March 2020

A busy time for caring for bonsai continues so this month the club held another workshop. Most people still had repotting to do and some trees which had been repotted previously were ready for light tidy by removing or wiring any branches in the wrong place or position.  All of that kept members busy for another meeting.

Tree of the month this month was won by a beautiful prunus in flower.  Members were able to borrow books from the library to brush up on styles or techniques and the raffle for a voucher for Downsview Bonsai was popular.

We had great plans for a display and full Saturday open day in April. Unfortunately as with so many events at this uncertain time, these events are now cancelled. So also is our annual show which was planned for 30th May. There will be no club meetings indefinitely as the hall is closed until further notice.

Members will of course continue caring for their trees at home and compare results when we are able to meet again.

February 2020

This month begins a busy time in the bonsai calendar. This of course does depend on the weather and the winter we have had. Providing bonsai are not too wet or cold, this is the time to begin repotting those trees that need it. For this reason our meeting this month was a repotting workshop.

Trees may need potting into a bonsai pot from a plastic pot in which they had been purchased. The medium in which they are in may need refreshing or the tree roots may need trimming if they have grown to the size of the pot. Trees are not necessarily repotted to a larger pot but restricted to the size of pot for the tree you wish to achieve.

Choosing an appropriate pot depends upon the type and size of tree. The size and shape of pot need to be considered, to suit the size and shape of the tree. Consider oval, round, oblong or square and the depth of the pot. The colour and finish of the pot are also a consideration. For example the colour of the pot should compliment that of the colour of the blooms of a flowering tree.

Members brought trees they wished to work on for any of the above reasons or because they have decided to change a pot for aesthetic reasons. In this case some soil can be changed to refresh it and the roots may need trimming a little. Young trees may need repotting every year or two but older established trees may need less attention, perhaps changing some potting medium, removing any weeds and refreshing the surface dressing.

A demonstration of repotting a small group of acers was given for new members. We also had our tree of the month competition which was won by a bush cherry and second place was a juniper. Books were available from our library for members to borrow.

Next month, on 9th March, we will have another workshop for repotting any trees not yet repotted or for trimming and beginning styling trees not recently repotted. If done too soon this could stress the tree.

January 2020

A new year for the club begins with our AGM. Not the most exciting event of the year but useful to review the past year and look forward to a new programme for the year ahead. Members have an opportunity to make suggestions for club activities they would enjoy.

We hope to encourage new members to join us and whether new to bonsai or an old hand, to benefit from the company of others with a similar interest and share tips and ideas. Towards this end we will be holding another open day as we did successfully last year. This will be held on Saturday 18th April. We welcome visitors to view a display of trees while members take part in a workshop and are happy to answer questions and speak with visitors.

The open day will be held at St Mary’s Church Hall, Hampden Park where club meetings are held and this year our annual show will also be held in this hall on Saturday 30th May. Although this hall is smaller than the hall at Herstmonceux where we have held our show for the last few years, we hope it will be more accessible for visitors and just as enjoyable a day. We will still be able to accommodate displays from other bonsai clubs which are always of great interest.

The shield for 2019 Tree of the Month was awarded to Colin George and a certificate for the Role of Honour presented to Brian Dale. For tree of the month members are encouraged to bring a tree  and all members vote for their preferred tree. The winning trees this month were a winter jasmine in bloom and joint second a mugo pine and a black pine.

After the AGM there was an opportunity for members to chat over refreshments, meet new members and peruse library books.

Next month we will have a workshop when we can begin work on our trees that need repotting. There will also be a demonstration and talk on repotting for those members new to bonsai or who need a refresher on this subject.

July 2019

July and August there is less to do with bonsai, apart from watering and feeding. However this is a suitable time to style and tidy up trees but not repotting. This month our club meeting was a workshop when members brought trees which had grown and needed trimming back or reshaping. Some had azaleas which need the finished blooms removed to prevent the strength of the tree going into forming seed. It is acceptable for some azalea owners to remove the blooms as soon as formed particularly in a weaker or less healthy plant or particularly to encourage growth of trunk, branches and foliage. This was an opportunity to look at others trees and discuss potential action or to receive help and advice if wanted.

Several trees were shown for ‘tree of the month’ which was won by a Gingko Bilbao.

The club exhibited at the Chichester club show on the 6th and 7th of the month and a number of club members attended. It was a good show and everyone had an enjoyable time.

At our next meeting on Monday 12th August we will be welcoming Ken Norman from Sussex Bonsai. He is very experienced with bonsai and has written excellent books on the subject. He will demonstrate on pines and junipers. This should be a very interesting evening. New members are always welcome and the first meeting is free.

June 2019

Our June club meeting was to have been a visit to Downs View Bonsai but the English unpredictable weather rained us off. The visit was postponed and the evening we met was better but not the bright June weather we had hoped for. This didn’t prevent us having a very enjoyable evening strolling around Peter’s garden seeing his display of bonsai from small starter trees to large show trees. This is an opportunity for members to add to their range of bonsai, finding an example of one they don’t possess or choosing a pot just the right shape and size for a specific tree. Members were able to chat to each other over refreshments and get that question answered that was on their mind.

