Author: sunrise-whitneys

“Bonsai is not a race, nor is it a destination. It is a never-ending journey.”

Don’t let the fact that ‘bon-sai’ is an art studied and refined for many centuries scare you off, because you are perfectly capable to learn how to grow Bonsai trees without green thumbs. Make sure to pick the right tree species for your surroundings and stick to the basic care guidelines.

Basics of Bonsai Aesthetics

Several aesthetic principles have been passed down through the ages, suggesting what’s attractive and what’s not. The most general principles focus on:

  • Form: The general shape or silhouette of the plant; usually an asymmetrical triangle with the leaves pointing upward.
  • Balance: Location of branches and foliage and location of the plant in its pot, avoiding perfectly symmetrical proportions in favor of natural proportions inspired by the golden ratio.
  • Proportion: Relationship of the elements to each other.
  • Line: How the apex (the tip) relates to the trunk.
  • Details: We’ve added this one ourselves in order to group several of the smaller things that make a nice bonsai. These elements include the size of the leaves, exposed roots or nebari, and how the base of the plant has been decorated.

Step 1 – Pick a Plant

Fall is the perfect time to shop the garden center and nursery for great starter plants for bonsai. While there are plenty of plants to choose from, (including many houseplant varieties), you might want to stick to evergreens such as:

  • Junipers
  • Pine
  • Yew

Look for plants in two gallon pots or smaller as these will be the easiest to handle. You might also check out our greenhouse for:

  • Ficus
  • Azalea (florist)
  • Schefflera
  • Jade

Step 2 – Shaping and Styling Techniques

Let’s begin with the single most important technique to Bonsai; pruning. Pruning is crucial in keeping trees miniaturized as well as to shape them. The goal is to create a Bonsai that resembles nature as close as possible. The spring and summer are the seasons to proceed with significant pruning; though this will depend on the type of tree you have. Make sure to buy a good concave cutter when pruning thick branches. The hollow wounds these cutters leave behind heal much better than normal cutters would.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s not a bad idea to study from the masters. Most styling is going to occur through selective pruning and trimming as well as wiring techniques. Here are some of the more traditional forms:

  • Formal Upright or Chokkan: A perfectly straight, upright trunk.
  • Informal Upright or Moyogi: The trunk may have a curve or slight slant.
  • Slanting or Shakan: A more severe curve, with the apex extending outside of pot.
  • Windswept or Fukinagashi: Similar to slanted but all branches and leaves look like they’re being blown to one side by the wind.
  • Cascade or Kengai: The trunk grows upward with an abrupt turn downward, sometimes extending far below the pot.
  • Semi-Cascade or Han-kengai: A trunk that grows upward then cascades slightly lower than the top surface of the pot.

Step 3 – Care & Maintenance

A crucial part of information about how to grow a Bonsai tree is its maintenance and care.

How often Bonsai trees need to be watered depends on a wide range of factors, including species of tree, pot-size, soil and climate. Over-watering can result in root-rot, one of the most common causes of death. However, as Bonsai are planted in such small pots they also tend to dry up very easily. Choosing the right soil mixture and re-potting regularly (on average every two years, to make sure the trees don’t become pot-bound, making it hard to soak up and store water) is crucial to keep your tree healthy. An important rule for watering is to check frequently on your tree (instead of simply watering it once per day), and when watering to do this thoroughly (to make sure the soil absorbs the water properly).

Besides watering and repotting, fertilization is another important thing to keep in mind. Since the trees are put in small pots, with few space and nutrients available, fertilizing regularly in the tree’s growth season is key to keep it healthy. Again, it depends on the tree species when, how much and how often it needs to be fertilized. The brand or type of fertilizer (fluid or solid) doesn’t matter all that much, as long as you make sure to apply smaller quantities than normal plants would require.

Step 4 – Placement

Finally, placing an outdoor tree inside (or vice versa) is a sure way to kill it. Before buying (or cultivating) a Bonsai, think where you like to place it! Sub-tropical trees generally need much light and relatively high temperatures and can only live outside if you live in a warm enough climate; these trees will do perfectly fine indoors though. In case you prefer an outdoor tree, a safe bet is to choose a tree that is indigenous to your environment. In case winters get very cold some additional protection from frost is required, since a Bonsai is put in a small pot.

