All About Bonsai
ALL ABOUT BONSAI
By Tom Regan
Bonsai is a personal experience and anyone
who tells you differently has not had the "bonsai experience."
However, through our decades of intense interest in and tremendous love of
bonsai, we have discovered that there is a remarkable amount of personal
satisfaction to be gained from sharing our interest with others. The way we
see it is that the more people who become interested in bonsai, the more
opportunities that will arise for us to share our beloved interest. That is
what this section of our website is all about: sharing our interest. So, if
you are interested in bonsai, or know someone who is, we invite you, through
the following articles and items, to share with our family - here at Bonsai
Boy Nursery - in the bonsai experience.
How Often Should You Water? - When
people walk into our nursery, this is, without exception, the most asked
question. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. How often you should
water a bonsai tree depends on several different variables: what type of
tree is it, what time of year is it, where is your tree kept, where do you
live, and more than a few others. Watering bonsai is a constant balance
between too much and too little.
How Should You
Water? - The "best" way to water is to first wet the
soil a little, this will improve the soil's ability to absorb a larger
volume of water, and then you should water thoroughly until the soil is
saturated. Make certain that the entire soil mass gets wet - every time -
you water and wait for the excess to run out of the drainage holes to be
When Should You
Water? - The "best" time to water is arguably early in
the morning, before your bonsai begins its day of photosynthetic activities.
However, it is important to be vigilant about its watering needs throughout
the day, especially during the summer. Bear in mind that bonsai trees do not
grow when the soil is wet and they do not grow when the soil is dry: it is
only during the in between periods that your bonsai tree takes in water and
nutrients. You also need to be aware of the amount of light your new bonsai
is getting, the temperature of the room your bonsai is located in and the
humidity levels of that immediate area. You also need to be realistic about
your other life responsibilities, not only for their sake, but also for the
sake of your bonsai. Work out a watering schedule that is realistically
feasible. It makes no sense to schedule watering late in the morning, if you
know that five days a week you're going to be out the door by 7 AM. Be
practical or you and your bonsai will be sorry.
What Kind Of Water Should You Use? -
Water your new bonsai with room temperature tap water, because cold water
has the potential to shock its roots. If you have the ability and the time
to collect rain to water, that is great, but it is unnecessary unless the
water in your neighborhood is unfit to drink - and, if it is, you might
consider moving yourself and your bonsai somewhere safer.
How Much Light Does A Bonsai Require?
Providing the correct amount of light for your bonsai is crucial to keeping
it healthy. However, there are no simple answers as to how much light bonsai
trees in general "require". Light requirements are specific to the
type of tree and are further dependent upon specific variations in the
location they are kept - namely your home. It is a good idea to speak to
your local bonsai supplier or a fellow bonsai enthusiast that has experience
growing bonsai in a setting very similar to your own.
What Kind Of Light
Is Best? - Sunlight is by far the best type of light for bonsai
trees and most other living creatures on earth. As such, the brightest
window in your home is arguably the best spot for your indoor bonsai trees.
However, the brightest window in your home may be located next to the
fireplace. So, in a case like this you need to find an alternative and more
practical location and use some type of artificial lighting system.
What Kind Of
Artificial Light Should You Provide? - A grow light and timer are
a simple solution for providing additional light. Set your timer for 12 to
16 hours of supplemental lighting and position your bonsai within 1 to 4
inches of your light source.
Again, speaking to a local bonsai supplier
or enthusiast is invaluable. If possible, visit their homes to actually look
at their set up and ask questions.
Why Is Humidity Important For Bonsai? -
Although indoor bonsai slow their growth in winter and do not need as much
water, they still do require sufficient humidity. Humidity helps to reduce
water loss through the processes of transpiration. Transpiration will have a
negative effect on your bonsai's ability to retain water and remain healthy.
How Can Humidity
Be Improved? - The sometimes dry climate of a home or apartment
can be altered to benefit your bonsai tree. Placing your bonsai on a
"humidity tray" filled with decorative pebbles, that should be
kept wet at all times, will help increase humidity levels. Another solution
is regular misting. Misting is the most common humidifying method. It has
the additional benefit of removing dust from your bonsai, which blocks
sunlight and interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Be
sure to mist using room temperature water to avoid shock.
What Else Is
Helpful To Prevent Dry Conditions? - Keep your indoor bonsai
trees away from breezy doors, windows and heating sources, such as vents,
radiators, and fireplaces; to
avoid quickly drying them out. While more sunlight is desirable, it may dry
out your bonsai. So, maintaining a watering schedule during winter is just
as important as during summer.
