What is Bonsai?
Bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) is an ancient oriental horticultural
art form. The word Bonsai literally means, in both Chinese
and in the Japanese language, tree-in- a-pot. Contrary to
popular belief, bonsai is not the art of stunting a tree's
growth. The characters for "bonsai" translate, roughly, to
"pot" and "to plant." As such, bonsai is the art of growing
trees in a confined space (usually a pot or a tray), so as
to recreate some of natures most stunning and beautiful effects
on trees, which are reduced in scale. Originally developed
in the Orient almost 2000 years ago, today the sublime art
of bonsai is practiced throughout the world. A tree planted
in a small pot is not a bonsai until it has been pruned, shaped,
and trained into the desired shape. When undertaking bonsai,
you may find a new sense of appreciation for nature; you may
start looking at trees, bushes and shrubs differently. Bonsai
will surely change the way that you look at things.
does not refer to a type of plant, but rather describes a
method of pruning and shaping to create an illusion of a very
old tree in miniature. Bonsai are kept small by careful control
of the plant's growing conditions. Only branches important
to the bonsai's overall design are allowed to remain and unwanted
growth is pruned away. Roots are confined to a pot and are
periodically clipped. A bonsai can be created from any plant,
which develops a woody trunk and tolerates pruning well. Bonsai
can be loosely divided into tropical plants, deciduous shrubs
and evergreens. There are several classifications, such as
formal upright, informal upright, cascade and windswept. It
is impossible to write a simple set of care rules. Every species
of plant has it's own special needs. Each location and environment
is different too, and has to be considered. Therefore it is
important, when starting in bonsai, to read all you can on
Bonsai can be loosely divided into tropical plants, deciduous
shrubs and evergreens. There are several classifications,
such as formal upright, informal upright, cascade and windswept.
Following are five styles that seem to be agreed upon basic
or fundamental designs.
Formal Upright (Chokkan)
In a formal upright style, the trunk is kept very straight
and the tree has a very balanced distribution of branches.
The first branch should be the most developed and should be
positioned roughly at one-third the height of the tree.
Informal Upright (Moyogi)
uprights are one of the most common styles. This is the most
basic design wherein the idea is to develop a single line
of the trunk, starting from the roots reaching the apex while
producing a natural structure of branches and foliage. In
this style there should be little or no empty spaces. Most
deciduous trees will be best suited to informal upright styles.
word Slanting denotes the direction in which the tree's trunk
moves. A Shakan bonsai will have a very distinctive slant,
with a properly balanced movement of the trunk and placement
of the branches so that the tree does not appear to be lopsided.
trees give the appearance of a waterfall or cascade of foliage,
which spills, over the pot and down toward the ground and
thus the name. The cascade has a long cascading main branch
that flows from the lower portion of the trunk to the apex
exhibiting both beauty and strenght.
In this style, each of the branches appears to be "swept"
to one side, as if being blown by a strong wind. These trees
are the replicas of trees usually found in coastal areas,
where strong environmental forces have given them such a shape.
SELECTING THE PROPER TREE
starting to work on a tree with a particular style in mind
first and foremost start with selecting a proper tree. For
this purpose you must carefully consider a few things, which
are as under.
First thing is to look at the roots of the tree and check
to see if it gives the appearance of a strong foundation.
Next is checking the trunk. The shape of the trunk will
basically determine the style you choose. In almost all
cases, however, a thick base, which tapers gradually and
gently to a thin apex, will make for a nice tree. Which
style you prefer will depend on the movement of the trunk.
Third, look at the branching pattern. The lower branches
should be thick while the upper ones should be thin.
Finally examine the plant to see if it is healthy.
Bonsai are mostly lost due to improper watering than from
any other causes. The length of time between watering will
vary depending on conditions such as humidify, soil moisture
retention, weather conditions, and size of pot. Soil mixtures
should encourage good drainage, and will vary somewhat depending
on the type of plant. Normally bonsai usually need to be watered
every day or two. The best time to water is early in the day
or late in the afternoon at the same time every day. The soil
should be moist, not soaking wet, and not dry. Inserting a
finger into the soil will tell you if the soil is damp, or
dry enough to need watering. No bonsai soil should be covered
with any material that prevents water from evaporating from
the surface, or does not allow you to feel the soil.
Feedings vary from plant to plant depending upon the plant
type. Bonsai do not need a great deal of fertilizer, as we
do not want to encourage rapid growth. A water-soluble fertilizer
is usually applied every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season,
in a half-strength solution. Never fertilize right after repotting.
Wait for 3-4 weeks. Don't feed if the tree is in a sicken
condition. Never fertilizer a very dry bonsai.
A bonsai must periodically be repotted i.e., after every two
or three years to supply a pot-bound root system with fresh
soil. This depends on the growth of the tree and also on the
size of the pot. Repotting should generally be done in the
early spring and water the plant well after it is over. Do
not fertilize for 3-4 weeks after repotting. Do not let the
roots go dry while repotting.
Trimming and pruning are essential to keep the bonsai in the
style you want and to give it it's miniature form. This involves
the systematic removal of vigorous growth of the plant in
the spring season giving it proper shape and form. Start with
trimming the roots and foliage on the plant. Then wire the
tree in order to get the branches to grow in a specific position
and direction and to enhance the look of the tree. The wire
should be removed after 6 months. Usually the branch should
then stay in that position on it's own. Wire should be carefully
cut from the branches and avoid unwinding the wires as this
could break the branch. Trim branches to expose the trunk
and to shape the tree into the look you want.