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Presidents Page

Hello this is the Scottish Bonsai Association Presidents Page where I will spout forth on a regular basis, so if you have any issues or questions that you want answers on then drop me a line.  Don't hide your light under a bushel - if you have a suggestion let me know - if you want to complain, let me know again and, if you have a question then send it to me and we will see if we can tap the expertise of the whole body of bonsai expertise to answer it.


January 19

As members probably know, the Scottish National Bonsai Exhibition is scheduled to be held on Sunday 6th May in Troon and, as we have started to discuss the arrangements I thought that it would be a good idea to issue regular updates so that members can plan ahead as much as possible.

This year we need member’s support more than ever as we have taken the decision to expand the number of exhibits that we can accommodate and to do this within a slightly different structure.

In addition to the normal club displays, which will remain as they have traditionally been, we will be making provision for people to exhibit an individual tree (or trees) in a tokanoma style format.  This means that we will have 4 rows of 6 trestle tables, each separated by backdrops, to accommodate individual trees or compositions. That means that we can accommodate something between 25 and 40 trees depending on their size.

We recognise that many members are happy with the normal club display approach and that not everyone will want to contribute to a single tree display.  However, we also recognise that some members may have trees that they want to show but which would not necessarily make the club display because of space restrictions.  It is an experiment for us and one which we think is worth a try.

This is where we will need your help.  Because we need to plan out the tokanoma spaces we will need to know people’s requirements in advance.  Which means that we will need to know how many individual trees people will want to display and their approximate sizes.

We will advise when that information is required but for now I wanted to give everyone a heads-up on what we plan so that they can start to think about what they would like to show and to prepare their trees accordingly.  I understand that there will always be concerns about knowing in advance what tree will be showable but other shows wrestle with the same problems and still seem to be able to make it work, so hopefully we can give this a good try.

This is a bit of a risk for us and a significant investment for the SBA, so it would be embarrassing if we end up with very a large amount of empty display space.  We do need your support this year to test the idea and identify how we can improve the exhibition next year and beyond.

So, please think about what you might wish to do,  discuss it with your Convener and be prepared submit details when we ask for them (probably in week 1 April).    

I will issue further updates as we go along but if you have questions or concerns in the meantime please send them to me at


January 14

Yesterday was the annual Winter Image event hosted by the Ayrshire Club. This was a great opportunity to show off the real work that has been done over the years on branch structure and ramification before foliage starts to provide a new image in the spring. Many thanks to all those who attended from as far away as Carlisle, Edinburgh, Inverurie and North Lanark and who were happy to share their knowledge and expertise - in return for a slap-up feed ! We really appreciate your support.  The next big event will be the SBA National Exhibition in Troon on Sunday May 6th. Mark it in your calendar and look out here for further details. In the meantime, some photos are available on our Facebook page.



December 29

I had to share this amazing picture spotted on the Old Lads of Wirral Bonsai Facebook page." rel=prettyPhoto


November 25

The Ayrshire Group will hold its fifth annual Winter Image Display on Sunday 14th of January 2018 at the Alloway Village Hall, Alloway . All S.B.A. group members are invited to attend and display their trees. The hall will be open for set up at nine thirty am. Trees in by ten fifteen a.m., open to the public at eleven a.m. and close the show at three thirty pm. Refreshments will be available throughout the day. There has been some upgrading of the facilities at the hall since the show was last held there, especially as regards the lighting, so even more reason to come along and show off your trees in their winter glory!  Any further information on the display can be obtained by E-mail from:-


September 21

I thought that the attached sequence of photos may be of interest.  It's always interesting to look back to where you started with a tree's development and then see how it turned out.  I think I was lucky with this one after the butchering I gave it at first pruning !  If you have similar pics, why not send them to and I will upload them so others can enjoy


September 20

Just had Peter Warren visit for a week-end of demonstration and workshops - great time was had by all and the feedback has been excellent. Thanks Peter and thanks to all who attended and supported." rel=prettyPhoto" rel=prettyPhoto" rel=prettyPhoto


August 04

The attached is the latest programme of events from the World Bonsai Friendship Federation FYI : 


July 30

PLease don't forget that we have Peter Warren visiting us in September.  On the 16th he will host a seminar/presenmtation at the Smith Art Gallery & Museum in Stirling between 10.30 and 17.00.  Please come with trees to review - problem trees are just as welcome as any other!  A soup and sandwich lunch is included in the ticket price of £15.  See your convener for details. On the 17th Peter will conduct a workshop in Ayr and on Monday he will conduct a workshop in Currie.


