Author Archives: Eugene Howell

Cambium Layer

Part 9 of a series by Eugene Howell

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Leaning BonsaiTo care for a bonsai tree well, it’s appropriate that we first learn something about how a tree actually works; otherwise we have little ability to understand the true nature of the living thing we’re trying to bend and twist and shape to our desires.

If asked what the major parts of a tree are, what would you answer? As a bonsai artist, if you pause for a moment to think about it, you should come to the conclusion that if you have no understanding of how a tree functions, you won’t know what you need to do to the tree in order to get it to develop into an excellent bonsai. Furthermore, you won’t know how the tree will respond to your actions. This, however, is critical. You must know what to expect from a tree in order to develop it the way you envision the tree as a finished bonsai. The more you know about the basic functioning of a tree, the easier and faster you’ll be able to turn raw material into a beautiful bonsai.
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Bonsai Pests and Diseases

Part 8 of a series by Eugene Howell

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Japanese ZelkovaIn part 7 of this series (linked to at the bottom of this page) we started talking about bonsai pests and diseases. Today we’ll continue the topic of fungus that can adversely affect your bonsai trees.

Although there are many variations in symptoms, if you see black or brown spots begin to develop on a leaf, and if these spots begin to grow in size, you very likely have a fungus problem. With some fungi, these spots will develop along the edges of the leaves and thus look very similar to water stress (this is one of those hard-to-diagnose symptoms). In most cases, however, the spots will appear across the entire leaf surface. If the spots penetrate completely through the leaf, from the top side to the bottom side, your plant definitely has a fungus. Keep in mind, however, that not all fungi produce these symptoms.
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Bonsai Diseases

Part 7 of a series by Eugene Howell

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Japanese White Pine Zui-sho pinus parviflora}Many bonsai enthusiasts and gardeners in general, have a tough time diagnosing plant disease and then have trouble deciding how to treat it. The reason may be because there are so many diseases, some of which have unusual or often very subtle symptoms, many of which are similar. So the average bonsai artist looks at a diseased leaf and doesn’t know what the problem may be or how to treat it.

There are three broad categories of bonsai diseases. They are fungus, virus and bacteria. Unfortunately there are no cures for viral and bacterial diseases in plants. But it’s critical that you know and recognize them because it’s very easy to inadvertently spread the disease from bonsai to bonsai as you work on your trees. Learning to recognize plant disease when it occurs will allow you to quarantine the tree away from your other bonsai. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the diseased tree before working on any other bonsai.
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Bonsai Tree Bugs

Part 6 of a series by Eugene Howell

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Bonsai ConventionWe’re continuing our discussion about the pests that can infest your bonsai trees. My previous post talked about aphids and is linked to at the bottom of this page. In it we learned how to recognize when your bonsai have them, and what to do about it.

In this post we will discuss how to identify mealy bugs, scale, spider mites and thrip, and how to get rid of them.

Mealy bugs are easy to identify but more difficult to eliminate than aphids. Like aphids, mealy bugs mainly stay on the undersides of leaves, along the stems, and on the branches and trunk. They can be identified by their protective coating which is usually white and looks like a tiny bit of cotton.
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Bonsai Pests

Part 5 of a series by Eugene Howell

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Pinus BonsaiYou’ve got a beautiful bonsai that’s planted in the perfect Bonsai Soil, watered daily, fertilized well during the proper part of the year, pinched when needed, and repotted every few years. You’re rewarded with a tree that grows vigorously, blooms profusely and is the picture of perfect health. Then one day you notice the leaves beginning to do strange things. Some have a mottled appearance, with tiny yellow spots all over them and others are beginning to curl up like a rolled cigar. If this hasn’t happened to you before, it can leave you puzzled as to what’s going on.
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How to Bonsai

Part 4 of a series by Eugene Howell

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How to BonsaiOf the four basic requirements for a bonsai tree to survive and be healthy, we’ve already discussed three of them in previous posts that are linked to at the bottom of this page. To have a better understanding of how to bonsai, let’s now turn our attention to soil.

Bonsai Soil must satisfy three essential requirements for the tree: good drainage, proper pH and good nutrients. The soil needs to be able to drain off excess water, as discussed in my previous article. It also needs to have a pH level that is acceptable to the plant, and the soil must provide nutrients that the plant can absorb and eventually convert to food (complex sugars).
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How to Care for Bonsai

Part 3 of a series by Eugene Howell

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How to Care for BonsaiOf the four basic requirements for keeping a bonsai tree healthy, we’ve already discussed the first two in this series and they’re linked to at the bottom of this page. Today, while discussing how to care for bonsai, we’re going to talk about water.

All bonsai enthusiasts and gardeners intuitively understand that a plant needs water to survive. In fact, the lack of water will kill a plant faster than any other lacking need.

For the bonsai grower the question becomes “how much water should I give it and how much is too much?” Some people believe that if a little water is good, then more water is better. Unfortunately this is not the case as evidenced by the fact that most houseplants die from one cause, too much water. The interesting thing is that a plant getting too much water will show the same symptoms as one getting too little. To understand why, we need to know how roots function.
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How to Care for a Bonsai Tree

Part 2 of a series by Eugene Howell

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How to Care for a Bonsai TreeMany novice bonsai enthusiasts want to know how to care for a bonsai tree. Some have a preconceived idea that bonsai are excellent for displaying in the house on a coffee table or a shelf and want to keep them there indefinitely. Those that do so are totally ignoring the role that light plays in the health and growth of a bonsai.
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Bonsai Care

A series by Eugene Howell

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Maple Tree BonsaiIn the art of bonsai, it’s easy to get caught up in the mystique of the art and lose sight of the fact that our medium is a living plant.  While having a beautifully developed bonsai is the artistic goal of the art form, it sure helps if the tree is still alive when we reach that goal.

As with all plants, whether in a pot, in the ground, or in the house, there are four fundamental environmental-factors which determine whether a plant grows in a robust healthy manner, or whether it withers and dies.  These are light, temperature, water, and soil.  When one or another of these goes out of whack a bonsai tree can begin to suffer and show symptoms of ill health.  If not corrected, the tree can languish or die, so it’s important to thoroughly understand the role that each of these plays in the health of your tree and to keep them within the acceptable bounds for the particular species you’re working with.

There are two more factors that can play pivotal roles as well, but these are considered secondary to the four fundamentals mentioned above.  They are pests and disease.

In this series I’ll be discussing bonsai care in detail, but today let’s take a look at just one part – temperature.
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