Bonsai Articles

Bonsai Pests and Diseases

posted Aug 11, 2012, 8:07 AM by Michael Harshman   [ updated Aug 11, 2012, 8:23 AM ]

This article is reposted from a great website (The Bonsai Primer) that we encourage you to visit to broaden your bonsai knowledge:  Allen Roffey has great articles on this website and you can actually get them on a CD to take with you for when you don't have internet access - plus the CD has much more information and pictures than what is online.
Pests and Diseases
All living things are eaten by other living things and your bonsai are no exception.  A healthy tree will be able to shake off most diseases, keep it well fed use sharp tools to make cuts that will heal over better and you should have very few problems.

The Type of insect taking an interest in your tree will vary with where you are in the world, however your response will tend to be the same. Man's ingenuity has provided us with chemicals to really put them off their lunch. Some of you will favour organic methods of growing your trees, however good these methods may be their response time will not be as fast as a good dose of Malathion.

Red Spider Mite
If, in the joints between branches you see fine white cobwebs, you may have an infestation of red spider mite. They, as their name suggests look like spiders and make a web like substance. They're microscopic, just visible with a magnifying glass. That will not however stop them killing you tree. They tend to be associated with indoor trees, as they prefer a warm dry climate. Your local garden store should have something for them to drink (terminally). After that, spray (mist) your trees regularly with water, and see, what I have to say about Humidity.

I should start by saying that not all fungi are harmfull to your trees, all plants have a symbiotic root fungus called Mycorrhiza which benifits the tree. It can usually be seen as a thin white sheet around the roots, on repotting and is particularly noticable on Pines, it is as I said benificial. However most fungi will kill your tree, or disfigure the leaves.
Fungi enter your tree through wounds and particularly those wounds below soil level, so when repotting your trees the first watering should contain a fungicide. Other fungi, such as mildew or blackspot will attack your leaves, disfiguring them and greatly reducing their ability to feed the tree, regular spraying with a fungicide will help to prevent this.

Scab is a disease commonly associated with Fruit trees. It is often seen in trees continually fed with high nitrogen feeds. It's unlikely to be seen in a bonsai fed with a well balanced fertiliser.  High Nitrogen feeds promote rapid, soft growth and this, if damaged may allow scab to enter, so watch out.  Scab itself is typified by the shrinking and drying of an area of bark. If you are the victim of such an attack you will find a remidy, usually a spray in your garden center.  Assuming you've stopped the attack in time, you might consider applying a 'Dead wood' effect to the damaged area.
Other Pests
Cats are not a problem if dealt with in a sympathetic and understanding manor.  My own late "Moggie" had a spot on my Bonsai racks where he liked to sun himself. I left a space for him, aren't cats quick when you start to water your trees ?.

Little Helpers
The last thing I would suggest is that you keep you children away from your trees, however very young children will mimic their parents as part of the growing process. If they see you working on a tree they may decide to 'help' you, with perhaps disasterous results for your trees. Keep your tools away from them.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

posted Oct 31, 2011, 1:00 PM by Michael Harshman   [ updated Oct 31, 2011, 1:10 PM ]

This is a request sent to us from Professor Robert Grese at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment - Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.  Please consider visiting their website listed below and if you are in the Ann Arbor, MI area, stop by and visit the gardens and arboretum.  Attached is the full PDF of their article.
Fellow bonsai enthusiasts:

As many know, the University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens staff has been caring for a mostly-out-of-sight bonsai collection for many years. The long-held dream has been the creation of a permanent, dedicated garden open to the public for this collection. Fund raising has already brought in two thirds of the goal, allowing construction to start as early as this fall. It is important to note that a portion of all donated money is being set aside in an endowment to ensure that the collection will be protected, nurtured, and developed by dedicated staff as the years go by -- promoting the love of nature, horticulture and bonsai, concepts that we all hold close to our hearts.

A working bonsai studio will be integrated into the garden. In this space professionals and volunteers will do the work of maintaining these special trees in full view of the public.  This will be an exceptional educational opportunity for the public to interact with knowledgeable bonsai people.

