My two lads are getting great satisfaction hurling large objects such as tree branches and half building bricks at chestnut trees. They’re at that age where they are learning quickly about gravity and I have to make sure that they don’t stand directly underneath the missiles when they come hurtling back down to earth. They might have grasped the idea of gravity but they are still working on the concept of patience. I try to tell them that the conkers will fall in their own good time, however as they rightly point out, when that happens, chances are they won’t be there and someone else will invariably pocket the lot. I’m looking round for shoelaces now to thread the chestnuts and teach the lads about the joys of conkers.
There are a lot of seeds and berries around at the moment. If you fancy collecting some acorns and chestnuts to grow your own trees then now is a good time before the squirrels eat them all. Push them into soil in small pots and put them in an out of the way place making sure that they don’t dry out. They should be germinated for next year.
The thought of growing trees this way has reminded me of the first time that I attempted to grow a Bonsai tree.
Bonsai, or “Small tree” as it translates is a plant that is grown and styled over time to look like a tree or shrub in nature but is grown in a miniature form usually in a shallow plant pot. With some genuine bonsai trees it might take ten to twenty years to create a mature specimen. In some cultures the trees are passed down through the generations of the family, they are as precious as a family pet would be.
HOW TO MAKE A BONSAI TREE
You can buy an already trained specimen, which can cost anywhere between 15 euro to 5000 euro depending on how much money you are prepared to part with, or you can create your own with just a few bits of equipment.
Use a small shrub such as a box (Buxus) or juniper for training; these have a few branches on them already with very small leaves. Pick ones growing in one or two litre pots.
Cut off the bottom branches and trim back the branches by about a third. Cut off about two thirds of the root system (the restricted root system is the secret of the plant staying small), and put it into a small shallow dish with a large drainage hole in it. Use a good quality potting compost.
Wrap thin copper wire around the trunk of the tree to shape it then do the same for the branches, don’t wrap the wire too tightly though as this will stop the sap from passing through the stems.
When you have a basic shape that looks triangular put it in a shaded spot for a week or two to let it get established.
CARE AND FEEDING OF BONSAI
Although some people think of bonsai as houseplants, they’re true outdoor plants, with the same requirements as a full sized tree or shrub; they all need sunshine, good air circulation, regular watering and fertilizer. Because they are grown in small containers, however they should be protected from extreme cold or drying winds-this is the main reason that bonsai are over wintered in unheated garages or sheds.
Follow these other steps and you should have success with your bonsai.
Water routinely, never allowing the soil to dry out.
Feed the plants regularly with a balanced, slow release fertilizer.
Control pests and disease as you would with the full sized plants of the same size.
The plants may need repotting every couple of years, trim back the roots slightly when they are repotted, only put them in a larger pot when they become unstable and fall over.