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How to Make Pre-Bonsai Soil

Regardless of if you’re potting seedlings, rooting a cutting, or just giving something small time to thicken up, there are lots of reasons you might be using pre-bonsai soil. I basically categorize material to plant in two basic categories. Things I’d stick in a bonsai pot, and things I wouldn’t.  When you pot something into a bonsai pot you are …

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15 Ways to Get Squirrels to Leave Your Potted Plants Alone

Bonsai hobbyists and gardeners alike who have squirrel problems know that squirrels are not adorable Snow-white esque sweeties. They’re furry tree rats and prolific breeders who are relentless in their destruction. Turns out, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is common for about the entire east half of the United States and up into Canada. They’re gray and brown with white bellies …

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How to Save a Dried Out Bonsai Tree

Perhaps you went on vacation.  Or maybe you just forgot to water, for a week.  You might be wondering how to save a dried out bonsai tree.  You know I’m talking about you if your bonsai is now more brown than green, and has seen better days.  If that’s the case, your tree is in need of emergency care. The …

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How To Care for Your Bonsai Tools

FORWARD Failing to take care of tools can cause tools to rust, bend or get chipped, stick together, dull, and corrode. Bonsai tools are generally expensive and worth taking the time and effort to clean and properly care for. Having tools in good clean condition can also make bonsai work easier and more enjoyable.     CARBON VS STAINLESS In …

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How to Water Your Bonsai

This sounds like a stupid question: “How do I water my bonsai?” Um, you put water into the pot.   This is not a dumb question. Over and under watering is a prime cause of dead bonsai trees. It’s the prime cause of death of potted plants in general, and bonsai have more specific needs than other potted plants. Anyone …

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How to Choose Bonsai Material From Nursery Stock

In the event you don’t have a plethora of material to work with you’ll have to pick something up. One of the options that’s always listed is going to your local nursery and selecting something, because unlike finding in the wild or salvaging something from your property or that of your neighbor, going to a nursery is always an option. …

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How Do I Fertilize My Bonsai?

Do bonsai trees need fertilizer? Yes, most if not all bonsai absolutely do. Your plants may live for a while, even a long time, without fertilizer. But bonsai trees need fertilizer for optimal growth, fruiting, flowering, and overall health.   Why is Fertilizing Important? Bonsai are trees grown in little pots. What we’re doing is by definition taking a plant …

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How to build a bonsai bench

You know you need to keep your bonsai outside.  You’ve considered the light and wind. But now what? Do you just sit them on the ground? Ideally bonsai should be kept off the ground to allow for better drainage and to reduce the risk of pests or disease moving into your pots. It also isn’t particularly easy to get a …

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How to make a fruit-bearing bonsai tree

Having a fruit-bearing bonsai tree has understandable appeal. They look really cool. If you’ve seen pictures usually you have the smaller tree and these big bits of fruit on them, it looks crazy and fantastic. When people come see your place they’re bound to be impressed. To learn how, to grow a fruit bearing bonsai, you kind of have to …

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Review: Bonsai / Haws Watering Cans

If you’ve just begun with bonsai you might not think about bonsai watering cans.  It would seem natural to think that though the pots and the soil mix are different, surely a watering can for potted plants works just as well on bonsai. I can tell you from experience this isn’t so. For watering your tiny trees and tiny pots …

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Review: Best Packaged Bonsai Soil Mix

For those of you who have been tinkering in bonsai for a while, you’ve likely learned that just because a package says “bonsai soil” on it doesn’t mean it’s actually good for your bonsai.   From buying soil that that is too moisture retentive and you might as well just pot in potting soil, to getting a product that seems …

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Review: Plant Moisture Meters (A Side by Side Review)

In my quest to firmly grasp the art of bonsai, I’m eager for any tool that will help add a dollop of science to the art form.   Through the years I’ve been dabbling I’ve lost a lot of bonsai, and I believe most plants that have died have been from over or under watering. There are plenty of other …

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Japanese Boxwood (Top-Bottom-Top)

My nursery pick for October is another Japanese Boxwood. This one is different because, well, it’s actually some good pre-bonsai material. It has a nice thick trunk relative to the tree, and nebari on it. Which all together is more than I expect for a big box nursery tree and $20 or less. This one was from Home Depot, price …

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Topiary Gone Bonsai (Eugenia)

Topiary and Bonsai are almost like cousins. Both are practices that shape plants into something unnatural that we’d like them to be. Bonsai makes little trees. Topiary makes bushes and trees shaped like… stuff.   In order to get a ball of foliage you have to trim your material, and as we know that may just give you a thicker …

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Clearance Rack Bonsai (Duranta Erecta)

It’s pretty common advice: Whenever you go to your garden center, if you see a clearance rack, give it a once over. You can get a bargain on decent pre-bonsai material. Garden centers are generally catering to people looking to plant in their yards (or their patios, or business grounds, or whatever, you know what I mean). What’s desirable for …

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Bulging-trunk Bonsai (Ficus Microcarpa Mallsai)