June 28

Another successful year at Gardening Scotland with 3 gold medals awarded to the SBA and National Collection stands plus a Premier Gold and "Best in Show" award for the Ayrshire Bonsai stand for the second year running (see the pic ) :" rel=prettyPhoto

There is no doubt that the hobby punches well above its weight at Gardening Scotland with successful displays plus significant competition entries.  Congratulations to all involved and many thanks to the many helpers who turned up to support and steward the event.


May 20

Today a small group (just 3 actually) of myself, Maurice Maidment and Jim Conlin staged a 2 table display of bonsai trees at the 200th anniversary of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens.  As this was staged in a public space with no entry fees it was extremely busy and the odd shower meant that we had regular surges of inquisitive visitors to the stand.  This turned out to be a very useful event with many people stopping to admire the trees and ask lots of questions about the hobby.  There are no prizes for guessing the most frequent question (how old etc. etc) or the most frequent confession (I had a bonsai once but ... etc etc.).

However there was enough interest to strengthen my view that Glasgow could support a bonsai club at the right venue and with the right central SBA support.  I collected several email addresses of people who would like to be kept informed and I also spoke to Ewan Donaldson (general manager) who was supportive about a venue.  I think that this is worth following up but it will need initial financial support from the centre and it will need support from members to get any new group off the ground.

I will report back to the Committee at our meeting next Wednesday and we will see how we go from there. Please, let me know your views - or , even better, how you could help with an initiative like this.

In the meantime many thanks to Maurice and Jim for setting aside the day to evangalise the hobby.


April 20

Bonsai Display and Demonstration Saturday the 29th April (updated)

Members of the Ayrshire Bonsai group will be staging a public display and demonstration of the art and craft of Bonsai at Mclarens Nurseries, near Barrhead, between 10and 4pm on Saturday the 29th April.

The event is aimed at informing the general public and encouraging participation in our hobby, but all members of the SBA are welcome to come along.   Mclarens is one of Scotland largest retail and wholesale nurseries in Scotland  specialising in trees and shrubs, many of which are suitable for development into bonsai.  McLaren's Nurseries Ltd, are based at Lochlibo Road, Uplawmoor, Barrhead, Glasgow, G78 4DN and directions can be found on their web site:

As a bonus to SBA members, the Ayrshire group have managed to negotiate a 10% discount on the retail price of any plant material purchased on the day.  To benefit from the discounted price, SBA members are simply required to exhibit a current SBA membership card at the time of purchase.  Please  find the time to support the event and join us on the day.

 For those who have not been to McLarens it is a huge commercial nursery with lots of trees suitable for development as bonsai at reasonable prices - so why not go along and take a look.

March 28

Getting ready for Gardening Scotland ?  - if you want a spare entry form you can just download here. Entry form_2017_02121.pdf 

Assistance needed for Gardening Scotland

Volunteers are needed at Gardening Scotland for preparing, arranging and supervising stands. 

Tuesday May 30th From 2pm onwards to help our experts as needed and to dress supplied SBA competition stands. We cover them with rolls of paper and plastic. Not heavy work, but slow if not enough folk, new volunteers welcome. The 3 main “show” stands are also done. Come for a spell in the afternoon, or into the evening if you have the time.

Wednesday May 31st Please bring trees to help fill stands for the competition classes from 10am-7.30pm. Trees, and members, at all stages of development are welcome. There may be work on stands unfinished on Tuesday, and also to help with receiving trees, and provisionally laying them out later in the day.

Friday June 1st - Sunday June 3rd Supervising stands, which involves talking to members of the public and answering their questions (can be fun!). Usually work in 2-3 hour shifts between 10am and 5pm. Members helping to supervise will get a free day ticket for Gardening Scotland.

Please let Dave know if you will be available to help, indicating which day & time suits you best.

Dave Waddington, 3 Park Crescent, Edinburgh EH16 6JD

Tel: 0131 258 1936, email


March 10

I have been musing about original bonsai displays and came across this crowdfunding request for floating bonsai ! Only works for very small trees though - still, an interesting idea.


March 03

See the latest list of UK and worldwide bonsai events.  I see no mention of any Scottish events so will send the info to see if they will include.


February 27

Given that "exhibition season" is rapidly approaching I thought that some of you may be interested in this hour long video of Ryan Neil carrying out a critique of trees in the Michigan All State Bonsai Show.  Some of the trees are US specific but nevertheless I found that there were plenty of ideas and pointers that I learned from - hoopefully you will too !  Of course you always have the ability to respond or comment on the post - which would be great.


