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Sep. 18, 2021 @




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Author: Paul Fix

Sea Green Juniper

In Bonsai on Sep. 09, 2021by Dave Manuel Comments: 0
I recently purchased this Sea Green Juniper (Juniperus pfitzeriana) for $30. It is 24" tall by 40" wide (ground up). There are a few examples of this tree as a bonsai, but overall, it is not overly used. I would appreciate advice, insight, suggestions (sympathy?) from FWBS members. Many thanks......Dave Manuel

July Bonsai
In Bonsai on Jul. 01, 2021by admin Comments: 0
July and August are usually the two most stressful months for bonsai in our neck of the woods but this year has been different, so far. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and be ready to change your habits. Going into July and August and usually later you will need to keep your bonsai as cool as possible. That means no sun on the pot and soil where the roots are. Without going into a lot of detail some considerations you will be looking at are:

  1. Shade cloth.40% for pines, junipers, tridents. 50% for less tough plants. 60% on the west side.
  2. Water schedule. At 2pm to cool the soil, at sundown to cool soil and refresh overnight, morning as necessary. This is optimum. You must adjust that schedule and soil mix to work with your schedule.
  3. Soil covering. Chopped long fiber sphagnum to retain moisture also helps keep soil cooler.
  4. Protect from late afternoon sun. Low humidity lets the full force of the heat come through.
  5. Consider foliage misting especially on junipers. Many species in the wild open stoma at night to take in dew. Some broadleaf plants do foliage feeding, usually for localized needs in the area of the leaf.
  6. Keep insects under control especially the sucking ones-mites and scale.
  7. Pot protection. Shade sides of pot. Use old cloth, shop towels, make boxes to fit. Some air circulation around the pot should be allowed.

We usually do not fertilize our bonsai enough. However during these hot days you need to exercise care. Slow release organics are best. Chemical fertilizers may burn roots if the soil temperature (remember the sun factor) gets too warm, probably like upper 90s or more, be sure to read the label for guidance. Most recommendations are to feed the trees with organic fertilizer balls. Many are available commercially or you can make your own, depends on how many bonsai you have. Even with the fertilizer balls I like to give a feeding with a liquid fertilizer every other week also.

Also watch for signs of insect problems. The spider mite will always be near. Others to look for are scale of various forms, aphids, bagworms, and mealy bugs. Preventative medicine is best, spray on a regular schedule. By the time you see signs of bugs, the damage is already done, especially from spider mites. I use the organic foliar feed (1 Tablespoon each of fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses and 5% apple cider vinegar per gallon water) applied weekly to control all these. You can use some of the other organic controls or a chemical according to label directions. Read the label directions carefully. Do not apply oil based chemicals to buttonwoods. A hose end sprayer does not work very well, its droplets are too large and you have little control over where it goes. Use a pump sprayer with a fine spray and cover both top and bottom of leaves, trunks and all twigs. Most controls, whether chemical or organic, must be done on a regular schedule for good control. If you wait until you see damage it is usually too late.

When checking the results on your plants after spraying remember that the spray usually will not remove the 'evidence' of problems. The webs will still be there after the mites are killed, the shells of the scale will be attached to the leaf or stem. These will have to be removed by hand, by a jet of water, or some other way. A soft toothbrush works well on the scale shells. There is no damage from this leftover evidence but it prevents you from seeing any new infestation that may occur.

Be careful when pruning the spring flowering species. They will set buds for next year's flowers in the fall. The Kurume azaleas set their buds in July and the Satsuki a little later in August. You need to find out if your particular flowering tree blooms on new or old wood and when it sets buds so you can keep it in shape and yet will not prune next year's flowers off.

Tropicals, buttonwoods, fukien tea, serissa, fig, etc., should be repotted during the summer while they are growing strong.

When the humidity is low, I mist my junipers in the evening. I believe the story that in the wild junipers open their stomata in the cool of the evening absorbing any dew that may occur and close in the heat of the day to conserve moisture. The other species may get a foliage spray in the morning.

The humidity in summer varies quite a bit but when it sticks around for a few days look for fungal problems to appear, mildew being the most prevalent. Black spot will show up if the foliage stays wet very long. Foliage watering in the morning will usually not be a problem because it dries pretty quickly. Treat with potassium carbonate which you can find at any nursery with a decent organic section. There are several chemical sprays available too.

If you use the Boon technique for growing pines, now is the time for removing the candles, earlier on bigger trees later on smaller ones.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015

June Bonsai
In Bonsai on Jun. 01, 2021by admin Comments: 0
Hopefully with all this rain this year you have checked your bonsai to be sure they drain properly. Very few plants will take any length of time in a pot full of water.

