Things every gardeners should know about Bonsai

What actually is a Bonsai ?

Bonsai is an art of growing and training of a plant to a miniature form having a natural look of old age. It was originated from china, but it was called as the Japanese art. It is derived from two words “Bon” meaning Shallow pot and “Sai” meaning Plant. It involves techniques of extreme dwarfing. Although small sizes of less than 25 cm have also been preferred, the ideal bonsai size may only be 30 to 60 cm in height. Bonsai must be at least 10 years old to be included, however they can be found and are highly prized specimens if they are 100 or even 200 years old.

Special types of containers are needed for bonsai. Typically, they should only be 5 to 7.5 cm deep (except for cascade type of bonsai). Round, hexagonal or square shaped containers with 25 to 30 cm diameters are preferred.

Plants adaptable for extreme dwarfing like Ficus spp., Bougainvillea, Juniper, Sapota and so on are suitable for bonsai culture.

Trunk and branches can be trained to desired shape by bending, forcing and tieing them with heavy wire. The wire is removed after several months when training to shape has been accomplished. The bonsai plants may be trained to different shapes like twisted trunk, upright, S-shaped, semi-cascade, cascade, slanting or any other formal shape. Planting of both tips and roots is usually done at planting time and periodically pinching the tip and removing the excess side shoots are essential to maintain the general outline of design. Annually, the plants are either repotted or lifted from the pot, root pruned and reset.

A week fertilizer solution including both macro and micro nutrients is sparingly provided to the bonsai plant. Similarly, the plant is provided with minimum moisture. It is recommended to water plants twice daily in shallow containers and once daily in larger containers.

A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree of a species suitable for bonsai development. Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.

The practice of bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing, but dwarfing generally refers to research, discovery, or creation of plant cultivars that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.

Characteristics of a good bonsai

  1. Signs of good health and stability such as leaf color and well settled, natural looking moss. No signs of carelessness and abuse such as badly healed pruning scars or scars from wire left on too long.
  2. A strong well shaped trunk springing naturally from the soil and moving upwards towards the apex in an even taper.
  3. A good fanning out of surface roots from the base of the trunk gradually disappearing into the soil.
  4. A good, well-proportioned head of branches which are well spaced and appear to spring naturally from the trunk.
  5. The tree is as natural looking as possible considering its species, style, and size.
  6. The pot must be in proportion to the tree to form an artistic unity.
  7. The tree should be placed in the pot so as to create a visual balance
  8. Flowers, fruit, and leaves must be in proportion.
  9. A tree growing with its roots clasping a rock must really adhere to the rock, not just wrap around it.
  10. Stones, moss or other covering on the surface of the soil should be natural and in scale.

Some important Rules for Bonsai making

  • Trunk should taper as it ascends
  • Branches should not cross the trunk
  • ¬†First branch should be at one third height of the tree
  • Branch should diminish in size as it ascends
  • To enhance the age, expose the one third of the roots
  • Select the plant with:
      • Small leaves or needles
      • Shorter internodes
      • Attractive bark or roots
      • Branching characteristics
  • Before potting, the twisted and tangled roots are to be straightened.
  • Upper branches should not overshadow the lower branches.
  • Use it as indoor near windows only under open and sunny condition.

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