As Covid-19 restrictions are gradually being lifted, do we really want to go back to working away from home? Can we tear ourselves away from our gardens and our bonsai collection? Has this time period changed the way we think and the way we live? It will still be some time before things return to the ‘normal’ we once knew, if ever!
As the sun is lower in the sky during the colder months, you may need to move your trees around to get more direct sunlight. Keep frost tender trees under protection if you get frosts in your area.
To prevent your bonsai trees from having constantly cold, wet feet and damp foliage, it’s important to reduce watering during winter. Soil still needs to be kept moist, but only water in the morning, which gives time during the day for some drying out to take place. Unless the weather is very windy, the frequency of watering can be reduced in winter to every second or third day. In my collection the crepe myrtles and crabapples are my ‘sentinel’ trees, which wilt first to show me I need to water during summer. In winter this is more difficult to monitor, as dormant trees won’t give any such signals, and conifers won’t show the sad results of having been allowed to dry out until several weeks later.
Remove spent flowers and fallen leaves and keep soil surfaces and benches clean to allow adequate air movement, and the sun to penetrate properly through the branches. This practice will also prevent the harbouring of pests and diseases in your collection. If you have several deciduous trees, they are likely to still be shedding their leaves at this time, particularly in wet or windy weather. Clean out any dead brown needles on black and red pines to also allow the sun to filter through to all the branches. This also applies to other conifers (for example, junipers) as well.
Clean out your tool box and check for all the equipment – tools, wire, turntable etc. in readiness for the deciduous repotting time which is creeping up on us. It’s a good time to start preparing your potting mixes as well.
Once a deciduous tree is dormant it can be repotted, but unless your collection is very large, and thus due to time constraints, it’s best to wait until July or even early August (when the leaf buds are swelling) to repot. The first trees to break their dormancy will be such things as ornamental flowering quince and Virginia creeper, so repot these species first. Generally deciduous species won’t need repotting every year, unless they are in very small pots or are young and vigorous and in the early stages of styling. Trident maples, for example, have a very vigorous root system, and need to be repotted more regularly than, say, Japanese maples.
If you are interested in growing flowering trees like azaleas, camellias, flowering quince, bougainvillea, serissas etc. keep a look out for them at nurseries and other plant sales. These are best purchased when in flower, if possible, so you know what to expect in terms of colour and flower size. Remember that the smaller the flowers are the more suitable the plant will be for use as a bonsai.