Monday, 20 December 2010


Big Scots pine in the snow. Even this bigger one is getting its branches bent a little by the weight of the snow.

Small Scots. I flicked a bit of snow off the poor thing because some of the branches were bending rather a lot.

I'm hoping my new soil and pots are here in time to repot these pines for next year. The plastic yamadori pots don't give a great deal of dignity to them.

Young oaks. They should be OK i guess ?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Maple colours


I just got a copy of Alexander Kennedy's book the Floral Treasures of Japan. It should keep me busy for a few days.

There are some growing techniques used on Satsuki's that i want to learn about.

Got it off amazon second hand. Its a signed copy too.

As usual the Cat assists me.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Maple through the year

At the beginning of the year this maple was repotted into a bigger pot with hard akadama and volcanic grit. it seemed to like it. It was fertilised weekly.

By mid year it was growing nicely. I cut off some of the crazy long growth at this stage. Might have been better if i left it there - but it looked better without it. I also removed the chopstick scaffolding that had been there.

Here is is today with some autumn color. The trunk is at least 50% larger. Next year i will develop the ramification further. The size is OK now. And it needs to be fatter of course.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

New oaks

I was really annoyed about loosing that oak that i bought. Ive been looking out for some trees in the area to collect - but there really aren't any. So the only choice was to grow from scratch. No idea how i ended up there - but i found that i could buy seedlings of native trees from the Woodlandtrust - so i ordered myself 4 oak seedlings and waited patiently to see how long it would take and what they would looking.

They came in a plain unmarked box - and seemed to last very well in it. The poor things languished in there for a few days until i got back from work.

They come in these root training cell pots. There is a reasonable amount of soil and a good helping of roots in there. They have gone straight into some medium sized pots of good soil and after a week are all looking very perky and show signs of a bit of last season growth.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


Sadly the new oak died. I'm more than a little angry that someone at a bonsai show would sell me a tree without roots - but it was a risk at the time and luckily didn't cost a great deal. Onto better things.

I've been growing some pomegranates for a few years. Ive been bedevilled by them starting strongly each year and then dieing back. The leaves turned this purple color. Turns out the purple color on fruit trees is a sign of Phosphorus deficiency. Ive been giving them a hit of super phosphate once a week and there has been a substantial improvement. It seems they are greedy plants like citrus and want a lot of nutrients.

The Calamondin is also on the same feeding program and is doing very well. It also seems to want heavy feeding.

They are now on twice weekly fertiliser and once weekly super phosphate. This regime seems to be helping my ornamental quinces hold onto fruit as well.

Ive switched fertilisers to Canna tera vega. Its a product mostly used in hydroponics - but since I'm growing most of my plants in sterile soils like them i though I'd use premium nutrients. The results are very pleasing so far. I'll switch to the aqua range once this batch is finished. Go to your local hydroponics store and try some out - the other wild eyed nervous customers will be freaked out by your presence.

The cat is very pleased at the new position of the big maple on the lawn. Its just the right size for her to lurk under. Pity the poor lawn is dead due to the drought.

The big maple is on the same twice weekly fertiliser - but without the super phosphate. I bought a PH testing kit and found that the rain water that i used to water my plants was well under 6. I use a little bicarb to up this to about 6.3 and found that it made the roots jive. Nutrient uptake at the improved PH is much improved.

Its my subjective opinion - but London rainwater maybe too acidic for all plants. Phosphorus uptake at less than 6.1 seems to be much reduced.

The maple was repotted this year and had a really slow start. But with the improved PH and nutrients the roots have now completely filled the pot and new shoots are getting going.

The little Scots pine is doing very well. I did a little light trimming and wiring to refine it. Ive thinned out the needles in a few areas - I'm hoping to improve the apex a little. I also hope to have a nice pot made for it over the next few months.

The photo isn't very good - but i am very pleased with this tree.

I bought another very large Scots pine. I'm going to stare at it for another few weeks before i do anything to it.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

New Oak

I popped into the Middlesex Bonsai Society show in Ruislip today. Sadly my camera didn't work all that well in the low light so that's all the photos i got. I hope tree number 18 won - a lovely prostrate hawthorn in flower.

I picked up a little oak starter tree there. It looked like Quercus Robur - except that the leaves were really tiny and the bark was smooth. So i bought it - £2.50 was a small price for my curiosity.

