Branching out into the art of bonsai
INVASIVE PLANTS: Join a plant hack today, 8am. Free, but entrance fees apply. Helderberg Nature Reserve, Somerset West. Phone 021 851 4060, James at 078 306 1660, or visit www.helderbergnaturereserve.co.za. CRAFT MARKET: A midsummer festive season gift market with 180 crafters. Tomorrow: 9am to 3pm; December 22: 9am to 3pm. Free entry to the market but garden fees apply. Stone Cottages, opp Kirstenbosch. Contact Jimmy at 074 333 2170, craftmarket@botsoc-kirstenbosch. org.za. IRRIGATION: Learn how to design and install an irrigation system. Wednesday, 10am. Morne’s Super Plants, 150m north of Tokai & Main Rds, Tokai. Contact 021 715 4666. GARDEN WALKS: Join daily walks in the gardens at Kirstenbosch. Today, 10am. Mondays: 10am and 2pm. Tuesdays: 10am, 11am and 2pm. Wednesdays: 10am and 2pm. Thursdays: 10am and 2pm. Fridays: 10am and 2pm. Meet at info desk, Kirstenbosch. Walks free, but garden fees apply. Contact Kate on 021 671 5468. CAROLS IN THE GARDEN: Four nights of carols in the Kirstenbosch gardens. Today and tomorrow, 8 to 9.30pm. Cost: R75. Tickets only available at Pick ‘n Pay. Normal garden fees apply. Concert Lawn, Kirstenbosch. Booking is essential. www.kirstenboschrotary.co.za. CONCERT IN THE GARDENS: Enjoy the Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts. Next Sunday – Mango Groove. Cost: R120. December 29 – Oliver Mtukudzi. Cost: R120. December 31 – Goldfish. 5.30-7pm. Concert Lawn, Kirstenbosch. Book tickets on 021 799 8782/8602. ROSE TOUR: Join a rose tour to Tuscany. December 28 to January 5. Cost: 2 500 (R35 700). Contact Pamela on 082 553 7555 or email@example.com. Visit www.ludwigsroses.co.za CHELSEA 2014: Join the 21st show. May 17 to 24. Contact Gillian on 021 683 2838 or 083 261 3961. INVASIVE PLANTS: Join a plant hack at Pringle Bay. December 29, 8-11.30am. Call John Whitehead 028 273 8807. today you can find a host of indigenous bonsai that include acacia, buddleja, bauhinia, celtis, coleonema, crassula, dalbergia, diospyros, erythrina (coral tree), ficus, galpinia, wild olive, yellowwood and even schotia. Tips for beginners: Bonsai are favourite gifts for the festive season. If you receive a bonsai this summer, appreciate that there is no trick to growing a healthy bonsai.
The trees simply need love, tender care and about five minutes of your time every day. The most important thing to remember is that bonsai trees are not indoor plants, and should not be treated as such.
Here are a few basic rules for bonsai beginners:
● Water: Most bonsai trees do not like wet roots. However, bonsais grow in very small pots and therefore the soil needs to be watered every day. Make sure the water drains away from the bottom of the pot, and does not collect in a drip tray, as this will cause root damage. A good bonsai pot should have drainage holes to allow the excess moisture to drain away.
● Position: Some tropical trees, like Ficus benjimina, do not mind growing on brightly lit patios, but most trees, such as the maple, white stinkwood and acacia, need a lot of light and grow better in a position where they receive direct sunlight for some of the day. Try to place your bonsai in an east-facing position outside to allow the tree to catch the morning sunlight.
● Pruning: Once watering and position are sorted out, your tree will grow healthily and send out new shoots. The tree will start changing its shape and you will have to start removing the new growth in order to keep the tree in proportion.
● Where do you cut the branch or new shoot? A healthy tree develops new shoots continuously. They appear on the branch at the base of the leaf. To maintain the correct shape for your bonsai, any shoots that grow upward or downward need to be removed. Only side-growing shoots are retained. Cut these back to two (sets of) leaves when new shoots have hardened.
● Fertiliser: Always feed regularly with a liquid fertiliser, and over-dilute rather than making the fertiliser too strong. Concentrated fertiliser can damage the roots and kill your tree.