Sunday, March 8, 2009

Displaying Your Bonsai Outdoors

Displaying Your Bonsai Outdoors aesthetics and bonsai should be displayed in an uncluttered environment where the details of the plant Remember that simplicity is very important in Japanese can be appreciated. This is, after all, a wonder of nature trees and shrubs made miniature. Gravel beds in the garden are good backgrounds for bonsai outdoors, and a simple stand or table before a blank wall makes an appropriate setting indoors.

Make sure that the front view faces the viewer. Your beautiful bonsai can greatly benefit by the right setting.

Outdoor Display
If you grow just a few bonsai plants, you will have no problem displaying them. All you need is something that elevates the pots so that you can view them from the front rather than from the top down. A patio bench, for example, will accommodate one or several bonsai plants, and can also define the edge of a deck or serve as seating.

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Benches and Shelves
You can put together a simple bonsai bench in a matter of minutes. Select a sturdy wooden plank, such as a 2 x 12, and raise it on concrete blocks, bricks, or flat stones. If you use slats (2 x 2’s, or 2 x 4’s) instead of a single plank, water will drain through the bench. If you display bonsai on helves placed against a wall or fence, remember that the heat reflection from lightcolored walls can seriously damage bonsai plants in the summer.
Make sure these displays are sheltered from direct sun during the warmest part of the day, usually late morning through afternoon.
Tables
Outdoor tables will certainly hold a collection of bonsais trees, but they may not display them to their best advantage as all the pots rest on the
same level. If you do keep your collection on a table, choose one just wide enough for three plants, then place the larger specimens in the center, with smaller plants on the outside rows. Stagger placement so that no plant is directly behind another one. For better display, construct a unit along the lines of a patio table that has built-in benches. Make the center section (table) just wide enough to hold a single or double row of plants; the two
lower sections (benches) can be just a bit wider to show off a number of smaller specimens on each side.

Outdoor Bonsai Maintenance Tips
• Don’t crowd bonsai plants. You should leave about 8 - 12 inches of space between the outspread branches of adjacent plants so that each plant can develop independently.
• Make sure the plants receive at least morning sun, more if climate permits. This is particularly important in spring when plants are putting out new growth.
• Rotate containers about a quarter turn in the same direction every other week to expose all sides to the same conditions. Otherwise, new growth will be strongest on the side facing the light while roots will tend to grow away from the sun.

The exquisite beauty of a bonsai tree well trained in a simple style, and growing vibrantly in a pot of suitable size and shape, can be the
focus of many happy hours of contemplation.

Specimens placed too close to a wall or fence can become onesided as rear branches dwindle from lack of light.
• Rotating small containers is easy; turning larger specimens is more difficult. Use a lazy susan-type turntable, and you’ll be able to turn the largest bonsai with the push of a finger.

Display Stands & Winter Shelter Display Stands. Keeping your collection of bonsai trees on a stand makes them easier to work with and to see, and gives protection from extremes of weather. The large design on the left is simple to build from wood, having a shade of timber battens and a slatted bench-top.

There is a shelf for miniature bonsai at the back and a tool drawer under the bench. In severe weather, the trees can be placed under the bench
and enclosed with heavygauge clear plastic sheeting (shown rolled).

Building A Display Stand.
The number of trees in your bonsai collection will determine the size of the stand. When calculating the dimensions, be sure to allow each tree plenty of space, and remember that small as they are, they do grow. To allow for easier working, the stand should be made a little higher than an indoor table. It should be made of good quality wood, treated with a preservative, or it could have a metal frame with a wooden top.

The trees can be placed on a gravel bed, as this cuts down on the need to water; but in this case they should be lifted every now and then to make sure the roots are not growing into the gravel. Above the stand, around the sides and at the back, a weather-shade of thin timber laths or canes should be made. Each strip should be secured an inch apart. This will help protect the trees from all extremes: hot sunlight, heavy rain, high winds, and even a certain amount of frost. For harder winter conditions the bottom of the stand can be enclosed and the trees placed inside.

Winter Care
Container plantings of any kind are more subject to damage from cold than plants growing in the ground. Containers just don’t hold enough soil to insulate plant roots. Where winter temperatures are frost free or relatively mild (above 20F or -7C) you can leave a bonsai outside if its normal display area is protected from wind.

Spreading straw or mulch around the pots also helps insulate the soil. An unheated greenhouse is ideal as a winter shelter since the plants receive good light, are somewhat protected from the cold, and with a door ajar or vents opened slightly, get plenty of air. You can devise a polyethylene plastic and wood greenhouse by extending a leanto from under house eaves. Leave all or part of one end open, unless winters are severe.

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Building A Cold Frame
With just a bit more effort you can build a simple cold frame - essentially a low greenhouse with a translucent hinged top. Placed against a south-facing wall and recessed into the ground it will keep plants dormant but not frozen (unless you live in the colder regions of Canada, for example).

Dig a rectangle about six to eight inches deep beside the wall. Using scrap lumber or plywood, build a frame with sides the slope down toward the front; a six inch slope is sufficient. Make sure the front is high enough (about 18 inches) to accommodate your shortest bonsai. Then set the frame againt the wall and spread 3 - 4 inches of gravel in the bottom.
Traditionally, old window Wind-swept style bonsai sashes formed the tops of cold frames, but you can also use clear plastic, fiberglass, or olyethylene plastic sheeting. In snowy areas, first cover the fame with fine mesh chicken wire or hardware cloth. Place the bonsai on the gravel base and surround and cover the pots lightly with straw. Close the lid for protection from extreme cold, opening it slightly for ventilation when the temperature is above freezing.

Winter Watering
During freezing weather, water your bonsai (if they need it) in the morning. This allows excess water to drain out before the temperature drops. Water-soaked soil expands as it freezes, which can cause containers to crack.



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