It was really loose in its pot and i couldn't find out how long it had been in the pot. I decided to have a little scratch around in the pot to see if there were any roots in the strangely loose soil - i found very few. I completely removed it from the soil it was in and cleaned it off to get a better look at wounds on the tap root. It didn't appear to be sealed so i popped a bit of wound seal on it and clear off the dangling bits being very careful not to loose any more precious roots.

Luckily i had some spare pots and good soil about. This is similar soil to the soil i used on my bare root hedging trees i potted during the winter - but with some more organic material added. Its heavily laced with Mycorrhiza to help it along.

These roots are no worse that the roots on the field maples that i gathered last year - so i should be able to keep this little one going as well. I will be misted several times a day. I will also get some very weak foliate feed. Its quite large but i will try to make an enclosure to keep it in a more humid environment.

I am very pleased to have added another oak to the collection.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

RHS Wisley

Now that the weather is easing up its a great time for a walk in the country to admire natures work. Its even better with a good lunch and manicured lawns for strolling.

This is a Sequoia - a young one i suspect. The nebari is already very interesting to look at.

The pinetum section was very interesting as it contained the 7 of the largest recorded specimens for species of conifer - known as the Champion Trees.

If you are growing a bonsai and have styling angst and need to see what a mature example of a wild tree looks like then this is the place to be.

The scots pines are lovely.

This time of the year there are some fabulous blossoms from the various fruit trees on display. There are imported onramentals and natives to be seen. Wisley as quite a large apple orchard with many varieties.

There is also a small Bonsai garden with a few very nice specimens on display. This winter was a tough one and some of the maples seem to have lost a few twigs.

Wisly has a very large section devoted to azaleas. There are some massive examples. All shapes and sizes are on display in the gardens. They are worth visiting this time of the year purely to see this section.

The nursery section on the way out of the gardens is rather good. Some very interesting and rare Pinus Negra ( european black pine ) cultivars are available there. There is also an extensive selection of azaleas available there too - interesting named varieties.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Deshojo maple in spring

This is a Deshojo I've been growing for a few years - I bought it as a tiny little twig because I felt sorry for it. This is its second year in the new pot with almost pure Akadama. The roots have filled the pot entirely and it is now extremely vigorous. Sadly I've had to travel and missed the lovely spring foliage.

Its now growing riotously and Im not sure how Im going to slow it down now. Its 70cm from the base of the pot to the average height of the crown - trunk 3cm in diameter a little off the ground. Ive taken a lot of the long shoots back to the first node and will continue to develop ramification. It needs to fatten up a little more but is starting to look quite respectable ( after a good haircut ).
Oh - heres a picture of it that my wife emailed to me while i was away. Lovely colours.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

New Pot

This is the pot i picked up in Southhampton. Its a rather nice 40cm pot and just what i needed for this larger maple.

Yes i know the maple is scrappy. Il give it a good haircut once the roots are established. I didn't want to repot and do a major pruning at the same time - so last seasons late growth spurt is still there.

Last year it receive a substantial mid-year pruning - eliminated crossing branches and useless internal foliage. The process was helped by a nice gold glass of hoegaarden.

I also tried out some different cutting tools for the pruning. My busted up old Japanese still work best though.

The roots were cut right back - much further than this image. If last years repottign is any indication then this will take 4 months to get its vigour back and it will have a late season growth spurt.

The cat is seen assisting as usual.

While talking to the people in Southhampton I also learnt that the toxicity of Azaleas isnt that great to cats - so I'm allowed an Azalea now. I wanted one purely for the hysterical flowering.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bonsai Trees Southhampton

A few weeks ago i had a chance to head south out of London. I wouldn't usually go this far to visit a vendor - but i was curious and the opportunity arose.

There was a good selection of new and specimen material and pots available.

Also your usual soils and tools.

I picked up a nice new pot for my larger maple - more about that later.

Bonsai Trees Southhampton

Thursday, 11 March 2010


I was clearing the moss off the surface of the little Field Maple cause it makes it difficult to water. The moss will look lovely and the soil underneath is bone dry. this little one was starting to use a bit of water now that there was some foliage out.

Much to my disgust there were lots of little nasty wiggly white grubs under the moss.

