Category Archives: Peter Tea’s Monthly Write-Ups

Peter Tea’s September Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai

September 2014

Last Call for Deciduous Trees

Now that September is here, we are going to change the pace and work on some of our other types of trees. Since the Fall is cool like Spring, it allows us to apply certain techniques this time of year that we normally apply in the Spring. Think of Fall as a mini Spring.

For the most part, the first half of September is just about the last time we can work on our deciduous trees until they turn color in November or December. The reason for this is because any later than September and the new foliage will not have enough time to harden off before Winter arrives. The new tender foliage will start to freeze and significantly weaken the tree. This also goes the same for fruiting and flowering type trees.

High Mountain Pines

September is the first month we can start working on High Mountain Pines. September thru February is the time we can wiring, cutting and removable of old needles. Towards February we can repot the tree as well though I don’t recommend wiring and repotting the tree at the same time. September is also the time to start feeding High Mountain Pines. This is especially important because the food you give it will determine how well the tree grows the following Spring.

Grafting

Fall is a great time to perform side grafting on conifers, such as Junipers and Pines. This is where you cut new growth off the tree and graft it into the interior of the tree. As long as your Winters aren’t too severe, grating is very safe and sometimes preferable to Spring grafting. Just be sure that your tree is healthy before you start to graft. If your  Winters are especially cold, then hold off till February. If the night time temps drops below freezing consistently, then your Winter is too harsh for grafting.

If you plan too or like to learn how to perform a side graft at the next workshop, be sure to have the following tools and materials for the process. Fall grafting can be done in September and October.

Tools and Materials needed for side grafting:

Japanese Grafting Knife                                                                                                       Garden Type tape (thinner is better than thicker versions)                           Cotton Balls                                                                                                                                 Small plastic baggies                                                                                                               Liquid cut paste                                                                                                                         Cups to hold water                                                                                                                   Small flat wooden block                                                                                                         Roll of painters tape

Repotting Junipers

Juniper repotting can be done in the Fall as well. We can do it either in September or October. Again, if your Winter is too harsh, then wait till February to repot. If the night time temps drops below freezing consistently, then your Winter is too harsh for repotting. Here are a list of tools and materials you will need for repotting.

Tools and Materials needed for repotting:

Pliers                                                                                                                                                 Root Scissors                                                                                                                               Root Cutters                                                                                                                                 Root rake                                                                                                                                       Bent nose tweezers                                                                                                                 Aluminum wire (1.5 mm to 2.5mm depending on the side of the tree)   Brush                                                                                                                                                 Screen (for drain holes)                                                                                                         Suitable size pot                                                                                                                         Soil                                                                                                                                                     Soil scoop                                                                                                                                       Soil sifter                                                                                                                                         Soil Tamper

For those that would like a review of repotting, please refer to the January and February write-ups for 2014.

Trees to Work on This Month

We can work on just about any tree this month except for Japanese Red/Black Pines. The next time to work on them is in November.

Sharpening Tools

At some point we all have to sharpen our tools. For the next few months, I will bring my sharpening tools and show study group members how I sharpen my tools. Having sharp tools is important because clean cuts always heals better than rough cuts. When tools are dull, they tend to crush more than cut. The crushing effect will cause the branch to die back more than normal and in some cases, cause the branch to die off completely. Also, using dull tools causes more hand fatigue than using sharp tools. Since Bonsai is already hard enough, lets try not to make it harder for us and use nice sharp tools.

If you need any tools or supplies for repotting or grafting, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help you find them.

See you all at the workshop!

Peter Tea’s August Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai

August 2014

Peak of Summer

We’re now heading into the hottest month of the year. I hope that you and your trees are keeping hydrated. August can be a challenging month for many of us. Some of us have to water our trees twice a day now due to the heat. The heat also makes it difficult for us to stay focused on what needs to be done and what can be done to the trees. We already have a hard time being outside in the heat, let alone work on trees at that same time. Some of us on the other hand loves the warm weather and are the most active during this time of year. Which ever applies to you, it’s important to understand how our trees are taking this heat and figure out what can be done to them during this month.

