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On Tuesday evening our Suntrap Gardening Club meeting could have been a disaster because this was our last meeting in the classroom. The garden has reverted to private ownership.
Our speaker was, Alistair Simpson the President of the Scottish National Collection of Bonsai ( and his wife. The collection had been housed at Suntrap until the gardener who lived on the premises was made redundant because the gardens were up for sale. When he moved out it was necessary to move the National Collection to somewhere more secure. The plants now live at Scottish’ favourite Garden Centre at Binny Plants.
The talk started with the news that both the Chinese and the Japanese enjoy Bonsai. The Japanese like to have the plants displayed around their home and add rocks mounted on a base like the one below. SUISEKI is a Japanese term meaning beautiful or interesting stones. Think of stones or shells from the beach or scaling up a bit the Standing Stones of Stenness on Orkney or the Callinish stone circle on Lewis and you get the idea.

Usually when displayed these “viewing stones” are set on a wooden stand called a daiza’ They are usually about 8 inches wide and up to 18 inches high. Like their bigger brothers and sisters they’ve been shaped by weather, waves and the passing of time. They suggest to us natural landscape features such as mountain peaks, waterfall sites or headlands and lots more.

Stability and endurance are other characteristics they suggest. The art form, promoted by the likes of John Naka in the US is fast becoming popular in the West and there are a couple of specialist societies south of the border. The Suiseki website has a fine collectors’ section for you to enjoy.

or small planted arrangements like this one

The Bonsai plants last for may years in small pots. To prepare the pot the hole in the bottom must first be plugged to stop creepy crawlies getting in. A piece of wire is twisted and then put up through the hole where is is used to secure the mesh like this

This is a good idea for any pot left outside for any length of time. It will work equally well on our pots around the garden. Bonsai should spend the majority of their lives outdoors with maybe a fleece to protect them if frost is expected.
Here is a very windswept looking tree. The idea is to have to interfere with the trees natural inclinations as little possible. Minimal pruning can keep your plant growing in the direction you choose.

Another windswept look. These trees are described slightly differently for show purposes and if you want to know more you can go on to their website or even join their association.

We were surprised to see Larch cones growing on this tree.

The best way to choose where to cut is to sit down and look at the plant.

that helps you decide which branches need to go.

The kind couple had brought along some plants from their own collection and anyone who fancied having a go was talked through the decisions they wanted to make. Here our youngest member, a student at Edinburgh Botanical Garden shows he has a good eye and skills ready to be developed some more.
If you have enjoyed a wee look at Bonsai then I would advise a look at the websites mentioned above.

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Sorry that you are having to leave Suntrap, Scotsgran, but, on the brighter side, it is going to remain a garden and not turn into a housing development. I understand that the new owners have positive ideas for the property.

29 Nov, 2012


Thanks for that Scotsgran . . . are you thinking of having a go yourself? It's a fascinating hobby - I've got about 20 dwarf trees, and love it when the berries on the Cotoneaster for example become really tiny!

29 Nov, 2012


Fascinating blog as you know I like wee things, although none are true Bonsai,but many of mine have become dwarf over the century's caused by growing in places with very little soil and moisture.

29 Nov, 2012


Great blog Sheila. I did a blog a few months back mainly with pictures of the collection along at Binny's.
Thanks for the mention. :)

29 Nov, 2012


That is really interesting, Scotsgran - thank you!

29 Nov, 2012


Bb the new owners sound like really nice people who will look after Suntrap and that is a comfort.
Do you have a laburnum Sheilabub. Alistair said they are an excellent choice and we get hundreds of seedlings each year which I just weed out. It was lovely to see the leaves become smaller but the berries seemed not to shrink as much as the leaves. Look at the cones on the larch. The tree is tiny compared to one grown in its natural habitat but the cones are only about half the normal size.
Bjs many Bonsai lovers would love to come and raid your garden for self sown seedlings which are growing in the way you describe. As the bonsai plants are grown outside they make excellent companions for the alpine plants you grow.
Scottish I missed your blog from Binny. I'll go and take a look.
Mel do have a look at the websites I have given URLs for as they are gorgeous.

30 Nov, 2012


Very interesting Scot. I should think that you would need some patience too to get these just right, I like the idea that you can sit down and garden as well. Lol :)

30 Nov, 2012


Definately my kind of gardening Grandmage and not hard on the knees. If you can collect plants from your own garden it can give you a headstart. A small tree or shrub growing over a rockery or wall might be the windblown shape already which means you do not have to butcher a plant to enjoy bonsai. Instead you put it in a pot and keep it small with some judicious pruning. Well they did make it sound a lot easier than it is generally perceived to be.

30 Nov, 2012


It really is easy . . . and just as Grandmage says, we can do it sitting down!

30 Nov, 2012


I am so pleased to hear the good news about Suntrap Garden. All the efforts to save it have been rewarded.
Thanks for your news Bulbaholic.
I have tried some Hardy Fuchsias Bonsai wise, but understand they should be exactly 2 years old, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.
Can always have another try.

1 Dec, 2012


I think you might have misunderstood Bb Diane. We did not manage to save it for the nation which might have given it to the nation in perpituity but for the moment the garden is safe we understand. We wish the new owners a very long life in which to enjoy this gem.
Your hardy fuchsias sound exciting. As long as you keep them alive, but not trying to prune top and roots in the same year, which might kill them with shock, they should do well. We'll look forward to seeing a photo. They do like to be outside with a bit of protection if it gets very cold. Keeping them next to the house will give them extra protection too.

1 Dec, 2012


Thanks Scotsgran. Perhaps the new owners of Suntrap will welcome volunteers again when they find out the cost of paying staff !
Thanks for the advice about Bonsai fuchsias. Its helpful to experiment with existing plants to save expense. I have planted a Conker, to play about with later on.

2 Dec, 2012


I'll do that, Scotsgran - thanks! I amn so glad to hear that Suntrap seems to be in safe hands.

2 Dec, 2012


That was very interesting.

13 Dec, 2012


Thank you for all your comments. There seems to be a lot of bonsai plants for sale so maybe we will be lucky enough to be given one for Christmas We had our annual meal out last evening and we were told about our new 'home'. Ravelrig 'Riding for the disabled' in Balerno are letting us use their meeting room. Our secretary is well ahead with arranging the new syllabus. As always visitors and new members are welcome to join us on the third Tuesday of the month at 7pm.

13 Dec, 2012

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