The previous Saturday we had an open day from 10.00am to 3.00pm at St Mary’s hall where club is held. This was to show the public what we do at a workshop meeting. Members brought trees on which to work, some trees were in need of tidying up, trimming branches, removing wiring or even weeding. We also took trees for a display of our trees. There were a large variety of trees which were of as much interest to members as to visitors. Visitors were able to watch members work and discuss any aspect of bonsai or the club that they wished. They were able to look at the trees on display in detail and decide what aspect of a tree they liked. There was a constant buzz of conversation during the day. Some visitors left planning the next thing to do with their trees and some who had just one tree, given as a present, had confidence to care for their precious tree. Some thought attending the club would help them with their hobby, meeting others with a similar interest, exchanging ideas and information. We hope that when they attend their first meeting, which will be free, that they find us a friendly and welcoming group.

May 2019

The club welcomed back our long standing friend David Penny who this month gave us a talk and demonstration of literati. When applied to the Japanese style of bonsai the term means no excess or the removal of everything which is unnecessary. A literati style of bonsai is most usually thought of as a trunk with no lower branches and branches and foliage only at the top.

On this occasion Dave brought in a thuja occidentalis shrub from reduced nursery stock. It had no main stem and Dave decided this would be a muti stemmed literati with four stems. There was one long stem which would be the apex. Dave removed most of the branches low down. He reminded us that spaces are as important as the branches themselves. He then wired the main and tallest trunk using a thick wire. This would hold the trunk in the desired position and would be removed in a few months before it started to bite into the tree. He then began wiring the branches starting with the largest and gradually moving on to the smaller ones using finer wire for each size. The branches could then be positioned to form pads and placed into a pleasing effect. The height of each trunk would be adjusted to maintain an asymmetrical effect.

This process would stress the tree so that following styling the tree should be kept in a protected position for a few months and the soil fed with a feed containing vitamin B12.

Our next club meeting will be on 10th June when we will visit Downs View Bonsai. On Saturday 22nd June we will be holding an open day when visitors can see a display of trees as well as watching us work on our trees. This will be an opportunity to ask questions and talk to members about any aspects of bonsai.

January 2019

A new year for the club began with our annual general meeting. Reports were given of a successful year in 2018 and thanks extended to the many volunteers who help make the club run smoothly. A new committee was elected. Our chairman Paul Canham, ably assisted by his wife Gillian, will remain in office and with vice chair Brian Dale look forward to another successful year. The emphasis of this will be to encourage new members to enjoy the interesting world of bonsai. To this end we will be holding an open day on Saturday 22nd June when we invite visitors to join us at any time throughout the day, to view workshops and displays. The high point of our year will be our club show on 26th May, at Herstmonceux village hall. Other displays will be held at shows and nurseries throughout the year. Our club programme for the year is an interesting mix of workshops, demonstrations and visits. We will continue to hold our regular competition for the “tree of the month”. The shield for overall points gained for “tree of the month 2018” was awarded to Brian Dale.

Following a break for refreshments, the evening continued with a short demonstration of caring for and sharpening tools with a carborundum oil stone and emery paper. We then saw a display of bonsai pots and a discussion on choosing appropriate pots for individual trees by size, shape and colour. Pots should be frost proof and have sufficient holes for adequate drainage and several smaller holes to secure wiring. A general guide for the size of pot is that the length of the pot should be approximately two thirds of the height of the tree. For a very low but spreading tree the pot should be about two thirds of the spread. Conifers tend to be displayed in unglazed pots while deciduous and broad leaved trees such as maples in glazed pots. Pots are usually shallow but deeper pots may be used for flowering trees. Cascade trees are best displayed in a deep square pot. Square and oblong pots, considered masculine, suit sturdy trees and round and oval pots, more feminine and delicate looking trees. The colour of pot should reflect the tree shown. These ideas are only suggestions and pots and trees should be matched for the preference of the owner. The tree of the month was won by a winter jasmine, shown with a small yellow primrose accent.

Our next meeting, in February, is a repotting workshop and will include a short demonstration for those interested. The work we are able to carry out will depend on the weather and our trees but there will be time for discussion, help and advice shared between members.

December 2018

December means that most of our trees will need little or no attention apart from being looked at regularly, to be sure they are in good condition. For this reason this month’s club meeting did not include work on trees. We reviewed the year’s programme, sharing comments and opinions of the club events. We then looked at and discussed the programme for 2019 which should prove to be a varied and interesting year; including club workshops, demonstrations by invited speakers and outside events such as displays, shows and an evening at Downsview Bonsai. The highlight of the year will of course be our annual show on Sunday May 26th at Herstmonceux. On Saturday 22nd June we will have an open day from 10 am to 3 pm, including a bonsai display and workshop when we would welcome anyone to call in and see what we do.

After seasonal refreshments we gathered again for a bonsai quiz. We played in teams and the results meant that some of us were surprised just how much we had learned and all of us learnt some Japanese terms which were new to us.

We had our regular tree of the month competition. Members had found some trees suitable to show and the winning tree was a small rosemary.

We meet again in January when we will have our AGM on Monday 14th. This will be followed by talks on pot matching and sharpening and care of tools.

November 2018

This month we had a change to our planned programme of preparing trees for winter, when we were pleased to welcome a long time friend of the club David Penny. David was happy to include with his demonstration a brief session on caring for trees in winter which was useful.

David brought a picea, nursery material of about 30 years old with him and a club member brought a pine tree in need of attention. Members chose the pine for David to work on.

Throughout the styling process David involved members in making decisions, when options were presented. The first decision was to decide on the front of the tree depending on the trunk and position of branches. It was then decided to increase a bend in the trunk not only giving the tree a better line but brought two top branches, forming a T, to an acceptable angle. The trunk was wired with thick 5mm wire and secured with a thinner wire to a wire around the pot as an anchor point. Unwanted lower branches were then removed and styling to an informal upright was started. The tree should bend back then forward to give depth.

