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Club Meeting September 2013

by Pieter Loots

All the die hard club members got together on another cold and wet Thursday evening to talk about small trees. Hopefully the cold weather is behind us now!

The first talk of the evening was by Jan-Jurie Loots and DJ Visser who spoke about Bonsai First Aid. In their opinion a bonsai generally develops problems when there is a lack of observation, knowledge, experience and care. Sometimes factors beyond our control can cause a problem. In other words a bonsai maintained and grown in the right manner should not require first aid. In order for a bonsai to grow optimally it needs good soil, sufficient light and the correct amount of water. Possible problems requiring first aid could include, insect infestation, viruses, tip die back, a broken pot, root rotting or fungus.

They divide possible problems into three, natural, human and unforeseen. Natural factors include temperature, light, wind, insects and frost. Human factors can be avoided if proper repotting is practised, frequent watering is done and regular fertilizing followed. When unforeseen factors occur it is best to go to a specialist grower or immediately determine the possible cause, and hope for the best. Situations like these can cause severe problems e.g. Like using a contact or systemic herbicide on bonsai or trees in the soil. Other remedies to doctor an ailing bonsai will include Suprthrive, Alliette, Rose care, Wiltproof, shade or and in rare occasions an emergency repot.

Risk reducing pointers include getting into the right routine, practising discipline, and dedication.

So in other words a healthy tree is less likely to need first aid.

Next up was Francois Voges discussing some guidelines in creating a forest. Francois suggests when creating a forest that it is good to use the idea of a family when placing your trees in the pot. Start by placing the largest or father tree, then the mother tree or second largest close and behind the father, and placing the other trees around these main trees. Make sure you leave enough space between your trees, to ensure sunlight to penetrate. Ensure all tree trunks are visible. When placing the trees in the pot make sure they are where you want them as it will be hard to move them later on. When choosing the right specie for a forest, pick something with a slow growing root system. Always place your bigger trees in the front and smaller trees at the back, this creates better depth perspective. Francois brought with a very interesting Maple forest which has a very three dimensional look to it, caused by the placement of the trees.

Last speaker of the evening was Trevor Venables and he spoke about the '100 Day Countdown to our year end Kirstenbosch show' and preparing your tree for a show. Things to prepare are your tree, your pot, ground cover and a stand for your pot. You are able to select a large variety of species for the show as it is held in summer. So firstly select the tree you want to show. Start by doing wiring, and make sure you get no wire bite. Wire is allowed at shows as long as it is not obtrusive. Now is a good time to trim and prune your tree. You should fertilise your tree three times weekly up to three weeks before the show. If you need to repot your tree you need to do it now. Make sure you repot the correct specie in the correct season. You should not repot less than two months before the show. But sometimes you could get away with a late repot, just be careful. Remove weeds regularly as it is a continued battle. Make sure all pests and fungi are regularly checked for and removed. Try to have a balance between your pot and tree, asses positioning and negative spaces. Start introducing some ground cover, moss works well, and should be trimmed. When you have chosen your stand oil it.

The last three days before the show is the time when everything should be ready. Spray your tree with pesticide. Trim it one last time. This is the time to oil your pot. Woodoc or any oil works well. Trevor uses Ludwig's, an organic pesticide that repels, kills and gives his tree a shine. Some people use Wiltproof.

The warm weather is here to stay, I hope everyone enjoys the coming months as it brings with it the joys of working outside on our trees again. Until we meet again.

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Random Bonsai Tip

If surface roots are unequally spread around the trunk or if they are lacking completely you can drill holes and insert match sticks or make deep scars around the base of the trunk on the side where the roots are needed below soil level. Apply hormone powder and sphagnum moss; cover with plastic and keep moist. Leave for 6 months to 1 year for the roots to develop.