What to do this month

Updated 2017/08/01

Remember our open day on 26 August from 8 till 4.  New stock will be released for sale.   Freddie Bisschoff will also on the day be doing a talk on elms as well as a demonstration on the development of elms.  Come and join us for a fun bonsai day.

Its winter, its freezing cold, wet and windy in Cape Town.

Smooth bark Elms are already green and cork bark elms’ buds are also starting to swell. This is the busiest time of the bonsai calendar.   Its time for designing, pruning and potting of most your bonsai.

Start potting your deciduous trees, i. e. Celtis, Elms, Maples, White Stinkwood, Birch, but it’s already becoming late for swamp cypress.  Finish potting your swamps before the second week of August.  Swamp tend to “bleed” a lot if cut too late in winter.  Acacia can be potted from the middle of August.  Leave Figs for later in the year.

First plan what you want to do with your tree.  If you want to repot it to a new pot then make sure you got the right pot available before potting.  Keep a suitable container with water in it ready to dunk the tree after you repotted it.  Finish wiring, pruning and designing your trees before potting it. Do not do “dramatic” styling work on junipers and pines if you plan to repot them. “Dramatic styling” will place junipers and pines under stress and if you repot it at the same time it can kill the tree.

It’s important to make use of wire on your tree to achieve the best results. Rather spend several hours wiring your tree to get the best result, than saving some time and wire and neglecting the design and progress of the tree. It may sound strange to most to say that it will take hours to wire a tree, but basic medium size maples can take up to four hours to wire properly, wiring every little branch designing the tree. It will be beneficial for the development of your tree to wire the whole tree every 5 to 7 years. In Japan they can take several days to prune and wire a single mature tree.

Do not feed newly potted trees.  During potting you remove a lot of the roots and the tree cannot absorb the chemicals.  The chemicals can also burn and kill the new roots.

Remember aftercare is the most important part of repotting.  You can do the best job in repotting the tree but only one warm day in which your tree is not protected from the heat or wind will kill your tree.  A good after care spot will be a cool, protected (wind and sun) area, where the tree will get enough water.  The soil must not be too wet, neither must it dry out.  I prefer to give a light spray on the foliage of newly repotted trees several times a day for the first three weeks, only watering the soil when necessary, trying to keep a moist environment around the trees.  Also make sure that your tree is stable in its pot.  If the tree appears to be a bit loose in the pot, while you are potting it, tie it down with wire through the drainage holes of the pot.  Just remember that you wired the tree.  You will need to remove it later when the tree formed enough roots to support itself.  Leaving the wire on for too long can damage the roots, even kill them.  Trees like Acacia take a long time (up to three months) to form new roots, and in places like Cape Town with its wind you need to keep them tied down or in a protected area for long enough to form enough roots, or you will find a lot of slanting trunks in your collection.

We get a lot of rain so make sure that your trees are draining properly.  Go out during the rain and see that the water is draining out of your pots.  If the water stays in the pot the roots will start to rot and your tree will die during the winter without you noticing it.

If the pot don’t drain well place a wedge under the one side of the pot so that the tree stands skew and the water can run out of it.  Also check that your pot’s drainage holes are not blocked.  Remember to repot those trees that do not drain well and replace the soil with a better draining medium.

Also be aware that even though it rain, trees that’s placed under shade cloth or in protected areas can dry out if the rain do not reach their pots.

Look out for moss development on the bark of the trees.  It can cause the bark to rot away.  You can control the moss by spaying vinegar on it in the areas where you want to kill it.

Treat deadwood with pure lime sulfur to prevent it from rotting in the cold and wet winter months.  Wait for a warm dry day to treat the deadwood.

You can still collect trees like wild olives.  Wild Olives that were collected during May are already showing signs of new little buds.

Bonsai like Azaleas, Flowering Quince and Coleonema Alba started to flower.  Remember to remove spent flowers. Azaleas can be potted as soon as it’s finished flowering.

If you wire your trees in winter beware that the branches can be very brittle and can easily snap if you bend them too far. Rather bend the branch over a period of time.

Also visit our face book page at ‘Stone lantern bonsai nursery’ for more articles, photos and events.  Please feel free to make suggestions on how to improve the page and what you would to know more about.