Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Bonsai of Chelsea - 2012

Setting off from Cornwall at 2.30am and bound for central London. Perfect empty roads and at dawn a lovely sun rise had me grabbing the camera !

Time for coffee and calories, then into London, along the embankment and park up at Battersea at 6.45am. Walking through the park and over the bridge is the shortest route to the show, and Dermots 7m pyramid garden stands tall over the surrounding scenery. Having an exhibitor wrist band on (will be working later) gets me straight into the show and what a luxury.....totally empty, perfect

This is a one off oportunity to buzz around with the camera before the gates open - even press day had bigger crowds !

 Welcome to my world

Best in show garden getting a quick brush up

Getting the angle just right !

Still deserted..................where is everyone ? ? ?

found them.............................................

That was my quick tour of outside so into the great pavillion to look for bonsai, as promiced

Hinoki, Deshojo and Red Pine
Here is a view of one side of John Trotts stand - Gold medal 52 proudly displayed and here are the trees - some of these have quite a history at chelsea and other RHS shows - some have never been used here before.

Here is a 1m, 35kg Permisson sp. and a root on rock trident - neither been to Chelsea before

From the top - Permisson sp., Trident Maple, White pine - grafted parviflora, White pine kokonoe, Ginko, Satsuki, Deshojo, Hinoki, Red Pine.

Johns trees have a very natural and not over worked style to them - it certainly works in the Chelsea flower show scenario where horticulture, health and natralism all count highly. I can see that some modern styles, lots of carving & dead wood etc could go against you here....

Over the other side was the FoBBS stand - beautifully layed out in the traditional 2 tiered rows. Personally I think this Hinoki was trying to look like the Deshojo just by it, but it is incredibly healthy and very neatly styled

Here is the Deshojo - it would have been an amazing spectacle of colour a month earlier, and I'd love to see a little more of the trunk that is hidden behind the leaves, but again a lovely bonsai

 - and it was another Gold medal stand so the judges liked it plenty 

Here is the entire stand -Very impressing and I really like the variation of the lower tier of trees - each is styled differently.

This white pine tree was on the BBC telivision show the night before - even though all the branches are wired it is done really neatly and no large wires are visible from the front.

This juniper caught my eye - nice and natural - pot and tree go well together

And just to finish a little decadance that only Chelsea can supply -
This was an amazing opportunity to see the entire site without crowds

And then the gates opened...............................

12 hours later and it was time to pack everything away

That brings Chelsea 99 to a close and the countdown is on to the 100th Chelsea 2013.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bonsai by the sea

Last Sunday was the annual event 'Bonsai South West', held in the Exmouth Pavillion by the sea. The displays are based on a selection of trees from supporting clubs across the South wesy corner of England, plus several local traders come to sell their trees, pots, accessories and all related stuff.

Representing the county of Cornwall Colin and I set up 6 tables with a few of our trees - setting off with cars heavily loaded about 6am. Here is an overview of our day in pictures........

I put off the first leaf thinning on the red acer as show trees want to be fuller - but 24hours after getting home half the outer leaves were removed to give essential light to the inner leaves and buds.

one of Colins tables - white pine and berberis

Driftwood Juniper Chinensis 'sergentii'

Red Hawthorn - Paul Scarlet

Accent plant in a Gordon Hunt pot with matching base

 Local reporter covered the show before heading off to Chelsea Flower show

Gordon near the end of the show - the tables look a little lighter than at the start - I think he's hiding a starter pack of bonsai bags and fertiliser in the other hand... ;-)

Cornish Elm

Before the talent styling competition I did a short demo on working with raw garden center material.


Then the comp got going for real - here are the entrants from cornwall hard at work

And Oliver took the cup !

Chinese Elm originally from Roberts St Mawgan bonsai Nursery - 18 yrs ago !

And a few lovely trees from our neibours - Celtic Knot bonsai in Wales Scots pine and blackthorn

And as the hall empties of people its time to pack up and go home !


Friday, 18 May 2012

Bonsai Bags - Fertilising made easy

Over the last few years I've been getting good results with granular, pelleted type of feeds -initially using products like Biogold, Nakuro etc and then for the last 2 seasons with a fertiliser I formulated in the factory specifically for bonsai. With all the feeds they were scattered on the pots like normal and are left to leach slowly into the pot - but they come with several down sides.
  • Can wash off, wasting fertiliser and money
  • Clogs the granular soil up as it waters down into the pot - effecting drainage and airflow over time
  • Some products completely cover the surface in mould - annoying if you show the trees
  • Once spent they can be messy to remove or scrape off
Recently several bonsai growers have been using tea bags to contain the fertilisers and these solve lots of the above problems, but add a couple of others to the list
  • They get soggy, split and spill the contents into the pot again
  • Critters can easily run or fly away with them
Here we have a 4 week old tea bag containing my powdered feed - I turned it over and it has disintergrated so not a perfect solution.


This lead me to sourcing a fine nylon mesh fillable and re-usable bag which we managed to do - but they were white, pastel blue or pale pink !! The trials (with the blue ones) went very well so we placed an order to have them delivered in a nice natural dark brown and now they've arrived things are going really well as many benifits become clear. I'm filling the bags with a powdered version of my fertiliser recipe which combines intantly soluble ingredients with slower delivering elements - with these combined ingredients I leave the bags in place for 6 weeks for most normal situations.

Once filled the bags are added to the pot - they can even be lined up with specific roots to channel feed to key branches and areas

Once placed the bags are watered to soak the ingredients, begining to release the solubles instantly and starting the bacterial action that will break down the fertiliser into plant usable compounds.

Above we see a newly watered bonsai bag positioned on the outer edge of a pot - and that is taking care of the tree fertilising needs for the next 6 weeks - (The tree above will have 3 bags).

Not only are the bags a neat tidy way to hold the fertiliser in place, but they actually do a better job as can be held in place on sloping sections of a pot. Here I use the loops on the draw strings to fasten the bag to a root on a 45 degree slope on a juniper bonsai.

These nylon loops can be used to attach the bags to roots, guy wires, tying in wires etc and this stops birds and creatures disappearing with the bags - I've found the brown bags are not spotted so easily either.

In the picture above I am using the bonsai bags to concentrate the feed at the roots that feed the live veins of a needle juniper rather than in the areas of dead wood.This picture shows just how neat and tidy the brown bonsai bags are...

 The beauty of this method of feeding the trees is the neatness and speed with which spent fertiliser can be removed, the bags refilled and the free draining soil conditions maintained. Another added bonus comes when a tree is off to a show as instantly the fertiliser can be removed and the bag popped on the tree next door.

I have the brown bonsai bags in stock in packets of 10 and can send them to any country if anyone wants to try them out.

£2.45 / 10 + postage,  £19.50/100

We also have a combination starter pack with 250gr of the powdered fertiliser and 10 bonsai bags.

£5.99 + p&p

Just email us at for orders etc, or add any questions to the comments section here.

Cheers for reading Marcus