Why Do Bonsai Need Fertilizer? - Bonsai
containers are a man-made environment. As such, they require you, in order
to maintain the health and development of your bonsai, to provide, in
addition to frequent watering, a regular dose of fertilizer to the soil or
What Type Of
Fertilizer Should You Use? - Feed your bonsai with a balanced
fertilizer, 20-20-20, at quarter strength, every other week. The numbers
20-20-20 are the percentage, by weight, of the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus,
and potassium) contained in that fertilizer. These elements, in addition to
minor or trace elements, are necessary for cell division and enzyme
processes that allow photosynthesis and the resulting growth to take place.
What Does N-P-K
Stand For & What Does It Do? - N - Nitrogen is responsible
for the size and amount of new growth and, to some extent, the green color
of the leaves. Nitrogen is required for cell division and, also, protein
manufacturing. P - Phosphorus is also necessary for cell division and is
associated with good root growth and flowering. K - Potassium activates cell
enzymes and is related with overall healthy cell activity.
Notes - Always water your bonsai thoroughly before fertilizing
and never use fertilizer on a dry tree.
Never fertilize a sick tree, as fertilizer is not medicine.
When you have finished a bottle of fertilizer, it is a good idea to purchase
a different brand, as they all contain different amounts of trace elements
and minerals. Exposing your bonsai to different amounts of these important
trace elements and minerals is very beneficial.
If you are not sure how much fertilizer to use, follow the directions on the
label and never use more than recommended.
Fertilizer is a good thing, but too much is a bad thing.
Did You Know?
That the origin of Bonsai, while often attributed to the Japanese, is
actually Chinese in derivation. Many experts agree that bonsai, know as
Pensai in China, was practiced by scholars, monks and the noble classes of
China as far back as 600 A.D. A few centuries later, bonsai, along with Zen
Buddhism, and much of the best of Chinese culture was brought to Japan.
That the word "Bonsai", which
is pronounced "Bone- Sigh", is made up of the two Japanese
characters: "Bon" meaning tray and "sai" meaning plant,
which when literally translated means: tray plant. Of course, the
cultivation of bonsai trees has advanced much since its humble start as
plants in trays.
That an earthquake is responsible for
shifting the "epicenter" of bonsai cultivation in Japan. In 1923
an 8.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the entire Kanto region of Japan.
Destroying vast portions of the two largest cities: Tokyo and Yokohama;
along with a majority of the commercial bonsai businesses. As a result, the
bonsai business community, in an effort to save their livelihoods,
collectively purchased a tract of land outside of Tokyo, in the Omiya
region, where their businesses once again flourished. Hence, a new epicenter
of bonsai cultivation in Japan was created (which exists and thrives to this
That in 1976 the people of Japan, in
honor of the USA Bicentennial Celebration, presented to America 53 priceless
bonsai trees and 6 remarkable viewing stones. These gifts were to become the
foundation of our national collection. This magnificent group is housed at
the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located within the U.S. National
Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. It has since become the largest collection of
its kind - housing bonsai from around the world!
Why Is Temperature Important For Bonsai?
- During winter months it is vital that you keep your new indoor bonsai warm
-- Not Hot -- but warm, somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where your bonsai falls on this guideline depends on where your bonsai is
from "originally" and by this I mean where in the world your
bonsai is indigenous... the warmer the native climate, the warmer the area
in your home it should be located.
Temperature Be Monitored? - The thermostat on the wall is a good
place to start. However, a small thermometer can better monitor the actual
temperature of the microenvironment that your bonsai tree is located in.
Most garden centers will have small thermometers available for a reasonable
price and purchasing a couple is a worthwhile investment, especially if your
indoor bonsai are located in a couple different areas of your home.
What Is Helpful To
Avoid Temperature Fluctuation? - Doors, windows, fans, heating
systems and breezy hallways will all affect the actual temperature of a
particular area. It is important for the health of your bonsai to be
maintained at stable temperature. A sudden drop in temperature, as well as,
a sudden spike in temperature can injure your indoor bonsai trees. Indoor
bonsai should not be kept near a door that is frequently opened during
winter months to avoid harmful cold drafts. It is important that you read
the care guide that comes with your bonsai to help establish the best
environment to maintain a healthy and thriving bonsai.
