It is hoped that this page will offer tips and techniques to help all bonsai enthusiasts.
As a beginning, I’d like to offer a discovery I made just this spring. Not that it’s certainly new, just new for me, and I’ve not seen nor heard it mentioned in the bonsai literature.
It is because of the fact that, despite high humidity in Florida, many plants don’t grow as well here normally as they do elsewhere. I remember back to the environs of Baltimore where I grew bonsai for many years and the same was true there, and the remedy was the same. That’s because of heat and poor soil primarily.
It involves the use of mist on a plant, in the ground or in a pot with the soil the Japanese recommend – a semi-hydroponic mix, as it were.
When we create a cool (or at least cooler) rainforest environment, similar to, for example, the Oregon coast, many plants that don’t like too much heat can prosper. Of course, it can also create a saturated soil condition if the soil isn’t at least semi-hydroponic, i.e., plenty of permanent relatively large air pore spaces between particles.
Even if the soil becomes saturated (growing in the ground), there are many plants which don’t mind and, in fact, are benefited by the added moisture. These include hornbeams, sageretia, ficus, and any plant which normally grows in alluvial soils. What happens is that the roots, seeking oxygen (a capacity particularly needed by those which grow in such soils), tend to develop on the surface of the ground – in profusion – creating a perfect result for bonsai. Even when the tree is a bonsai in a pot, the cooling effect of mist benefits both the health of the plant and also its growth, and does no harm to the roots if they are in the correct well-sifted bonsai soil. Azaleas, of course, are particularly aided by this action, but many others are as well.
So, by putting a mist head over the plant in the ground (or, with the right soil mix, in a pot) we can not only get much better growth of the upper side of the plant, the roots of many subjects are made wonderful.
This works particularly well when a plant is kept in full sun when it might perhaps enjoy high – or better – shade, but it also works for plants in high shade, and even – for those which are used to the heavy shade of the swamp – in heavy shade. I’ve found Sageretia are very grateful for this handling.
The question inevitably arises as to what damage may be done to the plant when its mist is withdrawn. Of course, a gradual withdrawal is called for, but at Pasiminan we’ve turned off the mist from some plants in shade and moved them almost immediately to full sun, without damage. The key is light mist, not heavy mist bordering on drizzle. The largest difficulty with such change is to make sure the plants’ soils stay well watered and don’t dry out.
I think that this can work in winter as an environment amelioration, as micromist is used in orange groves down here to protect against frost. If one lived in New England or colder climates it might be possible to get more yearly growth on a plant and even help it overwinter better – again, depending on the soil mix.
I think this will probably only work with natural – not treated – water, as from a city supply, especially if it is chlorinated.
We’ve continued to experiment with more plants and, of the ones we’ve tried, haven’t found any yet which don’t benefit. Of course, we’ve kept away, so far, from plants which enjoy deep root systems and dryer soils, like pines. Not all conifers are incapable of benefiting, however, even bypassing the question of the bald cypress which very likely would. Those junipers which sprout new roots readily from the trunk, from the bumps under the bark which are actually unpopped adventitious root nodes, seem to like it too. These include most of the non-upright Chinese junipers, including San Jose, Parsoni, and Shimpaku. Even the upright foemina seems to like it, but we haven’t quite enough evidence on it yet to be definitive.
It seems to me that this is an area that many bonsai enthusiasts can experiment in and, by comparing notes, we can all benefit from the accumulating knowledge pool.
And too, If anyone has any further observations on this subject, we’ll be glad to publish them here, to add to a growing compendium of insights..