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".
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
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
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.
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.