Cracking Mediterranean Red Pines!

I’ve recently had an article in Bonsai Focus about working with Aleppo pines. Basically, these pines were always considered unusable for bonsai, because of their long needles and reluctance to bud back. However, after seeing a single, super-dense pad in a colleague’s garden here in Israel, I started thinking that maybe these pines were just getting a bad rap. After all – there’s no reason that what can be done on one pad, can’t be replicated for the entire tree. Continue reading

Extreme repotting – Rebuilding the collection from the ground up at the JBG

As I’ve mentioned before in the introductory video to this blog, one of the things that really fascinates me in working on the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens bonsai collection, is just how complex the project is, and how it really requires you to go back to the fundamentals of botany-before-bonsai. You can’t work a tree if it’s not in tip-top shape, and it’s our responsibility to make sure it stays there. As a wiser man than I has said before – we don’t want our trees ‘alive’. We want them ‘thriving’. Continue reading

The effects of proper soil in bonsai – example from the JBG collection

One of the greatest challenges in managing the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens’ bonsai collection, and in re-styling the trees, is the poor condition of the soil and the root mass in virtually all the trees in the collection. This literally affects all aspects of working with these trees, from watering and fertilizing routines, and through to options for re-growing and re-working the trees. If the foundations are shaky, the whole building will be affected.

Therefore, one of the first orders of business in the collection is slowly repotting all the trees into better, more aerated, substrate. A particularly striking case in point came from one of the trees in the collection, which was slowly (and then quickly) deteriorating, clearly due to root problems. When the leaves had turned from a pale yellow to white, branches were dying back, and washing out the soil with water and humic acid were having less and less effect each time, it was clear that a complete, bare-root repotting was necessary to save the tree.

The tree was bare-rooted and repotted into very well-draining soil at the end of August. This is the result less than six weeks later:

A small juniper starts its way to becoming a bonsai

As a bonsai student, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was patience. Not to look for an immediate result, and impose a ‘bonsai shape’ on a tree, but rather to think in the long term. To work WITH a tree, with its natural growth cycles in order to achieve a better result in the long run. Continue reading