Saturday, 27 November 2010

Winter has well and truly arrived

I have been very busy with my new Job, so my blog had to take a bit of a back seat. Just as well that there was not much to do in the bonsai garden.

After a great autumn with many nice days, winter has now well and truly arrived with sub zero temperatures and a covering of snow (the earliest substantial snowfall for 17 years).
The trees are all ready for their winter rest. The hardiest stay on the benches and the others are either below the bench under a fleece cover or in the cold greenhouse. I have also just picked up a consignment of newly imported Chinese elms, and as they have not had time to acclimatise to our winter temperatures yet, they have the prime spot in a heated greenhouse.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Autumn Colour

Most of my deciduous trees are now starting to change colour. The first on to put on a real show is my Korean Hornbeam Group.

Here is a video to show it in it's full autumn glory.


Styling the spruce video

Here is a video of the initial styling of the competition spruce.


Wee Trees Literati competition

I totally forgot to post this.  The new competition is well on it's way and I have entered two trees.
The competition is about styling any raw stock or pre trained bonsai material into a convincing Literati style tree.

So here are my two entries:

Lonicera nitidia - dug out of the garden beds this spring.

Blue Spruce (I think) - old Christmas tree that has been sitting around in my garden for a while

Here is my progress so far:



Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Greenwoods Bonsai Bash 2010

Last weekend saw the second annual Autumn Bonsai Bash at Greenwoods Bonsai Studio in Nottingham.
The weather was fine and Corin Tomlinson had lined up a demo styling a massive yamadori Mugo Pine.

Unfortunately I could only attend the first day of the two day event, but I had a great time and met many of the members of the Wee Trees forum face to face for the first time.

Look out for the event next year, it free to attend and really is worthwhile a trip.

More photos are available on my picasa page 

Autumn is fast approaching

Well, summer (if that is what you decide to call it, with temperatures as low as 10C and more than twice the average rainfall) is nearly at an end.  The lack of sunshine has meant that many of my trees have not put on the amount of growth I would have liked, but at least there were no losses from lack of water.

Now is a good time to check wires that were applied to pines and junipers in spring, and if necessary remove any that bites into the bark.  With growth now slowing down, I will remove or reduce old needles on my pines and wire branches to allow a maximum of light in to the inner parts of the branches.

This week will also be used to remove any weeds and excessive moss growth from the soil of my trees.  I also generally remove the top layer of soil and redress with fresh soil.

Feeding continues for another two weeks, using tomato fertiliser on all trees that will be repotted next year.  Any that will stay in their pots for another season have been top dressed with bonemeal to give them a good start next spring.

Other than that I am really looking forward to the time when the foliage starts to turn to their autumn colours.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Quiet time

All is quiet at the bonsai front; Time to kick back and enjoy.
Just the basic maintenance of  feeding, watering, weeding and pinching to be done.

My Deshojo maple is coming back in to leaf after defoliation and is once again showing the bright red spring colour.
Pines are being fed heavily in preparation for next months candle cutting.  Most have been left to fully extend and will be cut back fully in mid August to start with needle reduction.

The weather has been reasonably warm, but not much sun.  That is ideal weather for mildew to develop, so I am keeping an eye out for any signs of the disease and have my fungicide ready just in case.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Wind Damage

The strong winds here in Leicestershire over the last two days has caused some damage in my Bonsai garden. Two of the taller trees were blown over, leaving the roots exposed for at least a day and my little Spirea was blown clean of the shelves and two of the major branches have snapped off.

Winds have now died down and I will have to check all of the trees to make sure no other damage has occured.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

All change

After the hot and windy spell last week the weather has now turned around. and we had more or less solid rain for the last week.  Good for the garden, but not so nice to be outside looking at your bonsai, so I leave tnem to look after themselves for the time being.
I took some time to tidy up the greenhouse and pot up cutting I took earlier this year.  The lonicera, elm and trident maple cuttings have produced good roots and have now been transferred in to small plastic pots to grow on for the rest of the season.  They will go into the growing bed next spring to put on some bulk.

The Japanese maple and azalea cutting are not quite ready yet, so they will stay under cover for a while yet.

I have started a groundlayer on a small collected elm and  I have filmed the process.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Hot and windy

Due to the hot and windy weather, watering is done early morning and late evening.  I also check the smaller trees and anything in very shallow containers around midday and apply water directly to the soil to maintain the soil moist throughout the day.

