Bonsai.

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We have for some years now been keeping trees in pots. It is practical for anyone who does not own their garden, who move around a lot or simply do not have a garden at all. Almost any species can be grown in a pot as long as they get enough light, water and nutrients. Some of them are kept outside all year round and some stay indoors for the colder months and get a holiday in the garden each summer. We have had some of them for 20 years or more.

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The name Bonsai comes from the Japanese words, bon, meaning a tray or low pot and sai, meaning a planting or tree. When a tree is restricted by a pot it stays small and easy to manage. We like to prune ours quite hard in the spring as you can see in these pictures.  When you prune the tree back it reacts by putting on more, smaller branches and bushier growth. The main growing season is in the summer and any new branches that get too long are clipped again throughout the growing season. We have had this particular Japanese Zelkova for close to five years and when we bought it we estimate it was four years old. It is a good tree for indoors and easy to look after for a beginner. Just remember to water it regularly. We like to soak our pots in a bigger container of water for some time so the tree can drink from the roots.

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This year we decided to try something a little different outdoors and bent some reinforcement-bars into nice curves. We acquired some bare root red oaks that we potted up in November last year and in February it was time to have some fun with them. The re-bars were anchored deep in the pots and the stems of the trees bent and tied to the re-bars with twine. We will leave the re-bars on for a year or two and then remove them. The stems will stay in their positions and have a very unusual appearance. They put on a lot of growth over the summer and we think they look quite lovely now. This is a very cheap and easy way to get a special feature in your garden. Many different varieties of trees can be treated like this.

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This was an unwanted hawthorn that was dug up in a friend’s garden and bent into this umbrella shape about 25 years ago. We prune any branches that try to grow upwards by pinching them out when they are very small. It is beautiful when it flowers in spring and also when it has nicely coloured leaves in the autumn. It is grown on a big rock with a slight hollow in the middle for holding just enough water to sustain it. We added a lot of little stones to the composition and some roots are exposed. It is the first part of our rock garden that we plan to create when we have some more time so you have to excuse the mess round it in the pictures.

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Our Bonsai give us a lot of joy. They are beautiful to look at and pruning them is a very meditative, calming process. It is much easier than many people think to keep trees in pots. We plant our cut offs from pruning in some seed and potting compost with added sand or grit and a lot of them take and grow onto new little trees. We had three very long ones growing two years ago and we decided to plait them and now we have a lovely little tree with a partly joined plated stem. If you have never grown trees in pots we can highly recommend it. There are many books on Bonsai so it is easy to get going.

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