Friday, 30 December 2011

various things

Its been a strange winter so far. Only a few frosts - and no sign of snow at all. Several of the bonsai still had leaves out - and the hawthorns still aren't completely bare. Given how mild it is I've left some of the maples out on the lawn and not don't a great deal to protect much else either.

I've been fortunate this year and got some nice new pots for Christmas. Couldn't afford all the new ones I wanted last year - so the maples have had to stay on an extra season. Their roots got a bit messy and they grew strangely - but no long term harm.

Please excuse the crap photo - This is to illustrate the improved ramification on this maple. Its really come along very nicely this summer. I've taken it all back to 1 node and done a lot of wiring. All the work last year with weights on the younger branches has set them in position nicely so there wasn't much need for heavy wiring - just some tweaks on the newer growth.

Part of the upcoming summer program is improve the lower growth on this maple as the shape isn't great like this. A bit too much like a snow cone right now - I want to get a few big low branches happening. There's going to be almost daily pinching of buds during the peak season.

I didn't feel like working outside so I took it in and stood it on my desk. The picture is of it standing on the cats perch. No hanging out in the dojo with the sensei catching flies here.

I've got a nice 38cm pot for this one to be planted into over the next weeks. Really looking forward to getting the roots cleaned up and sorted out.

Next up is the major pine work. A lot of rafia and wiring to be done over the next week.

Those damned yamato sunball things still persist - no sign of decay yet. Ive bought some new korean seedcakes to test out. They look better - just need to see if they work. Wish someone would import cheap bio-gold again.

Edit -

Measure it - its 95cm tall from the ground and the base of the trunk is 5cm thick. So i have to watch the height carefully as its getting on a bit.

Friday, 4 November 2011


Some of my nursery material is coming along nicely - this is the end of their second year. The hawthorns are still in their first pots and the roots looking for space. Next year I'm going to grow one of them in the ground and see how it goes. The trunks are plumping up nicely already. All the nursery material is on tap water and cheap fertiliser. They also get any of the left overs from the hydroponics. No science - I just empty a bucket load onto them.


The trunk chop on the oak is almost grown over and integrated. Over time this looks like it will subside into a nice even taper. 


The Beech's are coming along nicely too. During midsummer when they were laying down next years buds they were watered and fertilised mercilessly to ensure a giant season next year. I'm thinking of trunk chopping these over the winter.

They seem to be bulking up faster than the hawthorns. They are all over an inch at the base - with this one being closer to 2.

Had I known that I could grow cheap hedgerow nursery trees to 2 inch trunks in 2 years I would have started many years ago.

Notice the peppermints.

My hydroponic pomegranates are coming well now. They have put on about 25cm this year. I want to get that again for a few years before i think about style. 

I've got some Canna terra flores for the indoor fruiting and flowering plants.

I think I will have to bring in the Scots pines during the winter for another round of maintenance as they are firing buds out all over. 

I think I have good buds at every point that I want - so the smaller Scots are going to look very good late next year.

I got some Raffia for doing some heavy work on the pines.

The pines are now on weekly Canna - I'll keep a slow feed ( bi-monthly) going to them during the winter. The dormant plants in soil will get a gentle monthly feed.

I've been trying some new fertilisers again - Yamato sunball. I'm very confused about this - they are like rock hard peppermints - been sitting on the soil surface for a month now with no sign of doing anything. Must be doing something wrong. I was hoping for something that behaved like biogold.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

pine color

Here is the big Scot's pine early on in the season. Mid April. It has a very nice even flush of new candles on it. Surprised me a little as it had just been repotted.

I have the primary branch structure in place with some heavy wiring. I will need some raffia to finish this job. The deltas of good foliage are forming with every shorter tributaries. All the crossing and plain silly branch's are gone. I still have a great deal of pondering to do until i settle on the final shape. There will be a few Big cuts and maybe some of that ghastly jin.

After the spring candles the big pine went all yellow. I feared that I'd damaged some roots and that I would lose some branches.
I tried Heavy fertiliser every 10 days. It didn't die - but it didn't get a great deal better either.