Why Is Air Circulation Important? - A
location with adequate air circulation is very important for the long-term
health of your new bonsai. The life sustaining process of photosynthesis
requires an unrestricted exchange of fresh air and stagnate environmental
conditions could compromise your bonsai's ability to continue its
photosynthetic processes, by clogging the pores or stomata, located on the
bottom of leaves, which bonsai trees use for this vital air exchange,
through dust and debris accumulation.
What Else Is Air
Circulation Responsible For? - A closed or confined space is the
perfect environment for pests and disease, two of the most terrible enemies
of bonsai trees. The regular movement of fresh air helps prevent pests, like
spider mites, from establishing their webs and infesting and damaging your
bonsai trees. Air circulation also assists your trees in the transportation
of essential fluids from the roots to the leaves, by osmosis, which is a
vital process. Air also prevents possible root rot conditions, from soil
saturation, by assisting in water evaporation.
How Can Air
Circulation Be Improved? - If your bonsai is kept indoors or
inside a greenhouse, you might consider leaving a door open, or cracked, and
a fan, or fans, running. Spraying and misting your bonsai off regularly will
help to remove all dust and debris from the bottoms and tops of leaves,
allowing your bonsai to "breathe" freely and to continue its
BE CONSCIENTIOUS - If you are having
trouble breathing in a confined area, so is your bonsai.
Pests and Disease
How Can I Prevent Pests & Disease? -
When working to prevent the possible injury or death of your beloved bonsai,
the best defense is a strong offense: be vigilant by keeping your bonsai
clean, dust and debris free and cleared of fallen leaves and flowers; be
sure sufficient lighting is supplied, as well as, good ventilation and lots
of fresh air. A healthy bonsai is without a doubt the most important
preventative of pests and disease.
How Can I Treat
Pests & Disease? - Unfortunately, even the most observant
bonsai enthusiast is likely to encounter some type of pests or disease
during their endeavors. It is healthier for your bonsai to be treated for
pests and diseases in incremental steps of increasing toxicity.
The first thing to try to change is your bonsai's current environment. This
technique is the simplest and safest. Quite often a change of location can
help an ailing bonsai and if it does not, at the very least, you know that
your bonsai's problem is probably not environmental.
The second incremental step would be to try, if possible, to introduce
biological controls such as ladybugs. Ladybugs are of no danger to your
bonsai and they will eat nearly all pests that are. Of course, this
technique is limited to outdoor locations.
The third incremental step would be to use chemicals, also in levels of
increasing toxicity. To start, you can try spraying a very mild solution of
warm water and liquid dish soap on your trees. This technique is an
excellent way to prevent a wide variety of diseases and helps in
discouraging many types of pests. Multiple applications may be required to
achieve and maintain a healthy bonsai, but the rewards will far out-weigh
The fourth incremental step would be to try using a mild insecticidal soap
such as the brand name: Safer. This multi-purpose soap derivative offers
effective control over most pests. This type of insecticide is one of the
mildest and safest, for humans, animals and bonsai - something of a vital
importance, especially if you have children and pets.
The incremental step of "last resort" would be to use an actual
"chemical" spray, such as: Schultz's insecticide. It should be
handled carefully and used as per manufacturer's recommendations.
An Additional Note
About Pests & Disease? - When and if you find yourself
staring at an unwanted visitor to your bonsai, remain calm and then picked
up the phone and call your local bonsai supplier or a local bonsai
enthusiast and ask for experienced advice. Your visitors will leave sooner
and your bonsai will live longer.
What Kind Of Container Should You Use? -
The answer to this question depends upon the function of the container
itself. Fundamentally, there are two kinds of bonsai pots: training pots and
display pots. If your bonsai is in the training stage, then the pot you need
to use is a functional training pot. Training pots are available made of
plastic, mica, and even wood. Mica training pots are my personal favorite,
as they are available in very large sizes at very reasonable prices.
Nevertheless, there are many options and here at Bonsai Boy Nursery we have
them all here for you to choose from. At this critical stage in the
development of your bonsai, the most important thing is that you use a pot
that is practical. It must reasonably and safely hold all of the soil or
growing media that is required to provide the space for a healthy and stable
root system to develop, good branching and the desired trunk thickness.
It is essential that any bonsai pot have large drainage holes to insure no
water gets trapped at the bottom of the pot, because waterlogged roots will
rot and be fatal for your bonsai.
Your bonsai will never really be ready for a display pot without all of
these vital development stages having already taken place in a training pot.
