Updated: Jan 7
We all know we go through 4 different seasons in Bonsai, for most parts of the world anyway. Today we will take a look at the general guidelines for work performed in Winter.
Some people call winter the season where things slow down and we take a much needed break, But winter still has important work and there is also a lot of Prep work for the coming spring including purchasing repotting supplies such as Soils, Re-Potting tools, Pots and more. So lets take a look at our Winter season in Bonsai.
PRUNING : Once your deciduous trees go dormant this is a great opportunity to get in and do some minor pruning of branches as you can see the structure a lot easier when there is no foliage on the tree, i would how ever though try to avoid much larger cuts that are bigger then your thumbnail for example. Winter is not a good time to have large open wounds on a tree as there is a lot of moisture present that just sticks around, this also causes fungus and disease to run rampant in winter which can easily get into this wound and cause problems for the tree. Most of your other trees such as your conifers and evergreens you should have ideally done the last prune for the season in Autumn preparing the tree to have plenty of airflow and sunlight penetration through winter to help avoid moisture festering inside your trees. This is a time of year where unless your a primarily deciduous garden your scissors will fall quiet for a few months.
RE-POTTING: For most of your deciduous trees they will get Re-Potted late winter moving into spring but this isn't based on an exact time, what i mean is we don't just start Re-Potting deciduous trees in say the last 2 weeks of winter, we have to wait for the buds on our deciduous trees to swell which indicates to us that the tree is beginning to come out of dormancy and is active again. Now this might be at the start of the last month in winter or it could be on the last day of winter, this is why you have to watch the trees rather then start repotting on a schedule. You don't want to Re-Pot your trees before they are active again as your roots tips will have an open cut on them and if the tree doesn't start working to heal those wounds straight away your roots system will begin to rot and you will be in a world of hurt. All your other species though will wait until you get some steady warm weather in early spring.
WIRING: In winter some species can handle some wire while others can not, i have found that it is good to avoid wiring Deciduous species in this time. Now i don't exactly know the reason for this but some deciduous trees wont actually push buds where you have wire through winter, This is why i try to wire my deciduous late autumn just after leaf drop so i can still have the benefit of not having foliage in my way and i avoid the tree not flushing where i have wired in spring. Other species however such as conifers and evergreens can be wired during this period but personally i see it as a waste of time. For a branch to set well it needs to be growing a little bit to have the fibres in the branch set in place, During winter the tree is not growing and chances are if you remove the wire before spring your branches wont have fully set in place and will bounce back a bit, if you leave the wire on through early spring as the tree starts growing rapidly you can end up with some pretty bad wire bite, this is why i try to time my wiring for summer through autumn. General wiring in summer, Big bends in Autumn.
FERTILISING: For most trees in the stage of Bonsai Fertilising through winter doesn't see too much benefit as there is not a lot of activity within the tree. You should have done a good amount of fertilising through autumn to set the tree up for winter protection and its first spring push.
WATERING: Now depending on where in the world you are watering is going to be a minimal task during the winter months. Ive heard of some people only watering twice through the entire season. Where i live we still get some warmer days and giving that i live on the coast we also receive a lot of wind so my winter watering is more like every 2-3 days on some trees and maybe once a week on others. this also comes down to the Bonsai pot and substrate that is in it and also the species. it is still important in winter not to let the soil completely dry out but you don't want it soaking wet the whole entire time.
WINTER PROTECTION: Now this will be up too you to research the specific species you have in your collection and find out what temperature's they can and can't handle during winter. If you have trees that will suffer in your winter temperature's you will need some form of protection for the trees. This can be a garage, shed or even a basement. During winter the trees are hardly photosynthesizing so don't worry too much about sun light in this period. What you don't want to do though is bring the trees in the house where you have the heating on to make it comfortable for human life. This could bring your tree out of its much needed winter dormancy early as it will think the weather is beginning to warm. If your trees can handle the cold temperature's and you can keep them outside you need to also take into consideration the quality of the pot they are in. Pots with cheap clay and pots coming of high volume production lines generally have very porous clay meaning that there are little air pockets in the clay, when you water the tree water gets into these air pockets. If the water then freezes while it is in the air pockets of the clay the water will expand and crack the pot. If you do have low quality pots i would suggest burring them in some soil or mulch to help keep the soil warmer. You don't want to completely bury the pot though, just up to the rim as you still need to see the soil surface if it needs watering or not.
So that's it for our basic guide to the Bonsai Seasons, Obviously these bits of advice will vary from place to place but at least i hope this gives you a foundation to be able to make your own decisions based on your own circumstances.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.