To paraphrase Mark Twain, “the reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated”. TBS is alive and well, and so far as I know, so are our members. We may be hunkered down, but our bonsai are greeting spring with active growth, eager to be trimmed and shaped. By now we should be all done with repotting of deciduous varieties, and most of them are leafed out. Even crape myrtles are out early. What should we do with them? Let’s not fertilize yet, let them push out growth until it starts to harden off, probably in late April. If we use nitrogen elements, we’ll be extending those internodes, and enlarging leaf size; best to wait a bit. Watch out for the aphids and whitefly, as they go after those tender new leaves. A good blast of the hose with maybe a few drops of liquid soap should keep the buggers off!
Our junipers are bursting with new buds, and these should be pinched back to direct and control shape, to avoid cutting back later and leaving brown tips in warmer weather. I started fertilizing these with 10-10-10 two weeks ago, and after the recent rains I have a plethora of new buds. You can direct and control branch width, length, and even height, as we want a higher “shoulder” nearer the trunk, and tapered down toward the tip of the branch. You all know the drill by now, and have another “plethora” of reference materials and guidance. Watch for spider mites—a dusty look and tiny webs when wet. Use a horticultural oil spray, or a systemic miticide. Give as much sun as possible in March and April.
We can fertilize those broadleaf evergreens, such as olive, Texas Ranger, etc. Go easy on bougainvillea so far as nitrogen is concerned. You can use 0-10-10 to promote more flower and fewer leaves, or the 3x10 or 3x12 for overall growth. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers with Urea, such as Miracle Gro. As always, there are exceptions. If your boogie is in the ground or an oversized training pot, this higher nitrogen can be used to push more branch and leaf growth, for future development.
Let’s practice good husbandry with our bonsai. Clear out weeds and other debris, make sure our benches are clear and clean. It is not necessary to practice social distancing with our bonsai! You can get up close and personal! We can still repot juniper and broadleaf evergreen into early April; I would defer boogies and other subtropicals/tropicals into May, when nights are warming up. If you have specific questions, call me or other mentors as listed on the website – we’re here to help!
I’ve just learned that the Phoenix bonsai show set for April 4 has been cancelled, primarily due to action taken by the Valley Garden Center, where the show is held. As of this moment on March 20, we’re going forward with our Bonsai Expo scheduled for May 1-3. Our board meets on April 5, and will probably decide on the appropriate action to take. Our meetings are subject to cancellation by the Tucson Woman’s Club, and our show site is governed by the Tucson Botanical Garden, which is not owned by the city.
Only recently has testing begun for the Covid-19 virus, and it is limited to those persons who demonstrate symptoms, such as a fever. Until these tests are processed, and the quantity increased, we are just guessing based on national statistics. We need more local data. I am in self- imposed exile at this time, only because I’m at high risk with a respiratory condition; I have no symptoms. If you need bonsai pots, tools, or wire, please give me a call or send me an email. I can open the garage door, keep an appropriate distance from you, and I can service your needs. I do not have extra potting soil at this time, but I hope to have it in a few weeks.
I remember the words of the watch captain in the old Hill Street Blues series addressing his morning assembly, “HEY, BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!”