Much improved now - still not the black green color of extreme vigor - but very good progress. Canna every 2 days and fish emulsion on the weekend. I'm amazed at how much higher the nutrient requirements are in fired clay.

As a result of this i don't have a nice flush of candles coming through now and there isn't much back budding to speak of - but there is always next year.

Then again - the buds are good and theres a bit of life left in this summer. Moar fertiliser!!!

Sunday, 31 July 2011


I must deviate for a while from native trees to the tree that led me towards bonsai - the pomegranate. It is an excelent species for bonsai - but a bit out of fashion nowdays with all the junipers and pines.

I have had a few miniature pommegranates for several years. They are very dificult to cultivate and i thought i would share some solutions to thier health and vigor.

I have moved towards using fired clay based soils this year. The nutrient requirements in this medium have suprised me. They require far more than I had expected. Now that i have the big pines under control in this medium i turned my attention to some really sickly pomegranates in the same medium. weekly fertiliser wasnt having much impact at all.

In some older translated japanese bonsai books I have found a little advice about them. They advise deaper pots to suit the habit of the root system - and also note that they are heavy feeders. Any fruiting or flowering plant requires a lot of food during its productive season - my experience with the calamondon has taught me about this - and i also have a huge chilli harvest which uses vast quantities of feed to get its large yield.

A single overstrength dose of fertiliser every 10 days had almost no impact. Not on pines or citrus and certainly not on the pommegranates. The chillies and fruit now get fed every 2 days at normal strength. This wasnt enough for the pommegranate. I think part of this is due to the medium they are planted in - akadama is much more forgiving and seems to retain more nutrients.

I used Canna on the pines with good results. But its for vegetative growth and not flowers or fruit. It did revive the pomegranates and bring them back to reasonable health. The extra gogo im hoping will come from the Tomorite which has the better balance of nutrients for flowering plants. My chillies and tomotoes love the stuff - and the calamondon seems to be doing well on it too.

As i increased the frequency of fertilisation i became annoyed with the ammount of waste. For the calamondon i tollerate this as i only fertiliser every second day.

I use nutrients and equipment from the hydroponics industry. So i decided to grow the pomegranates on a home made ebb and flow hydroponic method. Simply I keep 5 litres of nutrient solution in a bucket. The pots are submerged into this solution twice a day or if the pot is very light from being dry.

This home made ebb and flow hydroponic setup had brought lush growth to the pommegrantes at last. I use the solution for about a week and then dump it on the beeches and hawthorns. So there is little waste of nutrient anymore.

Next year they will need a different soil to thrive - but for now they are well again.

Ebb and Flow

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Here is a picture of the Scots pine at the beginning of the year with its spring candles up.

I'm shortening the branches on the lower right as the opportunity arises.

Some of the foliage pads are forming.

See next post.

Pine progression

I'm still on the lower part of the learning curve for pines. But it seems that at least i am keeping them very healthy and full of vigor. Think Ive got a good grasp of the theory and some novel techniques of my own. But they do grow very slowly so its something you acquire over many years.

With this medium Scots pine that had been collected from the wild Ive had some challenges as there was growth at the end of some very long spindly branches. Its been repotted and is responding with loads of back budding - even onto old wood.

When the opportunity has arisen with some choice areas of budding Ive cut back to them.

Here are 3 choice buds all starting to grow as part of the second flush of growth.

Ive removed the top bud. This has allowed me to move the growth and ramification in closer to the trunk and improve the overall shape of the bonsai.

Now i have a well positioned horizontal fork nice and close in. Going to need 3 or 4 more of these.

Back budding on old wood. And its a long way back.

Here is one of the new candles from the second flush. Ideally next year i will get a tree full of these. This year started slowly while i got to grips with the feeding requirements in sterile growth medium. I now feed the pine trees 4 times a week. I am amazed at how much they can eat.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


This oak is 60cm tall now from the surface of the soil. It began another strong flush of growth so Ive cut it right back. Some of the ramification deltas are now 3 deep and looking very nice. Ive left some of the Whopper early season giant leaves on to power it. Next year its going to look good if Ive got the node lenghts correctly suited to the foliage.