Much of the information in this blog post is from: https://www.bonsaiempire.com/basics

For more information on pruning and wiring please watch this video…

 

Birds bring many benefits to our lives. They fill our gardens with song, bring a spark of color and interest to our winter landscapes, and also eat many garden pests. Attracting birds to your landscape is fun. Their needs are easy to meet and just about everyone can achieve success by providing them with three basics things: shelter, water, and food.

If you have evergreen trees or shrubs, or maybe a tall canopy of shade trees, then you have the element of shelter. Birds need protection during feeding and bathing from cats and other predators. Try to position feeders and birdbaths close enough to natural shelter so that birds can perch safely between trips to the feeder, but yet far enough away so that they don’t make an easy target for the neighbor’s cat.

Water can be the most alluring aspect of your landscape. The sound of splashing water is relaxing and will also attract colorful birds. Birdbaths and small fountains are great accents for your yard and will provide your new guests with one of their most basic requirements. A shallow water source is all they need.

Consider placing your bird feeder adjacent to your water source. Once you have attracted birds to your yard, you don’t want to play hide-and-seek with the food source. Feeders can be hung from tree limbs, mounted on a freestanding pole, or even hung from the shepherd’s hook that held a hanging basket in spring. To stock your feeders, use birdseed mixes high in sunflower seed to attract the greatest variety of birds. Cardinals love black oil and striped sunflower as well as safflower seed. Suet cakes are great for woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Another helpful tip is to scatter some seed on the ground around your feeder. This will attract mourning doves and other ground feeders. It’s easy to create a safe haven for birds in your yard. The enjoyment they bring will last a lifetime. Put out your feeder today!

 

 

  • Mulch in spring-planted trees and shrubs. Don’t permit them to get too dry; water them throughly and deeply
  • Start amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus for holiday blooms. (Allow 5-6 weeks for paperwhites and 12 weeks for amaryllis).
  • Apply fall lawn fertilizer at this time
  • Apply lime to lawns to raise pH. A 50# bag of lime will raise lawn pH about .5 point per 1000 sq ft.
  • Re-seed areas damaged by grubs with insect resistant seed varieties
  • Fall is a great time to start a compost pile. Start out with brown leaf and add the last few trimmings for nitrogen. Remember to alternate layers. Shred brown leaf to speed decomposition
  • Apply an anti-dessicant, such as Wilt-Pruf, to spring or fall planted broadleaf evergreens and specimen conifers. Make sure temperatures are above 50 degrees. Newly planted Arborvitaes could be wrapped in burlap to protect from snow load.

Summer heat can take a toll on your lawns  The heat and dry conditions After a visit from the “lawn doctor” was the prognosis intensive care? Where is the green that lifts our spirits? The answer is in 6 easy steps to renovation your lawn. Maintaining a healthy turf is a great way to get outdoors. When you’re done, your turf will be in great shape and you’ll feel good too-a greener lawn & leaner you!

Let’s break it down. Take these steps, or only those you feel necessary, in the order shown:

Step 1: Dethatching. Thatch occurs in lawns as a build up of tillering that occurs with mature rhizomes. It is this internet or crossing of decomposing rhizomes that forms a mat in your turf just below the soil line. It should be removed with a dethatching machine or by mowing close to the ground and following with a stiff rake to tear up any remaining debris.

Step 2: Raking It’s not only great exercise for you, but really stimulates your turf while removing the old grass, crabgrass and weeds. Because thatch and weeds decompose slowly and might contain weed seeds, we recommend against composting this material.

Step 3: Aeration. This might just be the most beneficial aspect of the six steps. Punching holes, or coring your turf allows moisture, fertilizer and air to penetrate the soil. This can reduce the effects of soil compaction and allow for better drainage. This can be done mechanically by a lawn service or manually with a foot press aerator or a new pair of golf shoes that need breaking in.

Step 4: Seeding. For spot seeding many choose to use a blend of perennial ryegrasses. They germinate quickly, usually with 7-10 days, and provide quick cover for winter damaged areas such as entry ways, driveways and play areas. Choose a seed mixture that is right for your area. Blends are available in sunny, shady, or combination areas. Broadcast by hand or with a rotary spreader. Water in well, possibly daily until seedlings are well established.

