General Care and Maintenance of Bonsai
To keep them at the top of their form, Bonsai should be grown out of doors as much as possible. The Japanese keep them on tables in full sun from late spring until early autumn, but the sun in that country does not scorch as it does in England. What is more important is that the Japanese Bonsai lover never seems to be irked by constant attention to small details. From my window I used to watch a Japanese tending his trees. Every specimen in a large collection was examined daily, and during the summer the trees were watered three and four times a day, according to the amount and quality of the sun, the wind or the tempera- ture. How many people in this country are prepared, or can afford, to give such punctual and unremitting care? I have found that in England Bonsai will thrive in half-shade away from the drip of trees. Where this can be supplied, watering once a day at least is sufficient if the containers are glazed outside; except in very hot weather, when they must be watered twice. If porous containers are used, dry winds create a dangerous condition, and every effort should be made to move the trees to a sheltered position until the wind changes. While out of doors the trees can be watered overhead, in winter theonly should be watered, giving only sufficient to keep the soil just moist. In winter the trees should be kept in a cool greenhouse, or in a frost-proof room or shed. It will not matter if the latter is dark. The trees are quite hardy but the containers are easily cracked by frost.
Trees which are transplanted every two years must be given a little encouragement in alternate years. This is best done by pricking over the soil with a wire, watering it, and then scattering a few pinches of steamed bone flour on the surface. Subsequent waterings will wash the bone in. This should be done three or four times from April to August, but on no account must the fertilizing be overdone.
A velvety moss may be encouraged to grow over the surface of the soil, but liverwort must be removed as soon as it appears. After a damp season, the trunks and branches of hardwood trees may be greened over. This will not damage the trees, and some people like the natural appearance. If it is not liked, it can be removed by spraying with a weak solution of a proprietary tar-oil winter wash. If this is used, the pans must be turned on their sides when spraying or the mossy surface will be ruined. Alternatively the moss can be given some protective covering.
Suitable Plants for Dwarfing and How to Obtain Them
As already suggested, woods and gardens with plenty of trees usually yield very promising seedlings for our purpose; but if these sources are not available, we must look elsewhere for our material. In the first place we can raise our own seedlings and also strike cuttings, but both these methods lose us at least two years. A friendly nurseryman will usually allow a search through his seedling beds and among his cuttings and grafted stocks. Never be tempted to buy big plants under the impression that they are a short-cut to good Bonsai. Small seedlings and cuttings of 6 or 8 in., grafted plants of under 1 ft. with stout stems and a promise of growth buds, will prove to be the best material to work on.