Bonsai for Beginners

“Bonsai is not a race, nor is it a destination. It is a never-ending journey.”

Don’t let the fact that ‘bon-sai’ is an art studied and refined for many centuries scare you off, because you are perfectly capable to learn how to grow Bonsai trees without green thumbs. Make sure to pick the right tree species for your surroundings and stick to the basic care guidelines.

Basics of Bonsai Aesthetics

Several aesthetic principles have been passed down through the ages, suggesting what’s attractive and what’s not. The most general principles focus on:

  • Form: The general shape or silhouette of the plant; usually an asymmetrical triangle with the leaves pointing upward.
  • Balance: Location of branches and foliage and location of the plant in its pot, avoiding perfectly symmetrical proportions in favor of natural proportions inspired by the golden ratio.
  • Proportion: Relationship of the elements to each other.
  • Line: How the apex (the tip) relates to the trunk.
  • Details: We’ve added this one ourselves in order to group several of the smaller things that make a nice bonsai. These elements include the size of the leaves, exposed roots or nebari, and how the base of the plant has been decorated.

Step 1 – Pick a Plant

Fall is the perfect time to shop the garden center and nursery for great starter plants for bonsai. While there are plenty of plants to choose from, (including many houseplant varieties), you might want to stick to evergreens such as:

  • Junipers
  • Pine
  • Yew

Look for plants in two gallon pots or smaller as these will be the easiest to handle. You might also check out our greenhouse for:

  • Ficus
  • Azalea (florist)
  • Schefflera
  • Jade

Step 2 – Shaping and Styling Techniques

Let’s begin with the single most important technique to Bonsai; pruning. Pruning is crucial in keeping trees miniaturized as well as to shape them. The goal is to create a Bonsai that resembles nature as close as possible. The spring and summer are the seasons to proceed with significant pruning; though this will depend on the type of tree you have. Make sure to buy a good concave cutter when pruning thick branches. The hollow wounds these cutters leave behind heal much better than normal cutters would.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s not a bad idea to study from the masters. Most styling is going to occur through selective pruning and trimming as well as wiring techniques. Here are some of the more traditional forms:

  • Formal Upright or Chokkan: A perfectly straight, upright trunk.
  • Informal Upright or Moyogi: The trunk may have a curve or slight slant.
  • Slanting or Shakan: A more severe curve, with the apex extending outside of pot.
  • Windswept or Fukinagashi: Similar to slanted but all branches and leaves look like they’re being blown to one side by the wind.
  • Cascade or Kengai: The trunk grows upward with an abrupt turn downward, sometimes extending far below the pot.
  • Semi-Cascade or Han-kengai: A trunk that grows upward then cascades slightly lower than the top surface of the pot.

Step 3 – Care & Maintenance

A crucial part of information about how to grow a Bonsai tree is its maintenance and care.

How often Bonsai trees need to be watered depends on a wide range of factors, including species of tree, pot-size, soil and climate. Over-watering can result in root-rot, one of the most common causes of death. However, as Bonsai are planted in such small pots they also tend to dry up very easily. Choosing the right soil mixture and re-potting regularly (on average every two years, to make sure the trees don’t become pot-bound, making it hard to soak up and store water) is crucial to keep your tree healthy. An important rule for watering is to check frequently on your tree (instead of simply watering it once per day), and when watering to do this thoroughly (to make sure the soil absorbs the water properly).

Besides watering and repotting, fertilization is another important thing to keep in mind. Since the trees are put in small pots, with few space and nutrients available, fertilizing regularly in the tree’s growth season is key to keep it healthy. Again, it depends on the tree species when, how much and how often it needs to be fertilized. The brand or type of fertilizer (fluid or solid) doesn’t matter all that much, as long as you make sure to apply smaller quantities than normal plants would require.

Step 4 – Placement

Finally, placing an outdoor tree inside (or vice versa) is a sure way to kill it. Before buying (or cultivating) a Bonsai, think where you like to place it! Sub-tropical trees generally need much light and relatively high temperatures and can only live outside if you live in a warm enough climate; these trees will do perfectly fine indoors though. In case you prefer an outdoor tree, a safe bet is to choose a tree that is indigenous to your environment. In case winters get very cold some additional protection from frost is required, since a Bonsai is put in a small pot.

