With Spring upon us again it is time to for me to review the previous Season with a selection of my bonsai images taken during the Winter, Dec 2011 to March 2012.
January 2012: My Cotoneaster franchetti bonsai, still covered in the berries that first ripened in August 2011. Fortunately the berries do not seem to attract the birds!
Height 30"/77cm Pot by Erin Bonsai
After a very mild October to January 2011-2012, early February saw temperatures plummet in the UK. As I grow mainly UK native species, all capable of withstanding UK Winter temperatures, I always leave my trees outside on their display benches throughout the Winter, however, I did offer this Trident Maple some protection when night-time temperatures began to drop..
Last year it got a little sulky after a couple of nights of -14ºC and growth the following Spring was very weak as a result. So as temperatures dropped below -5ºC I covered the roots (the pot), which is the susceptible part of the tree, with 3 or 4 layers of sackcloth/burlap. This provided enough insulation to stop the soil freezing despite temperatures eventually dropping below -10ºC.
In early January, with a break from book writing and working on my trees I built a new bonsai garden and display area for my bonsai collection.
Building 'monkey' or display stands to house larger trees
By the end of January, the new main display area had been completed.
I was given this Privet in August 2010 (top left images) and after finding the bulk of the trunk still buried under soil level, gave it a thorough pruning (bottom left). On the right is the same tree after 9 hours carving, pruning and wiring over 2 days in February 2012.
Height 14"/35cm with an impressive 7"/17cm diameter trunkbase.
I have had this Privet bonsai for 8 years now, ever since it was dug from an old hedge on the Welsh border in 2004. Each year the bonsai has evolved and after further detail carving and styling during the past Winter, I decided to alter the front view of the tree completely in mid-February.
Common Privet, height 19"/50cm. The pot is by Victor Harris at Erin Bonsai and is approximately 16"/39cm wide
February 2012: One welcome sign that Spring is on its way each year are the new buds on my tiny Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'/Fuji Cherry (just 3.5"/9cm tall) beginning to open.
The slightly plumper buds on the end of the branches will be flowers, those in the centre of the image new leaves/shoots.
February 2012: English or Field Elm Bonsai/Ulmus minor, after detail wiring during the Winter. This tree is fast becoming a favourite of mine.
Height 27"/66cm, trunkbase 9"/22cm in diameter
February 2012: This rootball belongs to a large, and once very nice, Chamaecyparis/False Cypress group that had deteriorated over the previous 5 years, losing 3 of the original 5 trunks......I was given it to try and save it.
As I always do when working on a tree for the first time, particularly one which is weak and there for no obvious reason (above ground), I inspected the roots. The rootball looked great on the outside with an intact rootball growing strongly into a layer of molar clay/catlitter.
However, when I scraped away the outer layers of good soil, a core of hard, airless and very dry soil was discovered. The centre of the rootball was still growing in pure ground-clay where the tree had been collected from the ground by a bonsai nursery and simply dumped into a bonsai pot, with good soil placed around the outside of the rootball.
In the image above I have already removed a large amount of the ground-soil and it is possible to see the centre of the rootball has completely rotted away. It is little wonder that the group planting is very unhealthy and dying......... My hope is that by introducing good quality soil to the centre of the rootball, the deterioration of the group will be reversed, if it is not too late.
Repotting started in early March and as normal, I received new pots ordered from my favourite potters at Erin Bonsai during the Winter. This new bonsai pot has been hand-made for my Tamarix.
Mid-March 2012: Primula vulgaris/Wild Primrose bonsai accent plant. Pot by of Erin Bonsai.
I obtained this wild primrose around 20 years ago and it's been planted in this tiny, 6"/15cm wide pot for the past 10 years or so. Finally the leaves have reduced to a decent size at flowering time!