Light wiring on branches allowed them to be bent down and to a better position. By putting bends in a branch it will appear to reduce length. David removed the growing tip of branches and needle pruned to encourage back budding. Needle pruning would normally be done in June when the tree is growing. Thicker needle growth can be produced each year and where necessary branches reduced in length. The tree was then in an acceptable style for the owner to maintain.

David explained that most pines should be watered and fed throughout winter. Feeding other bonsai will have stopped in October and native trees will survive outside down to -5c if not prolonged and ice forms. This will prevent roots taking up water. More tender trees should be protected.

October 2018

This month we had another first for our club programme. Those members who wished to were given a random number which linked to a nursery shrub. There were different varieties of shrub mostly evergreen. Members then worked on the material they were given to produce the first stage of a bonsai. Other members had brought their own trees to work on.

It was interesting to see the different reactions to the material provided. These included, ‘I can’t see a bonsai style in this at all’, ‘This has to be a shohin ( a small tree less than 8 inches tall), ‘I have just the place for this, almost the way it is’, ‘An obvious literati’, ‘An obvious cascade’, ‘I need some help, any suggestions?’

Once everyone had studied their material and made a decision as to the style they were aiming for, they set to work, removing unwanted branches and foliage, leaving the framework for a bonsai style. Branches were wired into the desired position and the shape and style studied. In many cases more than 80% of the material was removed to leave a very simple basic shape. Hopefully what remained had the possibility of back budding to produce the desired effect over future years. Mostly trees would remain in the same pot over winter for the tree to recover from the severe pruning. In the spring trees would be repotted, when the roots would be pruned. Where branches had been wired these would need to be watched in order to remove the wire as soon as there was any possibility of the wire cutting in to the thickening branch.

Members enjoyed seeing other peoples work and discussing choices made and the results produced. All the debri was cleared away with some members taking home cuttings to provide yet more new material for bonsai. Tree of the month, sales table, library and possibly more coffee filled the remainder of the evening. Tree of the month was won be a small pink fuscia growing around dead wood.

Next month on the 12th of November we will have a workshop when members will bring their own trees to work on, in order to prepare them for winter. This should be a useful as well as interesting evening seeing and discussing others trees.

September 2018

This month we tried out a new programme for the club. A member provided material for the members to discuss and decide on a style. The material was a yew which had been in a large pot for about ten years and left standing against a wall in light shade. The session was lead by two members Colin George and Keri Pervis. All parts of a yew are poisonous so care should be taken when working on a yew tree.

Members found it quite difficult to see any obvious style or front to the tree when first asked. Colin and Keri made a decision that the tree was too tall and the higher branches too rigid to be styled. They began by removing about a third from the top of the tree. A new leader had to be found from a suitably soft branch lower down. From two possible branches the lower branch, with more growth was chosen and the other removed. The remaining main trunk from above this branch would be dead wood. To achieve this the cadmium layer (bark) is removed. This is known as a jin.

In order to work further and give a better perspective for members, the yew was moved to a large deep oval bonsai pot. The roots were observed and found to be strong and healthy. They were left as they were and could be refined when repotted. Small branches were removed as well as those growing opposite each other or too close together. The trunk was straight and could be upright or slanting. This could be decided when repotting. A front to the tree was identified, agreed by members. All branches were then wired and finally bent into shape. A bend was introduced in the new leader in order to give more shape to the tree.

The yew was returned to the original pot at the end of the session. It would be left to grow-on over winter and possibly repotted by its owner to a suitable bonsai pot in spring.

Colin and Keri were thanked and members showed their appreciation for the work they had done. Photographs of the work in progress will be posted on the club website.

Members were reminded that next year’s show will be held a little earlier in the year on 26th May in the hope that more trees in bloom will be available.

A good variety of trees were shown for ‘tree of the month’, won by a small cork bark elm. All but two members attending had brought a tree. Voting for our favourite tree, another coffee, look at the library and sale table concluded an interesting evening.

On Sunday 23rd September the club will have a display at The Michaelmas fayre at the Red Lion, Ninfield. We also hope to put on a display at the Heathrow show on 21st October.

At our October meeting on Monday 8th, we will each work on similar material, purchased through the club, to create our own bonsai. This again will be a new programme for a club evening.

August 2018

This month we welcomed our old friend David Penny to the club and on this occasion he demonstrated how to construct and plant a ‘root on rock’. This would normally be undertaken in spring to give the tree a better chance. The rock he used was ocean rock from an aquarium supplier. This is white when purchased so needs to be left outside to weather. It looks similar to tufa rock but should last many years longer. The rock should be well soaked for a few days before starting.

David inserted wires into natural holes in the rock secured with lead. Copper wire secured the rock to the base of a flat dish through the drainage holes, with garden clay and peat underneath. ‘ Kito’, pond sludge with sphagnum moss is pushed into crevices on the top of the rock and the juniper secured with wires into position at an angle. Care must be taken not to hold the roots closely with the wire but pin down. More kito is added over the roots. A tree chosen for root on rock should be fairly drought tolerant to cope with the lack of soil and water retention on a hot rock.

Garden clay mixed with pond mud and sphagnum moss is used around the roots. More moss is placed over and around the rock down to the base. This will act as a wick drawing up water from the base to the roots. Soil around the rock which is watered will provide a water supply. It is possible to give the rock an island effect by surrounding it with sand but this will dry out more quickly. The tree can be styled once it has established in position. Moss and very small plants, perhaps alpines, planted on the rock will give it a more natural effect.