Much of the information in this blog post is from: https://www.bonsaiempire.com/basics

For more information on pruning and wiring please watch this video…

 

Birds in the Garden: Creating a Haven for Colorful Birds in Your Yard

Birds bring many benefits to our lives. They fill our gardens with song, bring a spark of color and interest to our winter landscapes, and also eat many garden pests. Attracting birds to your landscape is fun. Their needs are easy to meet and just about everyone can achieve success by providing them with three basics things: shelter, water, and food.

If you have evergreen trees or shrubs, or maybe a tall canopy of shade trees, then you have the element of shelter. Birds need protection during feeding and bathing from cats and other predators. Try to position feeders and birdbaths close enough to natural shelter so that birds can perch safely between trips to the feeder, but yet far enough away so that they don’t make an easy target for the neighbor’s cat.

Water can be the most alluring aspect of your landscape. The sound of splashing water is relaxing and will also attract colorful birds. Birdbaths and small fountains are great accents for your yard and will provide your new guests with one of their most basic requirements. A shallow water source is all they need.

Consider placing your bird feeder adjacent to your water source. Once you have attracted birds to your yard, you don’t want to play hide-and-seek with the food source. Feeders can be hung from tree limbs, mounted on a freestanding pole, or even hung from the shepherd’s hook that held a hanging basket in spring. To stock your feeders, use birdseed mixes high in sunflower seed to attract the greatest variety of birds. Cardinals love black oil and striped sunflower as well as safflower seed. Suet cakes are great for woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Another helpful tip is to scatter some seed on the ground around your feeder. This will attract mourning doves and other ground feeders. It’s easy to create a safe haven for birds in your yard. The enjoyment they bring will last a lifetime. Put out your feeder today!

 

Six Steps to Renovating Your Lawn

Summer heat can take a toll on your lawns  The heat and dry conditions After a visit from the “lawn doctor” was the prognosis intensive care? Where is the green that lifts our spirits? The answer is in 6 easy steps to renovation your lawn. Maintaining a healthy turf is a great way to get outdoors. When you’re done, your turf will be in great shape and you’ll feel good too-a greener lawn & leaner you!

Let’s break it down. Take these steps, or only those you feel necessary, in the order shown:

Step 1: Dethatching. Thatch occurs in lawns as a build up of tillering that occurs with mature rhizomes. It is this internet or crossing of decomposing rhizomes that forms a mat in your turf just below the soil line. It should be removed with a dethatching machine or by mowing close to the ground and following with a stiff rake to tear up any remaining debris.

Step 2: Raking It’s not only great exercise for you, but really stimulates your turf while removing the old grass, crabgrass and weeds. Because thatch and weeds decompose slowly and might contain weed seeds, we recommend against composting this material.

Step 3: Aeration. This might just be the most beneficial aspect of the six steps. Punching holes, or coring your turf allows moisture, fertilizer and air to penetrate the soil. This can reduce the effects of soil compaction and allow for better drainage. This can be done mechanically by a lawn service or manually with a foot press aerator or a new pair of golf shoes that need breaking in.

Step 4: Seeding. For spot seeding many choose to use a blend of perennial ryegrasses. They germinate quickly, usually with 7-10 days, and provide quick cover for winter damaged areas such as entry ways, driveways and play areas. Choose a seed mixture that is right for your area. Blends are available in sunny, shady, or combination areas. Broadcast by hand or with a rotary spreader. Water in well, possibly daily until seedlings are well established.

Step 5: Fertilizing. For renovation your turf we recommend using a “starter” fertilizer. This provides a green-up, but also focuses on developing the root system, making your turf disease and drought resistant. Follow directions on bag for application instructions.

Step 6: Watering. This is probably the last thing you want to thing about now! However, a new lawn, whether it is sod or seed, should be watered consistently until well established. This might mean daily waterings. Following these simple steps can help your lawn look better than ever-and you’ll feel better too!

Crazy Pumpkin Carving Ideas

We thought we would share some of the most elaborate and create approaches to creating pumpkin carving masterpieces. Enjoy!