Watering

Many trees tend to slow down in growth during the hottest month of the year to protect themselves. It’s sort of a mini dormancy they go through just like Winter dormancy. For those of us that live in cooler areas, the tree will continue to grow throughout the Summer. Just because our trees are in a short dormancy doesn’t mean they require less water. Watering is very crucial at this time of year because our trees will quickly deteriorate if not properly hydrated. Be sure to check your trees and get a feel for how much water they are using and adjust your watering schedule. Even if your trees are not pulling water, evaporation is taking place so be sure to keep the trees hydrated.

Overhead watering

Take care not to overhead water your trees during the hot months. If the foliage is exposed to water during the middle of the day, the Sun light could be magnified and cause damage to the foliage. Stick to watering the soil only. In this way, the foliage stays healthier and can produce more food for the tree.

Heat Related Pest

The biggest pest issues we have during the Summer is going to be Spider mites. They mostly attack our pines, juniper and oaks, though they will attack a whole array of trees species. The hotter it gets, the more aggressive the spider mites will get. Be sure to keep up your pest protection, be it either chemical pesticides or horticultural oil type sprays. Trees that are allowed to dry out too much during the Summer will weaken and Spider Mites tend to seek them out first. So be sure to keep up on the watering and examine your trees closely.

Trees to Work on this Month

Many of us believe that August is not the month to work on many trees. That is not the case. Though after working on our trees, we do have to protect them from the sun for several weeks before putting them back in the sun. During this month, we can work on any tree except for Black/Red Pines. If your high mountain pine foliage has hardened off, then we can work on them as well though normally, the foliage wouldn’t have hardened off till September.

Deciduous

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

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.

Hiking in the Mountains

For those that like hiking in the mountains, August is a great time for that. At higher elevations, the temps are cool and very pleasant. If you have free time this month, try to plan a trip to the Sierras and see how different trees grow in the mountains. This is a great way to get some fresh air, exercise and study all at the same time. A quick search online will get you started to some great places to hike. If you do decided to go on a hike, always be sure to carry enough water with you, have good hiking shoes and maybe a walking stick for extra support.

August vs. September and beyond

Not much has changed this month versus the previous months but it will once we head into September. During that time we can really start working on our high mountain pines and start grafting certain trees. We can even repot Junipers during that month. Just hang in there for one more month and we’ll be moving on to other techniques and a change in pace.

I hope all of you are doing well. I’ll see you all at the workshop!

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.

Temperature

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.

Watering

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.

Deciduous

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.”

Peter Tea’s June Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai

June 2014

May Write-Up

The May Write up is important for this month as well so please review it again before our next workshop together. If you feel you understand it and don’t have to review it, then you definitely need to review it again. 😉

Japanese Black Pine and De-candling

For many of us in the Bay area, June is the time to De-candle our Japanese Red/Black Pines. For others living in warmer climates such as Sacramento or Fresno, de-candling starts in July.  So why the difference?

De-candling is one of very few techniques we perform solely based on the time of year.  Depending on how long our growing season is, the time to de-candle will shift.  Also, the size of our tree and age will determine if we de-candle early in the month or later in the month.

A few years ago, I wrote an extensive blog post about the concepts of de-candling.  Instead of re-writing it all here, please visit that post to get a refresher in how and why we de-candle our Japanese Red/Black Pines.  In the post, there are plenty of pictures of the process and what the tree does afterwards. If you still have questions, please feel free to email me.

http://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/de-candling-and-stuff/

**If you plan to de-candle your Japanese Red/Black Pine, you have the option to wire the tree at that time as well.  If the de-candling is partial, you can still wire the tree but have to be extra careful not to break any sensitive candles or needles. The safest time to wire the tree is during the Winter.**

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

If you don’t plan to work on or have any Japanese Red/Black Pines, then here are some other tree species to work on this month:

Any tree except for High Mountain Pines.

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.

I hope that you all are staying cool and hydrated. I’ll see you all at the workshop!

 

Peter Tea’s May Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai

May 2014

Deciduous Time!

Now that we’re into May, it’s time to work on many of our deciduous/fruiting and flowering trees. The Spring growth will have hardened of by now which is a great time to start wiring, cutting and maybe defoliating the tree.

Throughout the late Spring, Summer and early Fall is when the majority of deciduous trees are worked on. Unlike confers where we work on them for a day and sit them on a bench for several months, deciduous trees require much more of our attention (because they grow faster). The working time tends to be shorter but the interval of work is much closer.  Example: We defoliate, cut and wire a Trident Maple this month.  Within a month, the wire will have to be removed and the tree possibly defoliated and cut again.