February 22

So - Robert Nocher is off the mark with his re-potting this year !  See the attached post on his website for some encouragement for those who need it !!

February 14

Following on from the 7th FEbruary post about re-potting, you may want to take a look at this article by Peter Warren on potting mediums (if you haven't already seen it) .


February 12

Here is the latest bonsai calendar of events for UK and worldwide.  The one you may wish to note is the Bonsai Traders Fair in Coventry on April 23rd.


February 7

Spring is getting closer and the more impatient amongst you will be champing at the bit to get started on your re-potting.  But before you do, why not read this item by Graham Potter of Kaisan Bonsai ?  It was first posted in 2014 but has recently been re-posted which is not surprising as it is the best article I have seen on the subject - a must read!


February 3

I spent a very interesting and informative evening last night with the West Lothian group who had invited Ian Bailiie to come along with some of his pots and give us some insight into the pot-making and the pot choosing process.  Ian as a founder member of the SBA was able to interlace all that information with interesting snippets from the history of the Association which somehow gave me a better appreciation of the past efforts to establish and develop the organisation.

Ian also brought along some of his trees to illustarate the principles behind matching trees to pots in terms of size, shape, colour and the masculine/feminine nature of the tree in question.

All in all a good night attended by several members from other clubs.  I am sure that even more members would have been interested if they had known about it - another good reason to keep local club events and programmes up to date on teh web !

Thanks Lee for organizing and thanks to West Lothian for hosting.


January 24

Peter Warren Event :

You should be aware by now that the Peter Warren week-end will take place on September 16/17th this year.  Saturday will be a demo for all and Sunday will be a workshop for just 6 or 7 people.  If you want to be part of the workshop day (cost probably £50) then you need to let your convener know at your upcoming meetings as we will need to organise a suitable venue depending upon where participants are based. 

Any questions - just mail me at the above address.


January 13

Hi All.  I have attached a copy of the Jan/Feb Newsletter for FOBS (Federation of British Bonsai).  Of main interest is the inclusion of the calendar of events for shows/exhibitions etc.  This would normally be included in the SBA Newsletter but until we have a volunteer to edit the newsletter I will endeavour to publish up to date versions here.

If you could be interested in volunteering please let me know - or contact Mike Rossi  for info on what is involved.


January 11

The first post of 2017 – so Happy New Year everyone !

We kicked off the year with the 2017 Winter Image Event hosted by the Ayrshire Group.  This was held in a local hotel this year while remedial work was being carried out on our normal venue at Alloway Village Hall.  That didn’t stop a record turnout for the event with more than 50 people attending not just from Scottish clubs but also from further afield (Carlisle) and from local members of the public inquisitive to see what was going on in the public rooms we had hired. 

This is meant to be an informal event to show and discuss trees in their winter garb i.e. no fancy displays, backcloths etc. and, as such, has been very successful and has grown from strength to strength over the four years it has been going.   The hotel management bent over backwards to make sure that we had everything needed to make the event a success and the general view from participants was that it was the best yet.  But we can always improve.  The hotel lighting and backdrops were not ideal, particularly for those wanting to take good quality photos but next year we should be back in a more suitable venue and will be looking to improve those aspects and add a few other improvements.

So, thanks to all those who attended and supported the event and to those who generously made a donation towards the cost of the event.  Without our members support and enthusiasm for the event it would never be so successful.

You can see some pictures of the trees on Robert Nochers blog at :

December 12

Each year the SBA President receives an invitation to a reception celebrating the birthday of the Japanese Emperor.  This year I attended for the first time at the Merchants' Hall in Edinburgh.  The event attracts a mixed crowd of diplomats, artists, musicians and hobbyists like ourselves.  Apart from a couple of formal speeches there was an exhibition of Ikebana and ssome entertainment from a choir.  Although the event provides a chance to maintain and maybe increase the profile of the hobby I cannot claim any great achievement on that front - being the shy, retiring (and some would say undiplomatic !) person  that I am.  However, I did manage a few words with the Consul (Mr. Matsunaga) and his wife, who expressed some enthusiasm about being able to attend our next National Exhibition.  This isn't a definite yet but we hope to be able to confirm their attendance nearer the date.  In the meantime I also managed to catch up with the Cultural Attachee (Ms. Yoko Murata) as you can see in the attached photo - I am the one on the right !" rel=prettyPhoto


December 04

Getting too cold to be outside messing about with trees ?  How about a fireside read of this pot-stirring article sent to me by one of our members ?  Contentious views or scientifically based fact - what do you think?


