24 April 2017

Public holiday trading

Bishopsford Bonsai proudly trades 7 days a week except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.  We are therefore open everyday on the upcoming long weekend from 9am to 4.30pm.  Pop in to visit we have some new varieties in our starter stock and pick up a free Deodar starter tree (whilst stocks last).

1 April 2017

Bonsai Things to do in Cape Town - April

Mean Rainfall mm
Rel.  Humidity %
Daily Sun­shine Hrs
Temp. Max Celcius
Temp. Min Celcius

Early autumn and a delightful time of year; some showers may be expected. The sun is no longer so fierce and days are getting shorter.
Bonsai tend to dry out and watering is still a priority.
Fertilising has to be done diligently if bonsai are to do well and to promote autumn colours.
Pests are active and control is necessary.
Maintenance pruning may be done this month.
Nearly all evergreens and figs can be safely potted at this time of the year. Post potting recovery is usually good.
As the days get shorter and the weather is milder it is an agreeable time to be in the garden.

30 March 2017

The Wonderful World of Figs

The wonderful world of figs

By Lionel Theron

In warmer areas the figs are possibly the very best species of tree to cultivate as bonsai. They are chiefly from frost free climes and there are several hundred species, mostly from Asia, with 23 from South Africa. In the milder climates of the world figs are extremely popular and wonderful specimens can be seen in Florida, California, Hawaii and all over the Far East. They are extensively and successfully grown as indoor bonsai all over the world.
The leaves of most fig trees miniaturise obligingly if frequently nipped and pruned. The first leaves on new branch lets are smaller getting bigger as the branch lets extend and the inter-nodal distances become longer. Always nip in front of a small leaf and new ones come out still smaller.
These trees are often grown in upright and slanting trunk styles but they may also be grown as semi-cascade or even cascade styles. There are some very interesting group and clump styles. They all develop wonderful roots and exposed root, root-over-rock and even aerial roots can make stunning features on well designed trees. Surface roots are frequently outstanding focal points and much appreciated by lovers of bonsai. Roots exposed to light thicken easily, a feature that can be creatively exploited.
As the wood is soft jins are not an option, but shari can be incorporated into designs although the tendency will be for them to heal over.
Figs are most obliging and forgiving trees to work with, if wired, the new positions are fixed quickly. Wired branches have to be watched carefully lest they develop scars from wire biting in. They put on new branches everywhere from dormant nodes. They possess strong apical and terminal dominance so it is necessary to control the ends of branches and the apex so that they do not become too dominant.
These trees can well be used for advanced bonsai techniques such as grafting and several trees can be intertwined or wrapped together for spectacular effects. They fuse quickly and easily and very impressive nebari can be formed. Wrapped around rocks they grasp the rock in a relatively short time and the composition becomes a cohesive unit. Root-over-rock is easily managed but be careful to use rocks of sufficient stature and size lest the rock becomes lost in a jungle of roots.
Diseases such as black spot or late blight may be controlled by spraying with Rosecare while aphids, scale, mites and mealybug may be sprayed with Chlorpiriphos or Garden Gun.
Caterpillars and snout beetles are controlled by spraying with Garden Ripcord. They are sometimes attacked by a wood boring worm which can have devastating results. If you notice sawdust, look for a hole in a branch or trunk and with a hypodermic syringe, inject a standard dilution of Metasystox and water, which should kill the worm. Sometimes it is useful to probe the hole with a piece of wire and thus remove the pest.
Figs are gross feeders and for a healthy appearance they need regular fertilizing combined with frequent nipping.
We have worked with the following varieties:
  • Ficus salicifolia (Wonderboom)

A very desirable fig with narrow leaves similar to the willow tree which miniaturizes very well. They present excellent growth patterns, develop fine branch ramification as well as good surface roots and trunk taper. The very prominent aerial roots may be incorporated into imaginative and creative designs. Exceptionally good as bonsai.
  • Ficus microcarpa

Really great bonsai specimens may be seen in the warmer Asian countries. These trees develop magnificent broad bases and wonderful canopies of dense foliage with complicated and intricate branch patterns. They have all the attributes needed for good bonsai and amazing results can be attained in a relatively short time.
  • Ficus benjamina

