei/Bonkei.

Figures show some of David Penny’s Saikei at last year’s UKBA Auction.
The use of stones and pebbles in a saikei composition are also part of another artistic technique from the Far East, that of bonkei.
Although bonkei materials are usually dry, flowing water and seaside’s are often depicted, with varying colours of gravel or sand making up the land and the water elements. A bonkei may also contain miniature figures of people, animals, buildings, bridges, and other common outdoor items. Both bonkei and saikei in fact originate in Zen philosophy, introduced into Japan from China in the late twelfth century. The School of Zen Buddhism teaches that contemplation of one’s essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the single way to achieve complete and pure enlightenment.
Chinese Zen has developed with the hardship of monastic life and early paintings depicted monks in contemplation amid an austere mountainous landscape of rock, sparsely leaved shrubs, and coniferous trees. There are five keys available to the observer, the rock can be seen as a mountain, as an abstract representation of an animal, as a stylized figure. It can be chosen for its colour or for the imaginary flowers to be seen growing on its surface.
As in the case of the Bonsai, it is essential to that the bonkei be placed in the appropriate container, which will serve to heighten the reading of the subject. The only human participation which is allowed in bonkei, is the arrangement of the container, in which case the base of the selected stone may be cut and shaped accordingly. The natural growth cannot be tampered with in any other way, and it is essential when displayed, that the bonkei succeeds in showing off to best advantage its sides and its most notable features
Figures show typical bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.