Lush summer foliage and impressive deadwood on an old Shimpaku juniper.The lush foliage is the result of timely feeding. The photo is from our Masters Series Juniper book. I know the tree is from Japan, but don't know who the artist is.
Time for a reminder from one of our archival favorites (July, 2015). Nothing has changed since then, except our new lower fertilizer prices.
Many, if not most people underfeed their bonsai. There are many reasons why ample fertilizing is critical to developing healthy and beautiful bonsai…
1. It’s up to you. Most bonsai soils don’t contain nutrients. This means your tree’s nutritional requirements are completely dependent on you. If you do use a soil that contains nutrients* (organic matter), these will eventually get used up or leach out.
2. Healthy foliage is beautiful foliage. You want vigorous healthy foliage. The foliage on underfed trees will lack color and luster.
You can bet that this luxurious crown is the result of generous feeding. This lush Kiohime Japanese maple belongs to Walter Pall, so I'm guessing that's his arm and hand. It (the tree not the hand) is 45 cm (18") high and more than 50 years old (again the tree, though if it's Walter's hand...). It was originally imported from Japan. This photo and the one below are from Walter's blog. They are part of a series of photos on the development of this tree.
Continued from above…
3. Rapid thickening. Fertilizing promotes rapid growth which promotes trunk and branch thickening (younger trees and older trees are treated differently**).
4. Ramification. Healthy growth (along with skillful trimming) promotes the development of fine branching (secondary, tertiary and so forth).
Walter's maple after he reduced the crown and turned it around. Now the proportions are better and you can see the bones better too. This shape and crown will be maintained by proper feeding (more summer less spring) and skillful trimming. The pot is by Petra Tomlinson.
Continued from above…
5. Pest resistance. Healthy well-fed trees are better able to resist pests.
6. Stress resistance. Same goes for heat, cold, wind etc.
7. Human error. Healthy well-fed trees with strong roots can better resist forgetting to water or over-watering (but only up to a point).
This hornbeam belongs to Mario Komsta. I lifted it from an old Bark post (2010). It's an great example of a powerful trunk and an extreme example of fine branching, the result of ample fertilizing and skillful trimming. Once the trunk and branching are well developed you can stop spring feeding but continue to feed in the summer.
*Organic matter in soil tends to inhibit aeration (aka drainage) and is not recommended by most bonsai professionals.
**With younger trees you want rapid growth so you start feeding in the early spring and keep feeding right through the summer. With older more developed trees too much growth can cause loss of shape, but you still want healthy trees with beautiful crowns. The secret here is wait until the summer to start feeding.
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