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Fall for a nurseryman and bonsai growers is such an energizing time but it is also bitter sweet knowing that summer really is coming to an end. The months advance along at a fair clip and the weather at the end of each month often is quite different then the beginning (“April showers brings may flowers”) . September begins with hot vacation days, back-to-school activities, watering our trees almost every day, and soon we'll be bustling about protecting our tropical bonsai from a potential early frost.
I do love my trees this time of year; the stress from the summer heat is off, and the nutrients from our late season fertilizing are kicking in, and their color is especially vibrant. Maples are completing another push of foliage and in no time will be showing off their fall foliage, Junipers are a deep lush green as are the azalea with next years flower buds already swollen. The new late summer leaves are at their peak of health and I am constantly reminded at how beautiful bonsai are in the fall. No wonder many of the famous bonsai shows in Japan are during September.
This was the oddest New England summer in recent memory as far as weather went. Below average temperatures, above average rain and very few beach days, terrible for vacations but exceptional for growing trees especially cold hardy bonsai. Mixed in on the shelves among our perfectly pruned bonsai we also have our share of maples with burnt leaves from too much summer sun. With these trees I pull them aside and always promise myself I will do a better job next year. This is another bonsai growers delight knowing that we have another chance to get it perfect even if we have to wait one whole year.
We are all very busy at the nursery trying to catch up on all of the end of the season bonsai work such as pruning, transplanting and weeding. We are also doing general nursery work that will need to get done before winter such as repairing cold frames hanging doors fixing rotted benches and buttoning up all the holes, (literally so rodents can't get to our trees in winter.) While this is the last chance to do repotting our golden rule is to leave your bonsai alone until next spring. Even though we take advantage of this small window to repot in the fall, it's a dangerous thing to do if you do not have the conditions we have in the greenhouse to make sure roots develop well before the very cold weather.>
We are giving our tropical bonsai their last haircut for the year and I am pruning back junipers, and pines removing old browning needles on the inside. Be sure to leave long branches on deciduous trees if you are trying to fatten them—this is the time the sap retreats and branches thicken, be sure to check old wire and remove in order to prevent scaring. Do not remove brown scorched leaves on hornbeams and maples its best to let the new buds push them off all by themselves. We are still actively fertilizing all of our bonsai trying to take full advantage of these last few growing weeks
Mineral deposits from city water often builds residue on the bark and roots, use a coarse toothbrush or wire brush to clean the lower trunk Be on the look out for the rainy season and change your watering habits accordingly. Consider moving your maples to a sunnier location now that the days are getting shorter and don’t water too late at night to prevent powdery mildew from forming. Most tropical trees are fine outside down to 40 degrees so keep a close eye on the weather reports.