David finished the evening looking at a member’s Chinese juniper to plan styling. David suggested a literati style and rather than removing a large branch on one side it could be wired down and the foliage thinned. The apex should be encouraged to grow stronger and a small branch removed.

Next month the club members will work together to discuss and style a yew tree. Members were asked to say if they will be at the October meeting to work on supplied catoneaster material. The Heathrow show will be on the 21st October and members were asked for trees for our club display and also numbers for a minibus to attend. We will also have a display at the Michaelmas fayre on 23rd September, Red Lion, Ninfield. Tree of the month photos are below:

July 2018

This month we were fortunate to have Alan Peacock to speak to us. Alan is very experienced with bonsai, having grown bonsai for over forty years. He enjoys developing bonsai himself rather than purchasing a previously created bonsai. Alan demonstrated how to create a bonsai from nursery stock. Alan brought with him several examples of material he had bought from local garden centres.

Some members were relatively new to bonsai so Alan explained carefully all that he did and answered questions as they arose. He explained that garden material can offer a lot. Often misshapen plants are reduced. Look to see if there is a potential tree in there or just a bush. He showed us a catoneaster which he had bought for half price and had begun the process of reducing and shaping it. Some branches had been four feet long. It was in a large pot but he would not reduce the roots until repotting it next spring. Catoneaster are suitable for bonsai as they have small leaves and have flowers and berries so all year interest.

He worked on a lonicera or hedge honeysuckle chosen as it had a single trunk. This lonicera also has small leaves and can make a dainty bonsai. He also had a multi trunk lonicera, ‘baggesens gold’. He removed the weakest of the three trunks. With a twin trunk he would view with the smallest trunk to the back not side by side to give depth. He began by looking at the roots, particularly those from the trunk. Do not worry about small roots and only remove any excess growth, returning it to the same pot. Alan pruned the branches and foliage. There is often dead growth in the centre through lack of light. This should be removed together with overlapping branches to expose the trunk. Produce the rough shape of your tree. Pruning can be quite brutal. With a twin trunk prune the foliage on each trunk separately removing conflicting branches.

Shaping the tree can be done without needing to wire but Alan demonstrated on a yew which was quite tall and had a gap between branches. He decided to reduce the height and make a new leader. He needed to wire this leader into place and then wired each branch into the preferred position as he pruned and shaped the tree. Where two branches are together perhaps wire one up and one down. He explained about watching and removing wiring and that the process may need repeating. Also much of the pruned material could make cuttings if potted up.

Following pruning and shaping each tree Alan placed it in front of a white background to show the effect of his work. Some tidying up may be needed, carefully adjust position of branches and ensure they are in proportion to the trunk.

Members showed their appreciation to Alan for an interesting and helpful demonstration. Tree of the Month competition photos are below.

Our August meeting will be a demonstration by David Penny of Root on Rock. You would be very welcome to join us and the first meeting is free.

June 2018

June is an important month for the club, as it is when we hold our annual show. Deciduous trees are in full leaf and conifers looking at their best. Some bonsai are in bloom and some showing good leaf colour. This made for an interesting and varied display. The visiting clubs all showed excellent trees from tiny mame to some almost a metre tall, many in full bloom. The best visiting club display was awarded to Sussex Bonsai Group. Awards were presented to owners of the best tree in each class; best in show went to Colin George for a Ginkgo. The visitor’s choice was a larch forest from Bernie Mighall. Those who did not receive an award may have had the consolation of winning one of the many raffle prizes.

Many visitors as well as club members enjoyed the demonstrations and talks on bonsai given by our three guests, as well as a display and demonstration of hand painted scrolls. There was an opportunity to purchase pots and bonsai trees from our sales tables. Throughout the day a steady stream of customers enjoyed refreshments, particularly delicious homemade cakes. While taking a break there was much conversation and discussion about the exhibits. Questions from visitors new to bonsai were answered and help and advice given.

As with any show there was a lot of work beforehand and a very early start at 6.30 am for those erecting the show stands and displaying trees on stands and with accent plants. Our chairman thanked everyone for their help and support. Our club meeting this month was the day following the show. It was an open evening at Downsview Bonsai , where those members not too exhausted from the previous day’s events gathered for a relaxed summer evening. Coffee and cake was offered and members wandered around the garden enjoying the evening and chatting about the previous day. Many bought trees, unable to resist just one more for their collection.

On 7th and 8th of July our club will be taking a display to Chichester Bonsai Society for their show. Our next club meeting is on Monday 9th July when there will be a demonstration by Alan Peacock on creating a bonsai from garden centre stock. This should be a very interesting evening.

Our next meeting is on Monday 11th June when no doubt there will be much conversation about the previous day’s event. We will meet at Downs View Bonsai, 126 Wannock Lane, BN20 9SJ ,for an open evening, where we will have an opportunity to wander at leisure around the garden and study the many bonsai trees for sale. Members are able to purchase trees and accessories taking advantage of our generous club discount.

May 2018

This month Paul brought back the accent pots we made at the last meeting. He had glazed and fired them and as they had taken on an interesting and more professional look we had some difficulty in recognising our own work. Once reunited with our pots we were able to choose from an array of small plants to plant them up. These accent plantings can now be used to enhance the look of our bonsai trees when displayed. Some may even be shown at our show next month.

This was our last meeting before the show and members were able to trim and complete work on any trees they hope to show. Last plans were confirmed for the show with volunteers identified for the many jobs required and reminders given for plans for the day.

