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Having Bonsai Trouble? It’s All About The Basics

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Fred say, “It’s all about the basics … all your problems with your bonsai boil down to an issue with either light, air, or water.”

I got several pre-bonsai from Dallas Bonsai Garden about a year ago and had been having trouble with them.

The reason: Not enough light!

The back yard is shaded, but it’s secure. The problem was, I had run out of spots for bonsai that were both sunny and cat proof. I had no real choice other than to make use of the front yard.

I had erosion issues out front, so I built a retaining wall. That gave me the ability to spruce it up a bit with mini pine bark nuggets, and well, you can see it in the image below.

The plants that were in dire straights were the Japanese Maple that I wired in a video a couple months back and wasn’t doing so great, and 3 junipers that were rapidly dying. So, I put them out front.

As you can see in the image below, I buried the Japanese Maple in the pot. to soil level, then spread mini pine bark nuggets around it. It looks like a planting, although it’s too close to the stoop. But, I’ll move it later.

The Maple was not budding as spring came. Whatsmore, I snapped a branch while I was tweaking the shaping of it. I forget how pliable they are until they all the sudden break. I was hoping that the cambium layer was undamaged and would keep the branch alive, and together with the wire that was on it, the branch would survive, but it didn’t.

You can see the break and the branch above the break that I am trying to create the new branch from below.

This Japanese Maple has been through a lot. A couple years ago, before I bought it, it must have fallen on it’s head because the main trunk was broken off. There were several new branches forming from this area, so I made use of one of them.

The picture is a little hard to see, (darn point and shoot cameras!) but you can make out that the top was broken, and I wired a new branch upwards.

Over time, this will become the new trunk.

The first two weeks after I put the maple out front, new growth formed. I used plain water and watered it heavily.

The third week, I used weak fertilizer one day and watered the next.

The fourth week, the leaves appeared overnight. It’s looking really good and healthy now.

The junipers have begun their recovery as well. You can see from the image below that there were areas of dried out, but still alive foliage, and areas of seemingly dead foliage. But the same fertilizing routine, and long sunny days brought new growth and the junipers are bouncing back.

It may seem obviously wrong, but too many times I find myself trying to make a plant live within the growing conditions I have available. But that’s not how it works. We need to pick plants that thrive in the environment we have available.

Junipers and maples don’t do well in shade. They need a certain amount of direct sunlight every day. Similarly, ficus are not going to do well in direct sun and a dry climate – they need part sun/shade and a nice humid environment.

I find it funny that I make the same mistakes over and over, but one day, hopefully, I will learn. Now, that I’ve realized how to disguise my bonsai out front, I may be able to get some more to experiment with.

Wish me luck!

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