Defoliation and some Misconceptions:

First off, not every deciduous tree needs to be defoliated.  There are also species out there that will not take kindly to defoliation at all (e.g. hornbeam beech, Japanese Maple), especially if the defoliation is complete.  Defoliation isn’t only done on deciduous trees either.  There are other broad leaf evergreens that can take defoliation (Oaks, Silverberry and ficus are a few examples).

So what is Defoliation and what does it do for us?

1. slows the tree down

2. allows light into the tree

3. new leaves will come out smaller

4. allows for ease of wiring

Those are the 4 main reason why we choose to defoliate. If your current goals don’t match up with any of the 4 reasons, then don’t defoliate.

Example: We want a branches to grow out and get stronger. We don’t defoliate that branch because it will slow the growth down.

Misconceptions: Cutting back vs. Defoliation

The biggest misconception to defoliation is that it will give you back budding.  Back budding is not caused by defoliation, but by the cutting back of branches.  We can cut the tree back without defoliating and back budding will occur.  Keep defoliation and cutting back into two separate categories to help ease the understanding of defoliation.

Wiring

If you plan on wiring your trees this month, be sure to bring the proper wire size ranges.  Aluminum wire should be used for deciduous and broadleaf evergreens, whereas copper should be used for conifers.

Air-layering

For those that missed the early Spring Air-layering window, this month or next month is a good time to do it.

If you plan to air layer, you will need the following items:

Grafting knife

Sphagnum moss

Root cutter or Knob cutter

Aluminum Wire

Plastic growing pot (to put around the air layer)

Bonsai soil

Black marker

What to work on:

During this month, we can work on deciduous and broad leaf evergreens. We can also worked on Junipers as well.  Work includes, wiring, cutting and styling.  Certain trees may be ready for defoliation.

I would not recommend working on any types of pines or needle based trees this month because the new grow is very sensitive and can easily break off.

For High mountain pines such as Japanese White Pine, Ponderosa, lodgepole, etc, wait till the new needles have hardened off before working on them. For most of us, that time will be about September.

For other needles based trees such as spruce and cedar, wait till those needles have hardened off before working on them.  For most of us, that is closer to the end of May or in June.

Notice I use the term, “hardened off,” many times?  That’s an important term because it is a good indication when we can work on many different trees. It’s also much more precise and safe then following a month base schedule.

For Japanese Red and Black Pine, the schedule is very different because of de-candling and does not apply to the concept stated above.  De-candling is based on time of the year versus anything, “hardening off.”  Assuming the Red/Black pine needs de- candling, we can do that either in June or July depending on your weather.  I will go deeper into the concept next month.

Watering

As always, be aware of how wet or how dry your trees are and water accordingly.

Recognize which trees like water (deciduous) and which trees don’t like water (high mountain pines).  Training your eyes and recognizing your tree’s water consumption rate will also help you see if there are any problems as well.  You may notice that a tree that normally takes a lot of water isn’t taking as much any more.  Is there a problem developing or is it because the tree was recently cut back?

There is a lot of information in your yard that you can learn from. It’s just a matter of recognizing that the information is there and your willingness to see it and process it.

Saving Water

A study group member a few weeks ago asked me if there were some tips that I can give about saving water because of our current drought conditions.  Many cities are implementing water rationing and restrictions so for some of us, there isn’t much choice in the matter. Working together to save water is important and it will help us all get through the drought and perhaps get us to recognize where the waste are.

So here are some suggestions to saving some water in reference to your bonsai.

1. Don’t water the tree till you see water running out of the drain holes.  All that water coming out is the excess and is wasted. Just water the top of the tree and move on to the next tree.  Water does eventually make its way to the bottom.  You can get a feel for this process by watering the trees a little less, wait about 5 minutes and then checking the trees to see how much water is coming out the bottom of the pot.  If there is a lot of water coming out, then cut back the watering.  If there is no water coming and you can see that the soil at the bottom is dry, then water more.  If only a few drops of water is coming out then you are just about there.  Perfect would be if no water came out of the drain holes but you can see that the soil at the bottom is damp.