Even so you must get your trees prepared to take on the Texas summer. Remember that the biggest stress on potted plants comes from the soil being heated, especially by the late afternoon sun slanting in under the shade cloth and foliage. The low humidity in the afternoon does little to stop the heat. You need to provide good shade on the west side. Two waterings are sometimes needed--one about 2pm to cool the soil and provide for evaporative cooling and another later about sundown to get the soil temp back down and to allow the plant to be able to rest at night.

Leaf pruning should not be considered a yearly task. It usually should be done only as needed and only on very healthy trees. Broadleaf evergreens would not get it. I usually consider Memorial Day as the end of leaf pruning.

If you think you need to leaf prune, you probably can still do it but need to be careful, it could turn hot in a hurry. The tree needs time to replace the energy used to grow new foliage. I have done it on Shumard oaks successfully. Again never leaf prune the atropurpeum varieties of Japanese maples, they dont rebud very well.

When night temperatures stay above 60 degrees you can think about repotting some of the tropicals. I would wait another month though for the buttonwood.

However, some tropicals can be leaf pruned all summer. The Ficus nerifolia especially benefits by leaf pruning and can be done more than once each summer. That will develop the heavy twiginess you see in the Ficus bonsai from the Far East.

As the summer progresses the growth of the deciduous trees will sometimes slow also. But you still need to keep an eye out for errant shoots. Keeping a clipper with you when watering would let you take care of most of them. Just like in the spring a shoot too long will thicken the twig too much. The major pruning chore is now transferred to the tropicals.

Tip pinching on some flowering species like the crape myrtle will result in fewer flowers but if you let it go they get out of shape. I prefer to try to balance the flower/design question by pinching early. This provides more growing tips to divide the energy and the resulting flower is shorter. It is less showy but more in scale.

Also, if you have fruiting bonsai, you should reduce the number of fruit on the tree. The number one goal of the tree is to provide seeds for reproduction and it will starve itself in order to do so. Again, most fruit are too large to look good on a bonsai.

Some days may be relatively cool to you but the sun can still make the pot pretty hot. Not only does this dry out the soil very fast but the tree roots do not like a hot soil. A temperature I have heard given is that 120 degrees will kill roots on most plants. I cannot give you a precise to-do list since your backyard is different from mine but you should be sure that the sun does not hit the pots directly. Notice especially where the hot afternoon sun, from 2pm to sundown, hits your bonsai area. If you use a cover of any kind be sure that the side of the pot is protected also. A loose weave cover is preferable to solid paper or foil. Chopped sphagnum moss spread on the soil surface will reduce evaporation and help keep the soil cooler.

Get to know your trees like your children. Which ones use more water and which ones stay moist between waterings. If some are difficult to keep happy you can try moving those to a cooler location (but be sure they get their sunlight). Another trick is to group these together so that you can hit them with a shot of water twice a day and not have to spend the time going through all your trees.

The extended cool and damp weather is good for fungal diseases like black leaf spot. Hot and damp bring other fungals like mildew. Treat with potassium bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). After the foliage is hardened a bit you can treat with a 1% hydrogen peroxide (1 part 3% peroxide to 2 parts water) weekly.

Also watch for signs of insect problems. The spider mite will always be near. Others to look for are scale of various forms, aphids, and mealy bugs. For scale you may need to go to a systemic insecticide. I use the organic foliar feed (1 Tablespoon each fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses and cider vinegar per gallon water) to control all these. You can use some of the other organic controls or a chemical according to label directions. Always read the label directions carefully and never apply oil based chemicals to buttonwoods. You should do controls on a regular basis. Also remember that most insecticides kill the insect but do not remove the evidence (the scale shells, webs, etc),

If ants, or any other creature, are building nests in the soil, the tunnels and cavities will prevent proper watering and result in a loss of roots. After you get rid of the ants be sure to grab your chopsticks and work the soil down and eliminate any holes. You will probably need to add a little more soil on top.

The best way to fertilize bonsai is by using fertilizer cakes. The cakes provide a slow constant feeding each time you water. Cakes made with a cottonseed base will provide as acid ph when they break down which we need in any city water system I know of. Making your own is easy and much cheaper than buying them. I use chemical fertilizers such as Miracid or Peters a couple of times a month also. My main problem with chemicals is not knowing how many bad salts they have that may accumulate in the soil and also I know that each time I water I am washing the chemical fertilizers out on the ground.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015

May Bonsai
In Bonsai on May. 01, 2021by admin Comments: 0
March and early April in my backyard was rainy and cold. There was no time that I had to water everything, I just watched daily and watered those that needed it.

Anyhow, we must assume that they will now fall into a 'normal' routine and proceed with the usual May bonsai care, maybe modified a bit.

Leaf pruning would normally be done in May only on very healthy trees. However if your trees broke late you should make sure that they have sufficient food and light and time to make and store enough energy to produce a healthy set of new leaves before the heat of summer. The new leaves need to have time to mature before the heat sets in. If in doubt do not leaf prune this year. My rule of thumb is no leaf pruning of deciduous species after Memorial Day.

