Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Acquiring a Bonsai-buying a trained tree

With the increasing demand for bonsai trees it is not surprising that more and more garden centres and florists are stocking
them.

Most of the trees being sold are of an excellent quality, but there are few points to bear in mind when buying. Although
bonsai trees imported from the Far East are thought to be expensive, a small tree, say a Mountain Maple or Fig of eight to ten
years, can be bought for approximately £20 fully potted up. Naturally enough, one can pay almost anything for a Bonsai, the
record price being over £100,000 in Japan for an exceptionally beautiful tree over five hundred years old.

Apart from the age and the shape of the tree, its general health is of the utmost importance. The soil should be damp but not sodden unless it has just been watered-certainly not rock-hard and dry. The leaves should look bright and healthy-not burnt around the edges or spotted. If one buys a deciduous tree in the Winter, examine the last year's growth to see that it is
smooth and plump, with no sign of the bark wrinkling.
The tree should be steady in the container in which it is growing. The container must have at least one drainage hole. Moss growing on the surface can either show that the tree has been in its pot for a number of months or years, or that the dealer has taken some trouble in its repotting. When buying a tree from a shop during the Summer, be sure to give it at least two weeks outside, avoiding heavy rain and high winds, before displaying it inside again.

If a tree has been bought from a shop or the show house of a Garden Centre during the Winter, do not allow it to be exposed to the frost for the rest of the season as it will probably have begun to shoot. This is most important with deciduous trees, and whilst varieties of Junipers are very hardy, it is, as well not to take any chances. They will, of course, benefit from the fresh air during milder weather.

Trees can be propagated by any of the normal methods; in other words, by seed, cuttings, layering, dividing, air-layering or grafting. Grafting, however, is not used very often as it tends to leave a scar around the trunk for a number of years. To reduce scaring I use Kiyonal Sealant. Kiyonal is the perfect substance for healing wounds on Bonsai. It forms a skin but stays
liquid underneath so will not crack away from parts of the wound. It will expand and contract with the different seasons.

Natural free
In Japan, the most admired bonsai trees are those that Nature has trained herself. Wherever
growing conditions are a struggle, the tiny tree that has fought for decades to survive the storms
and droughts might be found high in the mountains clinging to a cliff, or yen on a grassy
moorland constantly being pruned back by wild deer. When collecting from nature, there three
essential rules.

1. Find a suitable tree.
2. Always have the owner's permission before removing it.
3. Be sure that it can be looked after; trees from nature, nlcss little more than seedlings, need
almost constant care for the first few months, as the shock of transplanting will be considerable.

The best season to lift a wild tree is early Spring-March/April time. The tools needed re a small
spade or strong trowel, secateurs, a saw, a strong knife, plastic bags or polythene heeting,
Sphagnum moss, scissors, and string.

Dig a trench around the tree at the furthest extent of the branches (normal trees usually have
roots extending this far; dwarfed trees will often have roots that have been forced to seek out
nourishment much further from the main trunk). Avoid cutting roots over half an inch in diameter until the trench has been completed. All roots will be cut so that the cut plants in at the bottom helping to stop moisture lying on the wound. Once the trench is dug, cut all the roots over half an inch in diameter. If the soil is firm, grasp the root ball in both iands and gently rock it to and fro.

If there is no tap root the tree can be lifted almost straight out; otherwise the tap root should be
cut down as low as possible.

Inside or out?
The idea that bonsai trees can be permanent house guests is a fallacy that should never have
arisen. Most of them are hardy trees and shrubs whose natural homes is the open air. Others,
that come from the tropics and sub tropics. need protecting from the frost and these should be
kept in a warm environment during the winter months.

This can either be your house or a warm greenhouse. However even these need to go outside as much as possible during the summer months. Hardy bonsai trees should never be brought in the house for longer than a few days at a time. To extend the tree's stay inside for longer than four or five days can cause injury to the tree. In the Summer the plant must be able to carry out the process of photosynthesis: this is The production of plant food and oxygen from carbon dioxide when the sun activates the chlorophyll in the leaves.
During the Winter the plant is resting and building up reserves of energy for the coming growing season. Too long in a warm room will persuade it to start shooting as though it were Spring. But this does not apply to trees from the tropics that need an approximate minimum winter temperature of 5degrees F or 1 degree C, although temperatures in excess of 7OF or 2C can be detrimental. If a normally hardy tree is then exposed to a hard frost the results.

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