November 17

A question for members from Dave Waddington :

Autumn brings, amongst other things, a last chance to clean algae off trunks, branches and deadwood before putting bonsai in their winter protection positions. For years I have used a dilute solution of vinegar, roughly at 1:20, and gentle rubbing with an old toothbrush (much more concentrated solutions will kill the foliage). This cleaning is, happily, far easier on less developed trees providing that their twigs or bark are not too delicate. But for deciduous trees with denser twigging, conifers with denser foliage pads (such as junipers), and old trees with flaking bark this method can’t do the complete job without potential damage to the tree.

Tony Tickle, in his talk in Perth last year, said he used a dilute salt solution, but I can’t remember if he suggested spraying or not. Do you have any recommendations for this essential cleaning job?

Reply from Jeff Banning : All the references I have seen to moss/algae removal have been the “teaspoon of vinegar to litre of water" solution (this has come up on Wee Trees and Internet Bonsai sites in the past).  Or the alternative recommendation is Kaizans’ algae removal stuff.  To be honest I have never seen a reference to using salt solution and don’t recall that being discussed with Tony Tickle.  Our club has bought a tree cleaning machine which most who have used it seem to think is quite successful.  They are expensive though (we paid about £130) but, as I am lucky and don’t get much in the way of moss or algae on my trunks or branches, I have never used it. This site gives details of the machine which is not designed specifically for tree cleaning purposes but its' adjustable spray power makes it ideal and several other SBA members do have one.

November 11

Are you someone like me who struggles with the "vision thing" and who has been unable to get bonsai experts to articulate the process of discerning and arriving at an image.  Well this piece by Andy Rutledge may help.  It's been around since 2013 so some of you will probably know it but it's a new discovery for me and I did find that his way of approaching the subject gave a few new insights.  Something to read on these long dark nights!

 PS : I have created a new section in the A to Z covering books and articles that may be of interest.  I don't plan to log every bonsai book in the business but I am looking for recommendations by people who found a particular book interesting or helpful.  All inputs welcome - go on, surprise me !!

November 09

At our Committee meeting last Sunday we agreed to invite Peter Warren to Scotland for 2 days next year.  After an exchange of available dates between us the Committee agreed on September 16th & 17th (Saturday & Sunday) as the best available dates and Peter Warren has confirmed that these dates have been entered into his diary.  At this stage we envisage a Saturday presentation at The Smith Museum and Art Gallery (the same as last year) followed by a workshop on the Sunday for 6 or 7 people. The intention is that the workshop will be held somewhere convenient for those wishing to attend, recognising that we could have attendees from several different areas.

We still have to iron out the details but the workshops are likely to cost £50.

The action now is for you to provide your Convener with expressions of interest in both events, so we can start to plan in a little more detail.

Drop me a mail at if you have any questions or issues. 


November 08

On Sunday 6th at The Broompark Centre in Denny, we held our first SBA Bonsai Boot Sale.  This proved a great success with many trees, pots, stands and other bonsai paraphernalia changing hands at bargain prices. 

It was a busy day as there was a Committee Meeting in the morning and we also held our AGM Meeting midway through the afternoon with Marion and the team once again providing an appetising lunch spread (thanks once again ladies).

Because it was so busy I didn’t manage to take the photos I intended but I did grab a few towards the end of the session just to give an idea of the sort of items that were on sale. See these in our next newsletter.

Thanks to all who brought items to sell and to all those who bought items from the sale – it was you who made this a successful first venture.  We will definitely repeat the exercise next year. 


November 04

At last years AGM it was agreed that preliminary accounts (subject to audit) would be circulated prior to the AGM in order to allow people to have time to review  them before the meeting.  Unfortuntely there have been some problems with the webistes mailing system which have meant that the mail sent out by the Secretary has not got through to everyone.

I have therefore uploaded the accounts file here so that members can access it.  I apologise for the delay in getting this information to you all but we only recently realised that there was mailing issue preventing the communication getting through.

October 28

Just a quick reminder that memberships are due for renewal by the end of October and only members with up to date membership are eligible to vote on motions at our AGM on the 6th November !

In the meantime, as a serially timid stylist I hope that the following before and after pictures will give some encouragement to others who, like me, are reluctant to be brave when re-styling your trees.  The cotoneaster in the picture was purchased at the Coventry Traders Show in in 2011 from Greenwood Bonsai.  Since then I have pruned and tidied the foliage in a rather un-treelike "dome" style, but always felt that there was a better image lurking beneath.  So yesterday I took my heart in my hands and set about a radical (for me) re-style.  I was pleased,and somewhat surprised, with the result although the pictures don't really do the image justice.  Now I just need a smaller pot  ! - that will come next March

If you send me your before and afters I will endeavour to publish them here.  Many members expressed a desire to see more of this sort of thing, so here's your chance.

