Bonsai and extreme temperatures

With the recent heat waves that we’ve had in Perth, I thought it might be an idea to touch on the subject, and how it can affect our bonsai, and more importantly, what we can do to keep them cool.

So you all know that I am still learning the art, but I guess I’ll be saying that for many years to come, but one of the first things that I learnt with my bonsai, was how to take care of them when the temperatures start to soar. The weekend just passed was a record breaker here in Perth, with temps in my area hitting 48/49 degrees celsius. When it gets this hot, you need to take precautions, otherwise your bonsai will not survive. These are some tips that I have compiled, and use myself.

Tip#1: Probably the most obvious suggestion, would be to water your plants more. Sprinkler or automatic watering systems work quite well in this situation. Watering your plants will obviously cool them down to a certain extent, but you need to be aware that in extreme temps, the water can quickly heat up, and may ‘cook’ the roots. That shouldn’t be a major concern for most, as it would need to be quite a high temp to get to that point. I tend to move my watering up to two or three times daily during the hot periods. You really need to watch your plants and the soil, as they will tell you when they need the water.

Tip#2: Another obvious one, would be to move your plants to a shady area for the duration of the heatwave. This would probably be the simplest option, as well as the most effective. Keeping your bonsai in a shady area will prevent the water evaporating quickly, and will also keep them out of direct sunlight, which can heat up a pot very quickly. The best shading method would be to cover your bonsai with 30-50% shade cloth, but failing that, moving them to a shady area under a tree would be fine. I will sometimes move mine so that they only receive morning light, but are shaded for the afternoon.

Tip#3: Some simple mulch or pebbles/stones covering the top of the bonsai. This will also slow the evaporation rate of the water, meaning the bonsai will stay cooler for a bit longer. I personally use gravel to cover the tops of my bonsai, but I have heard of Lucrene Hay being used, as well as many other different types of pebbles or rocks. Some forms of mulch may actually hinder you, as it can prevent you seeing the soil and knowing whether your bonsai is dry or not, so just pay a bit more attention to this if using a mulch like hay.

Tip#4: A very good way to keep them cool, is by sitting you bonsai in a gravel tray filled with water. I fill the tray with gravel, then fill the tray with water and sit my bonsai on top of the gravel, making sure that there is a gap between the water level and the bottom of the pot. The idea is that as the water evaporates, it is drawn up through the pot, keeping it cooler for longer.

Tip#5: would be to use wet carpet to lay on the top of your bonsai. Make sure it is cut to the correct shape, with a hole in the middle, and cut going from that hole to the edge. That way, you can lay the carpet over the soil of your bonsai (so the trunk is coming through the hole), which will allow for the soil to stay damp for much longer. I have also heard of newspaper being used to this affect. While it may not look the best, it is very effective in keeping the plant cool, and the evaporation rate down.

Tip#6: Is another thing to be aware of, and something that suprised me, is that the bigger the pot, the faster it will dry out. So for example, a large cascade pot will dry out much faster then a regular bonsai pot. This is due to the surface area that is exposed to the sun. The more surface area on a pot, the more heat it will absorb, and a hot pot is not a good pot. So just watch your big pots as much as you do you the small, as they will dry out quickly too. This can also be said for any type of rock plantings, like ROR (root over rock), Planted in rock, or Slab plantings. The rock not only gives more surface area to heat up, it also acts as a wick, and draws water up into the rock, which is not good for you bonsai.

These are just a few tips that I have learnt (sometimes the hard way) that will hopefully help keep your bonsai alive during the extremely hot days that come around during summer.

Please feel free to post your own tips in the comments, as this post will be updated as I discover more.

Another year done! A look back at my first year of bonsai

Well, what a year it was!

Firstly, a big Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! I hope everyone has had an amazing time, and did not get up to too much mischeif.

Whilst it is not exactly a year since I started bonsai (its actualy been one year and 2 months… but who’s counting right) I thought I might have a look back over my year and see what I have learnt, and where I can grow.

My first real bonsai experience I guess was with the Bonsai Society of WA. It was a simple day long beginners course, that taught me more then I can say, and sent me way with my passion for bonsai. I created a Shohin Juniper with the aid of a mentor for the class (who I was stoked to work with, as he is a favourite artist of mine) from a stock Juniper Procumbens. I learnt many things during the course, more then I can really put in to words, but it gave me the base I needed to really start learning.

Me and my first bonsai. Proud as punch

Next was the Mauro Stemberger demonstration. Unfortunately I did not participate in the workshop, as I just was not confident enough to put my name down. A shame, as I now really wish I had of done it. Anyway, I did watch his demonstration, which was a real pleasure. The man himself is great, very funny and extremely knowledgeable in the art. He produced an amazing tree from the stock that was provided, and really helped me in looking beyond the ‘obvious’ tree.

Then, it was back to the beginner course, I enjoyed it so much the first time that I just had to go again. the set up was the same and I enjoyed myself just as much as I did the first time, the experience is one I recommend for any beginner wanting to learn. I worked on another Juniper Procumbens, which I created a slanting style bonsai from. Being able to work a tree in that environment, with so many knowledgeable people there to help and answer my questions, really is the best way to learn.

(Picture coming soon, I didn’t get any good ones at the course, but do have one once I got home)

Finally, my workshop with Bill Valavanis. I have documented this already in another post, so will not go through that again. Suffice it to say, that Bill is a wonderful bloke, and I really enjoyed the workshop.

Bill V-workshop

This, was my first year through bonsai. I should note that this is a very high level view of my year, I have my own small garden which I am continue to grow my bonsai-to-be, and learn as I do so. I also acquired a nice little melaleuca, which is pictured below. My first, proper, native bonsai. The first of very many to come.

Mel. Incana

So, that is my first year of Bonsai. The one thing I really have learnt this year, is that I truly have a lot to learn. I know now that it really is not as simple as it looks, but I have also found that I have a real passion for this, and hope to continue on for a long time. I have also discovered my passion for natives, and look forward to where I can take that in my bonsai ‘career’.