Welcome to All in One Bonsa

Bitten by the Bug

Welcome to All in One Bonsai...a blog that aims to remind me of what I have forgotten. Over the years I have been finding out as much as I can about the art of bonsai. I hope the information in this blog will shed some light to the beginning bonsai enthusiast out there.

I saw some bonsai trees at a corner market one night in Taipei and asked the guy if he was willing to teach me how to create these miniature trees. He directed me to a night school where all the instruction was in Chinese. My Chinese ability is very ordinary at the least so although I was learning bits and pieces, I really wasn't getting all I wanted from the course. The best parts were when the teacher would start pruning a beautiful tree or when he showed us how to repot a bonsai. The mystery was still out there but my interest wasn't waning, if anything it fueled my motivation to find out more. And so I did.

Let the adventure begin...

Recently I have discovered the joy of pottery. Bonsai and pottery are close friends so it was only a matter of time before I was introduced to her. Welcome to All in One Bonsai...and pottery.

Feel free to visit my site where you can purchase some of my handmade pottery. Quite a few pieces have been wood fired as it is the prefered method here in Taiwan:

Esty Shop: AllinoneCeramics

Sunday, 26 January 2014


Keep it in the Family

Growing bonsai takes patience.  Trees grow relatively slowly (depending on the species) so I can understand the impatience of wanting your tree to grow branches, foliage and have a thick trunk quickly.  That is the beauty of growing bonsai - you come to the realisation that as much as you want to, you cannot force something to happen.  You must wait, do the right thing at the right time, and you will eventually be rewarded.  

However, there are ways around most things.  One way that has worked for me is to collect as many bonsai as you can that are in different stages of development.  This way, you can maintain, reshape, graft, cut heavily, repot, wire, and mist until your heart is content.  There will always be something to do and you create the illusion of not waiting too long.
The other way of speeding up the time process is by taking CUTTINGS, which will be the focus of this post.  

A cutting is simply a small branch cut from a larger tree.  

There are some excellent reasons for taking cuttings:

1. You can grow a bonsai from this cutting.  It is a great deal quicker compared to growing from seed.

2.  The cutting will contain the same characteristics of the parent tree.  This is interesting - if you have a bonsai tree that possess strong branch structure, small leaves, attractive looking bark - then the cutting will also have these characteristics!  Seeds will not - seeds are very much hit or miss.

This is a juniper tree that is growing in the Yamingshan Mountains.  I have been growing these trees for the past year.  I have a close look at the trees and decide on the ones that has good structure.  I then take the cutting from the top of this tree.  It is important to take the cutting from the growing tip because this is the part of the tree which is the strongest, giving the cutting a greater chance of survival.  If taken from the side, the branch is less likely to grow up straight - this maybe what you want, for example if you desire a cascade or semi cascade style bonsai.  
Make sure your cutting has brown wood.  The green shoot growing is still not going to be strong enough to take.  
Once you cut, you need to remove some of the lower shoots.
I end up cutting those other two small branches as well.  When you plant these cuttings in soil, you need to push them 2/3 of the way in.  
Working my way through the trees.
Generally the cutting should be between 7.5 to 12.5 cm in length
and make sure you include two or more nodes.  This way, your cutting has a greater chance of living.
I take some cloth and keep it wet, then wrap these cuttings up and place it in a plastic bag.  The reason why the cloth is wet is that you do not want to dry out your cuttings - keep them moist on the way from the top of the mountain to the bottom.  Some propagators have been known to make the cuts under water!   I have also heard that if you place your cuttings in a cup of water with 2 spoonfuls of sugar for 3 to 4 minutes, this will help roots emerge.  Hopefully, all these cuttings will eventually grow into adult bonsai one day.
Cutting soil should be well draining.  I mix half potting mix with some acadama soil.  
It is important that the water drains freely.  I add some drainage stones on the bottom layer.  Having the soil hold too much water will cause the cuttings to rot.  
I buy some root growth powder to facilitate rapid growth.
The cutting being dipped in root growth powder.  The two sections at the base of the cutting is where I hope the roots will also grow out from.  

Ideal time to take cuttings?
Generally, he ideal time to take cuttings is during early spring.  This is when the weather is not too hot - if it were steaming hot, the leaves of the tree would be screaming out for some help from the roots.  As there are no roots formed yet, you have to rely on the power of the branch to keep it alive.  Misting the leaves or buds becomes important.  Do this at least twice a day.  

23 - 27 degrees centigrade (73 degrees - 81 F) is the temperature range that is conducive to root growth.  Use these temperatures as a guide for your particular area. 

Roots will usually form in two to five weeks.

