Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Bonsai Tree that hooked me.

After speaking to a few bonsai enthusisats I have found that almost every one has a tree thast is special to them for a particuler reason. For some its there first tree and others its one they have made a beauty of from what looked like nothing. With me the tree that hooked me is the first bonsai tree I owned and the one that got me in to bonsai.

I got in to bonsai after one of my customers gave me a badly neglected 30 year old seed grown Scotts pine. I have always had an admiration for bonsai trees but never took an active intrest in them until I mentioned to Mr Dart that the small pine he had resting up against his green house looked like it had seen better days. He told me it was his late wife who had grown it from seed and he, despite being a very keen gardener had never really put much thought in to the poor little fella. It wasn't even in a pot and was living in a plastic drip tray. Mr Dart said if I thought I could do anything with it I was welcome to take it on and give it a second chance.

Not being one to pass up on a challenge I took him up on his offer and took the tree home. So there the tree was in my garden through the coldest winter for years and I had not a clue what to do with it. I got a book out from the local library but I really didn't have the guts to take to the tree with any secateurs. I realised I needed some help! Luckily I have customer who is in to bonsai and has a lovely garden with some great trees in it that I have admired since I started cleaning her windows. I spoke to Mrs Scannell about the Scotts pine and she suggested I took it along to the bonsai club of which she is a member. Its the Wessex bonsai society who meets every month on the second Tuesday and then twelve days later on the Sunday for a workshop. I went along to the following Tuesday evening to find it was the only Tuesday through the year that is a workshop evening. Result! I took along the tree and no sooner had I walked through the door than a number of people had members had come over the table where I had settled. Mrs Scannell was there and she let people know I needed help in styling the sorry looking leggy tree I had on the table in front of me.

A chap who I was informed named Itilo started chopping away at the tree. Some of the members were gasping as he lopped off branches. I was amazed to see the tree going through the transformation as he wrapped lengths of brown wire all at diffrent lengths around the branches and then bend them in to shape. All the time other members were coming over and introducing themselves. Within an hour Itilo had finished the styling of my first bonsai tree and I felt like I had been made very welcome to club. I decided there and then that this would not be the last time I made an appearance at the Wessex Bonsai Society.

I was told to feed a small amount, half measure of grow more for a while until the tree was strong enough for potting. Itilo told me the tree will hopefully back bud to bring foliage further back up the long leggy branches and closer to the trunk. "This is the desired look" I was informed. He also said to give it a good 6 weeks after the shock the tree had gone through with the pruning.

When the 6 weeks were up I went along to Sunday workshop where I was helped by Manuel, another member at the Wessex Bonsai Society, to pot the Scots pine. Mrs Scannell informed me the best place to get a pot that wouldnt break the bank was from a member called Mo who makes them at her home. Mo and her husband David were kind enough to let me go to there home and chose a pot the Friday before the Sunday workshop so I could pot it there with the help from Manuel. But it turned out the pot was to shallow for a pine and not suitable. Luckily a really great guy named Tim who said hello on my first night at the club and had seen the tree when it got its initial styling had a great Japanese pot that he thought would suit it great. He had brought it along that Sunday with half a dozen of his old tools including branch cutters and knob cutters on the off chance I would be there. Tim said to me he remembered when he first started out in bonsai and other older members helped him out by handing down some old bits and bobs that they no longer needed having upgraded to better quality tools. He wanted to do the same. I am sure you will agree Tim is one in a million, I genuinely nice guy.

Manuel helped me make a soil mix he swears by of 5 parts horticultural grit, 2 parts John Innis number two, 1 part ericaceous compost and 1 part multi purpose compost. He put 3 parts grit in first then the soils and finished with the remaining 2 parts grit mixing all the way. Manuel said to do it in this order to help the grit mix in well with the soils and not end up with all the grit at the bottom.

I should of asked what to do with the tree in regards to maintenance because I when I got to tree home and started a fortnightly feeding program the tree really started to come to life and began shooting out these long shoots from the tips of the branches. Thinking these were undesired and having a misconception that bonsai was all about clipping back the new growth of a bonsai tree I cut them off. I have since found out that with this variety of pine it is best to leave these, what I now know to be called 'candles' to fully grow and then cut them back to the length of the shortest candle (end of June) to promote the tree to throw out new buds. Some of these new buds will hopefully be further up the branches as Itilo mentioned. I made a few mistakes in the first growing season but the tree looks to be in good health and hopefully next year I will be able to do it at the right time. I did get some back buds to which I cut the branches back to. I've been told I should of left them to start to candle next year like the tips of the others did and then cut them back but it don't look to have harmed the tree so I think I got away with that one.

It looks a bit diffrent now as I have had to remove the wire in July because it was cutting in quite bad in places. I was advised to take the wire off and let it rest for a bit until the autumn so have done just that.

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