What Types Of
Containers Are Most Appropriate? - If your bonsai is fully
developed to your complete satisfaction and you are preparing to show it,
then it is definitely time to choose a display pot. Display pots are usually
ceramic, because they must be frost proof, and are available with either a
glaze or an unglazed finish. The most suitable display pot is one that
enhances and not overshadows the beauty of your prized bonsai.
The most appropriate type of pot is an aesthetic, as well as, an able
consideration and depends largely on the type of bonsai you are displaying
and its horticultural requirements. The beauty of a deciduous or flowering
bonsai is greatly enhanced when matched with a glazed pot of a soft,
attractive color, such as: light blue, cream, or green. Conifer and
evergreen bonsai when paired with an unglazed pot of an austere color, such
as: brown, gray or reddish clay, are perceived in a way that reflects the
severe environment of their natural habitat.
The length of your bonsai pot should be in direct relation to the height of
your bonsai. A tall bonsai, in general, requires a long pot. In conjunction,
the depth of your pot should be relative to the thickness of your bonsai's
trunk. A thick trunk usually commands a deeper pot.
Of course, size guidelines are just that - guidelines. The needs of your
specific variety of bonsai will dictate, for the most part, the size of the
display pot you can safely utilize.
How Are Pots
Pertinent? - The most pertinent feature of pots is that their
form must follow their function. If a pot cannot sustain your bonsai, then
it really doesn't matter how good it looks, because it will soon be empty.
Did You Know?
That the bark of a tree has three very important and practical functions:
It is waterproof, so it prevents leaking from the phloem; It also houses
small structures, called lenticels, that allow the tree to breathe; and the
bark's third function is to protect the phloem from all kinds of impacts,
abrasions and attacks from pests; including: insects and fungi.
That wounds on bonsai trees do not heal
in the same manner as the wounds of humans and/or animals. That is to say,
trees are not able to repair damaged tissue; instead they continue to
manufacture a new layer of cells with each years growth, until the wounds is
entirely covered over. The length of time this 'healing' process takes
depends upon the size of the wound and the overall size of each new annual
That if you look at a cross-section of a
tree trunk you will see rings and each of these rings indicates a full years
worth of life and growth. Scientists can tell by the thickness or thinness
of a ring in which year more rain and more subsequent growth took place.
Accordingly, a thick ring indicates a year with more rain and more growth
and thin ring indicates a year with less rain and less growth. This analysis
is one method that curators of arboretums can use to tell when an injury
occurred to an imported bonsai that is of an unknown age and approximately
how many years it took for that injury to 'heal' or be completely calloused
over. Scientific researchers and meteorologists can also use this method in
their study of weather patterns from hundreds of years ago.
That mature trees, both bonsai and those
on the front lawn, develop what is known as a 'collar' around the base of
the largest branches. This swelling takes years to develop and is caused by
the up and down, forward and backward, motion of the largest and heaviest
branches as they are pushed to and fro by the whims of Mother Nature. These
collars are important to those of us practicing bonsai cultivation, because
they help to quicken the bonsai's healing processes by enabling wounds -
specifically those wounds that are left after the pruning of large branches
- to heal more rapidly.
Tools for Bonsai
What Kind Of Bonsai Tools Work Best? -
There is a specific bonsai tool for every specific bonsai activity and using
the correct tool is the "best" tool and the best way to get the
correct results. Tools for the practice of bonsai have been around for as
long as bonsai itself - thousands of years. So, it is not necessary, nor
practical, for a bonsai beginner to purchase a complete set of bonsai tools.
As your interest in bonsai cultivation grows, so should your collection of
bonsai tools. With each new bonsai endeavor you undertake, you will
inevitably purchase the tool necessary to properly perform that endeavor -
What Kind Of Tool
Should You Purchase First? - Consider a pair of shears as your
first bonsai tool. They will enable you to keep your new bonsai neatly
trimmed and styled. Bonsai shears are available in many quality grades and
even a mid-level grade is relatively inexpensive and very easy to put to
What Kind Of Tool
Should You Purchase Next? - As your interest in bonsai
intensifies, and it undoubtedly will, you should seriously consider
purchasing a concave branch cutter next. The concave branch cutter, much
like shears - and the majority of all bonsai tools - is available here at
Bonsai Boy- in a number of quality grades and a couple different sizes. The
main function or use of a concave branch cutter is to remove branches. As
its name suggests, the shape of the cut mark left on the trunk or branch is
concave. When used properly, the concave branch cutter leaves a wound that
is somewhat taller than it is wider and slightly concave; and this promotes
the rapid and even healing of the wound, with very little scarring. The
concave branch cutter is indispensable to bonsai and a great
Other Tools You
Should & Will Consider? - A pair of bud scissors, soil
sieves, knob cutters, wire cutters, a root hook, and trunk bender will all
soon be tools you need and want. The Art of bonsai is one that grows with
you, literally and figuratively. As your bonsai interest grows, so too, will
your knowledge, skill level and tool collection.
