Sharing the secrets of minature marvels

In Peter Bendall’s garden at his home in Scarborough you can’t see the wood for the trees – the bonsai trees, that is.

The miniature marvels are everywhere you look, lining shelves and filling potting sheds.

133323a'Bonsai feature'Peter Bendall with his Bonsai forest on a trolley!'Picture by Neil Silk'16/08/13

133323a'Bonsai feature'Peter Bendall with his Bonsai forest on a trolley!'Picture by Neil Silk'16/08/13

Peter’s passion for bonsai is clear and the care he has taken in shaping and caring for his trees is plain to see.

It all began 12 years ago when he joined Scarborough and District Bonsai Society, a group where he now holds the role of treasurer.

“I’d never done it before,” said Peter, “and I didn’t think I’d get into it as much as this!

“I’ve made some good friends in the group who’ve taught me a lot.”

The hobby, to the uninitiated, holds a kind of fascination and mystery.

How do the trees stay so small? Are they a particular tiny species? And aren’t they a nightmare to look after?

The myths are blown away by Peter, who explains that bonsai is a wonderful and satisfying hobby which can be enjoyed by anyone.

He said: “They’re just normal trees and they would grow as a normal tree if left alone.

“You just have to keep the roots and the foliage trimmed – you can nip the leaves off with your fingernails, or if they’ve got broad leaves you can snip them out.

“It can be difficult when you first start.

“Getting new stock and working out what you can see in it takes a bit of getting used to.

“So it’s a good idea to join a group and buy from friends, rather than a garden centre.”

Peter keeps his trees outdoors and waters them every day in hot weather.

He checks them for diseases and keeps some of them under netting to keep the blackbirds off.

Peter also explains that trees will sometimes need repotting to refresh the compost but that you shouldn’t use a bigger pot, or the tree will grow.

The 72-year-old has many wonderful specimens in his collection, some of which can be seen on display at local agricultural and community shows from time to time.

Among his favourites are a Chinese elm which he bought at a show around nine years ago, and a forest he created from intertwining two groups of larch.

He also has a tiny crab apple tree, which he says looks beautiful when the blossom is out.

Peter also has an oak complete with acorns and a quince, which he says anyone can have a go at growing from the pips.

He said: “I think anyone can do it if they put their mind to it.

“The complicated part is starting out and shaping it, but there’s lots of help and advice out there.

“The only thing is, they say bonsai is never finished. You can always tweak a branch here and there.”

l Scarborough and District Bonsai Society meets at Seamer Memorial Hall on the third Tuesday of every month (a week earlier in December) from 7.30pm.

l To watch a video about Peter and his bonsai collection, go to www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk.