A Tree Versus a ‘Bonsai?

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.     

Martin Luther King


Over the years those that know me will no doubt agree I have generally; (not always) gone for a look that could be considered a fully grown tree in miniature. Indeed, I have for as long as I can remember, favoured the miniature world. I built up a miniature model-railway, miniature long-haired Dachshunds, and so on. When I first started out with Bonsai, I was of a mind that one should strive for the wonderful images as seen in many of the early books. After a time I realised that actually I preferred the look that was a full sized tree in miniature without the perfectly manicured pads and shapes. It might have been because I never had the time to spend hour after hour with wire. Highly likely, as there were other pursuits I enjoyed which all took up time.

One little Maple that I once owned, was for me a perfect example. everyone kept telling me I should shape it rather than have it as was. I suppose in the end it looked fine either way? I still like that natural look though.

Siberian Elm Leaf Size.

Although this Siberian Elm is a tree that looks better in a winter image, it is still never-the-less a deciduous tree, that for seven to eight months of the year is in full leaf. I always felt it a shame to just let it grow and wait until winter. Sure late Autumn the leaves turn yellow and if we are lucky with winds, it looks nice at this time, as many fall leaving a ‘skeleton’ like look.

The single biggest flush is as the new leaves settle in early Spring; toward mid to late Spring it starts to look untidy. This year I knew that I wanted to reduce the tree down, or reduce the size of the canopy width primarily whilst balancing up the rest of the tree at the same time. Here it can be seen at mid to late Spring.

Before S:elm

The sheep of course don’t do a good enough job! The next image is off the tree with size to the canopy reduced but not finished. Far better to wait a while as once it comes off, you can’t very well stick it back on. For that you need to wait a year or two.

After S:elm


The Hawk-eyes among you will have seen that I missed the middle of the pot in 2012 during its repot. One of those things, it happens, and I hadn’t noticed until a good pal pointed it out to me. Then again I am due new specs again. I mention this as the canopy looks like it hangs off the right more than it should.

So after many hours of trimming and selective pruning I wanted to let the tree have a couple of weeks to settle; this then for now was as far as I went. Over the next week or so there were plenty of browned leaves to remove. Very difficult on a full foliage to not snip where you should not. I’m limited on time due to my arthritis, suffice it to say it took me a full day, plus I had some help too.

The next few images concern leaf size. That is leaf size on the hardened ones and the plethora of new that would be spring out. During the following images I hope you can see where reasonably hard pruning has induced a wealth of back buds. Some will stay other will go.

Light is all important to species that have such a thick canopy; when they are dense hardly any light makes it in and the best I used to get when I knew no better was a few that would turn yellow within the tree and eventually drop. I did actually think some twenty five years ago that eventually it would became such a huge tree, I would have to plant it in the garden. I could not get my hear around this pruning malarkey, no matter how many books I read. I thought back then a good prune meant taking off twenty or so leaves!

In the following two images you can clearly see the extent of new growth that is springing up well back along the branchlets and within what was the darker areas.

Back budding 1 Back budding 2 Back budding 4

Since the first 2013 hardish prune I have continued to water daily with some overhead showers but waited a short while until much of the new has hardened before resuming feeding. I’m using seaweed as a tonic and for good leaf colour, ‘The ONE’ in powder form so I can mix it myself, and Levingtons Tomato feed.

You can see in this next image how daylight can be seen quite clearly through the foliage canopy.

Back budding 3

Towards the end I will include one from the outside in as a close up. The following images are of leaf size current and new. Obviously the lighter colour ones are the newly emerging, and quite quickly they will blend in as darker leaves when hardened. I’ve included the largest leaf size on the tree as well as the new ones.

Scale size 1 Scale size 2 Scale size 3 Scale size 4 Scale size 5 Scale size 6

Actually leaf size stays quite small throughout the year, also a fairly even size right across the tree.

