Six on Saturday ~ Bonsai Style…

It is Saturday again, time for more lovely flowers from gardens all over the world.

Click on the link to visit them all!

Unfortunately, our garden, thanks to the dreadful weather, is not looking its best, so rather than hunting down some beaten-up and bedraggled specimens, I thought I would bonsai it this week.

This is the time of year when my bonsai need my attention to make sure they are fit for their winter sleep. Although they will soon be sleeping, they need to be in perfect shape to make sure they wake up again in the Spring. Some will need fresh soil or a light prune, and I must also check for lodgers. Spiders are welcome as they eat the bugs, but slugs, snails and other unmentionables must be located and evicted.

I am also trying to fit in the clean up in the garden too. So many things have gone crazy, and I probably need an army to manage it all. But it’s just me, so I must do what I can. To be fair, I would rather be out there than struggling with the internet.

With one major exception. I am getting near the end of the current WIP and enjoying every minute!

We wish all of our friends, readers and visitors a lovely weekend, and we will see you on Monday!

Bonsai: My Other Love

Considering how much I love bonsai, I have not been very diligent with their maintenance so far this year.

Along with everything else on my workload, I might add!

Just like our garden, which grows wilder by the minute, all of my tiny trees are doing their level best to become wild too. Masses of new leaves are appearing daily, rendering most of them almost unrecognisable. I do try to keep up with the pruning, but it’s a case of too little, too late and now they seem out of control.

With one exception.

When we first moved to Hampshire, I didn’t have any bonsai and was desperate to start another collection. One of the first trees to attract my attention was a Laburnam. Its long plumes of bright yellow flowers have long been one of my favourites. I wondered if it would make a good bonsai. I had to wait until the flowers set seed, but it was worth the wait. It is a long process, but eventually, I had a seedling and then a sapling. When it finally flowered, I was over the moon.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who loved this tree. All the snails in Hampshire loved it too, and every year, the minute the leaves appeared in Spring, overnight, it would be stripped bare.

I won’t use slug pellets because of the hedgehogs, and the copper tape didn’t work at all.

Since that first flower, it hasn’t delighted me since. In retrospect, looking at it today, all that munching has helped to create a wonderful shape. The leaves are growing back now, so if the munchkins can leave it alone, we might get flowers next year…

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… #Bonsai

Collage was created at

For some reason, I thought I couldn’t take part in this week’s #Six on Saturday because flowers are hard to find in our garden just now. There are some interesting flower buds to look forward to, but nothing worth photographing.

Then I realised that I didn’t need flowers, as it could be six of anything. That was when I decided to share the real colour that we have right now. I am talking about my beautiful bonsai, all doing their very best to cheer me up.

This acer has to be my favourite, as it is such a vibrant, exciting colour. As the year progresses, the colour fades to green, changing to yellow in the autumn.

Closely followed by this acer, a really special genus that has the most amazing colourways. Luckily, these colours do not fade, so we can enjoy them for longer…

This acer has had an unfortunate past, when one of the main branches just up and died. I thought the tree was doomed, but as you can see, it is doing well. I love its dark colouring and spikey leaves…

This is a pink Hawthorne that refuses to flower, something I need a little help with. All of my bonsai are strong and healthy, but the ones that are supposed to flower, just don’t. I have tried all of the things that are supposed to work!

Another acer and this one breaks the rules on the number of leaves it has. Literally smothered with foliage, I have to thin it out, regularly just so it can breathe…

Finally, this is a white wisteria, being grown as a bonsai. It’s too early for this one to flower, but I await that glorious moment with increasing impatience. That’s if I can figure out what I must be doing wrong. I would appreciate any help on this subject please?

Some Kind of Progress…

Some Kind of Progress…

Now the weather was warming up, I needed to make a plan to get outside and do some work. I felt more than a little guilty leaving my desk for the great outdoors, but I had made a list of all the jobs I wanted to do this coming week, indoors and out, so no excuses. I had scheduled, tweaked, and sorted everything into neat little time slots, so barring divine interruption, nothing will be neglected.

And who knows, maybe a few miracles will occur along the way. Well, a girl can hope, can’t she?

I am not expecting any of it to be easy, as I am definitely feeling my age this year, and every muscle in my body has learned how to scream! I haven’t had the chest X-ray yet, so still puffing around like an ancient steam train. You know, the one who wished he could…

If I am honest, I would prefer to sit quietly in my office and write. Hey ho.

It was lovely to be outside at last, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. So that’s what it smells like!

My first job was my rapidly awakening bonsai, most of which are sprouting almost as I watched. I cleared their pots of dead leaves and weeds, and checked the soil, making mental notes as to which ones need repotting. Then I washed the shelves they sit on and swept the yard.