A tropical variety with fairly stiff growth habit. Two suitable horticultural variations are f. benjamina nana and f. benjamina varigata.
  • Ficus religiosa

ficus-religiosaFicus-religiosaThis is the bodhi or peepul tree with very attractively shaped but rather large leaves. It is a tropical tree and due to the very large leaves not particularly suitable for bonsai cultivation. The leaves miniaturize considerably but even at one twentieth of their natural size are still big. The tree has significance in many Oriental religions, for example it is the tree under which the Buddha sat meditating when he attained enlightenment.
The following are figs indigenous to South Africa which have been tried as bonsai - botanical names are used throughout as there seems to be some confusion with common names.
  • Ficus bizanae (Pondoland fig).

These trees have very good surface roots and trunk bases but the leaves are rather large although they do miniaturize. The petioles are long so that the mature leaves hang down.
  • Ficus burt-davyi (Veld fig)

ficus-bizanaeFicus-bizanaeThere are numerous variations of this tree some with very small leaves and short inter-nodal distances.They make excellent bonsai from shohin sized upwards. The leaves are usually greyish-green.
  • Ficus craterostoma (Forest fig)

ficus-craterostomaFicus-craterostomaSimilar to natalensis and thonningii but the ends of the leaves are usually (but not always) truncated. There are some excellent bonsai specimens. Because of its somewhat stiff growth habit it is not quite as good as natalensis.

  • Ficus ingens (Red-leafed fig)

Rather large and longer leaves and "difficult" growth patterns. The writer has never seen an excellent specimen.

  • Ficus natalensis & thonningii (Wild fig)

ficus-natalensisFicus-natalensisBecause of the ease with which natalensis and thoningii can be confused they are handled together. This is surely one of the best indigenous figs for bonsai cultivation. They have all the horticultural advantages plus very pleasing growth patterns. There is a mutant available with narrow and smaller leaves which looks promising for our practice. 
  • Ficus sur. (formerly capensis) (Cape fig)

There are some very good bonsai specimens around. The leaves are large but do miniaturize to an extent Not as good as natalensis.
Undoubtedly the best trees for indoor cultivation, figs come from warmer parts of the globe and naturally do not require big temperature differences and rest periods. They are tolerant to a wide range of humidity levels. In common with all hard wood subject they need high levels of light for photosynthesis to operate ideally so they should be kept in a bright spot or under artificial light.
If you haven't yet tried a fig it's time to do so - you will not be disappointed!


SA Ficus by Martinus Steyn

17 March 2017

Japan Broadcast Corporation visiting us

We are very excited and honoured that Kyoko Matsubara from Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the only public broadcasting station in Japan, will be visiting our nursery on the public holiday, Tuesday 21 March 2017 at 10.30am.
They are visiting South Africa to compile a report about South African Bonsai for their news program, "Good Morning Japan".
This is to commemorate the 8th World Bonsai Convention which will be held in Omiya, Saitama City, Japan in April.
They have requested that we have visitors roaming the nursery whilst they are filming, so please pop in to give them a big South African welcome.

1 March 2017

Bonsai Things to do in Cape Town - March


Mean Rainfall mm
Rel.  Humidity %
Daily Sun­shine Hrs
Temp. Max Celcius
Temp. Min Celcius

Days are clearly getting shorter but it is still hot and mostly dry although we may have a shower now and again if we are fortunate.
The bonsai grower’s most important task is correct watering.
Late summer is a vital time to feed so that bonsai remain healthy and strong and so that they build energy to enable them to flower and store carbohydrates for winter.
Pests are very active and there are more and more types appearing as countries borders become easier to cross see remarks made in February.
Watch the apex of trees, they tend to become too heavy and are the easiest part of a bonsai to neglect as far as pruning and shaping is concerned. Design and maintenance should be a priority.  
A number of plants may be potted in late summer or early autumn and recovery, aided by Superthrive is usually efficient. This is also a good time for propagation. Dip cuttings in Dip-n-grow before rooting in a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. 
A good time for bonsai and those responsible for their maintenance. Prepare soils mixes as once the wet weather sets in it is difficult and unpleasant to work with soggy soil and compost.

23 December 2016

How to care for bonsai

Years of loving care have gone into creating a bonsai. With a few minutes of daily attention it will develop, improve and give you a great deal of pleasure for many years.

