Branch­ing out into the art of bon­sai

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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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 al­fres­coitaly@gmail.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.

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