Step 5: Fertilizing. For renovation your turf we recommend using a “starter” fertilizer. This provides a green-up, but also focuses on developing the root system, making your turf disease and drought resistant. Follow directions on bag for application instructions.

Step 6: Watering. This is probably the last thing you want to thing about now! However, a new lawn, whether it is sod or seed, should be watered consistently until well established. This might mean daily waterings. Following these simple steps can help your lawn look better than ever-and you’ll feel better too!

Fall is right around the corner and it is a glorious time.  The countryside is virtually exploding with oranges, reds, golds and yellows.  This is a great time of the year to enjoy the out-of-doors.  It is also a great time for fall gardens as autumn mums and perennials finish the season with a flourish.

Most spring planted annuals get a bit ragged about now, having survived through the heat, dry conditions and pests of the summer.  This is a good time to freshen up your gardens by introducing some proven winners to your fall landscape.  Coincidentally, you’ll probably be around to enjoy your fall garden more than you mid-summer plantings.  The weather is more temperate, vacations are over with and kids are back in school.

With that it mind here are a few suggestions that are sure to please.  Most of these plants will have strong seasonal interest well into December-and ornamental grasses are great all throughout the winter!

Fall Favorites: Ornamental Grasses-Grasses are a terrific way to add drama to your landscape.   Their texture is a perfect foil to Rudbeckias, Sedums or hardy Chrysanthemums.   They are extremely easy to grow, durable and can be used in a variety of landscape situations.  They are also very attractive when used in containers.  Ornamental grasses can range in height from under one foot (Festuca cinerea ‘Elijah Blue’) to well over six feet (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Silver Grass’).  Many varieties of the Pennisetum family are gaining in popularity, including alopecuroides, with its enormous tassels through fall and winter and a dwarf fountain grass called ‘Hamelin’.  Most varieties send out dramatic spikes of feathery plumes during late summer and early fall.  These seed heads add interest to an otherwise stark winter landscape. 

Ornamental Kale-Flowering kale and cabbages are fast becoming one of the more popular additions to the fall border.  And for good reason…ornamental kale offers dramatic colors and shapes not commonly available in the fall.  Brilliant pinks, purples and creamy whites add intrigue whether planted  in the landscape or used in containers to accent mums and grasses.

Their fabulous colors are not flowers, but rather rosettes of central leaves.  Flowering Kales have fringed or serrated leaves that actually gain in color intensity as the weather turns colder.  They literally bloom into the winter months!  Their vibrant displays will last until the winter temps reach the teens.

Fall Pansies (Violas)-This is a great way to extend your color into November and beyond.  While most mums have gone by, these guys, with proper maintenance, will flower their heads off.  Plant them in drifts, in pots or even tuck a few in to spruce up a tired hanging basket.  These cheery faces do especially well with the warm ground temps and cool nights of autumn.  They usually will flower through the first couple of  hard frosts.  Hardier varieties even winter over and provide unexpected delights the following spring.  Imagine their deep purples set off against the brilliant pinks of ornamental kales.  The nice thing about it is it will look great whether planted in the landscape or potted up for the front door!

Well, those are but a few of many great ways to liven up your fall landscapes.  Sedum, hardy perennial Hibiscus and Asters are other opportunities.  Stop by with any questions.  We are always here to help.  Fall is a beautiful time, and after all, Fall is for Planting!    

Are you overloaded with new ideas for perennial beds and borders after visiting friends or public display gardens? Seen lots of unfamiliar and interesting new plants at the nursery? If so, fall is an excellent time to prepare fall garden beds for planting now or in the spring. The cooler temperatures, weaker sunlight and shorter days of fall mean less energy goes into top growth and more into establishing a strong root system. Planting in this area can usually continue through October.

After choosing the proper plants for your location-taking into account plant hardiness and the amount of available light-the most important thing you can do to insure success is to properly prepare your soil.

After marking off the area, you need to rid it of perennial weeds. Rototilling will only increase your weed crop, so you will need to carefully pull all underground stems and roots. Be sure to also remove any additional roots you find when you turn the soil over.