I have spent a good few hours further pruning, and for now it will stay as can be see in the next two images. I keep removing those wee brown leaves and for now I believe I have just about the lot. In total I have taken the canopy diameter in by 1.5-2.5cm on each left and right side. The front down by approx 2cm and the back has been left as it is fine. The leaves will not grow any bigger once hardened, hence why the species makes such a credible tree as a ‘Bonsai.’ Yes this one would stand some more thinning but for now I shall leave it. It very often becomes a case of pruning ongoing until winter.

Here I have taken a picture close up to show the airy side of the tree. The one immediately below that is as right now.

Sibe close up post trim

Siberian end article

For Photography purposes I have use a Canon 500D with an L series 24-105mm lens with f stop settings selected by me with the camera deciding on shutter speed. ISO 100 mostly, custom white balance, cropped where required in PSE. Thank you for looking.

Korean Hornbeam Before & After.

I’ve suffered greatly just recently with pain from this infernal arthritis. But with a beer on the table and plenty of pain killing I decided I could ignore my triple trunk KH no longer. Funny though, it does no harm to let our trees enjoy what they enjoy most … growing.

Anyway, with some help we managed to get it moved for a before image. Bonsai Forum.


KH before in position

Helpers have moved the tree away from the patio and it is seen here stood on a B&D workbench.

KH before trimming


Several hours scissor and cutter work (I had help), much foliage has been removed, and for now the tree looks somewhat more presentable than before.

KH after 5 KH after 3 KH after 2 KH after 1

Thank you for looking and it has been nice to see some decent sunshine. Today here in Somerset the wind has blown itself out and the birds can be heard gently whistling as the sun shines at a nice 21C. Long may it last.

Just A Plant In A Pot

At times during the best months of the year for my hobby of bonsai, I do, as many will know, enjoy hugely mucking about with small pots n plants in the vain hope I can make some attractive ones. Now let’s be absolutely clear here, my accents / kusamono are on a par with what Rita Cooper & Dan Barton have forgotten! If you REALLY want to see some absolutely mind blowing accents read on. If not then I have uploaded an image below to look at.

The 2012 Magical Accent Show near Bristol was amazing; and hint hint I hope we have another in 2014; nudge nudge. Some superb images of Ritta’s accents HERE and some also from Dan Barton and his lovely wife Cecilia HERE. And a few more HERE.

Now I realise the images I’ve included here by link have been seen before, but truly I could not resist sharing once again. Also other than Dan B and Ritta, many other talented people had their very own accents on display. They are all stars. Oh and my mind wanders when I start speaking into this voice activated thingy; I may leave it one day to show you how it writes! Still one good finger to sort those annoying red underlines; I’ve done it again, wandered, sorry all, back to accents then.

And what started this post in my mind, was a pot I have moved a Gypsophila cerastioides ‘Baby’s Breath.’ into. (Who the heck makes these names up? Baby’s Breath??? I’d originally put this tiny thing in a very tall pot but fancied a change. Camera was my Canon with the 55-250mm reduced image size in PSE and slightly cropped. f7 ISO200 custom WB and set on TV settings.

So nothing wonderful, just a cheap wee pot from the garden centre that is not frost proof; so later this year this wee darlin will be planted in the rockery. I personally get great satisfaction from this hobby; one need not be brilliant at it, just so long as you enjoy it, and what you do works for you .. warts n all! Anyway as usual, my thanks for reading, on the basis someone other than me actually does 🙂

indoor pot

Some More Then.

Right, fingers are functioning again so here then is the other images I took yesterday. Can’t do any today as it seems like hurricane force out on the patio today!

One of my favourite pots from a smashing chap, Simon of Suteki. 5cm in width and 3cm depth. Clearly being so small this is really suited to sempervivums or similar that can stand a while without water. Check his site if you have time, he knows a thing or two about making stunning pots and creating accents. Oh the sedum just grows on the patio and this time of year the Blackbirds release some for me. I just pick it up where it lays and pot it up.


Another ERIN pot from Vic. Quite a recent one this is for me. Stands 8cm tall x 5cm wide (all measurements are approx. BTW). Planted up with some young Viola plants that have been grown from seed here at home. Not certain what this one will be as I mixed the labels up. (Can’t rely on anything these days, let alone myself!) Anyway the fun comes as the flower arrives. I’lll keep fingers crossed for split colour orange and purple.