2. Control how much water your nozzle releases.  Some nozzles spray a very high volume of water.  Normal operating nurseries will use nozzles like that because of the volume of trees they have.  It’s fast and really drenches everything. Unfortunately, it also consumes a lot of water.  For your bonsai, try using nozzles that output less water to reduce the waste. The down side is that it may take you much long to water your trees.

3. Tree reduction. Of course, nobody wants to just throw away a tree. But for many of us, there are bonsai in our yards that we don’t do anything with.  Some things may have been sitting there for 10 years getting watered with no bonsai future in sight.  Though sensitive to the heart, perhaps this is the time to go through your collection and reduce the trees that don’t have much of a future in bonsai and taking up space.  I think we all have those trees that may have died a long time ago and we still end up watering them every day just because we didn’t take the time to throw them away.

4. Of course, for those of us that have large grass lawns, just reducing the watering schedule there could save enough water so that we don’t have to worry too much about water consumption in our bonsai.  Up to 50 percent of water used for outside irrigation is lost due to wind, evaporation and runoff.

See you all soon!

Peter Tea’s April Write-Up

PeterTeaBonsai.com

April 2014

Spring

Spring is officially here, but for many of us in bonsai, that doesn’t necessarily mean a specific time of year.  Depending on when our trees start to push new growth can signify Spring for that particular tree.  For some, deciduous trees are just starting to push new growth, whereas for others, the tree has fully leafed and hardened off.

April can be a tricky month to work on trees sometimes.  Certain trees during the first months of Spring really don’t like to be worked on.  A very good example is High Mountain Pines such as Ponderosa or White Pines.  Once the candles on those trees start growing, it’s about the worst time to wire them.

On the other hand, there are many trees that can handle work in the Spring just fine because they are so much stronger.  Trident maples, Olive and Junipers just to name a few, though we do still have to be careful not to damage the new sensitive growth.

April Pinching

In Spring, you will hear a lot of people talk about the concept of pinching.  It can reference deciduous trees such as Japanese Maples or conifers like Junipers.  Sometimes there is a lot of confusion around the subject because everyone has an opinion about it.  Most will say it’s a good thing to do whereas others will say it’s a very bad thing to do.  Lets not approach pinching in that fashion. Instead of looking at it as good or bad, lets try to understand what it’s all about.  Cutting and pinching are essentially the same thing.  Depending on the timing of the cut, the word cutting or pinching is used.  Cutting usually requires scissors whereas pinching requires our fingertips.

Normally, pinching techniques are applied to refined trees. This is a way of slowing growth, to create density at the branch/foliage tips and maintaining shape during the growing season (Note I didn’t saying anything about back budding). If the tree is not refined or correctly developed, normally, pinching isn’t done. Trees in branch develop stages require more substantial cutting than pinching techniques.

Note that I underlined the word, “Normally.” During our workshop this month, I will discuss when we move out of the normal ranges and find ways of using pinching techniques to achieve a certain goal we have for our trees. We will also discuss how to properly pinch trees in normal circumstances.  (There is a normal pinching technique that is done on more developed White Pines during this month.  If you have one, bring it to the meeting and we’ll talk more in depth about it)

Ready or Not Ready

There are many trees we can work on this month. It just depends if they are ready for the techniques we apply to them.

Junipers – Can be thinned out and wired.

Deciduous trees and Leafy Evergreens – Can be cut and wired only if the leaves have hardened off. If the leaves have not hardened off, only cutting should be done.

Pines or Pine like trees – This month is not a good time to work on any pines

Air-layering

Air-layering on Deciduous trees should only be done either before the leaves come out, or after the Spring leaves have hardened off.  Air-layering a Maple in the middle of its Spring push is extremely stressful for the tree and may kill it.

For April, if the leaves have hardened off on your Maples, then you can air layer the tree. If not, hold off till the leaves do hardened off. Most maple leaves will have hardened off by May.

If you plan to air layer, you will need the following items:

Grafting knife

Sphagnum moss

Root cutter or Knob cutter

Aluminum Wire

Plastic growing pot (to put around the air layer)

Bonsai soil

Black marker

Wiring

If you plan on wiring your trees this month, be sure to bring the proper wire size ranges.  Aluminum wire should be used for deciduous and broadleaf evergreens, whereas copper should be used for conifers.