The soil you’re aiming to create should hold moisture, but also be well drained. If it doesn’t drain well now, it probably has high clay content. The actual soil particles are very small and pack together very closely, suffocating and drowning plant roots. Adding gypsum to clay soil can help break it up.

If your soil drains very quickly and you need to water frequently, it is probably sandy. Soil particles are relatively large and fit together loosely. Plants rarely drown in sandy soil unless the area is low-lying or the water line is high. In this instance it would be best to make a raised bed.

The solution, both for maintaining good drainage, and moisture retention, is generous amounts of organic matter. It separates clay particles, creating air space, and holds water and nutrients in sand. Good sources of organic matter are finished compost, well-decomposed manure, leaf mold and damp peat moss. These should be incorporated into the soil when it is turned over to a depth of 12″ or more. At this time you can also remove any sizable rocks, roots or other debris.

Most perennials grow best in a soil that is slightly acid to almost neutral-a pH of about 5.5-6.5. Most soils in this area are probably very acid and will need to have lime added every 2-3 years.

If you prefer to estimate your fertilizer needs, there are a few things to keep in mind. Phosphorous, and some of the trace elements, even when present in the soil in sufficient quantities, are only available to plants within a fairly narrow pH range. Keeping your soil pH at 5.5-6.5 should be adequate for most plants.

Fertilizers can either be natural, or you can use dry or granular fertilizers that are either quick or slow release. You can use either type if you are going to plant now. If you are going to delay planting until spring, wait and add the fertilizer then unless you are using natural fertilizers which break down slowly and will not leach out readily.

Natural fertilizers should be incorporated into the soil when you turn it over, especially phosphorous (bone meal, rock phosphate), as it doesn’t move readily through the soil. Dry or granular fertilizers can be sprinkled on the surface and raked into the top few inches of soil.

Happy Planting!

It’s always a shame that just when your window box has reached their peak of fullness and color, autumn sneaks in and nips at the foliage and flowers, signaling it’s time to clean them out. Or is it? This season, try extending the life of your window boxes, so you can appreciate their beauty year-round, each time you glance out your winter windows.

To spruce up your boxes, start by removing what looks old and tired: the geranium leaves are beginning to yellow, the verbena is way past its prime, and the dianthus isn’t flowering anymore. But the ageratum seems to be perking up now that the heat of summer has passed, and the ivy and vinca are holding their own. You can fill in gaps with cool season flowers such as mums and pansies and probably get another three weeks of flowering out of those boxes.

When freezing temperatures arrive, it’s time for flowering brassicas, such as kale and cabbage, with their colorful, curious foliage. Plant them directly into the boxes and they will last all winter long through the harshest of weather. As you plant, tuck daffodil and tulip bulbs under the flowering kale to guarantee an early spring show. You can mix in cut sprigs of crabapples, viburnums, winterberry, or any other shrub or tree with clusters of colorful berries and strong branches. Just stick the branches into the soil in the boxes, and your only problem will be the birds and wildlife competing for the berries! Tangled grapevines and bittersweet, with its orange seed coats and red berries, quickly go from noxious weeds growing in the wild to precious commodities in autumn and winter window boxes.

Evergreen branches from spruce, balsam, and fir will retain their color throughout the winter months as long as the temperature is low. Stick their ends into the soil just before the soil freezes, arranging them en masse. For the holidays, string little white lights through the boughs and tie on weatherproof velvet bows. Discard the branches once the temperatures start to warm, but don’t worry, your window boxes won’t be bare for long. The tulip and daffodil bulbs you carefully tucked in for the winter will soon be coming to life, and the cycle will begin anew.

As your lawn endures the trials of job this summer – drought, pestilence and disease – you must hold to the hope that there is a lush, green turf on the other side of this summer.  Has your spring turf been reduced to an arid, brown toasty color?  If not, you might want to submit your water bills for federal disaster relief.  Dry, scorching heat is the perfect scenario for crabgrass to flourish and bluegrass to perish.  What’s needed, of course, is a good, deep penetrating rain.

The large Japanese beetle population will mean a heavier than normal population of grubs.  Knowledge is of course your best defense.  Here are a couple of suggestions for reviving your lawn..