Have you ever done something and while you’re doing it you know you’ve made a mistake?  My ficus microcarpa pick for the month I had that feeling about. If you’re not sure what I mean I’ll give you an example.  Yesterday I made homemade pretzels with my daughter. We followed the recipe and mixed the dough. But it would not …

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Loropetalum Bonsai Three Ways

This month’s find is a loropetalum. I’ve had them on the brain since they were done a couple weeks ago at my local bonsai club. As such it was no surprise that I found this as my pick for the month. I found it at Home Depot for $10.98.   Why Did I Pick This One? All the others were …

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10 Lessons Learned from the ABS / FBS 2017 Bonsai Convention

Last weekend I found myself at the American Bonsai Society / Florida Bonsai Society 2017 Bonsai Convention. I was only there two days for an assortment of reasons. But it was two FULL days and I did learn a lot. After such an adventure, I like to review and see what I’ve learned. Looking back I can find ten things …

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Root bound Japanese Boxwood

This one was a touch my fault. I bought a small Japanese Boxwood from a big box store two months ago. I did see a touch of roots at the bottom of the pot but life happened and I didn’t get a chance to repot it for a while. I chopped off the top and figured I’d repot later. With …

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Why is My Bonsai Dying?

After years of trying to grow bonsai, one of the things I’ve learned for sure is the answer to the question “why is my bonsai dying?”   What I’ve learned is that this question is basically the same as when my Mom says “Why doesn’t my computer work?” The answer is, there are so many possible things that may be …

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Bonsai Soil Particle Size

I researched the hell out of bonsai soil components. Then I spent more than I’d like on said components under the promise of growing better bonsai. Then I did the thing that stops me up every time. I actually did the thing I just researched. Reformed from using potting soil and any premade mix called “bonsai soil,” I took out …

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13 Sure Fire Ways To Piss Off a Bonsai Nut

I’m going to get really irreverent here.  I’ve been tinkering with bonsai for about six years now.  I’ve found peace working on bonsai that I haven’t found doing anything else.  But, there’s a sort of attitude out there with bonsai.  A certain, well, vibe that kinda comes across as snottiness that I can easily see rubbing someone the wrong way. You …

Do I Need a Humidity Tray for my Bonsai?

If you’ve seen pictures of large powerful or graceful, amazing bonsai trees, many of them are pictured in stunning bonsai pots, with a humidity tray, and then placed on a beautiful stand. It’s easy to conclude that your bonsai thus also needs a humidity tray for optimal health. Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. A humidity tray …

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Recommended BETTER Beginner Bonsai Tools

One of the more commonly heard refrains from bonsai professionals and serious enthusiasts is that beginners in bonsai shouldn’t spend their money on cheap tool sets. They argue that cheap tool sets are worthless.  Instead the serious beginner should invest in just two or three better quality tools. The trouble I have with this recommendation is the ambiguity of exactly …

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Recommended BASIC Beginner Bonsai Tools

One of the more commonly heard refrains from bonsai professionals and serious enthusiasts is that beginners in bonsai shouldn’t spend their money on cheap tool sets. They argue that cheap tool sets are worthless and instead the serious beginner should invest in just two or three better quality tools. The trouble I have with this recommendation is the ambiguity of …

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What is a Mud Man?

They’re called mud men. You likely saw them on mall bonsai all over the place a decade or so ago. He was small and made of different color clays, and he may or may not have been holding a fishing pole. Perhaps instead he was looking into the distance in a reflective manner.   Lately, most people would say no …

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Who Makes the Best Bonsai Tools?

Who makes the best bonsai tools? The answer used to be Masakuni, but is it anymore? Good bonsai tools are a bit like good knives. They aren’t necessary to do the job, but they make tasks easier and more pleasant. One could argue the cheapest $50 bonsai tool set will work just fine if you keep it clean and sharp. …

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Top 11 Reasons Your Store Bonsai Tree is Dying

You got a small store bought bonsai as a gift. It looked great so you put it on your desk and it looked so happy for a while. But now it’s starting to look pathetic and die.   The Top 11 Reasons Your Store Bonsai Tree is Dying Are: You don’t know what you have. It’s fairly common for the …

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What Kind of Bonsai Soil Should I Use?

Much like asking Chicagolanders “who makes the best pizza?” or asking Washingtonians “What’s the best way to get from Falls Church to Old Town at rush hour?” bonsai lovers seem to enjoy discussing (debating) what components of their growing mix they pot their trees in. My first year, or two was spent listening to various bonsai comrades and trying to …

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Why is my jasmine bonsai tree turning yellow?

I have a small jasmine that was likely the cutting of a branch on another plant. When I got it, it was far taller than I’d like with foliage only on the top. I’ve had it a couple years and reduced the height by half. Though it flowered nicely this past summer with delicate white flowers I’d hesitate to ever …

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When to repot an azalea after treating it for black leaf spotting

One of my azaleas had black leaf spots a month or so ago. I moved in and treated the situation, and think it’s under control. But… it’s in a big cheap pot. The disposable kind from a box store. I suspect the tree was harvested from the wild and stuck in there a year or two ago. With the arrival …

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