October Tips

 

  • Mulch in spring-planted trees and shrubs. Don’t permit them to get too dry; water them throughly and deeply
  • Start amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus for holiday blooms. (Allow 5-6 weeks for paperwhites and 12 weeks for amaryllis).
  • Apply fall lawn fertilizer at this time
  • Apply lime to lawns to raise pH. A 50# bag of lime will raise lawn pH about .5 point per 1000 sq ft.
  • Re-seed areas damaged by grubs with insect resistant seed varieties
  • Fall is a great time to start a compost pile. Start out with brown leaf and add the last few trimmings for nitrogen. Remember to alternate layers. Shred brown leaf to speed decomposition
  • Apply an anti-dessicant, such as Wilt-Pruf, to spring or fall planted broadleaf evergreens and specimen conifers. Make sure temperatures are above 50 degrees. Newly planted Arborvitaes could be wrapped in burlap to protect from snow load.

September Tips

Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, bareroot perennials and bulbs.

Start pansy & viola seed for bloom next spring

Watch your compost pile. This is a good time to add an activator for brown leaves & lawn trimmings

Check your lawn for grub activity. Sure signs are brown patches of lawn with turf that you can peel back. Another sign is increased activity of skunks, raccoons and moles in your lawn. Treat with dylox, oftanol or diazinon to eliminate grubs.

Plant spring flowering bulbs. Plan on the end of this month. Fertilize and water in well.

Plant fall pansy, flowering cabbage and kale. They all love the cooler night temps that come with autumn in New England.

Fall is a great time to seed or re-seed your lawn. Keep grass seed moist until germination occurs. Add weed-free straw or salt marsh hay to hold seed in place.

It’s Not Too Late To Mulch

Is it too late to talk about mulch? No, indeed! We’re coming up on the hottest part of the year when mulch can help keep roots cool and growing (remember – grow the roots, the rest of the plant will take care of itself) and when we need to conserve moisture.

Everyone asks how much mulch to apply and when to apply it. There are no right answers. It depends on several factors, including your soil, amount of rainfall, type of mulch, and how weedy the ground is.

Here are some guidelines:

  • For most mulches and soils, start with a layer 3-4 inches deep. Use newspaper as a decomposable barrier to keep weeds at bay.
  • If the soil is dry, water it before applying mulch to pull weeds easier.
  • Apply mulch just about anytime, remembering that if you mulch early in the spring, the ground might be slow to warm. If you mulch only in the winter to prevent heaving, wait until the ground freezes. Mulch could delay freezing of the ground, causing roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damaging them.

Sort through the mulch options and choose the right security blanket for your flowerbeds.

  • Dark-color mulches will absorb and retain more heat from the sun than light-color ones. This is an advantage in cooler regions but a disadvantage in hotter climates.
  • Light-color mulches (particularly decorative landscaping types, such as white stones) reflect light and heat and can dangerously overheat surrounding plants.
  • Some mulches won’t stay put. Gravel and stones creep onto lawns (and make tempting throwables for kids). Cocoa hulls blow away. Small bark chips can wash downstream in a heavy rain. In general, mulches with heavy or large pieces are more likely to stay put. Those that form a mat, such as leaves and pine needles, are usually stable, too.
  • Organic mulches, such as grass clippings, leaves, manure, and compost, improve the soil. Stones and plastic don’t. Black plastic, unless it’s porous or perforated, grows a smelly, slimy coating. It also turns brittle and breaks into little pieces that escape the garden. Cheap landscape fabric is not worth it — weeds and roots will tangle in it.

Keeping Them Lush and Blooming

Fertilizing plants can be a bit bewildering, but to get the most out of your plants, especially container plants, it is essential.  Have you ever wondered why some people and places seem to have larger, fuller plants?  The likely answer is regular fertilization and correct watering.  While many plants will do OK with little or no fertilizer, they will reach their full potential only with the correct nutrition.

If you are planting into the landscape add the appropriate amount of fertilizer into the hole before placing the plant (consult the package for specific amounts).  Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Roots can be burned by direct contact with slow release fertilizer.  If you are applying to an already established planting, top dress according to the directions on the package.