Despite so much attention being given to the show we had a record number of trees displayed for ‘tree of the month’. The trees were of a very high standard and there was a wide variety of species of tree both conifer and deciduous and also of style. There were several trees in flower and maples of different leaf colour. There were also trees grown over rocks or wood and members voted one of these as the tree of the month. It was a hawthorn, tanuki bonsai or phoenix graft also known as a wrap around style. In this style a new young tree is grown into a piece of twisted dead wood and can be very effective.

The show is our main event of the year. It takes place Sunday 10th June at Herstmonceux village hall, Hailsham Road BN27 4JX from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Entry is £2.50 and accompanied children under 16 are free.

Reg Bolton, Chelsea gold medallist, is our judge and during the day he and Paul Eslinger, azalea specialist and David Penny, conifer specialist will give demonstrations and talks. There will be exhibits by five visiting groups and societies from Chichester, Eastleigh, Solent, Surrey and Susex. In addition there will be trade stands, advice, raffle and refreshments. Please come and join us and have your chance to vote for your preferred tree.

Our next meeting is on Monday 11th June when no doubt there will be much conversation about the previous day’s event. We will meet at Downs View Bonsai, 126 Wannock Lane, BN20 9SJ ,for an open evening, where we will have an opportunity to wander at leisure around the garden and study the many bonsai trees for sale. Members are able to purchase trees and accessories taking advantage of our generous club discount.

April 2018

This month we had a popular evening of potting. Paul Canham of Pinecone Ceramics demonstrated making several styles of accent pots. These pots are usually used for planting one or more small plants which are used to enhance a bonsai for display.

Members were provided with clay and the necessary tools to make their own choice of pot. The clay was rolled to a slab which was then used in different ways. The clay could be moulded over a ‘former’ of choice, cut to the size and shape of base of the pot or small pieces of clay pressed into a mould. Sides to be put on a base could be decorated with various items to make an impression in the clay. We were shown how to use slip (liquid clay) to attach the sides and to seal the joins with a little extra clay. A hole had to be cut into the base of the pot for drainage and small feet attached. Paul and Gillian were on hand to help where needed, remind us of the next stage and answer any questions.

The pots were carefully collected and Paul will fire them and return them at next month’s meeting. At that meeting we will plant up our pots.

Our tree of the month competition was well supported and members made the difficult decision to choose from so many good trees. The winner this month was a large group planting of larch.

As well as planting our accent pots at the May meeting, we will bring any trees needing to be prepared for our annual show in June. Each member is invited to show two trees.

The show is on Sunday 10th of June at Herstmonceux Village Hall, Hailsham Road, Herstmonceux, BN27 4JX. It is from 10am to 4pm, entry £2.50 (accompanied children under 16 free). It is a very full day with talks and demonstrations, displays by five other bonsai groups, trade stands refreshments and advice for beginners.

March 2018

March is the time of year for most repotting of bonsai trees, so this month’s club meeting was a workshop. Most members brought trees to repot and there was a room full of activity all evening.

Trees were moved into other pots for practical or aesthetic reasons. Size, shape or colour of pot must be considered. Trees which had produced a mass of root since they were last repotted had a root prune, while others simply had the soil loosened and replaced with fresh open soil in the same pot. Members bring their home mix soil of their choice but all mixtures will have at least a third gravel of which there is a huge choice. This can be from vermiculite or purlite to a wide choice of inert volcanic rock from Japan in graded sizes, or even molar clay in the form of unscented cat litter. Two thirds will be a mixture of loam, peat or other preferred soil mixes. Commercially available bonsai mixes are available but most members prefer to use home mix. New bonsai owners or those with only one or two trees may find a bag of bonsai soil the most convenient at first. Whichever mix is used it is important that it open to allow the roots to gain oxygen and is free draining.

As well as being planted singly trees may be planted in groups from three to a large number of trees as forests or landscapes with rocks, moss and gravel. There is a constant buzz in the room of discussions on the best aspect to view a tree or group, how to change the position or other questions posed, answered and opinions given.

Our new committee have produced an interesting programme for the year and made some changes to our regular meetings. We have a new format for “Tree of the Month” when members are encouraged to bring a tree. The ‘best’ tree, as chosen by members, receives a small prize of a bonsai pot. An award is given at the end of the year. As well as viewing and voting for a tree, there were also a number of pots and small trees, brought in by members, available for sale. In this way collections can be modified and developed. Cuttings which are established but not wanted can be passed on.

Our next meeting on Monday 9th April will be a pottery workshop lead by Paul Canham, when we will be making accent pots. A small charge of £3 is made for the materials. These demonstrations and workshops with Paul and Gillian are always very popular.

February 2018

This was the first meeting of the New Year for the club. Unfortunately the last two meetings were cancelled due to weather and health problems, so members were pleased to see each other and catch up. This meeting began with our annual general meeting when we elected a new committee to plan for the year ahead. New members were elected so we are looking forward to an interesting year. We thanked our outgoing chairman Brian Dale and welcomed Paul Canham to the post, well supported by his wife Gillian.

Following the AGM some members repotted trees which they had brought with them. Others chose to get to know new members and share bonsai information. This is a busy time of year for bonsai owners, as many trees will need repotting to boost the growing medium and give the trees a good start for the season. Roots may need to be pruned and it is a good time to make any changes such as size or shape of pot or position in the pot. As the weather is so cold trees will need to be protected following repotting, in a green house or under cover.

The next meeting will be on Monday 12th March at 7.30pm when we will have another workshop for more repotting. Help will also be available for anyone who wishes to wire their conifers. As usual books and CDs will be available to borrow and there will be a raffle for a voucher to spend at Downs View Bonsai.