My Hornbeams really don't like this weather and are suffering from leaf burn even though I have moved them to a sheltered part of the garden.

Feeding continues on a weekly basis with balanced fertiliser, as does the daily pinching of new shoots on Junipers and elms.

The large Japanese Maple which was defoliated in early June is now back in full leaf, giving a second showing the vibrant spring colour.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Junipers are really taking off

My junipers seem to really like this warm and sunny weather we are having at the moment.  I am pinching back new shoots and growing tips on a daily basis now on my specimen trees in order to maintain them in shape and keep the growth tight.
All of these junipers are now growing in a completely inorganic growing medium ( I am using Sophisticat Pink Cat litter which is based on baked Moalr Clay) and following advise from Walter Pall's blog, I am feeding weekly and provide lots of water.  The results are encouraging so far with good foliage colour and vigorous growth.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

After looking at this Juniper for the last 18 months, I have finally made a start with the initial styling of the tree.
This will set the framework for further development and defines the style for further development.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Updated Photos

I have taken some new pictures of some of my trees and posted these on my picasa web album

Sunday, 20 June 2010


As trees are getting their trim this month, it is a good time to take cuttings.
I have taken cuttings of Trident Maple, Japanese Mountain Maple, Azalea, Chinese Elm, Cotoneaster and English Elm.
I sever the material below a leaf node and plant in a 50/50 mix of Vermiculite and Potting compost (I sieve this mixture to remove the fine dust). They then get dibbed in to a pot (usually 5 at a time and get covered with a clear plastic waterbottle,which is cut in half).
I keep them in the greenhouse under the bench, where it is warm, but out of direct sunlight.

Fingers crossed.

Crazy Weather

I am not quite sure what to make of the weather this year. June has seen days of 24C followed by a drop of temperature of 10 - 12C, with the next day struggling to get to 12C. I have been keeping a check on the weather for a few years now, but this is a first for me.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Scale insects are a real pest

I have just spent 2 hours checking all my trees after discovering that my large Chinese Elm was riddled with scale insects. I generally check my trees every month and there was no sign at the last inspection in May.

No sign of aphids, so the systemic must have done its job, but scale on most of my Chinese Elms, two of my maples and three of the cotoneasters.

I have removed any that i could see with a brush dipped in white spirit and applied another spraying of systemic insecticide.
I finally got round to refining this literati style juniper which was first styled in 2005 for a styling competition on an internet forum.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Defoliation of my Maples is imminent

While most of my trees were late in leafing out this year, most have now caught up and are putting on good growth.  Only the Cotoneasters and Hornbeams are still lagging behind.

The foliage on my Maples has now hardened and the trees are ready for defoliation, in order to reduce leaf size and improve ramification.  I will wait until we have a spell of reasonably dry weather forecast (this weekend is looking good) before carrying out this work.  I will record the process and post a video here to document the procedure.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Shohin size Chinese Elm Tanuki

Rubbish weather outside and not a lot to do, so thought I have a bit of fun with a piece of old Hawthorn Root and a Chinese Elm cutting. Enjoy!

Group Plantings

My Group plantings have had their first trim of the year and i have posted a video on my YouTube channel showing 4 of the more advanced groups.

Early season Pinching

All my deciduous trees are now growing strongly and the extending shoots now need pinching back to maintain the shape of the trees.  The Chinese Elms, English Elms have been left to extend to 6 leaves and then pinched back to 2 or three leaves, Silver Birches left to extend to 4 leaves then pinched back to one leaf.
My Japanese maples have been cut back to the first short internode on each shoot.

Candles on my Scott's Pines are extending and the smaller ones have been cut back by half.  The longer candles will be pinched back by 2/3 in a week or so.  Two of my pines are now ready to start with needle reduction,, so the shoots on those will be left to extend fully and will then be cut back to their origin later in the summer.  I will document this with a video so check back in late July to see this procedure.

The Chinese Junipers are a bit late starting this year, but they have started to push new growth now and it will be an almost daily task now to keep the growing tips pinched.