If you have flowering or fruiting bonsai, they should probably not be pruned until June so they will develop the necessary flowers and the fruit will need a lot of foliage to support the tree while the fruit grows. Azaleas usually have too many buds and should have some buds removed to allow room for the flowers to open fully.

Repotting season is getting close for tropicals. Generally they may be done whenever the night temperatures stay above 60 degrees. The repotting of tropicals is done when they are in active growth. Be extra vigilant to prevent the roots from drying during repotting. Place the repotted tree in an area with good light but little direct sun. It should have good air flow but no wind until it shows new growth. A good organic program takes care of both the feeding and the insect problems. The trick is to be sure to thoroughly cover the plant including all the leaf axils and do it on a regular basis. A regular schedule is needed with chemical sprays too.

The standard horde of pests will be knocking of your door any day now if they are not already at the dinner table. Pale leaves would indicate spider mites. Aphids and woolly scale are easy to see but you need to look for them. Small caterpillars are easy to miss until you see holes in your leaves. My overall cure for these is an organic foliar spray of one tablespoon each of fish emulsion, liquid kelp, molasses and apple cider vinegar in a gallon of water. It will not only feed the tree but take care of any vermin there. Be sure to spray the under sides of the leaves and the leaf axils too. Use a hand or pump up sprayer to get a fine spray to cover all top and bottom of leaves, a hose end sprayer doesn't cover good enough. This is also true if you want to use commercial chemical sprays.

A regular schedule is needed because you need to hit them while they are moving and out of their protective coating especially scale and bagworms. The life cycle of spider mites (from egg to adult laying new egg) can be as short as 5 days in hot weather. You may have to use a systemic control for scale.

Fungal diseases can show up with damp weather. Leaf spot can be serious on Catlin and chinese elms and on hollies. Mildew can be a problem when the weather turns warm. There are organic fungicides available, baking soda is one. Check an organics nursery or publications. A 1% solution of hydrogen peroxide (dilute the standard 3% store bought stuff 2 parts water to each part peroxide) is also recommended but it can injure tender new shoots.Most Americans do not fertilize their bonsai properly. We are addicted to quick and labor saving techniques. Chemical fertilizers tend to fall in that bin. Plants can only utilize a small amount of nutrients at a time. Organic fertilizers break down slowly by microbial action. When you water over an organic fertilizer you wash those nutrients into the soil constantly providing the required small amount of food. Water soluble chemical fertilizers give a large quick dose of food. However our bonsai soils do not captivate the fertilizer as well as dirt or commercial planting mixes. The next time you water you wash all nutrients away and the tree starves until the next feeding. I do not like loose organic fertilizers because they tend to wash into the top layer of soil and reduce the air space and keep the soil too moist. Ball type fertilizers do not do that. You can try using a small plastic or paper cup to hold a teaspoon of the loose organics. Punch small holes in the bottom and hold them in place with a nail.

Be sure to keep the pruning utensils going, do not let the growth get coarse. Ideally you would never let the new growth on developed branches get more than 5 leaves and prune it back to 2 or 3 leaves. Also develop a habit when pruning of checking the wire you may still have on the tree. Remove it before the branch grows into the wire. Wire marks can never be fully removed.

If in spite of your efforts a tree gets dehydrated from being in high winds or from lack of watering some special care will be needed. If the tree was recently repotted, that compounds the problem. First move the plant to a protected area out of the sun and winds and mist the foliage, branches and trunk.

Treatment would depend on how much damage you have to the foliage. If the leaves are dried, go easy on the watering until new growth starts. Do not pull the dead leaves off because you may damage the latent buds. You may cut the leaf stem if you desire. No fertilizer until the plant starts growing again. If the leaves are mostly green with only damaged tips continue normal care. If the tree is not stressed too much you can then leaf prune later and obtain new foliage.

Make preparations to protect your trees and pots from the heat that is coming. Be sure to remember that the most critical time of day is late afternoon. Usually that is when the temp is highest and the air is driest (the relative humidity is low) and lets all the suns energy through to your backyard. The bonsai must be protected from the sun coming in at a low angle getting under your shade cloth or trees. Use chopped sphagnum moss on the surface of your soil to help retain moisture in the soil and it also helps with keeping it cool. I like to water after sundown to cool the roots so the plant can recover overnight. Water other times as needed.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015

April Bonsai
In Bonsai on Apr. 01, 2021by admin Comments: 0
Although the average last freeze in Dallas-Ft Worth is in the last part of March, you should remember that it is an average--half the time it will occur later. And a frost can occur at temperatures well above 32, especially on a calm clear pre-dawn. A light cover will usually protect from frost.