October 04

I'm back, after a great holiday in Canada and Alaska, with lots of time marvelling at the trees in that region and how many of them seem to grow out of solid rock!  I am now looking forward to the AGM on 6th November and in particular our first Bonsai Boot Sale.  If you want to buy, sell, swap anything bonsai make sure that you come along.  As an added bonus you also get to throw rotten tomatoes (only figuratively !) at the SBA Committee or maybe even shower them with praise (literally) - it's up to you.  I am looking forward to a good turnout so we can continue our efforts to make the SBA as relevant as possible to its members.

August 31

The last post before my hols but I thought that some may be interested to know that the next Traders Show staged by the Bonsai Traders Association takes place on Sunday 16th October at the Elsecar Heritage Centre, Elsecar, Barnsley, S748HJ.  See the attached link for details :

August 19

Please note the changes to arrangements for the Bonsai Boot Sale in November.


Sunday 6th November 2016 between 1pm and 5pm


  • The sale will take place in the main hall of the Broompark Centre, Denny, starting at 1pm and continue till the end of the afternoon (up to 5pm).
  • There will be (some) food available in the small hall from 1pm following the morning’s committee meeting, as usual, for committee members and those who have made a long journey to attend the AGM.
  • There will be a break for the AGM from 2pm to approximately 4pm.
  • All members are invited to buy and sell any bonsai related items: pots, trees, display tables, accent plants, scrolls etc. Tables to display items will be laid out around the hall.
  • Each item should be clearly labelled with the price and the name of the seller.
  • All transactions will be between individual buyers and sellers.

July 30

Our member survey resonses indicated that a lot of people would be interested in a variety of tops emroidered with teh SBA logo (and also the club name if required).  We are now taking orders for anybody who wants an embroidered T hirt (£6) or Polo shirt (£9).  All you have to do is provide the following details to your Convener :

T shirt or Polo shirt

Number required



Club name included Y/N

Cost would be payable on delivery.

Please let your Convener know as soon as possible and we will consolidate the orders at our next Committee Meeting on August 10th

PS : If you want a fleece embroidered then, at teh moment,  this can be done if you want to provide the fleece. The same route applies - i.e. through your Convener.

July 18

As Convener of the Ayrshire Group I would like to invite everyone interested to enter into the bonsai competition at this years’ Ayr Flower Show.

The Ayrshire Bonsai Group will occupy a significant area for both a club display in addition to the extensive competition section. We invite all enthusiasts from Scotland and the North of England to consider entering the competition which is open to all comers – including novices. Up to 5 trees may be entered for a fee of £6 and any number above 6 for £11. Entrants are entitled to a free day pass worth £15.

Also there are small money prizes of between £1 and £5 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. The Ayr Flower Show brochure (see P. 39 for Bonsai) and competition entry form can be downloaded at the Event

Entry forms should be submitted by Friday 31st July.

Thanks for your support.


July 01

Some of you may have seen the video of Graham Potter delivering a talk to Eastbourne & Wealdon Bonsai Club.  If you have not then it's well worth an hour of your time on :

 Following the requests made by respondents to our recent member survey, this week's SBA Committee meeting confirmed our intention to hold a Bonsai Boot Sale on Sunday November 6th at the Broompark Community Hall in Denny.  This is the same date and venue at which we will be holding our 2016 AGM.

This will run from 10.00 until approximately 15.00 and all members are invited to present items for sale including trees, pots, display tables, accent plants etc.

The current plan is that each item should be clearly labelled with the name of the seller and the price. The items would be displayed however the seller wishes in Denny Hall but the money would be paid at a central desk where a record of the item sold, the name of the seller and its’  prices will be recorded

A contribution of 10% towards SBA funds would be deducted and the proceeds distributed to sellers.

If you have any questions or views about the arrangements please let your Convener know - or you can contact me on the above address. If you wish to advertise any items that you will be intending to bring you can always upload details onto our For Sale page.

June 22

I have received several enquiries both in the recent member survey and also in face to face conversations, about the possibility of producing a calendar of bonsai activity which shows approximately what tasks need to be performed when for each individual tree type - within the context of a Scottish climate.  So, I have attached a chart that I put together for my own personal use and which others may possibly find helpful.  I would be really keen to hear feedback on the usefulness of this sort of guide but also any suggestions for improvement or new inclusions.  I also hope that people will feel motivated to suggest corrections where they think that something is not quite right.