An old Chinese pot that I have had here in the cupboard planted up with the other Echeveria I have. Think this one has more red colour.


A rather nice (I think so anyway) pot made in China I believe; 7cm x 7cm housing one of my miniature hostas. I’ve really not done at all well with any of my wee hostas this year. Not quite sure what went wrong.


ERIN pots again here. Very different to my usual choice in pots. 7.5cm wide x 6.5 tall. The Semper in this pot is the one that has the mass of cobweb like strands all around it. Clearly I’ve forgotten the variety name. Added some sedum from same patio which is just coming into flower.


Finally for now a Chinese pot sat doing nothing so I used one of my much larger Sempervivums, and it will stay there until I need the pot for anything else .. or not as the case may be. I’ll get some more up when this infernal wind dies out; which may be never. Whatever happened to glorious summer days????? BBQ has cobwebs!


Nothing Fancy Here

My second post today which is also another before and after. Just a small Maple that I have owned for almost thirty years. It was one of those wee saplings around a few centimetres in height and about as thick as a strand of spaghetti or two.

Repotted back in March, into this new to me oval Tony Remington pot, which I was fortunate enough to secure for myself at the 2013 Swindon Winter Image show. It is 32cm end to end and around 4cm deep.

The tree grew rather too well, and was difficult to keep up with. Anyway prior to a minor strip down.

Maple before


Some of it I just pull away, the old leaves and other parts I work away with scissors until my fingers get too painful to use. Unfortunately due to the ridiculous amount of cold wind we had during March April and May, this one along with all my other Maples burnt badly. The only solution is grow some new ones, hence the shape is not yet how I would really like as I wanted to concentrate of removing virtually all the severely wind-burnt leaves.

Immediately after a couple of hours pruning.

After Maple

Yes it would easily stand much more stripping down, I will see how new growth develops first.

Before and After

The Siberian Elm has been enjoying a good period of very health growth this May / June. So much so it was time to set aside an afternoon and get snipping. No wires have been used on this tree; the last was a few years ago to simply reposition one branch. Other than that it is a ‘snip n grow.’

Before S:elm

I’d taken this image with a Lumix Compact so apologies for the quality.  So a few hours later , and this will do just fine. The following image is taken with a Canon DSLR.

After S:elm


I’ve taken the tree in by around 40mm at the skirt tapering up to around 10-15mm at the crown. I may have one further hard prune this year then no more for 2013.

In 2014 I will radically root prune this Elm and repot to the same Walsall Ceramics pot which in my life will be its resting home … unless an alternative pot crops up that I like; I doubt it though.

Siberian Elm will be at Swindon 2013

I’ve made the decision to show my S/Elm at what I consider the greatest Bonsai show within the uk. The Swindon Winter Image Bonsai show. I very much doubt I will have any new leaves showing, and I will of course be keeping it in this wonderful (now getting on a bit) Walsall Ceramics pot.

I’ve only ever shown this tree at a very small local club event so my knees are knocking a tad. My great buddy Will B has an awesome Elm and I know he will have his own beauty looking fantastic.

This then the last of 2012 images. Now I must make a stand and think about a winter accent that may look suitable. Or anything else. Suggestions VERY VERY welcome. Anyway, it will definitely be at the 2013 Swindon show.  Fingers (shaky) very crossed it is liked on the day 🙂


‘Shrooms’ Already!

In a brief moment without any rain, I thought I would seize the opportunity to have a ‘potter’ round outside.  I couldn’t help noticing all the Mushrooms and Toadstools growing away. Normally here in the South west of ‘Blighty,’ the emergence of same would not be until at least late September through to November end.

This 2012 year is turning into a horrible damp depressing one. I see and hear from many friends in the USA that are hugely burdened by excessive heat! What a shame we cannot meet halfway.

So out with the trusty camera for a few quick pictures of some of my very own garden ‘Shrooms!’