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Father’s Day is around the corner. A thoughtful gift handmade with love is the perfect way to honour dad and all he does for the family. While colourful and fragrant flowers sweep mom off her feet, dads are a little more rugged. Make a bonsai – it’s the perfect Father’s Day gift, and you can do it at home.

What you will need:

– Bonsai clippers (scissors and concave cutters)
– A Juniper tree (± 4 years old)
– Bonsai Soil
– Chopstick
– A bonsai pot
– Wire (2 different types – 1 thick for the trunk and one thinner for the branches)

How to make a bonsai tree:

Step 1: Assess your tree

Remove your tree from its pot and very carefully dust all the soil off its roots, you can use the chopstick for those little corners. Once you have a clear view of the roots, you can see where the first roots come from.

Step 2: Pruning

The goal is for the centre of your bonsai to appear to be thick, gradually narrowing outwards to the thinnest branches. This is how bonsai plants manage to get their bonsai “look”. Cut away any branches that cross, and any thick branches that are close to the top in the canopy, where the leaves are. If there are any large cuts on your tree, put a little bit of bonsai cut paste on. If the tree you have purchased is looking really raggedy, you can trim away about ⅓ of it. Also remove all dead or dying leaves and twigs. Have a look at the tree and decide where you’d like the apex. Cut off any thicker branches with the concave cutter.

Step 3: Shape your tree

Using thick wire, you will be able to make your bonsai tree grow sideways like it’s windswept. Place the thick wire in the soil and make it bend around the trunk of the tree at a 45-degree angle. Keeping that angle going, wind it all the way up the trunk to the top, and cut off any excess wire. The tree is now a little bit pliable, so you can bend it a little to give it an interesting slant.

Step 4: Wiring the branches

In the same way you wired the tree trunk, you can wire the branches. Start the wire by looping it around the trunk once. Extend it down the branches. You can now bend your branches. Normally, a bonsai tree’s branches run parallel with the floor, dipping slightly. Try to mimic the branches of a big tree.

Step 5: Prepare the bonsai pot

Bonsai trees don’t like their roots to sit in water, so it’s important to include a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. The hole will need something over it to prevent the soil from leaking out. A piece of mesh is perfect, you can attach it to the pot using a piece of wire that is bent into a hairpin shape. Use the two ends to secure it to the bottom of the pot by bending them and trimming off excess wire.

Using along piece of wire, bend it into a square shape. Later on, you will use this wire to secure the tree to the pot. The bottom of the pot should have two small holes, feed the square shaped wire through these small holes with the bottom of the square aligning with the bottom of the pot.

Step 6: Prepare the roots

Using the chopstick, scrape away the soil that is around the roots. The bottom of the roots will be trimmed away, the soil towards the top can stay. Once you have cleared a fair amount of soil, you can trim away around ⅓ of the roots.

Step 7: Potting your tree

Next, cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of soil, and place your tree on top of the soil. Position the tree at an angle, it shouldn’t be exactly straight. Now you can use those wires that are sticking up through the bottom of the pot to hold down the tree. Twist the two ends of the wire together, making sure the wire holds the tree roots down. Then, trim away any bits of wire that are still showing. You can now cover the tree roots with more soil. Push the soil between the roots, there should be no air pockets, you can use the chopstick for this.

Ongoing care
Once you have watered the tree, it is ready to be displayed. Wait four weeks before you apply fertiliser, and be sure to check that the wire is not damaging the branches.

A bonsai tree DIY is easy to make and the materials are easy to source. You can ask for assistance, or purchase your Juniper tree at your local GCA Garden Centre.