There were also several inputs to the member survey suggesting that the website could be improved by being developed as a more inter-active forum.  I am trying to use this Prseidents Page for that as a sort of trial. So, any comments, suggestions, questions on this or any other subject can be opened up to members on this page.  I hope you will feel motivated to contribute.


June 21

... and I thought it was just about trying to develope nice trees ! See what says :

The Japanese art of Bonsai was actually a practice originated in China and most of the bonsai trees were grown not to impress aesthetically and create a beautiful overall sight, but to help the owners of bonsai trees in meditation.

Various schools of Buddhism found the art of Bonsai to be one of the most relaxing and stress reducing activity.

The over time effects, that a simple bonsai plant can have in your daily life is amazing ::

  • Growing and caring for bonsai trees is a relaxing and beautiful hobby that will help you forget day by day stress. Take a breath after a hard day work, water your bonsai plant and groom it here and there. I promise you will feel better!
  • Bonsai trees need love too! It sounds silly, but besides trimming, fertilizing, and watering they also need a peaceful environment. You won’t create a peaceful environment only for the bonsai tree, you will create it for your self as well.
  • Working with nature, bonsai trees included, you will work on your patience.
  • Indoor bonsai, and other plants in general, will keep the air purified and fresh.
  • Having a healthy bonsai tree next to your bed can help you get over your cold faster, help with you coughs and sore throat by constantly refreshing the air you breath.

Each day growing a bonsai tree will keep you at peace with yourself, rewarding you with a great sense of accomplishment that will definitely have a positive impact on your health.

Mid June

Re. my previous note on the importance of soil pH I was asked if there is a reference table of required pH levels by tree type.  There is one in the AtoZ if you go to this location  and click on the web link provided.

All members on email should now have received the Members Survey Report.  If you wish to see the actual scores for each question , or to see the individual comments submitted please go to

Comments, queries, suggested actions  are all welcome .

Begining of June

First things first - congratulations to all the members who supported the SBA's displays and competition at Gardening Scotland.  Two gold medals at a flower show is a tremendous achievement.  This is a lot of effort for a lot of people who deserve great credit when it comes together successfully. Now we just have to work out what to do next year. 

Congratulations also to the Ayrshire Club whose display was awarded Best in Show and Best Newcomer awards.  Speaking personally it was a lot of work and a lot of driving to and fro but it proved worth it in the end. Can we repeat it next year ? I don't know - we are all feeling pretty knackered at the moment  and just need some time to recover !

One other point on my gardenia issue.  You may remember that I was struggling with a lot of yellowing and dropping leaves from my shohin sized tree and had tried several things without success.  Well, after talking it through with Sauro Biondi and Ian baillie (to name just a few) I discovered the remedy - acid soil.  Obviously I had the pH level totally wrong so instead of trying to raise it by adding stuff I decided to repot in ericaceous compost and water with a very weak solution of water and white vinegar and hey presto the plant is looking great.  It just goes to show how important pH levels can be, and suffice to say, I will be paying a lot more attention to this aspect in future.

Do you have a problem which you would like to share (bonsai issues only please !!).  Then why not send it to - you never know, somebody out there might have a solution.


End May

The end of May is rushing at us, and with it the Gardening Scotland Event.  The SBA are going all out to organise a good show of trees and as many entries as possibkle for the competitive section - so I hope that all your trees are in order and you are getting ready to enter !

I don't know about you but my pines (both Scots and White) seem to have an inordinate number of flower buds on them this year.  I discussed this with John Goldsmith in the Ayr Group who sought inour from his long time friend and teacher Lee Verhorovoort who advised the following :

Flowering on Pine is not good as it will leave a stalk of bare branch before the needle. If you have one long flower candle and one short then remove the larger, this will keep the foliage tighter. If you only have large flowering candles then tip the end of the candle and leave some needle so it will back bud, then remove the whole candle. Pines flower more if they are pot bound and if you give them high potassium fertiliser.

Thanks John - any other observations or inputs welcome at


Mid May

I have a small gardenia on which the leaves have been going progressively more yellow. I suspect that it is because they like acid soil and when I tested mine it only just registered just about 7.0 i.e. neutral.  So I checked the website on how to improve the acidity of the soil and found this interesting

Our soft water has a ph of about 7.0 i.e. neutral. Gardenias (along with some others like azalea) , tend to do better in slightly acidic soil. So how do I safely add acidity to my plant if our water does not provide the answer ? I believe that there are products at garden centres, but a cheap alternative I heard about is : coffee grounds - mixed into the soil, sprinkled on top, or poured on. You can also make a soil drench by soaking 1 cup of coffee grounds in a 1 gallon of water., leaving for 2 or 3 days then using to water the plant.  For faster action, you may add add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the next watering. Adding sphagnum can also lower the pH of the soil.

