Zen and the Art of hedge Maintenance ?

“Router bits?”

This is my mother.

“What are they? What are you going to do with them?”

Something I had actually been wondering myself. They were a bargain (honestly) at the local Aldi – or so I impulsively thought, having visions of, of … well routing … obviously. They were just glittering and sparkling like something a little arcane from Abanazar’s cave.

Image result for router bit set aldi

“You? You’re not in the least bit practical minded!”

This is the kind of encouragement guaranteed to give your off spring confidence, build their self-esteem. More please.

In truth I have always been a fix things together with a straightened nine inch nail hit home with a rounded stone kind of craftsman ( the Palaeolithic type I guess, though it never caught on).

But having moved large amounts of brash and transported barrows full of nutrient exhausted, but very fine soil in the process of renewing/saving/repairing a hedge (see http://www.mucktwineandthinker.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/hedging-your-best ) I was persuaded to try and grow on the stumps as bonsais – something I know just a little about, but aside from oohing and aaaahing when I see one of the twisted little specimens, tiny landscapes I have half of zero experience of.

Image result for bonsai tree

But, this is an allotment. Somebody knows something about it. In fact, rather darkly one plotholder was thrown off the site because contrary to established rules he was, allegedly, growing bonsai stock on site and he occasionally sold potted bonsais. Therefore, according to the then-secretary (and, one would guess, the committee) he was making money from the allotment – not allowed. So bye-bye bonsai man. Harsh, most likely a poor decision but …

Any way Jim is a self-proclaimed bonsai expert. It is he who puts the idea into my head, tells me, very roughly how to do it … and I have a go.

That was some two years ago now. The little chunks of privet that I hacked from the size-of-a-Suffolk ram-root-ball were duly plonked into a raised bed (with a concrete slab at the bottom of it to stop roots, already savaged by axe and crow bar, going too deep). Some managed, in the way that privet will, to survive and have flung up joyous stems that are now some two feet plus.

“ … need to sort them out mate …” Jim says from the corner of his mouth, “get ‘em into trainin’ boxes like …”

Typically I ain’t set eyes on him since then.

Sort them out? Training boxes? What on earth ?

Divergent thinking needed. That and patience!

Browsing charity bookshops in Lichfield, search engine queries: there is so, so much to get my aching head around. The terminology; words such as nebari, yamadori, Han-Kengai, Ikadabuki and chokkan. But first the practicalities…

How to actually do it.

So many YouTube videos to watch. Inevitably lots of repetition, but gradually a light begins to dawn. I need to trim the roots and place the plant in a smaller (and smaller) container. It is best done in the autumn.

But – honestly – I don’t have that much patience, and I want to have a go. Fortunately I have an ash seedling that was in the way of planting in the back garden. So I put it into a pot expecting, eventually to replant it in the wild somewhere.

I actually measure bits of wood, use a power drill, screw the sides together, make holes in the bottom for drainage and to take the wires that’ll, essentially hold the young tree in place once it’s main anchoring roots have been butchered away. I varnish the outside of the training box – just for effect really.

I cut off a large section of the tap root, far more than the Plantation Owner’s Wife thinks is sensible, add some wound sealant to the bare end and set up the planting.

I have bought some akadama* and using some spare gravel pieces and some flexible wire get the tree planted. I’m totally new to this, but going for a sloping trunk, hoping that the branches will head to the more upright.


So far so bonsai good …

… but there is always far, far more to learn.

Wish me luck?



*A traditional Japanese bonsai soil that is comprised of the red volcanic matter of Japan; used for thousands of years by bonsai artists on most types of deciduous bonsai trees.


3 responses to this post.

  1. My Aldi router and bits have proved invaluable! All the best with your bonsai project 🙂


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