Then I moved to what I call the nursery area. This is where my fledgling bonsai live, along with cuttings and seedlings, and I do all the messy jobs.

I didn’t find any casualties this year, which was surprising, considering the terrible winter weather. My poor old azalea is finally blooming, and that was wonderful to see.

I wanted to plant up the dahlia tubers, but by the time I rooted out suitable pots and the right soil mix, I was flagging a little, and I hadn’t even looked at the garden yet. When I did take a look, the first job was immediately apparent. The grass had grown seemingly overnight and was approaching the difficult length for my mower to cope with.

This is when most of my plans went AWOL.

Torrential rain arrived and lasted all the next day. So much for being determined!

To Write…

That is the question…

At the end of last week, I summoned up a ton of enthusiasm for my so-called writing life and the future of my current WIP. I say so-called, for it hasn’t amounted to much so far this year. There have been a few lively patches of activity, which I thoroughly enjoyed, followed by periods of other such business.

Commonly called life, although I really wish it wouldn’t bother me as I can do without it. This week, for instance, has filled up over the weekend with repairmen, doctor visits and a visiting relative, culminating in Milo’s vet appointment for the snip and chip.

It could be worse, I suppose, as the minute the weather gets warmer, I will need to show my face out there and go through the motions of being a gardener. It has to happen soon, I suppose.

All this lack of writing progress has happened because I have lost my early morning window. This was when I would be the only one awake, and for at least two hours, the writing world would be my oyster.

I have tried to cultivate an evening slot, but I am so tired by then that it hasn’t happened yet. It is beginning to look like I must choose between promoting and/or advertising to get the job done.

Of course, all of this is most distressing, as I have always managed to cope with as many irons in the fire as needed.

Added to all of this is the certain knowledge that time is definitely speeding up.

There used to be time to think, for a start…

Friend or Foe?

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

I had just moved from the PC to my writing chair to try and get my head around a book review I was working on.

Things were going well when I happened to look up from my work to look out of the window in front of me.

Something had made me put down my pen, and I looked for the reason.

I scanned the garden and all the trees I could see without standing up; they thrashed about in violent gusts of wind. Further down the garden, almost too far for me to focus on, the row of bird feeders was doing a roaring trade with the local birdlife.

I love to watch the birds in our garden, mainly small ones like sparrows, bluetits and the odd robin. It’s like a mad rush hour as they take in turns to land on the feeders, pecking furiously at the fat balls. They seem to prefer these to the seed I also supply.

I became aware of other activities closer to my window and switched my attention to the shelf with the row of bonsai trees. A male blackbird with shiny black plumage and a vivid yellow beak was perched on one of the pots and viciously pecked at the carefully cultivated moss that snuggles around the base of each tree.

We were just a few feet from each other, and I knew he was watching me, but he carried on with his mission. By the time he had visited all the trees on the shelf, it looked like a battleground with lumps of moss scattered everywhere.

Later, I was asked why I hadn’t tapped on the window to stop the destruction, but what the bird was doing was perfectly natural, and if he had removed any insects that might have harmed my trees, I would be in his debt. Moss is so easily replaced.

Sharing those moments with Mr Blackbird was magical, and I will remember them forever…

Wishing you all a very happy Monday…

Another Bonsai Post from Nebari Bonsai…

Chinese Quince update

Brian VF Chinese quince May 14, 2022 2 Minutes

I bought this tree on eBay in 2006, and it is spent some time in the ground, had a few chops, and a few different fronts. But it is finally started to settle into its shape, and I decided to put it in our club’s annual show this year.

I have been bored with some of the trees lately, and less than inspired, so I thought it would be good to try to put a tree or two in the show that have never been shown before. A couple reasons, first, it adds some variety to the show. Second, it pushes me to advance different trees to a higher level. This year, the quince and the Stewartia will be making their debut appearances in a show.

I had already pruned it back a month ago, and sprayed it heavily several times with Mancozeb to stave off the rust. So far, knock on wood, it hasn’t been a problem this year.

Click HERE to read the rest of this lovely post from Brian at Nebari Bonsai…

No Excuses…

Image by Eveline de Bruin from Pixabay

Yesterday was my best day so far this year.

The sun was out in full force, and a gentle breeze diluted the unexpected heat. The perfect time to catch up on all those jobs that have been waiting for me…

And best of all, working with my bonsai and the new seedlings really did me good. Somehow, I stopped worrying about everything, my mind freewheeled and I relaxed, probably for the first time in ages.

Consequently, I feel decidedly odd in the office today. I keep looking out of the window, knowing where I would rather be. But, there are jobs that need me indoors and there will be family cooking later on today.

I hope you all enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!