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Breaking Bonsai Rules
March 17, 2017

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Breaking Bonsai Rules

During a visit to a Daoist monastary in Hong Kong, Hoe Chuah discovered a fascinating Penjing collection.

Despite breaking the rules we've come to know, Hoe said this about the creator of the particular penjing shown above:

"It would be very boring to see two straight trunk trees in a pot. He broke up the monotony by putting a figurine between them, which creates the look of a traveler resting in the woods in his journey.

"This close range scene suddenly becomes believable and that makes this penjing different from the typical twin-trunk. Further more he kept the ground unkempt with some weeds here and there.

"Using a proportional size figurine is key in this composition, without it the composition would collapse.

Click to read more about Hoe's visit and see some great additional photos:
Hoe Chuah Hong Kong Blog

How to Get Started in Bonsai

I recently received and email asking "I love bonsai and want to make my own. Can you give me some pointers on where I should start?"

Ten Steps to Good Bonsai is the page I recommend. The first five steps are best applied before acquiring a tree, but are still be valuable if you have a starter. The other five are ongoing steps for developing and maintaining your bonsai.

Even if you're not a beginner, some of the tips on that page are great reminders.

Suggestions like:
"Refine your collection at least once a year" and "Make better investments - whether shopping for starters or old trees, buy better material."

I also mention the problem with two and three man trees (as shown in this photo, when David Baruch and Mike Sullivan came to my rescue by root pruning a huge Bucida spinosa bonsai!)

Bonsai on the Ground?

Large or Small, Get 'em Up!

Look at any serious bonsai garden and you will rarely see bonsai plants on the ground! This photo by Bill Valavanis, shows a personal collection in Japan. Look closely, even those appearing to be on the ground have a slab or saucer to keep them from direct contact.

Why? When containers are in direct contact with the ground they are vulnerable to worms (and other critters) coming out of the soil into the pot.

So what's wrong with earthworms? It's the nature of worms (wigglers) to eat decomposing material. The result is "castings" which you will see on the surface. Not only is it unattractive, but now your soil composition has been altered.

If you think you may have worms in a pot, there's an easy way to get rid of them. Place the entire pot in a larger container (with no drain holes.) Fill it with water to the top of the bonsai container and leave it overnight. Worms will escape drowning by rising to the top.

If you're squeamish, use chopsticks or tweezers to place them back on the ground, they are still good for aerating garden soil.

More reasons to keep bonsai off the ground ...
When containers are left in place too long on the ground, bonsai roots extend through the holes and into the soil. Also, bonsai kept at or near ground level are regularly neglected. The simple reason, they're not as convenient to work on.

Bonsai Convention - Orlando, Florida

May 25 – 29, 2017

Florida Hotel in Orlando, Florida

Presented jointly by the American Bonsai Society and the Bonsai Societies of Florida.

Presented by the American Bonsai Society And the Bonsai Societies of Florida Click on this link for more details. 'Moving American Bonsai Forward'

BonsaiMary Gets Mail

(From Around the World!)

David T., Flagstaff, AZ, with regard to last month's 'Banter' story wrote: "Love it, I think I do have a bedpan!"

Marilyn R., Philadelphia, PA "I have a bonsai schefflera that has become infected with scale. I've tried insecticidal soap, (both spraying and applying by Q-tip) on all leaves and stems but while this seems to work for a short period of time, after a month or two, I start seeing new scale on the undersides of the leaves. None of my other plants are infected. Could the soil be infected? what would you recommend to remedy?"

My Response: Marilyn, Scale can be a really tough problem (as you know.)

If you haven't tried dish detergent do this: Mix a solution of 1 Tablespoon of dish detergent per quart of water. Soap mixes can be applied with a small soft cloth while washing infested leaves and stems. (Or use in sprayer.)

It's ok for soapy water to drip into the soil.

In summer, when nights are warm and long after the chance of frost is gone, I recommend giving your bonsai some fresh air and remove all the leaves. Keep it in the sun and the leaves will return smaller and healthier.

This is a picture of a bonsai schefflera as it looked after both repotting in new soil and removing leaves. It recovered beautifully!

Some of my emails are from interesting people in distant places ...

Shah M. from Sukkur, Pakistan asked "I have a need bonsai jabotacaba Brazilian grape seeds "
Tsungai Tinashe G. from Harare, Zimbabwe wanted to know "What is the price per ton of cotton hulls?"
... I'm afraid I haven't always been much help.

Until Next Month

Make sure you have enough bonsai soil for the spring and summer season. It may still seem like a long way off, but the snow will melt and the cold will disappear.

Also, it's not too early to make plans for at least one convention or major exhibit this year!


Mary Miller

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