Soon it will be winter, tucked up indoors with hot drinks and blankets in the warm, whilst our bonsai are outside braving the elements. Don’t forget that they are there, or they may decide not to awaken from their dormancy!
A recent winter was the coldest one on record, the following year might have been the warmest, so we do not know what to expect. Our poor trees (well, nature in general) doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going. Some of our members have trees that are beginning to shoot already. Now this poses a problem if the cold snap hits us late. Apparently some trees if their roots are pruned lose their natural resistance to frost, so it is a warning to not proceed with repotting too early in case we have this cold snap.
Warm weather also means those pesky bugs, vine weevils and other naughty things that eat our trees have not been killed off by the cold. Vine weevils are active, and a dose of Provado around this time will see your trees through until spring. In fact a spray of general fungicide and insecticide will help to kill off any bugs that are harbouring on our trees.
Take time to look at each tree individually. You don’t have to do this outside. Put out a cloth indoors, and bring them in to do this. It’s much warmer for you and therefore you will take more care to check them over thoroughly. Please remember to take the tree back out again, we may like central heating, but our trees do not! Check also for scale insect. They can be tricky to spot, hence needing to take your time. Whilst you have them indoors, stand back and look at your tree, does it need wiring, re-potting, styling? Make some notes, you’ll never remember when it actually comes to being able to get on and work properly on your trees! Apply the wire now, but do not bend the branches until the sap starts to move, this allows you to apply the wire without knocking off those vital buds! Another tip whilst you can see the bare branches is to put a loop of wire or a marker on a branch that will need attention in the spring when it is covered in leaves you will know which one it is.
Down here in deepest Devon, some winters we’ve not had too much rain, so it is important to get out there and ensure that they are not drying out. It is amazing how quickly they do.
Alternatively if there have been days and weeks of rain putting your tree inside a carrier bag with a small hole at the bottom for excess water to drain and tying the top helps to stop the tree getting waterlogged. White pines particularly hate being cold and wet or wet for long periods. Also easterly winds dry out the trees very quickly. If you’re able to, having a cover that would cover the whole area where your trees are kept is so much easier. Bringing it down over night if there is heavy rain or frost and lifting it up during the day does the trick just fine. Horticultural fleece has its advantages in that you can wrap several layers around your pots, which help to prevent too much water getting through and also protect it from frost and possible breaking if the waterlogged soil freezes. Be aware though that fleece needs to be kept out of sunlight for the rest of the year otherwise you will find it will disintegrate when you touch it next year!
Now, in those long, dark evenings, when there is nothing on TV to entertain, it is a good time to sit down and clean and sharpen your tools ready for the spring. There is nothing worse than trying to cut a shoot or branch and tearing it with blunt tools. If you don’t have anything at present, have a search of the bonsai shop websites to get an idea of what is out there. Oil the joints, clean the blades and sharpen them too.
Don’t forget the evergreen trees. If they’re starting to look a bit yellowy, they may well be hungry for a feed. Don’t give them full strength, we don’t want to completely confuse the tree into thinking it is already spring!
Lastly, but not any less important, is preparing yourself for the marathon event which is re-potting! Make up buckets of soil mix ready, and also prepare your pots, giving them a wash if dirty. It all saves precious time when those trees are shooting quicker than you can re-pot!
Well, as you can see, winter is the quietest time of the year! I think this just goes to show, that whilst our trees may look like they’re having a nice long sleep, there is plenty to keep us occupied to ensure a successful season ahead.