Botanical Name - All plants have a name that is unique to them and
this is often called the Botanical name, although some people prefer to use
the term: Latin name or Scientific name, instead. Plant names are based on
the Latin language, which was considered the universal language during the
18th century when a vast majority of the "naming" of newly
discovered plants was taking place. Botanical names are descriptive. They
describe many characteristics specific to that plant such as: the place of
origin, color, growth habit, leaf size, bark texture, etc.
Botanical names all have two main parts: a genus (generic) name and a
species (specific) name:
Genus - The genus or plant family.
Plants in the same genus are closely related (family). Plants in the same
Genus have similar characteristics, so when you see the same genus name
you'll automatically know something about the plant. Plants in the same
genus may interbreed with each other and if they do the resulting plant is a
hybrid (see below). Example: Acer - maple
Species - A species is those plants that are the same and will
produce viable offspring. Plants in the same species always interbreed with
each other. This certainty makes a species a species. Plants within a
species can, because of their environment, climate and soil differences,
vary in some small ways, such as: different leaf color, size, shape etc.,
so, as a result, within species you can have: sub-species, varieties,
cultivars and hybrids. Example: Acer Palmatum - Japanese maple
Sub-species - A subspecies is a
variety within a species that shows identifiable characteristics different
from other subspecies. It is usually geographically separate from other
subspecies. These are still able to produce viable offspring when two
subspecies within the same plant species are brought together. Example: Acer
palmatum ssp. amoenum - Japanese red maple "Oshio Beni"
Hybrid - A hybrid is a blending of
two different species, usually breeding desirable traits into the new plant.
When different species within a family or different families produce
offspring, the new plants are called hybrids. Example: Acer x conspicuum
'Silver Vein' - Snake-bark maple
Cultivars - cultivars are plants
that have features desirable to the person "cultivating" them.
These desirable characteristics have been deliberately selected and can be
reliably reproduced in plants under controlled cultivation. Many cultivars
are the result of careful breeding, producing hybrids that have desirable
leaves, flowers or growth habits. To continue the desired attribute,
grafting, layering or cuttings are used to propagate the cultivars.
Cultivars are valued, because they insure that a plant will be exactly like
the named plant sought. Example: Acer Palmatum Dissectum - Laceleaf Weeping
The descriptive information inherent in
Botanical Terms is important for learning about and locating a specific
Photosynthesis - Bonsai trees and plants in general, use light energy
from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen.
This process is called photosynthesis and without "it" there would
be no "us", so in a very real sense, bonsai is life!
Photosynthesis takes place in the green parts of trees and plants, the
leaves. The green color of leaves comes from the chlorophyll molecules in
Chloroplasts - Chloroplasts contain
the essential life-giving photosynthetic pigments. Each chloroplast is like
a tiny carbohydrate factory and out of this little factory comes the food
for the plant, or bonsai tree, and practically every other living thing on
earth - including you and me. Carbohydrates create more than is needed to
perform the photosynthesis process and this "excess" carbohydrate
material gets converted into starch. (An important carbohydrate is sugar or
glucose - a basic fuel and building material for much of life.)
Starch - Trees and plants turn this
"excess" carbohydrate material into starch and store it for later
use. The peak of starch content, in plants, usually occurs around the middle
of the afternoon. By using enzymes the plant slowly turns the insoluble
starch back into sugar or glucose, which is then dissolved and passes into
the phloem to be moved throughout the plant by osmosis (the loss of water
molecules from the leaves of a plant, Transpiration, creates an osmotic
gradient, which produces tension that pulls water upward from the roots and
throughout the tree). These vital processes continue right on through the
night, making room in the leaf for the next day's life-giving photosynthetic
Xylem - The xylem is the principal
water-conducting tissue of vascular trees and plants. The xylem also takes
part in food storage and the conduction of vital minerals to the leaves.
Together the xylem and phloem form a continuous system of vascular tissue
extending throughout the plant.
