Sunday, 25 October 2015

Roots and pots

In addition to bonsai I grow something else each year. Most years I grow a chilli or two and in addition this year I've grown garlic and radishes. I use the same soil, nutrients and pots for these projects to learn about them for growing bonsai. 

These were Sante Fe Grande hot chillies. An attractive looking variety that are quite mild and can be used in large quantities for most cooking. You don't have to be careful of them like the Habaneros I grew last year.

Air pot roots - for bonsai this is perfect. After seeing this I am very pleased to have my pre bonsai trees growing in these pots as they are so suitable for bonsai. The three Scots pines are going to be fantastic growing like this.

Conventional pot roots. As usual the roots are doing laps of the pot.

The air pot plant was able to stand upright without a stake and was very stable - even with a large amount of fruit on it. The growth rate and yield were not discernibly different to a normal pot. 

Conventional pots led to a plant that flopped all over and needed to be staked upright. Note the slanting trunk after I had cut off all the fruit.

I learned a bit more about how to grow in coco coir doing this as well. Garden centre top dressings for calcium and magnesium in combination with organic fertilisers are very hard to do and lead to severe nutrient lockout.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Local show

Here are a couple of nice bonsai I saw while walking around the local Capel Manor / Enfield bonsai show.


Needle Juniper.



Crab apple.


LV had good material available.

Not harry.

Nice sized vendor area with good material.

Got a nice little crab apple from Kaizen.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Scots pine progress

I took this image this afternoon as I was removing the old needles.

I've been really busy this year and I have only had time for basic maintenance and fertilising. I am unexpectedly unemployed and have time on my hands to spend some quality time with the little trees.

Last year I hurt the pines with being too aggressive with the fertiliser towards the end of the year. They respond very poorly to high PK suitable for flowering or fruiting plants. I remember killing my first Japanese black pine about 15 years ago in Australia using tomato fertiliser - at the time I attributed this to inexperience.

This year I have used Biogold ( cause you can get them cheap now ) and liquid organic fertiliser. As the needles were hardening off I used a bit of seaweed extract as well. 

I took this image earlier this year after the candles had extended and been trimmed.  You can see how the needles have reduced in size as the tree was more relaxed and had enough light gathering ability.
The wine bottle is there for scale.

2 years ago. The tree was growing aggressively and had very long needles.

4 years ago. The poor thing was starving as you can see from all the flowers on it.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Beech potting

Today I moved this beech over into a proper pot. I am almost settled on the design and I will do the final wiring over the next few days. There is one big branch to be removed - but I am going to do it slowly and make the most out of the deadwood. 

The shape and size of the pot were dictated by the shape of the large roots and depth of the root ball. In addition I wanted a pot with a bit of height to accentuate the windswept nature of this tree. Its positioned up as close to the side of the pot as possible.

I did my usual drainage layer of large hydroponic pebbles.

Once I was done settling it into the pot I reused some of the original bonsai soil and supplemented it with a coarser mix that I prefer. This mix was quite fine and the roots weren't stellar. In my experience the beech grows well in quite a coarse mix. 

I included a lot of organic material (pine bark) in the mix to give the soil flora something to hang onto.

I had a choice of pots and went with the tall one in the end. Nice to have a choice of good quality pots to work with.

Condition of the roots in the nursery pot was not bad. I tried not to disturb them too much, other than loosening the edge of the ball and fitting it into the new pot.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Big pots experiment

Last week I dug up one of the Oaks that I was growing in a very large pot and had a good look at what was happening underground. I was becoming a little concerned about the type of roots developing and feared deep thick roots and growth up against the side of the pot.

I was really surprised at the quality of the roots that came out. A nice dense root ball with very few thicker roots. Clean and healthy too with no dead roots or an smell at all. There were plenty of choice surface roots to work with later as well.

I trimmed them back and decreased the depth of the root mass to make it easier to pot later. As I reduced the depth of the root ball I came across no thick deep roots that were going to be a problem later. Its gone into a large air pot now for finishing off over the next 2 years. 

Its going to be very interesting to see the growth rate in the air pot compare to the large container behind it.

So its maybe not as effective as field growing - but for now it easier to manage and gives very good roots. A lot easier to lift from the big pot and retain quality roots that digging up too. I will definitely continue to grow Oaks like this.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Wild Pear Tree

I have been wanting a nice fruit tree for a while - for the nice spring blossoms - I had been thinking of crab apples. I don't think this is it - although it can possibly have nice blossoms.

While researching native fruit trees and admiring the blossoms of an old pear tree in garden I discovered the pyrus pyraster which is close to being a native British pear tree. They were hard to obtain and I didn't want to compromise on nursery plant on grafted stock which was of mostly unknown origin.

While walking through the CLGA game fair a few years ago a nice lady from the woodland trust gave me a wild pear seeding. And so its been growing in various pots in my garden for a few years and getting more interesting.

Its trunk is now over an inch thick and I began to think of it in bonsai terms - which means i had to get it into a proper pot and start managing the roots.

The problem with using conventional pots for growing bonsai material is that when you get it out of the pot you inevitably find the bottom of the pot is a solid disk of roots like this.

A series of large thick roots had grown down to the bottom and started doing laps of the pot. This is similar behaviour to my oak roots.

I'm hoping to see roots coming out of the sides of the pot soon after buds break so that I know its working as it should.

Here is the increasingly large group of airpot material waiting for the summer. I have several more oaks to move into these pots to prepare their roots for a life of bonsai.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Burnham Beeches deadwood

I've been exploring some of the local forests in the Chilterns can came across this stretch while using Google maps. It was a grey Sunday afternoon but rather that sit indoors and waste the day we decided to drive up and have a look around. If lucky there would be some wildlife to take some pictures of although with the low light and grey and misty conditions they would never be any good .

There are many very old Oaks and Beech's in the woods.

There were many family's and dogs walking through the woods so the this was the closest I got to seeing any birds. 

I had never seen an wild Oak this contorted in the south.

The deadwood on the old stumps and trunks was very enjoyable to see. 

Well worth a visit - although during the week may be best as it seemed to get quite busy.