Water Consumption

This part was in last months write up but still important for this month as well.

Once the weather start to warm and Spring is in full effect, the trees will start to pull large amounts of water.  We will see our soils drying out faster which requires us to water our trees more often.  Keep an eye out on your trees and be sure to water them when they need it. This is especially a sensitive time for trees that have just been repotted.  If the soil gets too dry, the tree may die due to the sensitive root system.

Remember to only water trees when they need it. Take time this year to really understand how much water each tree takes during the different seasons and adjust accordingly.  Having said that, I do understand that many of use cannot water our trees at the perfect time due to work or other aspects of our lives.  Do the best that you can and come up with a strategy to fit both the trees and your personal schedules.

See you all soon!

Peter Tea’s March Write-Up

PeterTeaBonsai.com

March 2014

Re-Potting

March is still a good month to repot.  Most of us have already repotted our deciduous trees and they should start to, if not already, leaf out. If your deciduous trees have not leafed out yet, then you can still repot them this month.

March is a good month to repot our conifers and evergreen trees. Even if some of them have started pushing, it is still okay to repot them. Just be aware that if the tree is starting to grow, you should not be as aggressive with the roots.

Re-potting as a Technique

Repotting is just like any other bonsai technique we use to develop our trees. Think about how you can use repotting to attain your bonsai goals.

Example 1:  Refined Deciduous trees are repotted every year to slow down vigorous Spring growth.

Example 2:  Refined Conifers are allowed to become root bound to slow down vigorous Spring growth.

Two examples of how repotting or the lack or repotting will help in slowing the growth of a type of tree. Of course, that’s only if your goal is to slow the tree down. What if your goal is to increase the growth of the tree? Then the technique is going to change.

In the case of Example 2: repotting conifers more frequently yields a stronger and more vigorous growing tree.  Again, think about what the current goals of the trees are and apply the necessary repotting schedule to achieve that goal.

Example 3: Trees that are in soil mixes that holds water for longer periods of time will grow slower.

Example 4: Trees that are in soil mixes that holds water for shorter periods of time will grow faster.

Repotting and soil medium is a fundamental part of bonsai and should not be overlooked in your path to creating beautiful bonsai. You may just find that it’s the reason why our trees are not developing the way we want them to, or the quality of the tree is no longer increasing year after year.

Spring

Spring is right around the corner and for many of use, we’re already seeing its effects on our trees. Its an exciting time because we’re starting to see our trees grow again and a sign of relief that we didn’t kill our trees during the repotting process (joke).

Deciduous – Other than pruning to focus growth onto certain areas, there isn’t much to do with deciduous trees this month.

If the tree is finely ramified, and you’re trying to control growth, then now is a good month to pinch the tree back.  Pinching should only be done on ramified trees. If the tree is still in development, hold off working on it till the Spring leaves have hardened off (around April-May).  Do not air layer deciduous trees if they have already started pushing new growth.

Conifers – For this month, conifers can still be repotted, cut back and wired. When wiring, be careful not to disturb the new growth. Some of them can be very soft and will break off easily.

Do Not wire high mountain pines during this month if the candles are starting to extend.  (High mountain pines are any pine species that grow in high elevations) Wiring and bending high mountain pines when the candles are growing is extremely stressful to the tree and can cause die back of the branches or total death of the tree. You can still lightly prune, pull needles and repot the tree if needed.

Broad Leaf Evergreens – This month is still a good time to work on any type of leafy evergreen. We can repot, prune and wire the tree during this month. Many people like repotting their Oak trees during this month as well.

Water Consumption

Once the weather start to warm and Spring is in full effect, the trees will start to pull large amounts of water.  We will see our soils drying out faster which requires us to water our trees more often.  Keep an eye out on your trees and be sure to water them when they need it. This is especially a sensitive time for trees that have just been repotted.  If the soil gets too dry, the tree may die due to the sensitive root system.

Remember to only water trees when they need it. Take time this year to really understand how much water each tree takes during the different seasons and adjust accordingly. Having said that, I do understand that many of use cannot water our trees at the perfect time due to work or other aspects of our lives. Do the best that you can and come up with a strategy to fit both the trees and your personal schedules.

See you all soon!