I have to start with declaring, as it will quickly become obvious, that I know nothing at all about bonsai. But with the power of google I am willing to have a go.
At our recent horticultural show one of the members donated a couple of bonsai trees to the plant sales table and my youngest bought one. He has always had a fascination with Japan and had wanted a bonsai for years so at £5 it was rude to turn it down. As the show drew to a close and we were clearing up there were a couple of small cotoneaster shrubs which were being grown as bonsai but in a standard plastic pot. The gentleman who had donated them, having noted my son’s interest, gave him one of them and needless to say it ended up sitting on my patio table waiting for something to be done.
Having found an old shallow square terracotta pot while tidying up, the germ of an idea started to form. I looked around the garden and sourced some bits of Malvern stone and set to creating a Japanese masterpiece – being a natural optimist what else would it be! It took some time to tease the roots apart and clipping the more tangled fibrous ones so I had something manageable to handle. I then carefully assembled the rocks into an outcrop, although I am sure it is completely incorrect geologically.
Getting the little tree to balance on top of the rocks while I spread the roots over the rocks was very tricky and fiddly. I can spend ages doing embroidery but this sort of thing I find very difficult and have little patience with probably because the roots didn’t want to stay where I wanted them to. I weighted them down with gritty compost and then top-dressed with gravel. I think maybe bonsai are normally topped dressed with moss but the gravel will hopefully hold everything in place until it establishes and then I can always add moss. You will note in the top picture there is a small cane holding the branch up and this is to try to push the tree into a more upright position. Saying that I recently saw some photographs of venerable old trees in Japan which were supported in just the same way!
Continuing the Japanese theme I was thrilled that little fernlets of Cyrtomium fortunei (Japanese Holly Fern) have started to appear. The spores were collected from my own plant so this makes them extra special. Building on this success I sowed Pyrrosia lingua ‘Ogon Nishiki‘ spores which I got from my favourite nursery Growild in Scotland. You have to sow spores on sterilised compost and my preferred method is to bake the compost in the oven – leading to cries of ‘What is for dinner today? Oh the old family favourite John Innes!!’.
There’s a chance I might be going to Japan next year so maybe I will get to see these growing in the wild which would be amazing.