If you have acquired a healthy and well established bonsai there are six golden rules for maintaining it; 


·    Bonsai are easier to care for if kept outdoors and they do better outside.
·    The tree should receive 4 to 6 hours of morning sun.
·    Bonsai may be brought indoors in the evenings or for a few days in order to display them.  If returning them outdoors after a few days inside, put them in the shade initially.
·    Wild figs, brush cherry, Chinese snow rose are some of those making excellent indoor bonsai.
·    Bonsai should be placed where they receive maximum light but not directly against the window allow 30 centimeters from the glass.


Incorrect watering is the commonest cause of the demise of bonsai. Good sound common sense is needed. Trees should not remain bone dry for longer than 8 hours, equally well, soil should not remain sodden. 

In summer daily watering is required.
Trees must be thoroughly watered.   Water should be allowed to run out of  the drainage holes.
Occasionally trees may be dunked in deep water, for a few minutes.
In the winter rainfall region:
Trees do not use as much water in winter as in summer.
If there is no rain, water 2 or 3 times per week.  
Water 3 to 4 times per week depending on the temperature of the room.
Create a humid environment by placing the bonsai pot on a tray filled with pebbles, water running through the drainage holes will dissipate between pebbles and create humidity. N. B. On no account should the pot stand in water for any length of time.
Keep foliage dust free with hose or mist spray.      


Feed deciduous trees once a month in growing season with Hortisol, take a break in mid winter for a few months.
Fertilise evergreen trees once a month throughout the year.

Flowering and fruiting trees; August to June once a month with Hortisol or 

Follow instructions on package carefully in order not to damage bonsai. Do not fertilise ailing trees.  The dilution ratio for Hortisol is on the wrap around lable on the bottle which you need to peel off.


Scale, red spider mite, mealy bug, black spot etc. are frequently not detected until the tree is seriously debilitated.  For spider and other mites use Seizer 100EC + SK Eco oil spray

For scale, thrips, bugs, aphids and insect pests use No More Insects ready to use or Koinor (Koinor is systemic so only needs to be used 6 monthly).

Fungus infections use Orius 250EWS Systemic, Odeon 720 broad spectrum, or Rose Protector Ready to Use.  

Follow instructions on package carefully, many of the products have instructions on the wrap around lable which you need to peel off the bottle.  


Due to the fact that you are supplying the tree with all its requirements viz. light, water and fertilizer it will periodically grow and this new growth should be trimmed to keep the tree in pleasing shape. 

Bonsai continue to grow and should improve for the first few hundred years of their lives. 

An important aspect of their development is the formation of a fine network of small branchlets. This is called ramification. In order to achieve this ramification the soft new growth needs to be frequently nipped back. Through this nipping back of the tips of branchlets the development of new and maybe, even extra little branchlets are encouraged. 

Due to this process reduction of leaf size will also occur. On a number of species of trees the first leaf on a new branchlet is smaller than the subsequent ones, therefore, that if the branchlet is cut off after this little leaf, subsequent leaves will be even smaller.
The top of the tree (apex) and the end of branches grow faster than others. If these ends are not continuously controlled by nipping or pruning there will be thicker branches at the top than at the bottom of the tree, instead of the other way around which would be correct. It is vitally important that the top of the tree is meticulously controlled and maintained. In addition the upper branch networks should be thinned out and/or removed to prevent lower branches being deprived of light, a lack of which will cause them to weaken. 

Branches that emerge from the trunk of the tree are called primary branches. Those that emerge from the primary branches are secondary branches, those that emerge from the secondary branches are tertiary - the entire structure is referred to as the branch network. 

When branch networks are viewed from above they should conform – broadly speaking to the overall shape of the tree when it is viewed from the front. This means that those secondary branches nearer the trunk should be longer than those at the end of the primary branch – they should be progressively shorter.

As a rough guide; branches growing directly upwards or downwards should be wired laterally or radically shortened. Generally there should be spaces between branch networks. See the section in the manual; CREATE YOUR OWN BONSAI by Lionel Théron, which refers to branch placement and shapes of branch networks (pages 26 – 29).  The manual is available for purchase in the nursery. 


When you purchase your tree from us you are given a care sheet with a repotting date, the time of year for repotting is limited to certain seasons or months, so if you miss your approximate time you need to wait until the following year.