Repotting of deciduous trees should be pretty much over. Some slow species like oaks may be slow in coming outand could be repotted. Broad leaved evergreens, such as the hollies, usually start growth a little later and may still be repotted when their buds swell. Conifers and other evergreens should be in active growth and therefore not repotted. Newly repotted trees should not be wired until they show they have recovered.

Any trees that have wire on them should be watched very closely during the spring flush of growth. Branches and twigs can expand pretty rapidly and result in the wire cutting into the branch. Watch especially the junction of the branch with the trunk or a larger branch. Remove the wire if it is cutting into the branch and rewire if needed.

General care for all species is pretty much the same at this time. Feed, prune, and look out for insects and other pathogens.

What kind of fertilizer you use is not as important as that you use it right. Plants would like a small amount of nourishment to be available all the time. For bonsai, the best way to supply it is by using organic fertilizer cakes on the surface. They release nutrients each time you water and are held by the particles such as pumice to be used all day. Water soluble fertilizers are fairly good but the next watering will wash the remaining nutrients out. You wouldhave to water with it daily using a very dilute solution. Some organic fertilizers like bat guano or chicken manure release too much nutrients at once (are too hot). Many lawn and garden fertilizers are the same. Whichever you use be sure to follow directions.

Feeding needs to be done judicially. A lot of nitrogen will push the new flush of growth too much but with no fertilizer you will get foliage with poor color that lasts all year. The organic fertilizer balls are the best solution. You can add a few at the start and increase them as the foliage matures. If you use chemicals be sure to follow directions and too use them lightly at first. Also be sure to get a brand with the minor elements listed. Commercial water soluble fertilizers wash out with the next watering and result in poorly fed pale bonsai.

Most trees will do good in the fully sun at this time of year. However, if you have had them in partial shade be careful about giving them full sun. They probably should be acclimated gradually.

Whether you use the organic or chemical spray, the trick is to be sure to thoroughly cover the plant including all the leaf axils. Use a hand or pump up sprayer to get a fine mist spray to cover all surfaces, a hose end sprayer does not cover good enough.

Fungal diseases develop during warm humid weather. Too much foliage misting can do it also if the leaves stay damp very long. One of the most prevalent fungus is leaf spot which will hit several kinds of plants especially elms, hollies, and roses. Control consists of spraying with baking soda. A 1% solution of Hydrogen Peroxide can be used except on very young foliage which may be sensitive to it.

Remember when pruning that there is no one-size-fits-all, even on the same species. First of all, formation pruning is when you are doing the initial styling of the tree. In most cases you are trying to grow new branches requiring you to have the branches grow long. After the tree has been styled, you then need to do ramification pruning to develop twiginessand a patina of old age. To properly prune you need to know how they grow and to remember that new twigs, even in the far future, break from the internodes so keep them short.

On elms and other trees with leaves appearing alternately down the shoot, the first leaves are smaller and internodes short. As the shoot grows, leaves get larger and the internodes get wider. For developmental you can let these branches grow long to get thick and then cut back, leaving a few short internodes to sprout future branches, and regrow. For ramification let grow to 4-5 leaves and trim the last two. Repeat on the new twigs.

On maples and others with leaves coming in pairs on opposite sides of the twig, the bud send out a stalk with two leaves on the end. The length ofthis stalk will be the first internode. As the leaves open a new growing tip emerges and this process continues. As the new tip elongates the first stalk keeps elongating also until the third new tip breaks. This creates long internodes on the developing branch. If the second tip is removed as soon as it emerges the first stalk stops growing and two new twigs will develop from the first set of leaves.

For formation pruning on opposite leaved species, you must work to get short internodes near the trunk then later letthe branch grow for thickening. After the first set of leaves emerges, pinch the tip of the next set of leaves before they actually become leaves. Pointed tweezers are the best tool for this job as you want to get the growth when it just starts to emerge. Use this same technique through three sets of leaves, after which you can let the newly created branches grow to thicken. Each pinch results in two new leaf sets, creating shorter nodes to generate future branches. When the desiredprimary and secondary branches have been grown, the ramification is achieved by pinching the tip from each set of leaves as it grows thereby doubling the number of twigs each time. This can be a big job on a large maple, but is necessary to get the desired result.

Be sure to check your soils each day for proper water content. It is easy to assume that the soil has plenty of water when the days are cool or there has been some rain. Its too easy for a tree with full leaves to shed water outside of the pot or a good sun and low humidity after a front to dry the soil. I suggest that you remove most of the moss so that you can see and feel the soil in order to determine how dry it is. (Moss growing on the trunk or roots will cause the bark to rot also) An automatic watering system will be an aid but you should not rely on it to replace hand watering. Hand watering allows you to adjust the watering for each tree individually.

By John Miller - Reprinted From 2015



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