Prunus Mume or Japanese Apricot Bonsai

I show you a couple of flowering Japanese Apricot just as they start to bloom.

Well we’re in the middle of january the 14th to be precise and at this time of the year when the winter is at its bleakest everything is dormant but lo and behold in the same greenhouse let me show you some delightful surprises let me show you the plant and the flowers and then i will talk about the plant in a moment so for those of you who do not know what that tree is this is the japanese apricot this is the shape of the japanese apricot leaf this is what it looks like and that is the apricot flowers japanese apricot are ornamental trees that have been bred in china and japan for thousands of years in fact the chinese call it the moifa muy means plum and far is blossomed so plum blossom has always been in the folklore of chinese and all oriental uh folklore so they are admired for both the beauty of the flower and also because it has a beautiful fragrance at this time of the year when nothing grows and nothing is in bloom the apricot comes into flower so early the japanese call it ume and of course the chinese call it and ume the same writing in both the japanese kanji script and the chinese script but it is japanese or oriental apricot i don’t like to keep calling it japanese apricot because the chinese grow it as well so this is a pretty old tree this was originally a japanese tree but you must be wondering why i’m growing them in these flower pots the reason why i’m growing them in flower pots is because the japanese apricot in the western hemisphere that means in countries like england france northern france germany sweden all the um mid european countries they have very cold temperatures and prunus is difficult because they are really not quite a mediterranean climate tree but they are uh not very hardy in the western hemisphere so for those of you who are wanting to grow prunus be warned that it is an extremely difficult tree to grow and again these are growing in baskets because i’m trying to get them stronger look at this strong shoot there that shoot which is about a meter long grew last year this shoot which is about 50 centimeter long also grew last year but this one has got quite a lot of dead shoots so i’ve been struggling with prunus mummy for more than 25 or 30 years and i can safely say that it is not an easy tree to grow as bonsai in um what we call the western hemisphere the temperate cold temperate climates they may grow well in spain and southern france portugal where the temperature is much warmer but in the cold parts of europe and i would say like midwest united states and canada you will struggle so let me say something more about this tree most of you will know me well enough by now to know that i am a person who likes to do experiments having come from a scientific or engineering background i always like to discover why things happen and although this is not engineering this is about plant sciences and to understand why plants grow in a certain way just takes a little bit of deduction you don’t have to be as a rocket scientist but you can use ordinary deductive principles i bring you to this area because here is another japanese apricot that has grown fairly successfully it is still in its bonsai pot this is how they come from japan and it is a near perfect tree but this is because this tree came only a couple of years ago but over the long term i can assure you that they don’t do so well as you can see i’m in the outside area only covered with shade netting so this shaded area although shaded from the overhead frost still experiences temperatures of minus five minus seven degrees centigrade and this has stood here right through the winter so you can see this is more behind than the other ones in the cons conservatory or greenhouse that i’ve just come from so these are just about to bloom so they are i would say a couple of weeks behind so i’m doing an experiment here to see how they survive when exposed to the cold but not entirely exposed because it has the shade netting cover to give it some protection so i will see how it develops but the message i’m trying to get across to you is that prunus mummy in the western hemisphere is a difficult tree to grow i’ve seen beautiful specimens in japan with really old nal trunks and in southern japan in kyushu island they have a festival every year around mid-february when all these prunus mume are in full bloom and there are hundreds of varieties with different colored flowers and they all have this lovely fragrance and they have festivals to celebrate this so this is just a brief introduction to the prunus mummy on our whole nursery i’ve only got this one and that big white one and the two which i’m experimenting with so as i say it is not an easy tree for beginners it’s an extremely difficult tree to grow and with that i will go back into the greenhouse and show you a few more uh pointers about the prunus ume so here we are again showing you close-ups this tree i would say is well over 45 years old the trunk diameter the nemari at the base is about five to six inches and although it’s growing well i do take care of it by protecting it in the winter and look at it really gnarled all trunk and i’m growing it in this flower pot to get it strong and when it gets strong i will then put it back in the bonsai pot modern side pots because they have limited volume and don’t have a lot of space for the roots to develop the trees tend to suffer a bit so whenever i see a problem like that i tend to put them in flower pots and grow it uh stronger in fact what i might do if this tree continues to grow strong i may put it in the ground to see how strong it gets because i know that you can grow apricot as fruit trees which are grafted onto ordinary prune stock and they tend to survive quite well in the british climate as outdoor fruiting trees with perhaps a little bit of protection uh but these have been protected in this greenhouse here but i shall try and see if they survive better outdoors so this tree the apex is quite strong so nothing wrong with this but some of the side branches seem to have died but it occurs to me that many of these prunus especially the ones you see in these japanese manuals where they show these null roll trees they have bark like this and trunks like this so the habit of having branches die back is quite normal or what we would say par for the course for this type of tree but i’m just putting my nose to the flower and i can assure you it has exquisite fragrance really exquisite fragrance and when you see flowers like this you can’t help but fall in love with it these long shoots what i might do i might take cuttings from it because prunus do grow from cuttings although they’re not semi-hardwood there’s almost semi-hardwood but there are one year’s growth it might still a strike i will have a go and see whether they survive or not so there you are this little video about prunus mume as grown in the western hemisphere i wish i was in southern japan or lived in southern spain or in portugal i’m sure these trees would fare much better there but i can still live in hope and hope to grow these successfully in due course it’s never too late to try a lot of people say oh i’m too old to start trying all these things but if you adopt an attitude you will not do anything in life so don’t give up you can always keep experimenting with things so this is my continuing experiment with prunus mume which is a difficult tree but i have never given up hope trying to grow these well there you go [Music] you

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