Peter Tea’s July Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai

July 2014

Summer Continues…

The heat of Summer continues without much of a break.  For some of us, the heat is bearable whereas others seek shelter in artificially cooled environments.  I for one am the latter but we’re all different and we make it through the heat in our own ways.

Our bonsai on the other hand is a different story.  It’s important to understand what species of trees we’re working with and their heat tolerances.  There will be trees that are easy to grow in our particular area whereas others are more difficult.

If you want to make it easy on yourself and progress faster in Bonsai, then stick with the trees that grow well in your own little micro climate.  Sometimes we have too much variety in our collections and we just can’t keep up with the extra care needed for each individual tree.

Not to say that variety is bad, just be aware that it will take much more time to manage and may cause you to not progress in bonsai. Develop a firm grasp of basic bonsai fundamentals before stepping up to the challenge of unusual species. It’s okay to take it step by step.


For those that live in areas that get a great deal of heat, shade cloth may be needed. If

the Summers temps are constantly in the high 80’s or 90’s, then shade cloth is your best bet.  Large trees overhead can also help keep our trees our of the hot sun, though they tend to create too much shade and may cause the trees to slow in growth.  At least with shade cloth, the protection is consistent. I would recommend 50 percent shade to start.  Of course, if you’re working with trees that love the heat, then forgo the shade cloth.

It’s also important to realize that trees are not people.  What may seem hot for us could be really good for the tree. Coast live oak for example really likes constant temps in the mid-high 90’s. They like it even more if the nights are just as warm and tend to grow very fast. Just because we feel hot, doesn’t mean the tree feels the same way.  If you decide to move trees that need the sunlight into a shadier part of the yard, you may be moving it out of ideal conditions.  Again, research and understand what your tree species like and adjust accordingly.


For some of us, watering is now twice a day.  For those that get plenty of sun exposure, that will be the case.  For others that have shade cloth or some sort of protection, then watering may still be at once a day.

Take the time to read your trees to understand how much water they are taking. If the trees seem very dry when you water, you may have to move to watering twice or even three times a day.  If the soil seems wet all they time, then hold back the watering.  If you’re having to water your trees 3 or more times a day, you may think about changing your soil mix so that it holds water for longer periods of time.  If you are able to water that many times a day, I guarantee that your trees are growing very strong.

High Mountain Pines

High Mountain Pines should not be worked on this month because the new candles are still soft and sensitive. The normal time to work on them is after September and throughout Fall and Winter.

High Mountain Pines are all pines that grow in high elevations such as Ponderosa, Japanese White Pines, Scots Pine, Lodgepole Pines, Pinion Pine, etc.

These high mountain Pines are not normally de-candled either because they have a tougher time coming back from such a huge loss in foliage.  Many times, the branches that are de-candled tend not to grow a second set of candles and the tree becomes weak.  I have met several people who say they de-candled with, “good results,” on High mountain pines, but when I see the tree, they are always weak and not doing well.

There is a time though where we can potentially de-candle a high mountain pine but not for the same reasons that we do it for a Japanese Red/Black Pine. It’s mainly done to promote back budding. Due to the dangers of this technique, please ask me in person how this is done and if it can be applied to your tree.

Trees to Work on this Month

August is an easy month because just about every trees can be worked on except for Pines.  If the trees are worked hard at this time of year, be sure to protect the it from the heat for a few weeks.


If the leaves have hardened off from the last time you’ve worked on it, this could be the time to work on it again. Things we may do include, wiring, removing wire, cutting, thinning and defoliating.

Broadleaf Evergreens

This month you can treat the leafy evergreens the same as a deciduous. They too can be wired, cut, thinned and defoliated.

Conifers except Pines

If your conifers are growing healthy and strong and hasn’t been worked yet this year, then now is a good time to work on them.  We can wire, cut and thin the tree if needed.

Spider mites

Due to the heat and season, Spider mites are everywhere.  Be sure to have a preventive program set up to combat spider mites.  Use Merit insecticide and horticultural oil to keep them under control. The hotter the area, the more prevalent they are.  Make no mistake, they can turn your Pine, Oak, Juniper, a yellow or grey color in a matter of weeks!

If your tree is heavily infested with bugs or infected with fungus, keep them at home and treat the problem.  Don’t plan on working on the trees and just allow it to recover and grow before continue its bonsai development.  You’re fellow study group members will appreciate it as well.

Working on Healthy and Stable Trees

What ever tree you decided to bring to work on this month, be sure that it’s growing well.  There is no point in working on a tree that is sick or weak.  If the tree is sick or weak, then we have to first figure out why and what we can do to get the tree stronger before we continue its bonsai training.  Also, if you plan on wiring (stress) a tree, make sure it’s firmly planted in the pot and not moving around too much. If the tree starts to rock back and forth during the work, it’s just extra stress on the tree.

Hot Cars!

Be aware that your cars can get very hot inside when parked in the Summer sun.  Just like you wouldn’t leave your dog in the car with the windows rolled down, don’t leave your bonsai in the car without rolling the windows down.  If the outside temp is just 90 degrees, the inside can reach as high at 110 degrees within 10 minutes.  Imagine if the outside temp was 100 degrees?  Your trees will cook in these conditions so keep them safe and get those windows down or move them out of the car.

Study Group

We’re already half way through the year and it’s been great working with you all so far.  It’s been a pleasure for me and I’m excited to see you all continue to improve.  Take care, keep practicing, stay cool and I’ll see you all soon.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”

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