The roots on this little one hadn't reached the outside of the pot - so I pulled off the loose bits and any signs of the grubs. I didn't want to disturb it too much though as it has started the year really strongly.

Interestingly you can see the Tesco's premium light kitty litter at the bottom of the pot. Roots were developing nicely in it. The straight John Innes No.4 didn't work very well and there was no visible root development in it after a year - not very good at all. It needs pumice and gravel to loosen it up.

I grabbed a bit of soil from the shed put it into a nice new ceramic pot.

Ive got some Provado Vine Weevil Killer and il dose all the plants with it.

Info on the chemistry of the insecticide -

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Repotting a small Oak

The buds on the Oak were starting to swell. So it was time for repotting. I'd placed the tiny oak ( which was growing in a peat seedling cup ) in a small pot with an inner lip. It proved very hard to extract. It had been in this pot for 2 years.

I'm going to discard that pot as its so hard to get anything out of it.

Once I'd got it out of there is discovered that the roots were 6 foot long and had been doing laps of the pot. This type of root is very different from other species i had worked with before - and it was extremely pot bound. Interesting that the root growth had been as vigorous as the above ground growth which had been rather extreme during the peak of the growing season last year.

Any of the new acorns ( 12 being prepared now ) that germinate this year will immediately go into larger pots based on this knowledge.

I lack experience with repotting roots like this - so I decided to be cautious and not cut back the large long roots too much. The placement in the pot was defined by getting the large root system into the pot and unwinding them. this may be a mistake - we will see what it looks like when i repot it again in a few years.

The pot is a little to large - but I'm aiming at massive growth over the next 2 years so i need plenty of headroom.

The soil is filtered Akadama and fuji grit ( 70 / 30 aprox ). I'm hoping the fuji grit stops it setting like concrete. The good akadama is cheaper than local hydroponic alternatives and is very effective. So why not ?

The cat was very interested in the process and lent a hand as usual. 

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Design Time

This little Field Maple is an early starter this year. Its really roaring ahead.

But what to do with it?

I though i would try out an informal upright style. Ive even found a nice little pot for it. Now all i need is a quiet decade to grow it - well 3 years and it will look pretty. I enjoy growing the plants from seedlings or nursery material - its a mode deliberate process of design and growing. Unlike finding the shape in a yamadori you have to grow the plant into a vision in your head.

Il repot it later into a batch of my homemade soil. Need a nice big batch of soil as im going to try to start off some acorns as well.

I though back to this little fig i grew many years ( 2002 ) ago for inspiration. The poor fig had been through some hard times and wasn't in great shape - but i was very fond of it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

New Material - potting

I made up a batch of soil for the new trees. Its a 4 equal part by volume mix of sharp sand / John Innes No.4 / vermiculite / fine horticultural grit. Why that mix  - because it looks a lot like the loamy soil I see them growing in naturally and its also the soil that my oak did so well in last year. The field maples were planted in straight John Innes which is nearly waterproof and sets like concrete, so the sharp sand and grit loosen it up a bit and the vermiculite holds some extra water. So far it drains well.

I bought a bunch of cheap plastic pots for these young trees to live in outside for the next few years. They have such whopping holes in the bottom of them that i feared all the soil would just fall out. I got some if the lining for hanging baskets and cut it to fit the bottom of the pot.

The roots of the bare root plants on average were quite good - but needed a bit of trimming to fit into the pots.

Beech roots.

Hawthorn roots.

In the pot. 

Can't wait for the first buds to get out and get the growing and training under way.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

New Material - Buckingham Nurseries

Ive been looking for some new native material. While cruising the local lanes and woodlands i couldn't see anything there that inspired me.

I decided to explore the hedging nurseries for material. Buckingham nurseries is an easy drive out of London on a Saturday morning.

All of the species i wanted to start this year were available in several sizes.

I picked up a few Hawthorns and Copper beeches. The Beeches were 120cm and the Hawthorns 150cm tall. These larger plants were all £2.95 each.

These trees are supplied bare root - and wasn't 100% certain how this was done. As you can see in the pictures they have bushels of them sitting loosely in the ground. Once you have decided what you want the staff gently tug them out for you. You get a reasonable amount of root.

I have the roots soaking in water now and I'l make up some soil for them and get them potted tomorrow.

More images in the next few days.