All the best things come in little packages, so they say and Rodney Young aimed to prove it when he came to the June 2023 meeting of Ticknall Garden Club. He has perfected the art of growing bonsai trees over many years and the examples he displayed were impressive in shape and variety.
The art of bonsai began in China 2000 years ago but the form we are familiar with these days was perfected by the Japanese 1000 years later. Its introduction to the western world dates back to the late nineteenth century when grand masters of the art began to pass on their techniques to a few keen enthusiasts.
Despite its reputation as a specialist subject the Speaker was determined to show that no real expertise was needed, just a little know-how and time and patience.
Any small tree or bush can be given the bonsai treatment, even an ailing cast off could work.
Only basic tools are needed such as scissors, root hook and copper covered aluminium wire of different thicknesses. Stripping branches and wiring them to achieve a more pleasing shape might, to the novice, be daunting. Trimming the fibrous roots to fit the traditional shallow pots perhaps less so. Bonsai has stylised tree shapes to act as a guide when pruning which include upright, cascade, slanting, windswept and forest designs. If all leaves are removed from the tree, then the new ones will grow back smaller. This does not apply to flowers and fruit though.
Watering can be a challenge, so a sprinkler or drip system does help. Rodney was keen to emphasise that bonsai plants are for outdoors and are not houseplants and only need a little protection in the hardest of winters. They might be kept indoors for no longer than a week for display purposes.
Maintenance is best done in Spring when roots can be trimmed and replaced in the same pot. Vine weevil can be a pest so should be treated with Bug Clear if necessary. He feeds with Naruko 5 5 5 when roots have established about six weeks later.
Rodney Young urged his audience to just have a go. There was no magic to bonsai, just gardening techniques. Relatively quick results come from training cotoneaster and fuschia. He even showed that your own pots can be made from papier-mâché. His enthusiasm was infectious. He had demystified what at first sight seemed a highly complex subject.
Ref: Greenwood Bonsai Studio, Greenwood Gardens, Ollerton Road, Arnold, Nottingham.