Hawthorn Research… #Bonsai

This article focuses on the subject of encouraging Hawthorn bonsai to flower, however, the basic principles can be applied to flowering bonsai of all species.

Maturity and Reproduction

All trees are genetically predisposed to be dominant over surrounding trees and plants in an effort to reproduce. The most successful specimen (of any one species) are those that are able to outgrow their neighbours in an effort to gather as much light, water and soil-space as possible.

Once they have grown to their fullest extent (as high and as wide as they are able, given their local environment and circumstances, (whether that be 100 metres or just 1 metre tall) they then begin to try and reproduce themselves by flowering and spreading their seed.

These two different phases, of gaining maximum height and then of seed-production, are known as immature and mature growth.
In the immature phase of growth, a tree will put out predominantly (or exclusively) vegetative growth in order that they can ‘outcompete’ its neighbours by growing as tall and wide as possible, commonly known in most tree species as apical dominance. This is a pre-disposition and it does not matter whether the tree in question is growing wild or in a bonsai pot.
Conversely, during the mature phase of growth, the tree reduces the amount of energy put into growing new vegetative shoots and begins to try and reproduce by flowering.
This mature or flowering stage of growth is triggered when the tree can no longer spread upwards or sideways and continues the process of dominance by trying to reproduce itself.

These same events occur with a bonsai; a bonsai will continue to grow vegetatively in an effort to grow taller and wider until such time that it is unable to grow any bigger and begins to enter a mature, flowering phase. Ergo, in order to encourage a bonsai to flower, first it must be encouraged into maturity.

Encouraging a Hawthorn to flower

Trees need to reach a certain age before they will ever begin to flower. The age varies according to the exact species; some species will flower after just a couple of years, while others, such as Hawthorn need to reach 15-20 years of age before they will begin to flower.

Feeding regimes high in phosphorous can help encourage more flowers on a tree that already produces flowers each year, (do not feed high nitrogen as it will encourage vegetative growth), but will not make a tree enter maturity and start flowering.

The procedure is first to gently slow the vegetative growth by allowing a Hawthorn bonsai to become on the rootbound side, if repotting and root pruning is absolutely necessary (for the health of the tree), only root prune lightly. Newly available space around the rootball encourages new root growth and therefore new vegetative top growth. A confined rootball dissuades the tree from trying or being able, to spread itself and remain immature.

Do not prune the tree hard, reduce the trunk or remove heavy primary branches. Doing so will result in vigorous vegetative growth, very much at the expense of flowering. New collected yamadori (wild trees) that may have flowered well for many years in the wild, will frequently stop flowering for many years after being chopped or pruned hard, until they re-enter a mature-growth phase. When a previously mature tree is in a vegetative/immature stage of growth, existing flowering spurs will simply open a rosette of leaves in the Spring but will neither flower or extend. Occasionally they will produce a vegetative extending shoot but this cannot be relied upon when trying to develop the branch structure of a bonsai. Bonsai that are still having their branch structures developed or are poorly ramified, should be ‘completed’ before encouraging flowering.

(On bonsai species that flower easily, the reverse is true, remove flower-buds to encourage more vegetative growth on trees in development)

Once the vegetative growth of a well-ramified and pot-bound Hawthorn bonsai slows down, pruning to contain the size of the tree naturally becomes more gentle. The tree begins to produce a new type of shoot that contains flowering ‘spurs’. This is mature growth and is subtly different than immature, vegetative growth.

Two new shoots on a Hawthorn bonsai during the Summer. On the left a mature flowering spur, on the right, a vegetative shoot carrying just leaves.

Flowering shoots on a Hawthorn will have a thorn at its tip, as shown in the image above. These shoots should not be pruned, if possible, otherwise they may become vegetative. Flowering shoots that are left unpruned will produce flowering spurs from which flowers will emerge sometime in the future. Unfortunately with Hawthorn bonsai, encouraging flowers can take a few years to achieve. The thorn itself should not be removed for the same reason.

Importantly, vegetative shoots (without a thorn at their tip) should be pruned by pinching out their tip as they extend to stop them becoming too long rather than allowing them to extend fully and then pruning them back (which encourages further vegetative growth).

A flowering spur on a Hawthorn beginning to open in Spring and revealing a cluster of flower buds…….

4-6 weeks later, the flower buds are about to open……..

The Hawthorn bonsai finally in flower

Some of the research was initially a bit confusing, as bonsai are usually trimmed all year to maintain the shape of the tree, and one source recommended only pruning flowering bonsai in the winter. The article I have posted today, at least explains it a little better.

It has been suggested that the best course of action for all flowering bonsai, is to find out whether they bloom on new growth or old, as this can differ, depending on the species. That way you can at least try to keep them in shape.