I'm trying this myself. Anybody else got any good ideas to help me restore the health of my Gardenia ? Replies to


Early May

Well what a busy couple of weeks it's been.  First a very successful visit by Peter Warren who held everyone's attentionfor several hours at Smith Museum and Art Gallery with a wide ranging discourse on all aspects of bonsai, which included a critique of all the trees brought along by members.  This was followed by two workshops, one for seven people at Ayra nd another for eight at Fankerton.  Everyone who participated seemed really pleased with the sessions and went home a lot wiser - and with some significantly improved trees.

This was followed by our national Exhibition in Stirling.  The event went off very successfully thanks to the expert organisational skills of  John Morris and other members of the Forth Valley Group.  Thank you guys for a great day. This event always takes a lot of preparation by all clubs to put on a good display.  Lanark won the award for best stand but I must confess that my eye was taken by the Perth Groups presentation because, yet again, it was a different display format from previous years.  Many of us tend to exhibit in teh same or similar format every year but Perth always have a different presentation each year - great to see.

End April

Just a quick update regarding the Peter Warren event on Saturday at Smith Museum and Art Gallery in Stirling.

We will kick-off at 10.00 and break for lunch at 13.00.  Ticketholders should present their ticket to obtain lunch.

We will aim for comfort breaks at 11.30 and 15.30.  Tea/coffee will be available from the kitchen adjacent to the lecture hall.

For those of you who have completed and submitted the Survey Form, we will be drawing the prize winner of the £25 Wattston Bonsai Gift Voucher on the day.

We aim to finish by 17.00.


  1. By all means bring a tree along for review or advice.  We cannot guarantee that every tree will be selected but it will be helpful to have a good selection of trees available to use as illustrations if needed.
  2. Make sure you have all your questions ready that you want to ask.  The session is intended to be very inter-active so the more questions the better.
  3. If you want to use a picture to support a question or to make a point then just send to me and I will put it on a memory stick so we can flash up on the screen if needed.

I hope that covers everything – see you all there.


Mid April

It’s almost mid-April already and we have a very busy time ahead of us.  The 3 day visit by Peter Warren takes place from 30th April to 2nd May, during which time he will conduct a presentation/discussion sharing his experience and expertise in the hobby, followed by two one day workshops in Alloway and Fankerton.  This is closely followed by our National Exhibition to be held in The Mayfield Centre near Stirling on Saturday 14th May.  Then following close on its heels is Gardening Scotland on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of June, where the SBA and the National Collection will use a large display area to exhibit some of our best trees.

Also this year the Ayrshire Club has been invited by the organisers of Gardening Scotland to reprise its display at the Ayr Flower Show last year.

So, just at the time when our trees are demanding more of our time and attention we have a stream of very busy events to manage.  This is a key time for us to publicize the hobby in Scotland and is taking up a lot of volunteers time and effort to make a success – so I want to say thanks in advance to all those involved.

I also want to say thanks to all those members who have completed and submitted the questionnaire I circulated at the beginning of April, particularly those who have contributed suggestions for additions and improvements in the activities of the SBA.  However, there are still lots of people who have not yet replied so I wonder if I could ask those to take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and let us know what we need to do to improve the value of the organisation to its members.  If you believe that you may not have received the form – or are having difficulty editing, just drop me a line and I will help you solve the problem.  We need your views – so please keep them coming

Late March

Well now it’s getting towards the end of the month and I wanted to update you on my trip to Willowbog last Friday to attend a Peter Warren workshop.  One of the things that struck me most is the loyalty to Peter’s workshops shown by the fact that most attendees are regulars.  Of seven attendees on the Friday I was the only one who did not come regularly and several of the group had booked for more than one day.  I was followed on Saturday and Sunday by Dave Waddington (Penicuik) and Janice Edwards (Edinburgh) who, I understand, are already booked for two days with Peter in June and again in September.  And they aren’t the only ones who travel a significant distance to work with Peter.  The format I found to be very helpful as Peter did not try to style my trees, rather his advice was more holistic covering styling, maintenance and development.  He certainly answered several questions about the trees I took and made me much more comfortable that I was going down the right road.

We still have some places available on Peter’s workshop on Monday 2nd May at Fankerton so why not sign-up either via your Convener or direct to myself.   You know you’re worth it !