The Hornbeams seem to like their new more shadier position and the leaves look healthy and lush.  I am avoiding overhead watering with the Hornbeams as I had a lot of troube with leaf scorch last year.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Watering almost all trees daily now

With the recent spell of sun and wind, I have now moved my maples in to the sheltered part of the garden, where they get dappled shade and protection from the drying wind.
Most of my trees need watering daily now.  The only exceptions to this are the Beeches, which have only just started to leaf out and the Pines which are more happy to have the soil on the dry side.
I am keeping a close eye on my Hornbeams this year, as I had a lot of leaf scorch on them last year after potting them in molar clay based cat litter.  They will need watering morning and evening when it gets really warm.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


I have posted a couple more videos on my YouTube channel.
2 showing some of my pre bonsai material and one showing my large Chinese Elm and the Silver Birch.
I hope you like.


I generally check all my trees that have not been repotted at this time of the year to make sure that any weeds that may have established themselves in the soil are removed.  For the most part, due to the inorganic soil mix I use. this is quite simple and the roots come out easily.

However, there is one plant that seems to love the soil in my pots that is a bit more stubborn.  This is a type of Scotch Moss, which I think was introduced to my garden in a batch of  granite chippings which I used for my soil mix before I started to use Sophisticat pink cat litter.

At first, this weed looks quite nice, forming a lovely green undergrowyh that is in perfect scale for most trees, resembling patches of grass, but it soon becomes invasive, covering every bit of soil.

I can only recommend that you keep a close eye out for this weed, as it is nearly impossible to eradicate once it gets a foothold in your bonsai.

This plant forms a dense matt of roots in the pot, destroying any drainage and robbing the Tree of nutrients.

The only sure way of removal is to bare root your tree and wash every bit of moss root out of the trees rootball.

With pines, where barerooting is not a good idea, that means thorough checks every week to remove any new growth, which will eventually get rid of the weed.

Feeding now in full swing

It's now been more than 3 weeks since the majority of repotting has been finished, but due to the cold weather here, I have held back with feeding my deciduous trees until now.
As most of my trees are potted in an inorganic medium (Sophisticat Pink Cat Litter, Akadama, or a mix of the two), I have started to feed on a weekly basis, as I have found that this medium drains so well that fertiliser seems to leach out very quickly.
For the most part, my trees get a standard weekly feed of a balanced fertiliser (bought from Lidl, NPK 8.5-8.5-8.5).
Exceptions to this are:
specimen Pines - I use biogold for those throughout the year and bonemeal from October onwards
Acers - get a dose of ericacious fertiliser every fourth week instead of the balanced feed
Apples and Crabapples - low nitrogen tomato fertiliser on every second feed
Azaleas - balanced ericacious feed throughout the year.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hornbeam Spring pruning on YouTube

Having ranted about the weather yesterday, we actually had a nice (if rather cold) morning and I have taken my chance to do some work on one of my European Hornbeams.  I have filmed the process and posted the video on Youtube.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Building a bonsai Bench

I have added an article by Jerry Norbury with detailed instructions and plans for building a bonsai bench to the Article section of this blog. A very useful resource if you need to improve the display space for your trees.
You can also find more photos and bench designs on Jerry's flickr page.

Here is Jerry with the completed bench.

The weather is really not helping..

It's been a while since my last post, mainly because the weather is just not playing ball.
It has been cold wet and windy here, not the type of weather where you want to be out in the garden working on your trees.
I did however make an effort to finally get my cotoneaster cascade into some presentable state. This tree has been sitting around my to do section for a while now and a lucky find of a landscape rock has finally presented me with a bit of inspiration.

I have compiled the photos of the styling into a video which is on my youtube channel.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

YouTube Videos

Guess what?  I have finally figured out how to download video off my camera and how to edit it so it actually becomes watchable.  I have uploaded a few first tries to Youtube.

Here is my latest video.  Not what you would call a Hollywood Blockbuster, but certainly a good effort.
As practise makes perfect, I will master a few more just to get the hang of it.  They can only get better.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Full Report of Competition tree styling

I have placed a report covering the full styling of my competition tree in the article section of this blog.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Busy with final presentation of competition tree

It has been a while since the last post.  I have been busy updating and adding to the Progression Series.

The Progression series is coming on well and I will be doing some more work on there in the next few weeks.  It is actually quite nice to have a look back and see how all the work and planning that goes in to each tree slowly moves them from twig in a pot towards presentable bonsai.  I would urge anyone coming in to bonsai as a novice to keep photos and logs of the development of their trees.  Nothing serves better as a motivational tool when you get stuck on some tree and start thinking it will never happen.