So far so good, now I need to research crab apples…

#Friday Flowers… Not Mine, I’m Afraid…

Image by Ilona Ilyés from Pixabay

I would love to be the proud owner of this beautiful Azalea bonsai, but for some reason, flowers are proving impossible to get in my collection. I do have the white azalea, but it has never looked as good as this. I am reading up on the techniques needed before frustration drives me crazy!

Image by Ronaldo Akallél markes from Pixabay

This amazing specimen is a pink Hawthorn. I have had one of these for several years now, a present that had flowers when I received it, but has never flowered again.

This is my Hawthorn sans flowers. It is a strong, healthy tree, fed and watered well, so I have no idea why it refuses to bloom.

I also have a crab apple that has never bloomed. Hopefully, my studying will enlighten me…

If I learn the secret, I will share it with you…

#Six on Saturday… (sorry there are no flowers…)

This week there were no new flowers to be seen in our garden, but everything was happening in the growing area.

Mainly dahlias because I have been meaning to grow these for ages, and three of the ones I planted in April are getting on with the business in spectacular form.

I tried to be professional with these dahlias. I brought new labels and a posh marker pen, so I would know what colour they were.

But… the pen was rubbish. The first time I watered the pots, the ink ran away. I have no idea which is which, so I can’t wait to see them bloom…

These seeds were an impulse buy. Everyone in my family loves sunflowers, but I was getting fed up with the usual spindly 12 feet high specimens that never seem to stay upright. Last year I grew supposedly dwarf specimens which were an improvement…

2022 Look at all those flower buds!

So when I saw seeds for a blood-red sunflower, I knew I had to have them.

If the snails can leave them alone long enough, we might get to see them in all their glory!

While I was buying seeds, I picked up some Alysum and Aubretia, just because.

I have never been very lucky with seeds, as sometimes they grow but often do not, so time will tell…

Finally, I am becoming very fond of this cutting of a weeping willow from our local pond.

Three years old already, and I think I have persuaded it to weep a little…

It has a very promising future, I think…

This post is inspired by Jim Stevens, who really knows all about #SixonSaturday: https://gardenruminations.co.uk/2023/05/27/six-on-saturday-27-5-2023

Jaye’s Days… One of the Best in a While…

Jaye’s Days

Yesterday, I had the day off from writing and book-related activities. I was determined to catch up on some of those jobs around the house and garden that I have been ignoring of late.

I started the day with a little gentle yoga, more to let my body know I was serious. This set the tone for what turned out to be a very busy day.

I tackled a bedroom wall that had developed mildew over the winter months. I had already scrubbed it down, so it was time to apply some mould-preventing paint. Hopefully, it won’t come back.

Then I changed the carpet strip in the living room doorway. Thanks to Milo using that spot as a scratch pad, the edge of the carpet had frayed, and the existing strip wasn’t wide enough anymore.

After lunch, I ventured out into the garden. To be fair, I stood there for several minutes, wondering where to start. There are so many things to do out there that my brain didn’t have any idea what would be first. I decided on the worst job of all, mowing the lawn. Something my ageing back strongly objected to, but I rested every time I emptied the cuttings. Once that job was out of the way, I was feeling a little smug, so I sprayed all the weeds on the patio.

I worry about myself sometimes, as my love of killing things is usually reserved for my stories.

A quick check of the bonsai confirmed the next round of repotting for some of them was overdue, but not today. I thoroughly watered everything and called it a day. I hadn’t done nearly enough, in my opinion, but it was a start!

I thought I deserved a quiet, restful evening, but that never happened. The minute I collapsed onto the couch, my hands itched to write. I managed to finish a new post and the best part of a chapter…

I wonder what today will bring?

Friday Flowers…

This lilac lives in the wild end of our garden, and last year I had to rescue the poor thing as it was being swamped by next doors bushes. It had tried hard, growing long spindly branches that, to be honest, were going nowhere. Consequently, I ended up pruning it back along with everything else. I dodged the showers to see how well it had recovered. The new growth was amazing, but at first glance, I couldn’t see any flowers. Looking closer, I found the purple flowers hiding among the leaves…

Although I was ecstatic that it was doing its best to flower, I wanted more, and I found this one!

This magnolia was a birthday present several years ago, and has been slow to get started.

So I was delighted to see this year’s efforts!

This apple tree was a present to me. Just four feet high and is supposed to have two kinds of apples.

Seeing as this is the first time it has flowered, I will have to see what happens!

Last but by no means least, this glorious rhododendron is the queen of my garden at the moment.

I posted a photo of the buds last week, so here she is in all her glory!