So should you use a water soluble or controlled/slow release fertilizer?  In general I think most people are best served using a controlled or slow release fertilizer.  You apply it once or in some cases twice a growing season and then just water as necessary.  You don’t have to mix up fertilizer every week or two and your plants should be perfectly happy.

There are times when it makes sense to supplement your controlled release fertilizer with an application or two of water soluble fertilizer.

If you have plants in pots that are “heavy” feeders (those that need a lot of nutrition), such as Supertunias®, you may want to use a water soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to boost the nutrition level.  Heavy feeders planted in the soil are taking advantage of the native fertility of your soil and shouldn’t need the extra fertilizer.

If you have gone through a long rainy period or had a very heavy rainfall, an application of water soluble fertilizer will return some nutrition to your potting mix (what was there has likely washed away in the rain) and help your plants rebound.

If your plants have grown very large supplemental water soluble fertilizer may help them maintain lush growth.

Plants will only need fertilizer during active growth periods.  So if the plants are dormant don’t bother feeding.  If the plants are actively growing you should be fertilizing.  Be careful not to over fertilize in early spring (only a problem with water soluble fertilizers) when cooler temperatures mean plants aren’t growing as much.

The Easy Way To Grow Roses

Until recently, many gardeners saw roses as too frustrating or time consuming for average people. Further, the amount of fungicides and insecticides required were not ecologically or economically friendly.

Fortunately, advances in rose breeding have changed all this, making roses something any gardener can enjoy. Often called shrub or landscape roses, these are bred for resistance to the many rose problems, including black spot and other diseases.

Low-Maintenance Roses For Everyone

These landscape shrub roses were a small percentage of the rose market in the 1990s, but today are exploding in popularity. The reason? These new shrub roses don’t require spraying, harsh chemicals, pruning or lots of water. They are also tough as nails, surviving the hottest summers and harshest winters.

Easy Does It

The Oso Easy® series from Prov­en Winners is known for its disease resistance. These roses also don’t require any spraying or pruning. Each rose in the series has green glossy foliage complementing the bright flower color.

Knock Out Roses

Perhaps the best-known landscape rose, ‘Knock Out’ bears masses of cherry-red blooms over dark red foliage. It’s disease resistant and blooms all season long.

Home Run Roses

Like its father (Knock Out), Home Run has excellent resistance to black spot. Unlike Knock Out, Home Run is also completely resistant to powdery mildew and has a higher level of tolerance to downy mildew as well.

Enjoyment All Summer

Shrub roses are easy to grow and are low maintenance. They are also ecologically—and pocketbook—friendly because they don’t require spraying. They work for mixed borders and beds and are compact enough to plant near walkways and other tight spots.

Roses need five to six hours of direct sun each day, so make sure you don’t plant in full shade. Avoid planting your roses beneath eaves or gutters so they are not damaged by falling water. These shrub roses don’t require heavy pruning, but you can prune to your preferred shape in spring.

Courtesy Proven Winners

Pizza Planter

They say the way to Dad’s heart is through his stomach, so why not say Happy Father’s day this year with a ‘Pizza Planter’? It is a fun and playful way to tell all the Dads out there how much you care – plus who can resist pizza? The key to this planter is combining all the elements into one planter, or a cluster of planters. So what makes a perfect pizza? It must have tomatoes, peppers and plenty of tasty herbs. We’ve selected some basic herbs for our planter, but you can let your imagination go wild with some tantalizing combinations including cilantro, parsley, hot peppers, plus a wide variety of basils.

Putting it all together is simple and straightforward. Plant your tomato in the center of the planter and place your pepper plants at around 4 and 8 o’clock (as you look at a clock face) and place the basil at 6 o’clock. You can tuck the rest of the herbs around the backside. Don’t be afraid to pack that planter. You’ll want to include a tomato cage to keep things tidy as your garden grows.

Planter Types –

  • Whisky Barrel
  • Plastic Planter
  • Stacked Pots
  • Set of Pots

Plants –

  • San Marzano Tomato (roma or other patio size)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Peppers

Soil – Organic is best. You’ll want soil that will drain well. We carry a great selection that are perfect for this project. Stop by and talk with our staff. You should include either a granular or time released fertilizer that will keep those plants fat and happy.

Making the pizza together is something you can do as a family making it the perfect Father’s Day present!