Richard Reah - The bonsai man from Darlington
PUBLISHED: 09:59 30 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:58 20 February 2013
Beautiful bonsai captured the heart of a man from Darlington, as Linda Viney reports
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of North East Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here
If youve ever marveled at displays of bonsai trees and wondered how they were created then Richard Reah is the man you need to talk to. He owns North of England Bonsai and has won numerous medals and awards including the Royal Horticultural Society coveted Gold medals and you will see him at all the major flower shows.
Bonsai translates as tree in a pot or tray and their cultivation dates back 1,000 years to ancient China when their gnarled look was thought to represent the shape of mythical dragons. Growing bonsai is believed to bring peace and harmony to the mind and to link heaven and earth.
By the 12th century Zen Buddhism had spread from China to Japan and the techniques of growing bonsai began to evolve and when Japan broke out of isolation, travelers took the practice around the world.
Richard, from Darlington, holds workshops during the winter and is hoping to hold some between the many shows he attends in the summer.
I want the trees to survive and there are many myths about bonsai, Richard said. If I can encourage and help anyone, as I was, then Im happy.
As a child he made mini model gardens and although he later he had no interest in gardening, he developed a fascination with the small bonsai trees.
Initially I didnt have any success as my trees died, Richard smiled. I had been misinformed and treated them as houseplants not realising they were small trees in a pot. Though there are some which are tender and do have to be kept indoors.
When his parents visited Harrogate Spring Flower Show and persuaded him with the offer of lunch to join them, he was completely wowed by the display of stunning bonsai staged by Louis Hawksby who was known as Mr Bonsai. Louis was full of advice and set him on the road to success, so much so that when Louis retired Richard bought the business and has never looked back.
Richard now loves all aspects of gardening but bonsai is his true love, the oldest one in his collection is probably 170 years old, but the oldest in the world is in Tokyo at the Imperial Palace which is believed to be at least 500 years old, and is now considered a national treasure.
Bonsai can be created from almost any woody stemmed tree or shrub as they are not genetically dwarfed but grown from regular stock and seeds. The trees can be then be cultivated with careful root and crown pruning and shaped using wire.
When I visited his nursery I was struck by the care all his trees have, they come in all shapes and sizes and whether you want a small one or a larger one which has already had a lot of work put into shaping and treating, Richard will have one, or if not, will be able to search one out.
Keeping bonsai requires an armoury of equipment, from the unglazed trays, which match or blend with the tree and are specially made in China, to the long handled scissors both concave and convex, wire cutters, root hook and root pruner and tweezers for pulling out weeds. Rocks can be added for effect and the bark can be pruned and treated to give the white appearance.
Once positioned in a sheltered place with plenty of light one of the most important aspects of caring for your bonsai is watering, the secret is to neither under or over water. During winter normal rainy conditions
will suffice, but do watch out for dry spells or drying wind.
Once the warmer days of summer arrive you will need to water more frequently and as with the rest of the garden, early evening is best for this. Although roots are pruned at the repotting stage every one to five years you will need to regularly prune the branches to keep the shape. And by turning the plant around each week you will get more even growth.
For more information on Richards bonsai trees go to northofenglandbonsai.com
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