#Silent Sunday… Patience makes Perfect…

At last, the long-awaited buds have started to open…

So slowly…

There you are!

#WIP Wednesday…

I managed to plant that hydrangea yesterday and spent some time arranging and tidying up at least one of the unruly flower beds in our garden. I worked slowly and methodically, with plenty of sit-downs in between. I wanted to cut the grass, but although the sun shone for most of the day, I knew it was still far too wet to cut.

The amount of work that needs to be done is overwhelming and depressing if I am being honest. Judging by my performance yesterday, it will take more than a month of Sundays to get it all done. Surprisingly, being stubborn isn’t helping, for I can only go as far as my body will allow. Hopefully, slow and steady will win the race.

This approach is not helping on the writing front, however. Committing words and ideas to paper is one of the few things I can do with any speed and comfort, but lately, that has slowed down to a crawl too. I try to tell myself it isn’t me, it must be the story, but I don’t really believe it. I have tried reading the completed chapters and all the character material several times lately, but it wasn’t until this morning that a germ of an idea paid me a visit. Someone had written a post about how to handle your villains when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t decided on the bad boy for the new story yet. I had a few candidates, but nothing concrete.

I was seven chapters in on The Mystery of Folly’s End, so the villain should have made his presence known by now, so why hadn’t he?

This is where my usual method has let me down. Normally, my characters, once created, get on with it, often dictating who does what, where and with whom. A case in point: one of my favourite characters, DI David Snow, has been nagging me lately with a brilliant idea for a new mystery thriller, for him, of course. I have to admit to being more than a little interested, so was I deliberately dragging my heels on MFE?

It’s not supposed to rain today, but I won’t be cutting that blessed grass. I have something better to do…

Tuesday Teaser…

Tuesday Teaser


After days of rain, today promises wall-to-wall sunshine. I have just been for my X-ray, and although it feels very cold out there, I think it will warm up later, so I can venture out into the garden.

First, I have something more important to do.  For months, I have been working on our book blurbs. I don’t like them and don’t think they do our books justice. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot come up with anything that inspires me. So not likely to inspire anyone else! They say it takes a different mindset to write a good blurb; obviously, that part of my brain is out to lunch. I’m just grateful the rest of it still works!  I have been researching like a crazy person to find a solution, even if it means paying for it, and yesterday I decided to give Fiverr.com a try. I have used them before for beta reads and am very happy with them. I chose one that wasn’t expensive, had brilliant reviews and an extensive list of material needed. I spent the rest of the afternoon compiling this list and will be sending it off any minute now. I will receive the blurb in two days’ time.

Nothing ventured nothing gained, they say, and whatever I get cannot be any worse than the ones we have already. I will do a comparison post so you can offer your judgement! I am looking forward to a little gardening, even though I don’t think the grass will dry out enough to be cut. There are seeds to sow and a Mother’s Day hydrangea to plant. Such a beautiful blue, and I hope it doesn’t revert to pink.

 Later, I intend to write, hopefully in a good creative mood after all that fresh air…

Sad News…

Sad News…

You may have noticed that we have been among the missing for a few days.

Well, it’s not my fault or the weather. Since my last post on the joys of getting outside at last, and all the gardening I hoped to do, the weather has been terrible. Torrential rain, terrifying winds and freezing temperatures have left us all reeling and wondering what next.

What did happen next had me exercising my God-given right to slope off with a serious case of the miseries. Not something I usually approve of, but soldiering on, trying to ignore what was happening, suddenly wasn’t working for me anymore.

The basic reason for all of this has been my increasing inability to do even the simplest of jobs, including walking. Not to mention the depression of being unable to write for the first time in years…

After a lifetime of health troubles, I had begun to think that this last stage of my life would be a simple slowing down, that demon fate had finally run out of surprises for me. I don’t know why I thought that really, as what has been happening to Anita these last three years should decry that notion.

It seems I am way off the mark, for the breathlessness and the new pain in my joints have increased way past simple arthritis. I can no longer walk any distance; even cooking a meal is a nightmare. I have acquired the nickname, Quasimodo, for I must serve the meal hunched over, the pain preventing me from standing upright.

After dragging myself out of bed in the early hours to fetch pain relief yet again, I went back to bed and found myself weeping from the frustration. That was when I knew I had a problem, one I couldn’t ignore any more.

I telephoned my doctor, expecting to wait several days for an appointment, but after explaining, I was told to turn up for an emergency blood test. I have an appointment to discuss the results on Tuesday. At the very least, I should get better pain relief.

All of this is nothing new for me, and years ago I would have taken it all in my stride. These days, I just want a quiet (pain-free if possible) life where I can write, blog and garden to my heart’s content and be able to care for my sister…