Documents: Latest From: Jennifer Moore:

by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

February 6, 2011

While waiting for spring, I thought we might take a look at a subject that has intrigued Oriental gardeners for centuries. The art of "Bonsai” or "tray plant" is meant to alter the growth pattern of a tree or garden by pruning and training. The object is to create a miniature form of the mature tree, grown in a complementary shallow container. In Japan the art is so precise that all Bonsai are classified by size and shape. Both the art and the tree are referred to as "Bonsai".

When selecting a Bonsai choose first if it is to be grown indoors or outdoors. Tropicals could be grown indoors to be set outdoors in warm weather. (Plants need to be gradually acclimatized when moved indoors or outdoors) In the Chetwynd area outdoor Bonsai should be selected from zone 1 or zone 2 hardy plants to be kept outdoors year round. Look at the roots, they should not be overlapped but should spread evenly from the trunk. The tree should look natural, healthy and bushy. The tray should have good drainage and complement the plant. Use a soil mix especially made for Bonsai or mix four parts sterilized potting soil with one part each of compost, peat moss, and crushed rock. Often an interesting rock is partially buried in the top of the soil.

Place the Bonsai within easy reach for daily maintenance, provide good light, and shield it from the intense heat of noonday sun. Protect it from the dry heat of the furnace, cold drafts and wind. Leaf drop may occur if it is moved about, find the right spot and keep it there. Over winter the outdoor Bonsai can be protected with a wrap of several thicknesses of newspaper or burlap, place the tray inside of a larger container packed with peat moss. The foliage of evergreens could be sprayed top and bottom with an anti transpirant to stop the loss of moisture.

Water with care, too much moisture asphyxiates the roots of plants. Water very dry pots by soaking the pot in a pan of water. Prop up one side of the pot to insure it is well drained after watering; this method works well for outdoor Bonsai after a heavy rain too. Spray mist the indoor Bonsai daily in summer season, water thoroughly as shallow trays can dry rapidly. In summer they may need watering twice daily.

Moss is usually grown in the Bonsai tray - it is a good indicator for watering. The moss will begin to look parched when the pot needs water. To get the moss off to a good start, wrap the pot in a plastic bag for a week, after planting the moss.

Never fertilize a young or newly transplanted Bonsai. Mature Bonsai can be fed spring and fall with small amounts of slow release fertilizer.

Generally root pruning of evergreens should be done every 3 to 5 years. Deciduous trees are pruned every 2 years. Although some fast growing plants such as Azalea and Juniper may need annual root pruning to keep their growth in check. Cut off 1/3 of the roots and repot in fresh soil.

The new growth of the conifers is pinched back over spring and fall, particularly the new growth occurring on the trunk and base of the tree. The deciduous trees are pruned to shape over winter while they are dormant. Proportion and scale are important, keep the plants small, remove dried or yellowed leaves and faded blooms daily.

Soft copper or aluminum wire is used to wrap around trunk or branches, the tree can then be bent to grow in a desired shape or direction. When the desired shape is achieved the wire can be removed.

Create your own Miniature Japanese Garden, use a 24 inch wide ceramic bowl, layer pot shards in the bottom of the bowl, and fill with soil mix. Using small specimens, plant 1 Azalea, 1 Juniper, 1 Bamboo, 1 Sweet Flag, 6 Scotch Moss along with an accent stone. Arrange in a pleasing configuration, plant and water in.


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row