March 2016

I can’t believe it – we are one third of the way through March already and it looks like Spring is tentatively popping its head above the horizon.  This is a busy time for bonsai but also fraught with danger for the impetuous amongst us, so why not take a look at the Bonsai Calendar page on our website for some useful tips and advice.

The Peter Warren event is approaching fast and it is important that we know who wants to attend which day, so please make sure that your Convener knows your requirements so we can get organised.  I am attending a Peter Warren workshop down at Willowbog on the 18th March so hope to discuss more details with Peter while I am there.  It would be great to have a firm idea of numbers by then.  I hope to give you all a report when I get back.

For those of you who refer to the AtoZ of Bonsai on our web page, you will notice that some entries do not have suitable pictures with them.  If you have some good pictures which would fill in some of the blanks why not send them along to .  This would be a big help , and remember, that this section of our web page, perhaps more than any other, impacts the reputation of the hobby in Scotland.

Hopefully you all saw the 3 page article on bonsai which appeared in the Daily  Telegraph on the 27th February.  It is rare to see bonsai given such a high profile and it would be great if we could leverage something like that in Scotland – ideas anyone ?  For those who didn’t see it, here is the link :

Last, but by no means least the next SBA Committee Meeting is on Wednesday 16th March.  We will be discussing a number of initiatives at the meeting but, as always we are keen to hear from you what you, the members, want the SBA to be doing.  So, please make sure your Convener has your ideas, or send direct to


February 2016

The Peter Warren 3 day event is coming up.  Please make sure you let your convener know which day you want to participate in.  This is being heavily subsidised out of SBA funds and is a big financial commitment on behalf of the members so please support the initiative.  You can see details in the latest Newsletter.

The National Exhibition is also looming over the horizon.  I have been asked if individuals can mount a table display of their own in addition to club displays.  The answer is yes - the only constraint may be the amount of room we have.  Requests for a table should go to

Can it be more than 18 months ago that we set up the AtoZ of Bonsai on our site.  A one stop shop with links to every aspect of bonsai that you can probably think of.  This is meant to be a composite of all our members knowledge so if you see that a subject is missing or that the information is innaccurate or incomplete just write to the editor via the link on teh AtoZ page. Come on - get involved!

We are considering a member "bonsai boot sale" later in the year so discuss it at your club meetings - let your conveners know if you would want to participate and any ideas you have about it.  This would be an ideal opportunity for you to swap, buy, sell any surplus you have.

January 2016

Happy New Year everyone !!

I want to take this opportunity to wish all the members a Happy New Year for 2016 and hope that all of your bonsai wishes come true (just the reasonable, achievable ones anyway !).

If any of you, like me, received very welcome bonsai gifts in your Christmas stocking, I hope that you make good use and derive great enjoyment from them over the next 12 months.  Personally, one of the best presents I received was a book entitled : “Penjing : The Chineses Art of Bonsai by Zhao Qingquan.  Apart from the usual practical content, along with some great pictures, the most interesting element of the book is the focus on the spirit, or essence, of bonsai.

For those of you who, like me, struggle with the “vision thing” when it comes to styling bonsai I found the following extract very interesting and helpful (published with the full permission of the author).  In a section describing penjing aesthetics he talks about the emphasis on huayi (painting flavour) and shiqing (poetic image) where painting flavour refers to the design of penjing resembling the traditional Chinese art of ink painting, the aim of which is to capture the essence and spirit of a natural landscape through abstraction in order to reflect a balance between art and nature.  In this respect he says :

"To achieve this goal, rather than to strive for a photographic reproduction of a natural scene, the artists needs to maintain a balance between dominance and subordination, emptiness (void) and substance, denseness and sparseness, highness and lowness, largeness and smallness, life and death, dynamics and statics, roughness and meticulousness, firmness and gentleness, lightness and darkness, straightness and curviness, verticality and horizontality and lightness and heaviness.  The main task of the artist is to balance varied forces against each other to attain equilibrium."

So, if you thought the design process was a bit tricky before, now you know why !  I don’t know about all you guys out there but I did find this very helpful in helping me to get my head around the design process – especially when Mr. Qingquan expands on each of the above mentioned aspects in his book.  Translating it into action is of course quite a different thing but I hope that it may give you (as it did me) a different and interesting insight into how to view the whole process.

We have an interesting year ahead of us in 2016 with the three day Peter Warren visit adding to our normal curriculum of meetings, shows and events.  I hope that you enjoy them all and feel free offer your own input about what you would like the SBA to deliver for its members in this and subsequent years.



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