We are reaching out to all potential supporters for financial help. Donations of any amount are needed and all will be valued. Donors giving at least $1,000 will be honored on a recognition plaque. Larger donations to the bonsai collection offer naming opportunities for the garden and its various spaces.
More information can be found at:

Suiseki, Seeing Stone as Art: Maureen Wallner

posted Dec 10, 2010, 4:58 PM by Quad City Bonsai   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 7:01 PM ]

Shown here (right) is Harry Wallner’s Suiseki stone that was accepted for presentation at the Fifth World Bonsai Convention at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, May 2005.

 Suiseki” comes from the words“ Su” [water] and “seki” [stone]. The stone’s name has undergone transformations - as have its meanings - in different countries. When the stones first “came” to Japan in 600 AD, they were often known as “viewing stones.” Korea and Southeast Asia also display a version of this art form. But it was originally brought in from China and later adopted by these other countries.

 It is generally a single stone often displayed on a wooden base and carved into the shape of the base. It can be set in a shallow container filled with sand, fine gravel or water and can represent a stream, a mountain, a hut, a shack, or a flower. Perception then transforms it into a work of art.

The three main category groupings of Suiseki are scenic landscape stones evoking impressions of mountains or waterfalls; object stones resembling manmade objects such as boats or bridges, or animal shapes; and pattern stones seen as images of flowers such as chrysanthemums. The shapes of the stones

vary, some being rounder, and some, as in China, flatter. Types of stones will also vary. Some may be granite; others, quartz. Harry’s rock with its vertical bands of chert, sandstone, and shale is reminiscent of water flowing down into dry streambeds. Thinking that it might have come from a riverbed in Colorado, he chose to set it in a desert landscape of light sand.

The form of Suiseki can be just as varied as the perceptions of it. And to one Japanese collector its essence is even more than representative. It is spiritual. Quoting from a pamphlet of the San Francisco Suiseki Kai organization: “The contemplation of a stone as a symbol of nature relaxes the mind from pressures of a complex daily life and allows a person to retain his sense of values. The importance of life in its simplest form is reflected through the beauty, strength and character of the stone.”

Some other reference sources:
“The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation: Suiseki and Its Use With Bonsai” by Vincent T. Covello
“Suiseki & Viewing Stones: An American Perspective” by Melba L. Tucker
“Suiseki: The Japanese Art of Miniature Landscape Stones: by Felix G. Rivera

Bonsai 101: Jerry Zimmerman

posted Dec 10, 2010, 4:56 PM by Quad City Bonsai   [ updated Aug 23, 2011, 2:31 PM ]

Here is a Presentation and supporting bullet point list of the basics of bonsai that was created by Jerry Zimmerman.  Jerry was one of the founding members of the Quad City Bonsai Club.  He passed away in 2009 at the age of 77.   Jerry, you will be greatly missed.


Bonsai 101 Presentation by Jerry Zimmerman


a. China 11th Century
b. Japan 15th Century
c. World Expo 1903
d. West Coast 1945
e. Southeast US 1970
f. Midwest 
Just what is Bonsai
a. By word definition -> BON (to plant) SAI (shallow tray)
b. Pronounced “Bone”-“sigh”
c. Combination of horticultural skills & artistic abilities to some degree
d. Not a special type of tree, not a unique evergreen nor a secret species but any woody stalked/trunk tree, shrub, vine or herb.
a. Formal
b. Informal
c. Slanting
d. Cascade
e. Semi-Cascade
Size Classifications
a. Mam’e – palm sized
b. Chumono – medium sized (2 hands)
c. Omono – Large sized (4hands)
Climatic Classifications
a. Hardy
b. Non-Hardy
c. Sub-tropical
d. Tropical
e. Temperate
Type Classifications
a. Evergreen
b. Deciduous
c. Broad Leave Evergreens
Why doesn’t my tree look like a Bonsai?
a. Proportion
b. Asymmetric
c. Balance
d. Depth
e. Container size (height-width-depth)
f. Rootage
g. 1/3 principle
Where do Bonsai trees come from? Propagation
a. Seeds / Seedlings
b. Cuttings
c. Layering
d. Nursery Stock
e. Bonsai Nurseries
f. Shows
g. Collected from the wild
How to get started
a. Talk one on one
b. Visit local Bonsai club
c. Books
d. Buy a tree
e. Visit club again
f. Join a club
General Maintenance
a. Soil
b. Watering
c. Fertilizer
d. Light
e. Environment (temperature)
f. Insect and disease
g. Trimming (styling) etc.
a. Pass out club brochures
b. Specifics 

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