November 2017

This month David Penny returned to lead a workshop on group planting. At last month’s meeting we were told what to expect and to look for appropriate trees.

David began the evening by demonstrating and explaining aspects of group planting. Forest planting can be positioned either as the viewer looking in to the group or with the viewer within the forest looking out. In the first instance trees would be planted with the largest in the centre and the smaller, “younger” trees to the outside. For the latter, larger trees should be planted at the front and smaller trees to the back to give perspective.

The group may be a harmony group or a contrast group. In a harmony group there is a mantle or canopy where one tree would not exist without the others. A contrast group has individual trees such as junipers with defined pads.

For his group David had brought some hornbeam which would usually be used for hedging. He sorted them into sizes by trunk girth rather than height or shape as this can be controlled. He used nine trees. An odd number is preferred as an asymmetrical effect is more pleasing to the eye. In Japanese tradition even numbers are considered unlucky.

The soil mixture should include grit or a substance that does not break down because with group planting the soil tends to clump and retain water. This prevents oxygen reaching the roots. David uses a fine structured, unperfumed cat litter. Groups are usually planted in a shallow tray so will dry out easily. An open soil will need more watering; less grit will retain moisture so less watering. There is no “right” soil, it is your preference.

The roots are loosened as it is the small fibrous roots that are wanted, not the main tap root. The roots will spread out forming a shallow root system which will grow together to form a single mat. First place trees in position trying not to place them in lines. Work at first without soil but use fine wire to hold them in place. Do not overcrowd trees and leave one side free of trees as space is important. Put a layer of grit in the tray followed by the soil and firm trees into position using fingers to feel the resistance. A layer of moss on the surface will retain moisture especially in winter.

In the second half of the evening members worked on their own group planting. David was happy to give advice or comments on individual projects, where this was wanted. This concluded an interesting and successful evening.

Our next meeting will be on 11th December when we will have a Christmas quiz and seasonal snacks.

October 2017

This month we were pleased to welcome an old friend of the club, David Penny, to talk to us about styling junipers. David stepped in at very short notice when our planned speaker was unable to come. David began the evening looking at trees brought in by members and discussing possible ways in which they could be styled.

The owner of a large, established shrub with the main branch bent to one side, wanted to shape it into a cascade style. The root was stronger on one side than the other and the branch which would be the trunk was too firm to bend further. David suggested when repotting it remove some of the weaker root and pot at the desired angle in an appropriate pot.

A small juniper was a multitrunk tree which David suggested should be maintained in a natural style. There are less rigid rules about styles now than previously, particularly in Japan.

Nurseries often plant junipers deeper than the level of the root, so a tree which had grown in a windswept style needed to be lifted higher and the roots reduced. To improve the windswept look cut or “jin” (remove cadmium layer so that the branch dies) branches growing straight up or on the non windswept side.

A tree which was a very good shape had strong growth low down and less growth near the top of the tree. David explained that the lower branches take nutrients and should be reduced in order to strengthen the top of the tree. Flaky bark on a tree adds interest but may harbour red spider mite which will winter under the bark. Removing the bark can prevent this and will not harm the tree.

David continued by working on a variegated juniper which he had purchased from a nursery. He looked at the plant which had one main upright branch and another long branch pointing sideways, a “streamer”. He said that there are many options when styling a tree and there is no right or wrong way. He removed most of the small branches and foliage at the base which would not be wanted. He then worked on the two main branches wiring them from base to tip as well as all the remaining branches at the top and shaped them into a desirable position. Any branches pointing to the back should be no more than two thirds of the length of a side branch. There was another small branch which would be left as a possible option for future consideration. The tree would later be repotted to a deep square pot.

David will return for our November meeting on Monday 13th when he will be demonstrate group planting, followed by a workshop for members to create their own group.

September 2017

Fast approaching autumn means we need to be thinking about how our trees will be in the coming winter. This month our meeting was a in the form of a workshop when members were able to bring trees to work on. This is not the time of year for repotting but the trees may need tidying up with gentle and careful pruning. Help, advice and suggestions from more experienced members is available if needed to put the trees in the best shape to prepare them for next year. In September trees can be given their last feed of the growing season. A liquid low nitrogen feed is a good general rule.

We also had the pots which we made at the last meeting were returned to us after firing. It is always a pleasant surprise to see the finished effect of your effort and also to see what other people have achieved.

On Sunday 17th September the club will have a small display at the Michaelmus Fete at Hoo. It will be from 12.00 to 3.00 pm at the Red Lion. Members are pleased to talk to any visitors about our hobby.

At our next meeting to be held on Monday 9th October we are very pleased to welcome a new speaker to our club, Dean Kelly. He comes highly recommended and will be talking to us about his approach to bonsai. Members are very much looking forward to the evening and hearing his thoughts and ideas, which will be new to us all. Visitors will be welcome for an entrance of £5.00, (£2.00 for members).

August 2017

This month we were pleased to welcome club members Paul and Gillian Canham from Pinecone Ceramics to lead our meeting. On this occasion the demonstration and workshop was on freestyle pots.

There were a variety of small pots as a guide to styles we could make for ourselves. Paul worked through the process of making two of these designs while Gillian made a small log shaped pot around a cylinder. It could also be made into a small cascade pot if only part of ‘the log’ was used.

We were all provided with a lump of clay and use of all the tools and materials needed to produce our own pot. Some members stayed closely with the styles we had been shown while others were more adventurous, designing their own unique pot. As expected some pots were more successful than others. Paul and Gillian carefully packed all our efforts and took them back to their studio to be fired. They will be returned to us at a future meeting when there will be surprise and in most cases delight at the way they look.

