Kyle Leonard is an urban gardener from Salford. He loves experimenting with succulents, cacti and anything else he can find the room to grow. You may also recognise Kyle as the founder of the infamous 2016 GardenTags seed swap. Read on for more of Kyle’s Urban Gardening Adventures…
Urban Gardening Adventures Vol. 4
Experimenting with Bonsai
Hello. Today we’re talking about all things bonsai. In 2014, my love for bonsai began when my girlfriend and I bought one from a garden centre. It was in a beautiful blue glazed pot with lush green foliage… this wasn’t the story after the winter months.
Keeping bonsai trees alive has been to this day, one of the most difficult tasks in my life.
In 2015, we thought we’d give it another go. This time, we bought a bonsai-esque Jade Plant, in a huge, round, grey pot with the Jade growing through a stone. It looked amazing! But it was dead within 12 months… and it became clear a pattern was forming. As I have learnt from experience, deciding what bonsai tree is right for you is a task within itself. I am the master of buying the wrong ones, so you can probably take this blog with a pinch of salt! But what I say comes from experience and could save you a lot of money in the long run.
First thing you need to remember is that a bonsai tree is an outdoors plant, not indoors. This is often forgotten and people leave them on a cold windowsill for 12 months a year! But the clue’s in the name: the word bonsai basically means “tree in a pot”.
Think before you buy:
Select the right skill level for you
Different trees require different skills. If you’re buying from a garden centre or shop, 99% of the time they will display a tag with the skill difficulty attached to the plant. If you’re a beginner select a tree with a ‘low’ difficulty score. You’ll be thankful of this when it starts to flourish.
Choose the right environment
You need to consider the environment when picking your bonsai. As most trees are meant as outdoor plants, you should put them outside during the warmer months and bring them back inside when the weather starts to dip.
So you’ve picked your perfect bonsai tree for your skill set, which will go great with your environment! And now you’re ready to give it the best shot at surviving but how do you care for your bonsai? Most bonsai trees need to be watered every day during the summer season, with a fertiliser once a month. A general prune should take place a few times a year (this is where you get to use those little scissors)! And a root pruning every few years, which could mean changing the size of your bonsai pot to ensure the tree doesn’t become root bound. If you’re going on holiday, it’s always best to ask a family member or friend to care for your bonsai tree as it’s not worth leaving alone for 2 weeks when you go to Spain!
If you get it right, owning a bonsai tree can be very rewarding. I recently turned a Jade Plant cutting into a bonsai-esque plant, using a tapas bowl with a hole drilled in the bottom for drainage. It’s a good way of practicing as doesn’t cost you anything, just the time it takes the cutting to root and mature enough for you to plant it into a pot and wire it in place to form your bonsai.
Check back weekly for more Urban Gardening Adventures from @KyleLeonard
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