I have also been putting the final touches to my Wee Trees Competition tree.  It has now been planted in to a more suitable pot and dressed for the final photo session.  Photos have been submitted and it is now up to the forum members to vote at the end of April.  There is some stiff competition from other entries and it's looking like an exciting finish.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Silver Birch

My Birches have finally started to show some new growth.  They are nearly two weeks behind previous years and I thought they would never start this year.
Unfortunately I lost a branch on the bigger one of the two, but new shoots have started right at the base of the dead branch.  Just a matter of letting it grow.
Losing branches on those two was my biggest problem until I read the Birch Species Guide on Bonsai4me.
Since then I don't do any pruning while the trees are dormant and the problem has been solved.  Should have looked much earlier I guess.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Propagation update Chinese Elm and Hillier Elm

These cuttings were taken last year and have developed good roots now.  I have placed a large pebble under the roots of each of these trees to force the roots sideways.  These Chinese Elms already show the corky bark of the parent tree and will make good shohin material.  The Hillier Elms will be much slower growing but I think they are worth a persevering with.

Chinese Elm - cuttings struck August 2009

Hillier Elm - Cuttings struck April 2009
 (the Larch in between the two Elms must have snook in to the picture while I was not looking :-)  )

Propagation update Larch

These Larches have been grown from seed collected from one of my Japanese Larch Bonsai, but I also have European Larches in my collection which means that they may well be hybrids.  Nonetheless, they are showing good potential.  The seedlings are now 3 years old.

Propagation update Maples

Over the last couple of years I have shifted focus from large bonsai towards smaller trees (shohin) and in an effort to obtain suitable material I have started to propagate my own trees both from cuttings and seed.

Below are some pictures of my current crop.

Japanese Mountain Maple - Cutting struck March 2009

Japanese Mountain Maple - Cutting struck March 2009

Japanese Mountain Maple - Cutting struck March 2009

Japanese Mountain Maple - Cutting struck March 2009

These maples will be left to grow a little more this year and then cut back to the lowest branches for further development

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Larches at their Spring best

Larches look at their best at this time of the year.  The fresh green foliage is just emerging in those lovely shaving brush shoots.

The cold and prolonged spell of cold weather did not seem to have slowed them down any, but I have noticed an abundance of flowers on all of my Larch trees.  That may well be an indication of stress.

Anyway, time to enjoy them at their best.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Bonsai Progression Series

I have done some work on some Bonsai progression reports.  These show pictures and explain the stages of development of some of my bonsai from raw stock towards a "finished" bonsai.

Here is a sample before and after shot of the type that is featured in the reports, with lots of intermediate photos and explanations on how the changes were achieved.

As explained in my profile, there was a break of about 4 years when the trees received very little attention due to work commitments, so there is a big jump from about 2005 to 2009 and the transformation on some of the trees is quite spectacular.
I add to and l update his section as and when I get time or when changes become evident.

You find the links to the individual trees in the side bar under BONSAI PROGRESSION SERIES


Spring has finally arrived

About time too!
After the long and cold winter, all my trees are finally pushing out new growth. Some of them are about 3 weeks later than normal, which goes to show that this winter did drag on.

Repotting is finished and I can sit back and enjoy my trees at their spring best.
As for the last couple of years, my main potting medium is Sophisticat Pink Cat Litter. I adapt it for the individual trees, i.e. for my maples I use a 50/50 mix of SPCL and Akadama, my hornbeams a 75/25 mix of SPCL and sifted composted bark.

I have started feeding my evergreens and any trees that were not repotted in the last 3 weeks, using standard Growmore at the recommended rate.

Now I just need to keep my eyes open for the arrival of any pests.

How nice to see some colour back on the bonsai benches.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wee Trees Competition

I am an active member of the WeeTrees Bonsai Forum at The site is run by a nice bunch of people all with a common interest in growing bonsai. There are people of all levels of experience and help and advise is freely given.

Anyway, weetrees is currently running a styling competition. The aim is to take a sub £25 piece of garden centre stock and turn it in to a credible bonsai creation.

So, if you want to know how I got from this: this:

......then go and have a look. You can view images of the styling process on my Picasa Web Album .

Up and Running

So, all the pretty stuff is out of the way and the blog page looks OK for now.
Serious posting will start tomorrow.