Since our last meeting the club were invited to display some bonsai at Seaford Horticultural Society annual show. Several members took trees and we were able to show a selection of varieties, styles, shapes and sizes of bonsai. We also had another table where some members worked on their trees and were able to explain shaping and styling trees. There was a great deal of interest from members of the horticultural society, making it an enjoyable afternoon for us all.

Next month our meeting, on 11th September, will be a workshop, when all members can bring trees to shape and style before the end of the growing season. From October trees will be allowed to rest over winter. At this meeting opinion and advice can and will be sought from others; perhaps a change of style or pot is sought or help is needed to care for an ailing tree.

July 2017

The club followed what has become a tradition in recent years and this month met at Downsview Bonsai. Here Peter Ling, our vice chairman and his wife Toni were our hosts for the evening, making us very welcome.

Members were able to wander around the garden taking a close look or purchase the many mature bonsai or younger starter trees to be developed. Others took the opportunity to stock up on accessories such as growing mediums. There was much discussion between members, sharing thoughts and ideas about available trees or their own, over a welcome cup of coffee.

Some conversation was about the Chichester Bonsai Show which had been held the previous weekend. Our club, with others, was invited to enter a display at the show. A few members had represented the club taking and displaying trees, both on Saturday and Sunday. The Chichester show is held in a nursery where visitors could benefit from both purchasing nursery plants and enjoy the bonsai show. Colin George was awarded ‘Highly Commended’ for his Lime with which he had done well at our show last month. It is interesting for club members and visitors alike to view displays from various clubs together.

Next month club members Paul and Gillian Canham from Pinecone Ceramics will be demonstrating and leading a workshop for members to make their own pots. Workshops with Paul and Gillian are always very popular with club members. There is surprise and delight when our efforts are returned at a later date glazed and fired and ready to be planted with the right tree for the pot.

Why not come and join us and meet club members. The first meeting is free but at this meeting the cost of materials for making a pot will be charged.

June 2017

Our June club meeting was the day following our annual show so a busy but enjoyable weekend for us all. Awards were presented at the end of the show on Sunday. The award for the best display was won by Solent Bonsai Society who was also our last year’s winner.

The best in show was awarded to Colin George for his winning deciduous tree, a large broom style lime. The public vote for the best in show went to Kevin Fletcher for his larch group.

Certificates were presented on the club evening to club members of winning trees and to those highly commended. Members were invited to bring their winning trees again in order that all club members could view and appreciate them.

The show was a great success with good comments from our judge Reg Bolton on the show over all and the quality of the trees. In the afternoon Reg gave an interesting talk about showing trees with helpful tips and advice. He also spoke specifically about some of the trees shown with suggestions as to how they could be improved. Paul Eslinger gave an interesting talk and demonstration about satsuki azaleas and Dave Penny gave a demonstration of styling and wiring a conifer.

Dave was our speaker for our club evening when he spoke about soft pruning of maples and also pines. He explained that soft pruning is carried out at this time of year and hard pruning in the autumn when more structural styling can be done. Trees will bleed if soft pruned in spring. Pruning maples to improve the health of the tree is done by cutting back to two leaves. This will encourage back budding. Always leave a stub when cutting back maples as there will be die back. Maples can be defoliated to improve the strength of the tree, as well as encouraging back budding. Pruning about half at a time will cause less shock to the tree. Cut weak leaves first and stronger ones two weeks later to prevent imbalance.

Dave demonstrated removing needles from pines (not all conifers) by taking off the old growth of the previous three years, furthest back on the branch. Two year old needles can be cut back and buds will develop. Any wire on pines should be removed by September as there is then secondary thickening and wire will cut into the branch.

Some members had brought trees for advice and in the second part of the evening David gave suggestions on how those trees could be improved. David will be speaking again in November when his subject will be group planting.
meeting is free.

May 2017

This month we enjoyed another interesting talk by a knowledgeable club member, Kevin Fletcher. Kevin was speaking to us about the art of dead wood on bonsai trees. Deadwood is a common feature of many bonsai. The art of styling a bonsai is to make it look like a natural tree. We may introduce dead wood in the design of a tree to make the tree look older or possibly to disguise an error or blemish on the tree.

Before deciding to include dead wood consider the reason for that part of the tree to have died. Think of the story behind it.  Reasons could be the effect of adverse weather conditions such as snow or wind damage. It may be caused by insects, or animals or it may be just old. It is seldom the result of a lightning strike as this will usually kill the tree.

Junipers have to struggle to survive when growing on mountains so may have dead wood. This will not occur on junipers grown in gardens. Maples do not have dead wood and it should not dominate on deciduous trees.

Kevin demonstrated how this effect can be achieved either with hand or electric tools. First ensure sufficient growth remains for the tree to survive. To remove the outer layer of bark with hand tools first use jin pliers to cut round branch and then with a sharp knife peel back the bark a little at a time. Roll back one thread at a time which will look more natural. Always work with the grain. The branch can be wired into position if wished and then left to dry for several months. There are a number of substances available commercially which can be used to lighten the dead wood. Insecticide, preservatives and hardeners can be used. Use a little at a time for several coats until the desired colour is achieved. White is not seen in the wild. Leave to dry and achieve the desired effect before treating with oil.

Kevin demonstrated using machines such as a die grinder, circular cutters and brushes. He emphasized safety aspects such as wearing goggles and keeping both hands on the tool. Work in one direction to prevent kick back. Wire brushes can be bound with superglue to prevent wire shreds flying off.

