Summer is for Growing

Last night I enjoyed the rare opportunity to work on one of my own bonsai. It's a juniper procumbens  and specifically, a raft style.

Allow me to digress- What is a Raft Style Bonsai?

A raft is a single tree, laid on it's side so that the branches look like individual trees and the whole effect is a small forest. It's also "What you can do with an ugly tree, with a spindly trunk and branches only formed on one side. And that explains, how my particular raft came into being.

Making a raft is actually quite simple, but like most things "bonsai" it requires a lot of patience. Simply plant the tree on its side. Keep the original roots still buried. Remove or redirect any branches that are not facing the new "up". Carefully scrape away some sections of bark on the underside of your stem to expose the cambium (green) layer. It's super thin so you'll scrape right through it. Not to worry, just do your best. Coat that scraped area with rooting hormone. Bury the stem and if possible pin it into place to prevent movement. You can use a large, shallow, biodegradable planter that will allow you to push wire though the bottom to hold the tree in place. Water it. Be sure to protect the original roots which can be easily exposed and keep it alive for a year or two....or more, until roots form along the stem and you can remove the original root.

At any rate, this is a picture of my still unfinished raft. Its about 4 years now since the original work was done. I moved it into this planter last year and might be able to take of the original root next year and move it to a better pot. Then again, once i have a look I might instead have to scrape a bit more stem, add more hormone and keep waiting for enough new roots to form to sustain it. I don't know yet. We'll see.

OK. Digression Ended

My original point is that a very nice lady sitting next to me was working on her own tree, a mini jade that - truth be told- was tall and spindly and showing every sign of needing more light. In response to my question about where it was growing, she replied "Indoors, under a light".
To which I replied, "Bring it outside."

Its the first full week of July and this is Southern Ontario which truly does not enjoy the longest growing season, but for a few months, our world is alive. Tomatoes are planted, peppers are growing, our trees are all leafed out and as far as I am concerned, every bonsai that can possibly be brought outside must be.

If you're in a house, this is a no brainer. Yes you have to be careful to get them used to the strength of the sun by making the move gradual. Yes, they'll get rained on. A handy trick for those weeks where they get waaaaay too much water from a daily dousing is raise one side of the pot to push some extra drainage (assuming you have drainage holes on each side). And YES, you do need to pay attention to them. If its raining every day, raise up one side of the pot. On hot sunny days you might need to water every day ( but you can at least just use the hose). For most of your bonsai, morning and early mid day sun with late afternoon shade is ideal, so just keep life simple and shoot for that.

Will you see a difference in your trees? Oh Yeah. Trust me. Even Ficus and Eugenia who can get a little pissy about being moved will thank you. They'll sulk in the fall when you bring them back inside, but just get them through the winter with the best conditions you can offer and next spring, all will be forgiven.

If you're in an apartment or a condo and you have a balcony, put them out there - which appropriate shading if needed. You might even consider moving your bonsai to a friend or family members yard for the summer ( as long as you can be sure they'll be cared for). A woman in my bonsai club used to bring her trees to my backyard for the summer. It was like spending their summer at the cottage.

Remember, there is no such thing as an indoor tree. We call them that for the sake of calling them something shorter than a tree that cannot tolerate the full range of the local climate, but nothing green was meant to grow in a living room. "Indoor" bonsai can tolerate the indoors and as is the case where I live, cannot tolerate the outdoors from October to April so they have to come inside. But at the first available opportunity- Everyone goes outside. Including me. Especially, me.