All the cuts are sealed. Ive got a nice selection of terminal buds which is going to improve the shape and further the ramification. Its been growing from the last 2 buds on each branch as a rule - so its a bit harder to control - but if you trim well its very effective.

The oak certain loves the fine akadama. I'm unsure about the biozorb so i may put this one back in coarse akadama for another 2 years.

The internal branches are all coming off from nice positions on the trunk. not too even. not too perfect. There has been a lot of wiring in there to keep it from becoming to unruly.

I suppose its a mistake to have begun the crown with 45 degree branches. It will do for now.


The Beech's have begun their second flush of growth for the year. I'm hoping for another 5 leaves. In some places i have 3 nodes already. So mid to late June around London seems to be when you get another burst from them.

I'm enjoying the beech's. They seem to put on weight faster than oaks - but retain their smaller leaves. I'm going to have to get at least one of them into a bigger container for next year. I'm also temped to chop one of them off quite low. Going to have to think a bit more about the results i would achieve with a trunk chop.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

ongoing progress

Many of the trees are progressing well - the oaks are all making great progress. Last years seedlings are also making giant leaps.

My larger oak is putting on weight very nicely. This year already more than last. Its the second year in the pots and the roots are well developed - its getting loads of fertiliser.

The primary branch structure is developing nicely now as well. Interesting design decisions on where to place the new buds need to be made. The node length needs to match the leaf size for a balanced image.

As per oaks habit, the tap root is doing laps at the bottom of the pot. Going to have to research root pruning of oaks a bit to be ready for its next pot.

I'm a bit worried about the big scots pine. Its too yellow and its got these funky wrinkly needles.

These pines had 80% of their old soil removed and are in sterile growth medium. My maples live happily in pure akadama - but some of the pines are a little grumpy. I'm still some ways short of the fertiliser concentrations some others advise using - and Ive noticed that the patch of lawn that receives the leftover fertiliser isn't any greener than the rest of the lawn. So i guess more wont harm it - perhaps. It may also be a nutrient problem due to the sterile soil and rainwater so Ive used some iron/mag/manganese tonic to hopefully fill in any nutrient holes. I have a maple that's showing classic iron shortage ( green veins on yellow leaves ) so maybe this will get them greened up and vigorous. Otherwise the big one is back budding very nicely after a good spring flush.

This can also be a copper shortage or over watering.

The beeches are putting on weight now on the branches and setting buds - quite a lot based on the way the wire is biting in. These may grow a little again this year but more than likely its next years buds getting into place. So its important to feed like crazy and water generously to ensure next years growth is massive. Ive rewired where needed and removed the rest. I'm thinking of chopping some of the beeches as the trunks are already nice enough for small bonsai.

The hawthorns are unstoppable. Well other than the wind which blows them over all the time. They are also putting on wood and massive growth. They seem like such a perfect tree for bonsai - i wonder why they aren't more popular. small leaves - rapid growth - easy to maintain - attractive. i guess the wild specimens aren't much to look at down south. Although i did see many good ones out of the train heading up to Newcastle - the sheep nibbling did them good.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Its that time of the year in London when the wind is howling through the yard and knocking over many of my pots. I had repotted this quince from a nursery container into a nice pot I had scavenged from Tokonoma bonsai a few years ago. The nursery soil was removed - to bare root - and the roots cut right back to fit its new home.

I had placed it on a nice sunny table outside the kitchen window for my morning edification. The wind picked it up off the table and smashed it. This ruined my whole day.

I suppose i have learned that the roots were in excellent condition after the repot and it seemed to like the media it was planted in.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Chicken Sh1t pH

Ive experimenting with some new nutrients. Ive read in a few places about people using chicken manure - so i got some and gave it a try. To start it seemed OK. I will keep using it on the lawn and vegetable beds.

BUT. A magnolia i was rescuing died suddenly midway through opening its flowers. I was not pleased.

I added some pH test drops to rain water. The London rainwater is strongly acidic. This yellow color is the most acidic color that the kit measures indicating 6.0 or less.

I then dropped a small piece of chicken manure pellet in and observed.