Kevin showed trees which he had worked on and discussed member’s tree where an opinion was sought on future styling and deadwood. It was a very interesting and informative demonstration appreciated by all members.

During the evening arrangements were confirmed for our important show, next on our programme. Our annual show will be on Sunday 11th June at Herstmonceux village hall, BN27 4JX, from 10.00am to 4.00pm. There will be demonstrations, sales, exhibits from other bonsai groups and refreshments. Come and vote for your choice of the best tree. We are looking forward to an interesting and friendly day. Do come and join us.

Our next club meeting will be on Monday 12th June when we will have a demonstration of soft pruning by Dave Penny.

April 2017

Our April meeting was another workshop. This is a busy time of year caring for our bonsai trees. Most of the repotting will have been completed by now, before the new foliage appears.

Trees need to be checked for any problems, feeding begins and styling considered. Some trees will need just a little work, to remove any damaged or dead branches or wire a branch out of position. A major change in style may be needed, perhaps the tree has been repotted earlier and placed in a different position.  Some members will have found a suitable tree to be entered into our June show and are looking for advice or comments for action to ensure it is shown to its best advantage.

Our workshops are a time for chatting about our trees and those of others. There is appreciation of some trees and help and advice about others. Refreshments and a raffle with a prize of a voucher for Downsview Bonsai are a regular part of our club evenings.

Our next meeting will be on May 8th when we will have a talk by Kevin Fletcher, a very knowledgeable club member. Kevin will be giving us a demonstration about deadwood on trees; why, where, what, and how. It should be a very interesting evening.

On Saturday May 6th the club will have a display of trees at Wannock memorial hall at the arts, crafts and activities day, from 10.00am to2.00pm. Local groups and individuals will show their hobbies. Please come and say hello, it would be good to see you there.

Make a note of our annual show which will be on Sunday 11th June at Herstmonceux village hall, BN27 4JX, from 10.00am to 4.00pm. There will be demonstrations, sales, exhibits from other bonsai groups and refreshments. Come and vote for your choice of the best tree. We are looking forward to an interesting and friendly day. Do come and join us.

March 2017

This month the club had the pleasure of welcoming back Paul Eslinger who has given us very interesting talks and demonstrations on many aspects of bonsai keeping. This time his subject was Satsuki Azaleas with which he has many years of experience both keeping and showing.

Satsuki azaleas are a natural variety which has two to four different colour blooms on the same plant. The different colours are not spliced onto the plant. These azaleas are grown and shown for their flowers so all aspects of care are towards that end. There are more than 2,000 colour varieties and more identified each year.

Paul demonstrated repotting, pruning and care on several trees giving us many interesting facts throughout the evening. He grows his trees in kanuma a Japanese volcanic rock mixed with chopped sphagnum moss. He also puts a layer of fine sphagnum moss on the surface to retain moisture. They can also be grown in an ericaceous peat based soil but if changing the medium this should be a gradual process taking about four years. Azaleas may need a slightly deeper pot to allow for root growth. Round pots are often the most suitable.

Trees should have regular heavy feeding and care taken not to over water, to encourage the fine roots to grow to find water. Use rain water if possible. The very fine roots tend to tangle so it is often preferable to remove soil from the roots with a water spray when repotting. These trees have a change of leaf three times a year, in spring, summer and autumn so do not be concerned by the leaf drop.

After flowering trees should be given a hard prune for shaping and to allow light in. Tilt pads slightly forward, allowing flowers to present full face. A light prune can be given  to tidy the tree early in the year or before showing. Prune areas of coloured flowers more lightly than white. Care must be given not to prune out the area of one colour as the colour will not return. Flowers will revert to white. Blooms may be better or different in alternate years but usually have the best year every four or six years.

His trees stay outside, unprotected all year but different microclimates in a small area can affect growth of the trees. Paul also spoke of useful books on the subject mostly from Japan and are either out of print or very expensive so hunting for second hand books may be the only way to obtain them.

Our next meeting is on Sunday 2nd April which will be a workshop from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. The evening meeting will be on Monday 10th when we will have another workshop preparing trees for our show on June 11th at Herstmonceux village hall. Help and advice is available at workshops.

Many thanks to Iris and Derek for writing these up each month.

February 2017

The bonsai year has started. This month the club meeting was a workshop when members were able to bring trees to repot. Although the weather had been very cold, trees that had been protected from the worst weather and would be returned to a sheltered place would not suffer from repotting. This is the time to look carefully at the tree roots and remove any unwanted roots and replace the exhausted soil with fresh mixture with gravel, to ensure the roots receive plenty of air and nutrients. It is not necessary to move the tree to another pot, unless you wish to change the effect with a different shape, size or colour pot.

Most members were able to get on with the work alone but there was help and advice available for those seeking it. Members were able to discuss their trees and the plan they had for them. Some members brought in trees for ‘appreciation’, to be viewed by others. This is new to the club this year in place of ‘tree of the month’, where there will be no voting for the preferred tree.

Our Chairman presented Chris Chissell with a certificate for his place on the Roll of Honour for his contribution to the club in 2016, voted for by all club members. This was particularly in recognition of all the work he has done in organising the club annual show.

At our meeting next month, on Monday 13th March we will have a speaker well known to the club Paul Eslinger. He will give an illustrated talk about Satsuki Azaleas, those with two colour blooms, which he has grown for many years.

Earlier in the month on the weekend of 4th and 5th of March, the club will be holding a workshop and display of trees at Paradise Park garden centre in Newhaven. Please come and say hello to the members who are there.