Bonsai gardens

Home garden You can still have that gorgeous home garden in limited space!

If you live in a townhouse or flat and don’t have a big garden or you only have a balcony; you can still have that home garden you’ve always wanted with beautiful bonsai plants. Even if space isn’t an issue at all- bonsai trees will look spectacular anywhere!

What are bonsai gardens?

Bonsai gardening is the art of growing trees in shallow pots or trays. You then cultivate your trees to be whatever shape you want that’ll compliment your home design.
In South Africa, you can grow various types of acacias, baobab, Chinese elm, Chinese and Japanese maples, yellowwood, wild fig, natal fig, cypress tree, orange fruit tree, lavender tree, ficus, pepper tree, wild cherry tree, and witstinkhout.

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Why you should grow bonsai trees:

Bonsai gardens are a great investment because it’s an inexpensive way to completely upgrade your home garden décor and bring in garden elements when you have limited space.
What’s more, you can personalise your bonsai trees with little ornaments that you can add to the pot. This will make your bonsai garden completely original and super cute!

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Most of the trees mentioned above are indigenous to South Africa, such as the baobab, acacias, yellowwood, witstinkhout, wild fig, natal fig and orange tree so they are easy to look after. The other trees can also be used because they are hardy and don’t die easily and they are not hard to find at bonsai nurseries.

How to maintain your bonsais:

Hibernating baobab treeIn winter: Only water the trees when the soil is dry. The baobab tree goes into hibernation in winter and must not get any water during this period and should be taken in doors or covered to protect them from frost. The other trees still require some water and must also be protected from frost.

In summer: Regular watering is needed as the trees will die if the roots dry out completely. Special bonsai fertilisers needs to be given to the trees once a month in the growing season. However, each tree has different requirements for soils, periods for repotting, and sun requirements. Many of them only like filtered sun because Johannesburg sun can be extremely harsh so most bonsai enthusiasts tend to keep most of their trees under protective shade nets which also gives protection from Joburg’s severe hail storms in October and November.

In spring and throughout summer: The trees need to be groomed and trimmed to maintain their bonsai shapes as this is the time when all the growth shoots appear with new leaves .

You also need to keep a constant look out for various pests. The most common in JHB is white lice, scale and aphids. Commercial pesticides are available but a solution made up of dishwashing liquid, alcohol and water sprayed on the trees will generally kill most pests. The tree must then be rinsed properly the following day after applying the solution.

In autumn: Watering is still required but the trees should not be trimmed as they need to preserve their resources from their leaves for winter before all the leaves are lost. This is the season when the trees like the maples and lavender trees change colour. Their leaves go from the normal summer green colours to vibrant reds, then orange, then yellow and then they finally fall off.

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Special trick: To encourage the bonsai trees to grow small leaves, in October, provided the tree is healthy and strong, you have to defoliate the tree which means every single leave is trimmed off using special bonsai tools. When the tree grows back all its leaves, they will be smaller in size. It therefore takes years of training to get your bonsais to grow like proper miniature trees.

Compiled by Kayla Myburgh for Home Inspirations. Source: Bonsai Garden Centre and information supplied by Dianne Van Der Merwe.

Photographs taken by Kayla Myburgh.

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