We enjoyed a most interesting and valuable day here yesterday at Willowbog Bonsai. Leading us through the mysteries of microbial activity in our bonsai growing mediums was Dr Maria Del Carmen Montero-Calasanz who is a soil scientist researching and teaching at Newcastle University.













Carmen had put significant effort into her preparations for the day. We had provided her with some basic information about the way we grow our containerised trees and provided some sample of the various types of growing medium most frequently used. We also supplied a list of the main queries that participants had requested answers to.













Eleven Willowbog regulars gathered together to  take advantage of this opportunity to pick the brains fo a real soil expert. Dr. Carmen had prepared a presentation that she had hoped to be able to show projected on a screen. However, I had been unable to source the equipment so we gathered close around so as to be able to see it on the laptop screen.













Making use of the flip chart to illustrate some points, in this case the way micro nutrients are absorbed.













Everyone totally absorbed !













We began the day in the studio but with heavy rain descending on the plastic roof hearing ourselves speak started to become difficult.













Eventually the noise of the rain beat us and we decamped to the adjoining old workshop building with a slate roof. The different light meant that it was actually easier to see the laptop screen.













Only one of several interesting things that Carmen had done to help us understand just how our various growing mediums made a contribution to the well being of the tree’s roots, was to take both bacterial and fungal cultures from those growing medium samples we had provided, and grow them on agar plates. All the samples showed a good propensity to harbour micro-organism and we learnt just how those micro-organism work in a beneficial way for our trees.













All the participants got the chance to examine the cultures close up.













As I said at the start we were surprised and gratified with the lengths that Dr Carmen had gone to in making sure that the day proved of value to us.












Some of us made notes throughout the day, others merely tried to take in as much as they could of the information on offer. On behalf of us all I would like to thank Dr Carmen for a brilliant day and for the effort she put in to make the day such a success and I am sure that we will be able to use these insights to grow and develop better bonsai.

Thanks to The G-man for thinking of recording the day, seeking the camera and taking the images.