Got back from a long overdue holiday recently. If you’ve ever been to see our little bonsai nursery in Sheffield, you’ll know that we love what we do. We’ve had the place for nearly eight years now and it’s easily the best thing I have done in my life. The work is harder than you may think – but on a good day it can’t be beaten. On the flip slide, it’s pretty difficult to get time off.
In the past, we tried to take a holiday in summer. Any keeper of a bonsai tree collection will know that holidays take a little planning. It’s a good idea to have someone you can trust to water your trees. For people with a nursery, it’s a big-ask to expect people to take the watering duties in summer. So, we now close for much of January. A small craft business like ours can’t really afford staff if I’m honest. I’m also not going to pretend that we are a big corporate entity when we’re not. We’re very lucky though to have a small bunch on people who want to help us in the bonsai project. A big thanks to Linda, Kay and Norman (in no particular order) – without you we wouldn’t have been able to take a break.
Maybe in the future we’ll grow to the size where we can be a small team. Not sure if that’s part of the plan at the moment. For now we’re happy with growing the trees and running the place. All of your orders are gratefully received and prepared for shipping by myself and Jude. People tell me that the friendly, personal service is a big plus for them. Long may that continue.
Anyway, thanks for bearing with us while we were away on our very long overdue holiday. Even though it’s a cool place to work, it’s important that we have a break once in a while. This is true for all people working anywhere. You can start to resent what you do if you don’t get a chance to get away from it now and again. Work-life balance is definitely a concept to be aware of, and burnout is also a real thing.
Hey-ho, we’re back now. Its blinking freezing. Got the long-johns back on, along with the scruffy coat and the fingerless gloves. Used to wear a suit for work lol. We’re heading into bonsai re-potting time shortly, so its time for Repotting and bonsai pots
I’ve been thinking about water more than normal recently, on account of the lack of it falling from the sky. We over here tend to take it rather for granted, but just a little too much or too little and it occupies the mind quite a bit. Me and Jude seem to have had hosepipes and watering cans welded to our hands for months now. The cycle of watering in the morning and then again in the evening has become automatic. The problem with this is, as a bonsai grower, you shouldn’t really water to a routine. Lots of factors affect how often you need to water.
Bigger bonsai trees dry out less quickly than smaller ones.
Certain species of bonsai tree require less water than others. Giving the pines too much water for example, doesn’t really bother them but if you overdo it you’ll end up with long needles.
The soil mixes that you use dry out at different rates. Humus (brown soil stuff) rich mixes hold a lot of water. More free-draining mixes dry out more quickly. Smaller particle sizes tend to dry out less quickly than larger particles.
Trees which are moving towards being pot-bound dry out more quickly, as the amount of root in the pot has increased – soil holds water, so if there is less soil and more root, there is less water retention.
Some trees are less fussy.
So, it isn’t really a great idea to just to lump water on everything twice a day. I and lots of other bonsai growers tend to be over-waterers. Finding the balance is key. Basic advice is to touch the soil surface and if it is starting to feel dry, then it’s time to water. When you do water, soak. Soak the soil and the rest of the bonsai, trunk, branches and leaves. If you are watering with a hosepipe, angle it up a bit and water the underside of the leaves too, it gets rid of bugs. It’s often surprising how much water it takes to fully get all of the soil wet, so it’s also wise to go over your bonsais twice. After you’ve properly watered, don’t do it again until necessary.
Tap water versus rainwater? At our place we use rainwater most of the year and have a couple of big tanks to collect it off the greenhouse roofs. In hot summer we go to tap water and watering with cans isn’t practical given the volume of trees that we have. We’ve got a filter on the tap water, which gets rid of some of the nasties in the tap water. I do think rainwater is best. The PH is better for the trees. If you live in a hard water area, I’d recommend catching rainwater. Generally speaking, trees prefer slightly acidic soil, so pouring on alkaline water gradually changes the chemistry of the soil away from the trees preferred PH. This can be balanced by using an ericaceous fertilier once in a while.
Growers of the smallest bonsai, Mame and Shohin sizes, tend to have the least fun in hot weather, as the little pots dry out the quickest. The smaller the bonsai, the more hard work it is to look after it in the heat. Now if you’re an experienced bonsai grower, then that’s fine, it’s up to you. The problem is that lots of first time bonsai growers say to themselves “I’ll just get a little one and see how it goes.” Then, they get a small bonsai in a little pot. Hard work.
Anyway, I’m sat in the garden typing away and I think it’s just about to rain. Might have to duck inside with the laptop in a min. If it’s going to rain, it needs to throw it down for an hour. Little piddly showers won’t do it as far as the trees are concerned. The leaf canopies acts like an umbrella. I often joke with people in the shop than bonsai trees like nothing more than a dull, damp, grey day. Because we spend so much time with the trees, I can physically see then different a day of rain makes in summer, they just look greener and happier. The roots, trunk and branches are like pumps at end of the day, and the trees have to work harder in hot weather. You can make life easier for your bonsais in hot weather by keeping them well-pruned. Bonsai trees try to grow more foliage than they can sustain, the idea being that wild trees expect to have leaves eaten and branches that get broken. Look at big trees and you’ll often see dead branches which have been overtaken by branches growing above them.
Yep, definitely raining. Better go. Day off today. Typical…
We get lots of people contacting us with bonsai related questions. Here is one on how rain affects bonsai trees. The question being does rain damage bonsai trees.
I recently purchased a Chinese elm from you and after reading your advice have decided to leave it outside in a sheltered area of garden. As I am new to keeping bonsai trees and reading up lots about watering techniques I was wondering if left outside the tree would get too much water causing the roots to rot. As I am planning to buy a few more different plants I would like to do what I can to keep them healthy. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again for buying from us.
I find that no amount of rain bothers elms and most other trees. Most of them love it and even if it rains solidly for days, it doesn’t bother them.
The only exception might be some of the pines, such as Japanese White Pine. Even with these though, it more about keep the needles short, as bonsai growers prefer this. The tree itself doesn’t care.
That’s not to say that you can’t overwater them. You certainly can. It’s just that it takes a while for this to happen and I’ve never known it to rain enough, it would have to be solid heavy rain for weeks. As I say, I have never found it to be a problem. In fact, I’d go for some heavy rain right now lol.