Introduction to the Art of Bonsai. The definition of the term "Bonsai" is a plant, usually a tree or shrub, that is grown in a container and made to look like a mature tree through the use of various training techniques. The plant usually does not exceed 1 meter in height. The art of Bonsai as we know it, traces back almost yrs.
The word Bonsai equally applies to indoor and outdoor plants. The original word Bonsai comes from the Chinese word "P'en Tsai" it sounds similar to bonsai and has nearly the same meaning. It couldn't be further from the true spirit of bonsai if we restrict our interpretation in this way. It is indeed a tree in a pot, but a tree that has been subjected to a number of horticultural and aesthetic disciplines, through which visual harmony and botanical well being is achieved.
The essence of classical Bonsai is to produce a healthy miniature representation of a tree. The ultimate challenge for the Bonsai designer is to expose the essence of the tree. The art of Bonsai is telling a story through living illusion. A less expensive, but slow method is to cultivate a tree yourself; using seeds or cuttings. It will normally take around years before the tree can be styled, so you might want to do this as a side project and buy a prebonsai to get started with styling techniques already now. Learn more about the cultivation techniques mentioned above, or continue reading about styling and shaping Bonsai below.
Maple Bonsai tree, by Walter Pall. More images can be found in our Bonsai gallery! Now that we have either bought or cultivated a tree, it's time to get started with shaping and styling it. This is the creative part of growing Bonsai, as well as the difficult part. Although it took many decades to refine techniques like pruning and wiring to keep trees miniaturized, some basics can be learned quite easily. Right now we will look at the basics of pruning and wiring, but make sure to read the "styling" section for more detailed information on these subjects.
Let's begin with the single most important technique to Bonsai; pruning. Pruning is crucial in keeping trees miniaturized as well as to shape them.
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The goal is to create a Bonsai that resembles nature as close as possible. Spring and summer are the seasons to proceed with significant pruning; though this will depend on the type of tree you have. Make sure to buy a good concave cutter when pruning thick branches. The hollow wounds these cutters leave behind heal much better than normal cutters would. Though it is impossible to tell you which branches to prune to form your tree without actually seeing it, it helps to look at some example Bonsai progressions , and start from there.
Some examples of instances in which a branch should be removed include:. Another important technique to shape Bonsai trees is wiring. By wrapping anodized aluminum or annealed copper carefully around branches it is possible to bend and shape them, at least to a certain extent. Wiring can be applied year-round, but make sure to remove the wire before it starts scarring branches that grow thicker. Make sure to read the wiring page in the styling section for a detailed explanation.
Learn more about the training and styling techniques mentioned above, or continue reading about how to Bonsai; Bonsai care. A crucial part of information about how to grow a Bonsai tree is its maintenance and care. Although each tree species has specific care guidelines make sure to check these for your Bonsai! The required frequency of watering a Bonsai depends on a wide range of factors, including species of tree, pot-size, soil and climate. Over-watering can result in root-rot, one of the most common causes of death.
However, as Bonsai are planted in such small pots, they also tend to dry up very easily. Choosing the right soil mixture and re-potting regularly on average every two years, to make sure the trees don't become pot-bound, making it hard to soak up and store water is crucial to keep your tree healthy.
Grafting trees as a Bonsai cultivation technique.
Everything You Need To Know About Bonsai Trees | Bonsai Tree Gardener
A fourth method is to find a tree in the wild that has been constrained by nature. Fans of the karate kid will remember Mr. Miyagi climbing down a cliff face to find a tree and bonsai found this way are called yamadori. Finding yamadori is somewhat of a sport in and of itself in Japan. However, this is not something for the uninitiated to attempt. Not only do you need to be able to identify which trees are suitable, but you also need to know how to safely take the tree home.
Not to mention that these days there are restrictions in most countries as to what you can legally take from forests. This is probably the best place to start since the learning curve is much shallower and it will take you less time to grow something beautiful.
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You still need to learn to judge a tree yourself so that you buy the best tree for your money. At this stage you should understand the basics of bonsai and be able to buy your first tree. Once you understand the basics and have the know how to get your hands on your first quality tree, you need to learn how to keep that tree alive and healthy. You can have all the styling skills in the world, but if you keep killing trees then those skills will go to waste.
Keeping your trees well watered is one of the fundamentals of bonsai maintenance. And while most people understand that trees can die from lack of water, most are unaware that overwatering can also be fatal to your bonsai. Not to mention that the watering schedule will also differ depending on the species of tree you use. Bonsai soil tends to be classified according to texture and type. The size of the pot determines the texture needed, but the types of soil is determined by the species of the tree and whether the tree is being trained or not.
Gaining a full understanding of bonsai soil can get tricky quickly; you need to understand the role of soil, drainage factors, as well as what components to use there are many to choose from. Trees in nature have root systems that grow outward seeking nutrients. Before this happens you need to take your bonsai out of its pot, trim the root system back and then repot it. Repotting Bonsai Trees. After a certain amount of time, soil breaks down and is no longer able to do its job.
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Time scales vary, but five years is about how long most soil will last. When this happens, you need to replace the old soil with fresh soil; this process is called bare rooting. Bamboo chopsticks are a popular tool for this particular job. Bare Rooting Bonsai Trees. Trees need nutrients to grow and survive just like people, but bonsai face a challenge when getting all their nutrients. Trees growing in the wild can seek out nutrients from wide areas.
This is why their root systems stretch out far and wide. However, bonsai are constrained by their pot, so they rely on the surrounding soil for their nutrients. This soil quickly loses its nutrients and therefore in order to keep your bonsai alive you need to supply it with regular fertiliser.
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There are a few guidelines to follow when selecting your fertiliser; the balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium should generally be kept equal. You must also be careful not to overfeed, since this this can damage the roots. Bonsai How to — Fertilizers for Bonsai. Unfortunately, several species of pests can infest your bonsai and cause it serious harm. Make it part of your weekly ritual to closely inspect your bonsai for any signs of pests. Ants, aphids and boring insects can all wreak havoc on your trees, so learn to look out for them.
Caterpillars and earthworms are also not great to have around. Here are a couple of guides that can help you in identifying and treating pests:.
Introduction to the Art of Bonsai
Bonsai Pest Protection. Bonsai Plant Pests to Watch for! In order for your bonsai to be as strong and healthy as possible, it needs to take in all the nutrients it needs. How to Weed a Bonsai. Styling your bonsai is the essential part of the art form. Before you do anything drastic, study the tree in its natural form. Look at other bonsai for inspiration and ideas of what you could aim at. Once the trunk is looking good, wire the branches into the shape you want. Finally, prune the tree to make it look just right.
You use metal wire to bend the tree in the shape you want. When you bend a tree and keep it there with wire, small splits will appear in the inner layers of the tree. As those splits heal the tree will remember its new position. How long this process takes depends on how quickly the tree grows. This means that different species will take different amounts of time to be trained. And which season is best for your tree also differs from species to species. Typical time frames are from weeks to several months depending on the above variables.
While some experienced artists do unwind it by hand, many more simply cut it off at the bends. Bonsai Detail Wiring. This short video from Peter Warren should get you started:. The right pot should display your bonsai to the greatest advantage; the same way a frame does on a painting.
Typically round pots are best for slanting bonsai, while upright bonsai look best in oval or rectangular pots. The colour should also contrast the tree. Here are a couple of videos that should help you choose the right pot for your bonsai:. Bonsai Pots by Bonsai Empire. We recently published an article featuring some of the most influential bonsai artists from outside Japan.
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