Feeding:  Your lawn’s nitrogen needs are at their highest in late summer.  Avoid fertilizing when temps are about 85 degrees.  Supplement this late summer feed (high in nitrogen) with a fall fertilizer that will concentrate on developing the root system.  This will build a turf more resistant to drought and pest damage.  This might be your most beneficial feeding.  You can supply a fall food right into November in most areas.

Pest Control:  In late summer and early fall the grub cycle begins as the larvae pupate into the common white lawn grub.  At this stage of their development, these grubs are the most vulnerable.  Treat infested areas with either a liquid dose or a granular treatment as either dylox, diazanon or oftanol.

Watering:  A good rule of thumb is to water in the early morning hours.  Try to provide at least 1 to 1.5 inches of water through rainfall or irrigation.  A deep watering once a week is more beneficial than a series of shallow watering.

Seeding:  To repair damage caused by drought,  pests and disease, plan on a fall seeding program.  Match the grass seed varieties to the conditions.  For example, if you have a rocky, sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, use a drought resistant lawn mixture featuring turf-type tall fescues (TTTF).  Unlike ryegrass that spread by shallow rhizomes, TTTF have long individual tap roots.  They are tough, durable and make a long wearing attractive turf.  Heavy clay soils might do better with a bluegrass and ryegrass mixture.  Fall is an optimum time for seeding.  The warm weather speeds germination while the autumn night temps start to drop.  Remember to keep the seed moist until established.  That might require 2-3 mistings during our “Indian Summers”.  The attention you pay to your lawn now will pay big dividends in the fall, the following spring and for years to come.

For your Lawn

  • Water deep and infrequently during the summer months. One inch of water early in the day about once a week is adequate.
  • Help your lawn out by changing direction when mowing. Travel north to south on one mowing and east to west on the next cutting.
  • In late August, prepare the lawn areas for seeding tall fescue or bluegrass. Seed or fertilize lawns the last week of August.

For your Vegetable Garden

  • As parts of the vegetable garden come to an end, remove plants. Put them in your compost pile if not infested with insects or diseases. If disease, insects or nematodes have been a problem dispose of the plants to reduce the number of pests that survive the winter.
  • Japanese beetles are pests this time of year. Spray as needed, but removing by hand is more effective.

For your Flower Beds

  • Give houseplants a new lease on life. Repot them to give them more room for roots to grow and fresh potting soil.
  • Remove faded flowers on flowering perennials to encourage a second flowering. Cut back impatiens, begonias and salvia that have become too tall or top heavy. Cutting them back will make them bushy, with more blooms.
  • Perennial seeds of hollyhock, delphinium and stokesia can be sown now to produce plants for next spring.
  • If plants such as petunias have become leggy and their flower production has diminished, rejuvenate them by cutting off the branches, fertilizing, and watering them. It will encourage new growth and flowering.
  • Make sure hanging baskets have ample water; they will dry out rapidly in the summer heat.
  • Stake tall-growing flowers to prevent them from falling.
  • Monitor the water needs of container gardens daily. Move plants from hot surfaces to places that are shaded and cooler.

For your Trees & Shrubs

  • Give landscape plants a second, and last, feeding of fertilizer.
  • Have trees and bushes in need of pruning? Prune ‘bleeder’ trees like maple, dogwood, birch and elm, as well as the fruiting canes of raspberry and blackberry plants after harvest is over. Cut canes at ground level. Refrain from pruning spring-flowering shrubs now.
  • Don’t fertilize shrubs in August, September, October or November, it could cause new growth at a dangerous weather time.
  • Watch for damaging insects on evergreens. Scale, spider mites, leaf miner and leafhopper can be a problem.
  • Avoid spraying pesticides on very hot days or when plants are drought stressed.
  • Maintain a layer of mulch two to four inches around trees and shrubs and two inches around annuals and perennials. Keep mulch a few inches away from plant trunks or stems. Mulch keeps the soil cooler, conserves moisture, and reduces weeds.
  • Compost can be added as a top dressing around your shrubs and perennials. It will help hold moisture and will enhance the soil to help promote the long-term health of your plants.