The Study Group
A reminder for new study group members and seasoned study group members.
The intended purpose of the study group is for us all to learn more about bonsai and take home skills that we can apply to our own trees. I am here to help guide you (not do it for you) in the process of learning bonsai and exploring the possibilities. You have a voice in the process too! I will let you know my thoughts but I’d like to hear your thoughts and plans as well. The only expectations I have of the participants is an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Give me that and I will teach you everything I know!
All in all, at the end of the day, we should all be having FUN doing Bonsai.
Now that we’re into October, deciduous work is winding down and now we’re much more focused on Conifers. This month, we can work on all conifers except for Japanese Black Pines that were de-candled last June or July. If the Japanese Black Pine was not de-candled in the Summer, then they can be worked on this time of year as well. Some of the things we can do with conifers not is clean up, cut back, wire and style.
Since we’re shifting focus to Conifers doesn’t mean we’re not going to work on our deciduous any more this year, just not during this month. The next time we work on our deciduous trees will be somewhere between November and December. When more than 50 percent of the leaves start to turn color, we can defoliate the tree and make small cut backs to prepare the tree to grow a certain direction in the Spring of 2016.
At this time of year, all of our trees should have fertilizer on them. I normally fertilize till about December. Please see the attached PDF in the email for a easy to follow year round fertilizing schedule.
Now that the weather is starting to cool, most of us are shifting to a once a day watering schedule. It’s important to make that shift because the Fall and Winter are potential periods were we tend to over water trees which can cause root rot issues. Unfortunately many trees don’t show signs of problems till the following Spring when the tree either doesn’t start to grow or branches start dying off. So when you’re watering your Bonsai and you see a few that are still wet, go ahead and skip them and get them the next time around.
This month, if you plan on doing heavy conifer work such as full wiring or heavy bending, be sure to have the tools necessary for the task. A full set of copper wire is recommend and even though you think you may not need to us that scary #4 wire, in most cases, it’s needed even for small trees. If you have a hard time manipulating the heavier copper wire, I’ll be sure to give you a hand with that and get things going. When at the workshop, use that time to really get a better understanding of wiring techniques and practicing those techniques. Lets sit together and wire some branches together so I know you’re understanding the concepts. In the future when the Bonsai becomes more refined, your wiring technique will have to become refined.
Other things to having for bending include raffia or equivalent, varying lengths of 1/2 inch rebar. I have found sizes such as 12, 18, 24 and 32 inches are commonly needed length. Also be sure to have plenty of rubber padding or tubing to protect the tree if we decide to set up some guy wires. Last but not least, a solid electric drill/screw driver in case we need to put screws in the tree to create guy wire attachment points.
Of course, none of the equipment above matters if the Bonsai we’re working on is not healthy. Be sure the tree is growing well and firmly planting in the pot.
At some point we all have to sharpen our tools. For the next few months, I will bring my sharpening tools and show study group members how I sharpen my tools. Having sharp tools is important because clean cuts always heals better than rough cuts. When tools are dull, they tend to crush more than cut. The crushing effect will cause the branch to die back more than normal and in some cases, cause the branch to die off completely. Also, using dull tools causes more hand fatigue than using sharp tools. Since Bonsai is already hard enough, lets try not to make it harder for us and use nice sharp tools.