Research suggests to plant your cuttings close together.  This method has a better chance as there is less moisture loss through transpiration.  
Looking like a little forest already.
Make a hole with a chopstick first and then push the cutting down into the hole.  Use your index and middle finger of your same hand to compress the soil on either side of the cutting.
Next, give them a healthy watering using a hose that has very fine holes.  This way you will not disturb the soil.  This has to be one of my favourite things to do.  For some reason it is very satisfying for me.  There is probably some psychologist that can explain why.  
We also decided to take some flowering cherry cuttings from the side of the road.  Four of these cuttings produce red flowers and three produce brilliant white flowers.  

We will do our best here and see what happens.  One of the great things about trying to begin a new bonsai by taking a cutting is that it is for FREE.  If they fail, try and work out why, but at least you haven't lost any money.  
Place your cuttings in a shaded area.  
You want partial sun and as little wind as possible.  I have put up some protection and I am hoping to have these offspring produce roots that will then supply enough water and fuel to the leaves in about a month's time.

In the meantime, I will closely monitor the dryness of the soil.  I will wait until I can see little signs that the soil is drying a touch and then I will water again.  It will be a fine balance - you do not want to wait too long and dry everything out and on the other hand you do not want to water lodge and rot the base of each cutting with too much water.  This is where experience and trial and error comes into play.  I will also endeavour to mist the leaves and buds a few times a day, especially if there is a freak snap of hot weather.    

Please, give cutting a try and GOOD LUCK.  

I will update this post in 5 weeks to let you know what has happened.  If unsuccessful, I will try and work out why, so you do not make the same mistake.  

Happy Year of the HORSE from Taiwan.  

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Mountain Elm

Chinese Elm

My bonsai collection is slowing growing to where I now have over forty trees.  Most of these trees are quite small and young, however, a few weeks ago I was given a 70 year old Chinese Elm tree by Annie's dad.  Mr. Lin has been a bonsai man for many years but since he is too busy at his practice he has neglected his trees.  I am happily taking them off his hands.  I do feel some pressure though - this particular tree was dug out of the Taiwan mountains 40 years ago and has been resting on a rooftop apartment for the past 30 years.  The last thing I want to do is damage it in any way or worse still, end its life.  

Here is the old beast.

In quite a deep pot.  I want to repot it into a smaller pot so the tree looks more powerful.

A close up.  Nice moss growing on the bark.

It is late winter at the moment here in Taiwan.  Chinese New Year is in 3 weeks and it usually marks the beginning of spring.  Chinese Elm's are really tough trees.  My plan is to remove the dead wood, do some pruning, and wire the smaller branches.  I will then let the tree sit for two weeks and repot.  

Cutting away some of the dead branches.  

I removed the larger left hand side branch.  The entire branch was dead and had begun rotting.  I decided to remove it because a rotting branch is an invitation for insects.  We do not want these guys chewing up our trees.

Cleaning up.  That branch I cut was also dead.

I will add cut paste to these wounds later.  Cut paste aids the healing process because it prevents the wound drying out too much which may effect the branch that is living.

Always thinking about the eventual shape of the tree.  

A closer look.

Starting to wire the tree.  

I wire the thin branches.

Trying to work out where the real front of the tree will be positioned.  

Plucking out some weeds and then misting the leaves.

Maybe this is the front?  The back branch will lean too far forward if it was the other way around.  It would look too imposing.

I let the tree rest for 2 weeks and now I decide to repot this tree.

The tree comes out of its pot very easily!

I want to repot this tree into a smaller pot.  The roots look healthy.  I was expecting to see more roots actually.

Cut these roots that are beginning to grow straight down.  If you leave it too long this root will grow quite thick.  The goal is to have the roots growing laterally away from the base.

I will remove about 2/3 of these roots.

Here we go.  I am feeling some pressure because I know Mr. Lin (Johnson) will be eagerly quizzing me about this tree.  It has been in his family for a very long time.  

It can be a messy business.

Using root pruning forks is the way to go.  I settle with chopsticks.  

Easy does it!

The surface is interesting.  I want to dig down and find the original roots.  I cut off many that are either crossing or are growing too high up..

Keep digging down to reveal the thick roots underneath.  This will make the tree look more stable, older, and stronger.

I am misting these roots quite often.  I do not want them to dry out.  I have been working for about 45 minutes.

Time to change the pot.  Secure some drainage netting.

This is the pot I choose.  My little nursery now has over 100 pots.  It is very satisfying to be able to choose something from my collection there and then.  It all takes time to build up.  

I add a layer of small granite rocks for drainage.  I also poke up one long piece of wire which I will use to tie the tree into the pot.

I now add my soil.  100% acadama.  I leave a small mound in the middle where I want the tree to rise up slightly.  Again this will create the illusion of a powerful tree.

I look for a large root to act as a brace for the joining of the ends of my wire.  

I twist the ends together with some pliers.  

I'm moving the pot around looking for the best front.

The back branch is quite thick and moving away from the pot.  Possibly I could remove it entirely.  This may create a better taper?

I decide on this front.  

I give it a healthy water.  Make sure you see clear water drain out through the holes.