Bonsai For Beginners

Hi again

I hope that all of you who took up the offer of the elm cuttings have your plants in damp sand and are looking forward to new roots developing over the next few weeks.

Try to resist the temptation of pulling your cutting up to check for at least three to four weeks. You could speed up the process by covering the cuttings with a plastic bag or clear drink bottle with the base removed. Even without these they should develop roots over the rapidly advancing spring weather. I will go further into propagation techniques in the next newsletter. Let me know how your cutting goes. Last newsletter I put my e-mail address in, apparently that was a mistake, if you wish to contact me use the reply button in your e-mail

In New Zealand, now is the time to start thinking about repotting. Late winter early spring as buds just start to burst is the best time for much of your repotting tasks to be carried out. Check your plants and decide which ones are due and prepare all the pots and soil in advance. Some people keep a potting log to show when a plant was last repotted or worked on. This would be great for reference and a good record of your tree especially if you include a photo each time. I unfortunately am not that organized and prefer to look at the tree and decide by its vigor, size or style whether or not it should be repotted. As a general rule of thumb small trees should be repotted each year and the older more mature trees can last two to three years with regular feeding.

For those of you that are repotting for the first time don’t panic; it’s not as hard or mysterious as you may think. Repotting is not a method of reducing the size of your tree as is commonly thought, it is however vital to maintaining the health of your tree. The process is designed to prevent your tree becoming root bound and strangling itself. By trimming the roots and replacing some of the soil you promote new feeder roots and develop that fine fibrous root system we are striving to obtain.

If you are new to repotting and wish to see a step by step pictorial follow this link Bonsai Repotting If this link does not work copy and paste this link into your browser.

Another good idea for first time repotters is to go along to a local Bonsai Club with your tree and seek their advice. I am sure they will be only too pleased to help. I will try to remember to put contact details of New Zealand clubs on the link page of the web site in the next few days.

While on the subject of repotting I would like to take an opportunity to have a rave about Bonsai pots. Bonsai literally means tree in a pot and all too often the pot seems to be treated as secondary or unimportant when compared to the tree. I see collections of fantastic looking trees in old plastic buckets, ice cream containers or cheap plastic pots and the overall effect is lost or diminished by this.

The pot to a bonsai is like a frame to a painting. Like a frame it can be plain and simple or elaborate and a piece of art in itself. A good pot can invoke a mood or symbolize a locality. The pot and tree should become one entity with neither detracting from the others beauty but both enhancing the other. The correct pot can complete a tree and at the very least, a good bonsai pot will provide the drainage and tie down facilities your trees require.

A good bonsai pot can be glazed or unglazed, but should never be glazed on the inside. There should be adequate drainage and no dips or hollows where water can pool and rot your roots.

There are no set rules for what tree should go in what pot, but there are a few ascetic guidelines.

Conifers should be planted in unglazed pots

Flowering and fruiting trees can be planted in glazed pots preferably in a colour that complements the flower or fruit.

The depth of the pot should be equal to the width of the trunk of your finished bonsai.

The width of the pot should be roughly two thirds the height of the tree and slightly narrower than the spread of the tree.

The pot should complement your tree, is your tree hard and masculine (large conifer) or delicate and feminine (flowering cherry).

Where did your tree originally come from can this be replicated in your pot.

Slender trunks and group plantings look best in shallow pots

Graceful lowland styles of tree are set off best in oval pots or soft cornered rectangles with a curved profile.

Strong gnarled trunks need strong rectangular shaped pots

Wide spreading styles look good in pots that flare outward at the top or have a lip on the outer rim

Tall slender trees are complemented by very simple round pots

Trees that cascade over the edge of the pot should be in deep special cascade pots.

If you have trouble visualizing a particular tree in a pot it is becoming easier to take a photo of your tree and transpose different pots using photoshop or one of the many other photo editing programs available.

Good specialized bonsai pots are quite difficult to obtain in New Zealand but I feel worth the effort. Perhaps you could approach a local potter with your designs or contact a local club for details or your nearest supplier.

Good luck with your repotting Until next time

Mark Bonsai for beginners

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