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    Bonsai is the Japanese term for both the art and the object of dwarfing trees and growing them in small containers.  It probably originated in China where it is known as "Penjing".

    Oriental art differs basically from western art in that it purposely lacks detail.  Thus, the winding path of pebbles through the garden may be a stream, a path, the seashore, or anything else the viewer wishes.  It calls upon the viewer to substitute pleasant memories from his own experience to fill in the picture.  It is amazing how well this works.  Being in the presence of a gnarled and weathered tree, bent by the wind, is a rare experience.  Seldom can one watch as it tenaciously clings to life.  Though, a bonsai fancier has access to this in his own backyard.  Moreover, his experience can run deeper because he is bigger than the tree he surveys, and he subconsciously realizes as the tree's destiny is in his hands so, too, is his own destiny.


How are they made?

    Bonsai are usually created from nursery plants, or you can begin with plants collected from the wild.  The plant receives an initial Potted Bonsai Tree: Sagarethiastyling during which branches and foliage are pruned to a pleasing artistic line.  This pruning is also done to achieve scale and proportion, so that the tree looks like a large tree in miniature.  Some branches, even the trunk, may be wired to change position or direction to refine the design.  Roots are then pruned so that placement in a smaller training container is possible.  This may be done in stages.  Once the tree has become established, it is placed in a container that best suits it's design and color.  Refinement continues throughout it's life.


Key points for Bonsai Enthusiasts


Bonsai are grown in small pots containing a limited amount of soil and, therefore, must be watered constantly and regularly to prevent them from withering.


Your Bonsai breathes through it's roots as well as through it's foliage.  The selection of soil mixture as well as the grade of soil is very important


Contrary to accepted belief, sunlight is not always necessary for bonsai.  Some trees flourish in strong sun, others in early morning sun, and others don't need strong sunlight at all.  It helps to see the tree in it's natural setting before determining how much sunlight it needs when it is cultivated as a bonsai.


CLAY - Promotes aeration

LOAM - Provides nourishment

SAND - Loosens potting soil and increases porosity and drainage.

HUMUS - Helps hold moisture

All bonsai mixtures are a combination of two or more of these basic ingredients - the exact proportions of which are determined by natural soil requirements of each kind of plant, it's stage of development, and local growing conditions.  All any bonsai actually requires is a potting soil that is near to its native soil.



Hardy plants need to go dormant for the winter.  Bonsai trees are no exception.  Some plants need to be protected from the coldest days winter can bring, but that is not the most important consideration.  The real danger is dehydration.  Small trees can be easily killed through loss of water through bark and twigs which cannot be replaced by dormant roots.  Even the sun can burn and dry the plant tissues which were protected by a leafy cover all summer.

Cold frame

In the southwestern Michigan area most bonsai enthusiasts put trees into cold frames around the last week in November, unless the weather turns bitter cold earlier.  It is possible to cook a tree with solar heat in the fall.  A cold frame is meant to moderate winter conditions, not to give a second summer.  Plants should be kept dormant until it is safe to expose them to the risky weather of spring.  The warm spring sun should not be allowed to start spring growth too early.  This is achieved by ventilating the cold frame on sunny days.

In the Ground

One of the simplest ways to protect a bonsai is to bury the potted tree in the ground.  Unless the pot is very valuable, the tree can be left in the pot and buried up to the first branch.  This depth will keep moist soil over the roots and use the earth to moderate the temperature.  The above ground branches will still receive the necessary winter light even if covered with snow.


A garage, basement, unheated greenhouse will provide correct conditions.  To insure that temperatures at the root ball remain even, pots may be covered with a mulch of sawdust, leaves, bark or coarse peat.



Root cutter

concave cutter




root rake

Knob cutter


wire cutter

Trees and shrubs used for bonsai

  • Falsecypress - (Chamaecyparis species)

  • Red Maple - (Acer rubrum)

  • Canadian Hemlock - (Tsuga canadensis)

  • Crab Apples - (Malus var.)

  • North American Alberta spruce - (Picea glauca var. Albertinia)

  • Bald Cypress - (Taxodium distichum)

  • Pitch Pine - (Pinus rigida)

  • Juniper - (Juniperus var.)

  • Black spruce - (Picea brevifolia)

  • Norwegian Spruce - (Picea abies)

  • Montezuma Cypress - (Taxodium mucronatum)

  • American Hazelnut - (Corylus americana)

  • Shore Pine - (Pinus contorta)

  • Swiss mountain Pine - (Pinus mugo 'Pumilio')

  • Boxwoods - (buxus)

  • Prostrata juniper - (Juniperous squamata var. Prostrata)

  • Atlas Cedar - (Cedrus atlantica)

  • Chinese Elm - (Ulmus parviflora)

  • Japanese Maple - (Acer palmatum)

  • Rock Cotoneaster - (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

  • Cryptomeria species - (Cryptomeria)

  • Pyracantha species - (Pyracantha)

  • Quince - (Chaenomeles species)



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