As the manure pellet dissolved it made the solution strongly alkaline. The light wasn't good - but the pH is towards the high end of the scale. So in the region of 7.6 which is a substantial swing.

The lesson learnt is that i must test new additives before i put them on to avoid unexpected results.

For species that like alkaline conditions this is fine. There are plenty of trees down south grow in the chalk. I would recommend avoiding this for acid lovers like pines and magnolias / azaleas.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

citrus progress

Once the calamondon settled into its new pot and soil it went berserk. The growth tips are a mass of shoots. Once the scent had faded i removed the early blossoms. I want all the energy to go into growth.


There is also a lot of adventurous back budding. This new growth is very fragile and cant be touched. If you blow hard on it the new twigs will come off. I lost a few which were in perfect positions. Luckily i got more coming in the same place.

I am concerned about the color of the new growth. the chlorosis is really bad. Its getting fed once a week. Ive increased to twice a week, with chempak high nitro and growth technology citrus focus - both mixed over strong. The citrus focus has got seaweed and humates. I'm hoping this will improve the roots and soil. Ive also put some Mycorrhiza in the soil to improve nutrient uptake.

Last year i fed it like a madman to green it up - so i suppose as a larger plant it needs more. The citrus trees are notoriously greedy. I'm having doubts about the substrate I'm using. it did very well in akadama for the last 2 years. This biozorb doesn't seem to hold much liquid. in the small pot i could get a litre of water in without much runoff. This much larger pot saturates with 500ml so its capacity to hold nutrients is much less.

Once a week i take it onto the lawn and give it a good soaking to flush all the soil.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

crazy oak

Look at the size of that leaf. In a few years time i will have to learn how to reduce the leaf size. For now i want it to fatten up and ramify.

These shoots can grow over an inch per day. Maybe my one acorn was a freak. I shall find out as the next 4 get growing.

You can see where Ive optimistically wired the base of all these shoots to set them off in the right direction.

I'm a little off piste with these - but i guess if i get 10 flushes of growth and it doubles in size. Well what can i do?  Most seem to find them slow growing. I do hope Leonardo was right and that as i increase the ramification and twig thickness the trunk will respond similarly. So far it has grown very well - i estimate a 25% increase in girth at the base so far. The bark isn't great - or there at all - but no 4 year old tree will have good bark - that comes later.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Been busy

All the new hedgerow trees have made it through the winter and are growing strongly. So much so that the wind keeps blowing them over.

The beech's broke bud late in April and they were the last to get going.

The 4 new oaks also made it through the winter and are growing strongly now.

The mountain maple has been defoliated and has come back very well. Every single possible bud point has sprouted. I have massive back budding and a big increase in ramification. Ive also been wiring and hanging weights to improve the layout.

It was defoliated on 16 April and the photo on the right is 21days later. I have already pinched back some over enthusiastic growth.

My larger oak is going crazy this year. Its also throwing massive shoots for the last 3 nodes of every branch making it quite hard to tame. Ive got 3 grades of training wire and I'm pulling the young soft shoots into place early before the set. Its starting to take a lot of wire.

The trunk has put on quite a bit of weight already this year. Its getting 30% over strength fertiliser once a week.

The point at which the oak is cut back is important. similarly to brach cutting a pine. The last buds on the branches are the ones that will grow - so you need to select them so that the new branches head off in the right direction.

I have also been fortunate with some of the budding on my large Scots pine. Its behavior is much easier to work with than the small one. While working on developing nice dense foliage areas Ive cut back some overly long branches and in all cases Ive gotten several nice buds at the cut point.

Also some good buds all the way back into the 2 year old needles. I'm spoilt for choice here. Its behaviour is very close to the descriptions of black pines.

Daily water and lots of fertiliser. Several litres of strong high nitro fertiliser per week.

Ive been experimenting with chicken manure. The tea seems alright. But it clogs up your soil very quickly. I suspect it does strange things to the soil ph.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scots pine buds

I'm getting all sorts of strange looking buds coming up one of the small Scots pines. It seems that those in the know are hard parted with the knowledge of this species. Most focus on the Japanese black pine - which is more forgiving to work with as it will have many periods of growth in a single season. The Scots pine only has one flush of growth - then its all over till the next year. It is possible to have a second period of growth late in the season if the tree is very healthy and well fed.

