Full spectrum lighting stand upgrade

Sitting in my plant room with a cup of coffee I realised the new acquisitions (cuttings and air layered plants) would need additional lighting through the dark winter months, but due to the lack of space this was going to be a problem. Looking at the present setup (illustrated below) there is an unused area (Orange circle) that could be utilised if a shelf or rack could be fitted and still allow the light to filter down to the pants below.

This full spectrum lighting set up is adjustable and can be raised or lowered depending on the requirement. Tubes ‘A’ slide up and down inside tubes ‘B’ and are locked into place by the twist clamps ‘C’ in addition, the light fixture can also be raised or lowered as it hangs on adjustable chains.

Lighting stand

Most kitchen units above the sink where the crockery is kept has wire racks but, rather than vandalised mine, the search began for one that would suit my needs. Many were of the wrong size and shape and rather expensive nonetheless, perseverance paid off as one suiting my dimensions was found for very little money. (7€)


The problem is to find a way of fitting a rack without drilling holes in tubes ‘A’ and ‘B’ because, this would destroy their telescopic sliding ability. The first thought was to use pipe clamps but this was rejected because, they are basically loose fitting and over tightening could damage the outer tubes ‘B’. The solution came from a boat suppliers who had hard plastic oarlocks of various sizes with pre-drilled fixing holes (red arrows) including 2.5cm inside diameter which were a good tight fit as the ‘B’ tubes were of the same dimensions.



After the rack had been cut to size scrap aluminium angle left over from a previous project was cut to fit each corner, each was drilled and riveted including a small hole at the top of the upright to take the chain. A piece of flat aluminium bar was then bolted to the angle upright then a further 2 holes were drilled to take the oarlocks as shown below.

Rack fixings

The rack was then fitted to the lighting stand and on its own was able to take weight due to the snug fit, but rather be safe than sorry 4 adjustable chains one at each corner of the rack and looped over the main cross bar for added strength.

Rack chains


Rack and stand

It can be argued that this full spectrum lighting setup (90cm x 45cm) with a footprint of over a metre is quite small and such a perception would be correct, but in a restricted area one has to utilize the space to the best advantage. Another obvious problem is that by placing plants on the shelf the path of light is restricted, the solution is to arrange the plants so all receive equal share of light.

A full spectrum lighting stand can be made from wood, metal or hard plastic (ABS – Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or adapted from a coat stand as this one was, it just takes a bit of working out the intended space and footprint. If someone has already constructed their own lighting stand, I would be glad to hear your comments. Until next time, BW, N.


Japanese Maple Bargains

Introduction: in most cases writing articles on bonsai normally follows the seasons as it affords those seeking information current for the time of year however, this is not always possible due to heavy work load and other commitments. This article was originally intended for September this year (2018) and is well overdue nonetheless, it may be of use to those residing in temperate zones where the weather remains clement.

For those in northern regions autumn is well and truly upon us and local nurseries or garden centres are selling their stock at reduced prices, hence it is time to hunt for those bargains. (See the article posted August 3rd 2017 Selecting material for bonsai part III)

Many trees and shrubs will show signs of fatigue or damage, but there are specimens that can be had at a good discount and having found many species over the years both coniferous and deciduous including, Picea, Abies, Ginkgo and Cotoneaster. But something different was needed to experiment with over the coming winter months, thus attention was focussed on the Japanese maple.

In July (2018) quite a few varieties of this species were available, but their cost (25 to 30€ each) did not warrant their condition; tall (80cm) straight and leggy, internodes 5cm apart with sun burnt or wind damaged foliage and saturated alkaline soil. Revisiting the store in late August 3 specimens remained and although their price had been reduced to 7€ each, they seemed beyond redemption. Nonetheless, not being one to shy away from an experiment or challenge they were purchased.

After examining the plants for any signs of disease and unwanted pests, they were placed in sheltered location away from direct sun and wind however, due to their overall condition there was no possibility of becoming potential bonsai. Mainly because the trunks and branches had lignified to a point where wiring to shape was impossible without causing severe damage. It can be argued that methods including, grooving, channeling, splitting and V notching exist in creating bends in trees, but with these young maples having trunks 1.5 to 2cm there is insufficient material to accommodate such practises.

Japanese maples are rather delicate unlike their more robust counterparts the trident maple A. buergerianum, ‘sugar maple’ A. saccharum, American ‘sycamore’ A. pseudoplatanus and ‘Norway’ maple A. platanoides, moreover, their root system is quite fragile and prone to attack from pathogens and nematodes hence, many are grafted onto hardy stock for example, A. palmatum.

Looking at these maples (1. Oridono nishiki 2. Orange dream 3. Butterfly) the plan was/is to air-layer them (often referred to as marcotting) and in so doing 3 separate plants could be had from each individual plant; the blue arrow shows one air layering success and red arrows show other air layering in process.

Air layer & graft area

As these maples were grafted onto different stock, all air layering had to be above the grafted area in order for the new root system to develop and in so doing retain leaf colour and variation as shown below.


Basically when we air layer, we are just producing clones of the parent plant and in theory the process works – we get a replica, but there is always the chance of a mismatch hence, the new plant has little resemblance to the parent plant so what has happened? To fully comprehend the scientific process of cloning requires an in depth study, but it can be simplified here for the purposes of this article.

Scientists have been aware for some time that ‘clonal’ organisms known as regenerative are not always identical and some contend why this is the case. In brief the genomes of the cloned plant carry relatively high frequencies of new DNA sequence mutations that are not present in the genome of the parent or donor plant, despite the fact that they are derived from genetically identical founder cells, hence the reason for mismatch.

New growth

The air layering process on the three maple varieties has been completed and the stocks have been cut back hard below the graft and as the above images show; A. palmatum is resilient and recovers quite quickly sprouting new growth. These three plants will be allowed to recover and develop in an indoor environment under full spectrum lighting at room temperature 20c (68F) and watered with an acid solution. (7 litres of tap water with 1 level teaspoon of vinegar to reduce the alkalinity)

Another reason behind the experiment is to find out what varieties these A. palmatum root stocks are, because although (a) the growing mediums of all of these maples is the same and (b) the leaf design and structure are similar there is a difference in the colourisation as can be seen in the above images 2 green and 3 pale pink. The next article also this month will contain an update on ‘Lighting for bonsai’ so until next time, BW, N.