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.

Preparing Your Fall Garden Beds

Are you overloaded with new ideas for perennial beds and borders after visiting friends or public display gardens? Seen lots of unfamiliar and interesting new plants at the nursery? If so, fall is an excellent time to prepare fall garden beds for planting now or in the spring. The cooler temperatures, weaker sunlight and shorter days of fall mean less energy goes into top growth and more into establishing a strong root system. Planting in this area can usually continue through October.

After choosing the proper plants for your location-taking into account plant hardiness and the amount of available light-the most important thing you can do to insure success is to properly prepare your soil.

After marking off the area, you need to rid it of perennial weeds. Rototilling will only increase your weed crop, so you will need to carefully pull all underground stems and roots. Be sure to also remove any additional roots you find when you turn the soil over.

The soil you’re aiming to create should hold moisture, but also be well drained. If it doesn’t drain well now, it probably has high clay content. The actual soil particles are very small and pack together very closely, suffocating and drowning plant roots. Adding gypsum to clay soil can help break it up.

If your soil drains very quickly and you need to water frequently, it is probably sandy. Soil particles are relatively large and fit together loosely. Plants rarely drown in sandy soil unless the area is low-lying or the water line is high. In this instance it would be best to make a raised bed.

The solution, both for maintaining good drainage, and moisture retention, is generous amounts of organic matter. It separates clay particles, creating air space, and holds water and nutrients in sand. Good sources of organic matter are finished compost, well-decomposed manure, leaf mold and damp peat moss. These should be incorporated into the soil when it is turned over to a depth of 12″ or more. At this time you can also remove any sizable rocks, roots or other debris.

Most perennials grow best in a soil that is slightly acid to almost neutral-a pH of about 5.5-6.5. Most soils in this area are probably very acid and will need to have lime added every 2-3 years.

If you prefer to estimate your fertilizer needs, there are a few things to keep in mind. Phosphorous, and some of the trace elements, even when present in the soil in sufficient quantities, are only available to plants within a fairly narrow pH range. Keeping your soil pH at 5.5-6.5 should be adequate for most plants.

Fertilizers can either be natural, or you can use dry or granular fertilizers that are either quick or slow release. You can use either type if you are going to plant now. If you are going to delay planting until spring, wait and add the fertilizer then unless you are using natural fertilizers which break down slowly and will not leach out readily.

Natural fertilizers should be incorporated into the soil when you turn it over, especially phosphorous (bone meal, rock phosphate), as it doesn’t move readily through the soil. Dry or granular fertilizers can be sprinkled on the surface and raked into the top few inches of soil.

Happy Planting!