A bit of pruning

This Spruce has been one of my favourites for years. It started as a simple, half dead, christmas tree bought cheaply and pruned rigorously.

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Last year it got it’s first bit of wiring which already lifted it from tree in pot, to something almost Bonsai.20170306_132818

After some very full and healthy growth this spring I thought it was ready for some “final” forming. I mostly just pruned the middle and the top to get a more layered look. It might need some more, the tophat it has now needs to be more refined, but that can wait till next year.

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Garden upgrade

Since my “Chicken Proofing” post I was planning to make some nice benches for my Bonsai. I finally got to it even though ALL chickens got eaten by a fox overnight. *Poof* and they’re gone, I miss them, they were almost tame enough to eat out of my hands.

RIP Feathery Assholes.20170326_101501

But ey, life goes on, there are Bonsai to spoil, so off it was to the local building market to get some wood and fittings.20170326_155301

In The Netherlands you can get these metal fittings to secure beams to a flat surface, which when turned over make a perfect scaffold for Bonsai benches.20170327_130642

After a flip over and some poles in the ground there you go.20170327_133948

Which look even better with some Bonsai on them, plus it makes your wooly thyes tingle with manliness.20170327_161754

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Five Beeches for €10,-

Beeches are my favourite trees, their thick muscular trunks and smooth bark have a combination of elegance and power I like. Where I live, The Netherlands, a lot of people have Beech hedges. These are sold as youngling of around 4/5 years old at around ten euro per bunch of five 2cm thick younglings to be put in the ground in rows to hedge. About six years ago I bought one of those bunches and put a few in the garden to grow thicker and two others in a pot to be trained as Bonsai immediately.

Beeches are very nice and hardy, but they do have a few quirks that make them difficult for Bonsai, especially the European genus which is also sensitive to light (or too much of it). Most importantly they have a very distinct way of leafing out. Generally they have one flush of leaves in spring and that is all you get to work with that year. They also don’t leaf out in individual leaves, instead when their buds swell they throw out an entire branch at once. In general such a branch has 3 to 5 leaves and is very soft the first week. When you cut these new soft branches back to the first two leaves before it hardens it will yield a reasonably compact tree and when healthy and fed well it might even decide to do a second flush of buds halfway through summer. For growing it as Bonsai this is very important because treating it like that is practically the only way to get a nice structure with dense foliage. For this reason many growers find Beeches difficult. They also very rarely backbud on old wood making “foliage management” very important and it’s best to buy them with a thick trunk if that’s what you’re going for because they thicken very slow in a pot.

The good thing is that when you do this right, and make sure it watered well and avoid continuous direct sunlight these trees are almost impossible to kill. When treated right you’ll have a few fine trees for almost nothing. Below are two of them in their first year in a pot, with just a wee bit of wire.

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And now, five years later.

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Still not ready, especially the first one needs some further compacting/maturing, but they are rewarding trees to own regardless.

Spring is coming!

Since the Dutch weather lost its way and we hardly had any winter my enthousiasm for spring this year might be overstated. But when growing Bonsai spring has nothing to do with weather, it’s all about the buds. Seeing them swell knowing soon your trees will brust open with leaves is when most Bonsai lovers end their hibernation. This year it looks like we’ll be in for a treat!

A wild Japanese Cherry youngling I bought last year with thick flower buds I can’t wait to see open.20170306_131615

A Maple with lovely red buds needing a proper trim when I’m sure there won’t be freezing nights anymore.20170306_132533

An impatient Hemlock experiment already leafing out. I still have no idea what to do with this one so I’m just letting it do whatever the fuck it wants.20170306_132552

The Beeches are generally first but seeing how the buds are not swelling yet I know it will still be a few weeks more.20170306_131717

 

Japanese Maple progression

This little maple was bought in a gardening centre 4 years ago. As usual with Maples from gardening centres, or any plant you buy in one, it was not in good shape. The roots were knotted and went everywhere besides where the should go for a healthy specimen and the little fella was very sensitive. Since starting a Bonsai means making a few big cuts right from the start with untrained starter material the bad health of mall plants shows easily:

  • My experience with Maples from the mall; bought two, both got extremely sick, one (barely) survived, cost 30/40 euros a piece.
  • My experience with (young) Maples from a nursery; bought three, all survived, only one got mild mildew for a month or so, cost 3/4 euros a piece.

Needles to say, and this does not go for Maples alone, buying Bonsai material from a mall means taking a risk. They generally are a bit older and more mature, but they’re also grown very fast and sloppy with all the health risks that brings. My advice with mall bought plants in general for the first year is to not fall in love with the tree and start fantasising about how pretty it might be one day. Needless to say I did just that with this ugly one.

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After some trimming, a proper repot and a year of rampant mildew this one survived. And even better, it started to thrive the second year. Maybe having new shoes and a fresh carpet helped a bit.

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The nice thing about Maples is once they go, they go strong. Keeping a healthy Maple in check means continuous trimming, attention and guidance. Obviously, being a lazy fuck, I didn’t. Which resulted in this flurry of leaves the year after. Even worse, not trimming and doing any leaf reduction meant zero density and long shoots that weren’t very tree-like.

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Since last summer a repot was well needed I figured the first step of forming it into a mature Bonsai was needed too. It’s just like kids, first you let them run around for a while and then you start guiding them, or so I’m told.

I didn’t do much, I removed all branches that were too long and didn’t have the ramification I’m looking for. After that I removed half of the outer most leaves in early august to stimulate some back budding. Every bud close to the trunk that formed last summer will grow into a new branch with new possibilities next summer. Now here it is, comfy in a new big pot, the blue one it was originally in got destroyed in the proces I’m afraid.

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Next summer I will go full Bonsai-Sensei on this one and see with some wiring and continuous attention what form it might grow into. This will also mean reducing the amount of fertiliser given to aid in curbing this one’s enthousiasm for wild growth.

Maples are fun regardless. Even if they don’t have the form you want, they will always give you lots of colour, growth and little leaves that are a joy to see. I can advice anyone to start with a few Maples, just don’t buy them at a gardening centre, it’s way cheaper and more rewarding to buy a few 3-yearlings at a nursery for a few euros a piece. They grow so fast when treated right that within a few years you’ll forget how small they once were.