This one seems to be multiple simultaneous buds and needles. I suppose I'l find out in a few months when it all grows out.

This started as a candle and then did some stuff at the base. They could be new buds for the lammas late season burst - or just ugly needles.

I am getting some nice buds under the pinched candles. Once the candles have hardened off a bit more and the buds are defined I'l choose the ones i want.

I cut back aggressively behind some of the pine flowers and have been lucky with some good new buds forming there. There are some more further back so ramification will continue to improve.

I have also been gradually removing the 3 year old needles. I cut them off and leave a 5mm stub which falls off on its own in a few weeks. I'm hoping that this gentle loss of foliage will spur on the late season growth without doing any harm.

I have been a little surprised at the vigour of this tree as it was almost bare rooted. I used biogold in the early season - which the pines seem to love. Now they are on strong chemical fertiliser alternated with chicken manure weekly. I try to keep them on rain water for the PH which the pines like - but often they just get hosed.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Trunk Growth Factors

Leonardo da Vinci has some things to say about this :

All the branches of a tree at every stage of its height when put together are equal in
thickness to the trunk below them.

and this :

Every year when the boughs of a plant [or tree] have made an end of maturing their growth, they will have made, when put together, a thickness equal to that of the main stem; and at every stage of its ramification you will find the thickness of the said main stem.

Towards the end of the season we will see - if this is correct i will get some lovely results. Several of my trees have increased hugely in ramification this year already. The Oak is as usual is leading the pack - but the maples are looking strong too. I wonder if the defoliation and doubling of fine twigs on the maples will have an effect. So much still to learn.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Outdoor Deployment

Ive been watching the weather - very few frosts left hopefully so I'l start to place the trees outside on their spots on the lawn. Cat likes this very much as they give her great cover for birdwatching. The little villain has never caught a bird - but she does like to watch them.

This is a kiyo hime maple that i picked up several years ago at the local nursery and felt sorry for- so i adopted it. Never intended to grow maples - but i seem to be quite good at it.

Il keep the big pines under glass as while longer for them to recover from the repotting. 

This is another maple - i picked up this one as a silly potplant for my desk at work - i got it at the exit of M&S while buying a sandwich for lunch. In a square plastic pot like this one below. It was never intended as a serious bonsai and now its starting to look quite nice. I suppose I'l keep it going and see where it ends up. Ive had it 4 years now - and its on its second year in that pot.

Good starter material for the patient.

Fresh oak leaves

I love the color of fresh spring oak leaves.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

more potting

This is my gin&tonic calamondon tree. It had been in this pot for 2 years and was ready for a larger pot and some fresh soil.

This is its second repotting in my care. This was akadama bought off amazon with a little compost - and its worked very well. The roots are beautiful.
Excellent roots. No rot at all. Great health. I was so very pleased when i pulled this out of the pot and saw how healthy the roots were.

Its growth had been exceptionally strong this last year.

These plants are very hungry and need a huge amount of fertiliser in the sterile soil. Full strength at least once a week.

The roots are well organised and worked out perfectly radially with a rake. They were well organised from the previous repotting so it was quick and easy. A few more years and those surface roots are going to look very good. I cleaned off the old soil and trimmed lightly.

Its been planted into quite a large pot. I'm using biosorb and pine bark. about 4:1 mix ratio. There is a 1.5cm drainage of layer of coarse soil.

After 2 weeks the tree is looking greener then before it was potted. It seems quite happy with the new pot.

The plant is now in a totally inert pH neutral soil. I have a new fertiliser regimen planned and i hope for very strong growth this year. That trunk is still way too skinny.

PS - a few days later

In most respects this calamondon behaves like a kumquat. So it appreciates a deeper pot as the roots like to go deep - similar to pomegranate with the deep pots and heavy feeding requirements. They seem to be less PH sensitive than pomegranate though. I have potted it over a very generous drainage layer of course soil particles. 3 weeks after repotting and it is back budding vigorously.