Phloem - The phloem is the portion
of the vascular system in plants, consisting of living cells arranged into
elongated tubes, that transports sugar and other organic nutrients
throughout the plant. The phloem is the principal food-conducting tissue of
Transpiration - Transpiration is the
process of water loss from trees and plants through stomata. Transpiration
occurs when stomata open in a humid surrounding and close when it is dry.
Stomata - are small openings found on the underside of leaves and are
connected to vascular plant tissues. Transpiration is a passive process,
largely controlled by the humidity of the atmosphere and the moisture
content of the soil. Transpiration also transports nutrients from the soil
into the roots and carries them to the various cells of the plant.
Is Bonsai, Really Interconnected To
Life? - In all seriousness, without trees and plants there would be no
life on the planet Earth. For me, bonsai makes living on this chaotic and
frenzied planet of ours more peaceful and enjoyable. So, yes, Virginia,
bonsai is life.
Did You Know?
That the oldest bonsai in the national collection is over 300 years old. The
bonsai is a White Pine that is affectionately known as the Yamaki Pine, in
honor of its donor, Masaru Yamaki. The Yamaki began its life in the 1600s
and, despite being less than five miles away from the impact site, it
survived the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
That several of the bonsai in the national
collection were given as gifts to various Presidents of the United States.
In fact, in 1998, the Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Obuchi, gave President
William Jefferson Clinton an 80-year-old Ezo Spruce. The gift was truly
significant to the national bonsai collection for two reasons: the first and
most obvious reason is the fact that it is a masterpiece and the second, and
lesser-known reason, is that the gift of an Ezo Spruce - any Ezo Spruce - to
an American president is significant, because the United States maintains a
long standing ban on the importation of all Ezo Spruce and, as a result, the
national collection has been without an Ezo Spruce specimen.
That for many species of deciduous bonsai
trees the size of the leaf is directly related to the type and amount of
sunlight the tree is cultivated in. A bonsai that is grown in partial shade
or in full shade will have longer and larger leaves, because the tree is
trying to maximize the amount of sunlight it can absorb to enable it to
continue its photosynthetic processes - a larger leaf has more surface area
with which to gather sunlight. In contrast, a bonsai tree that is grown in
direct sun, all or most of the time, will have smaller and more compact
leaves, because it is receiving all of the sunlight it needs. As a result,
it can devote its energy to growing. This is important for all trees, but
more important for trees cultivated for bonsai, as smaller leaves are
proportionate to the smaller scale of a bonsai tree; smaller leaves are,
therefore, a positive trait, both aesthetically and from a horticultural
perspective, because a tree is healthiest when it has access to all of the
energy it needs to develop.
That an evergreen tree, such as a pine
(black, white, red, scots pine, etc.) does not keep its needles for-ever. In
fact, while evergreen trees do not shed their needles in a blaze of autumn
splendor, along with the deciduous trees, every fall, they do replace their
needles in two or three year cycles. Accordingly, evergreen trees remain for
the most part, always green, because younger needles remain on the branch,
as more mature needles are replaced.
Your Bonsai Can Out Live You -
Can A Bonsai Tree Live Forever?
Trees, in general, can and will outlive all of us - many times over. The
giant redwood trees, indigenous to the West Coast of the United States, are
some of the oldest living creatures on the planet. It is understandably
difficult for some people to equate or associate a 200 ft. tall redwood tree
with a 12 in. tall bonsai tree, but nevertheless they are both trees. In the
case of bonsai trees, the simple fact that they are "trees"
genetically, and "bonsai" trees by way of human intervention,
gives them the innate capability, under favorable circumstances, to live for
several centuries - at least and forever - theoretically.
Of course, there are scores of circumstances and variables, some
controllable and many others not, that all have the potential to enable or
to prevent a tree, be it a bonsai or not, from living for very long.
A tree in nature and growing under what we will assume are
"perfect" conditions, will grow until it reaches the natural
predetermined height for that species. Once this height has been realized,
the tree commences its natural habit of growing or, to put it another way,
spreading sideways, enabling the tree to support as much foliage as
possible. After centuries of this continued growth pattern, what happens is
that the distance between the active and effective roots at the edge of the
trees root system and the now massive amount of foliage at the incalculable
number of branch tips is just too vast. As a result of this natural process,
the tree starts to weaken and will eventually die. Why? Because the foliage
has grown too far away from the active roots - its leaves are now receiving
inadequate amounts of life giving water and nutrients and, in turn, the
leaves are unable to supply sufficient sugars to the root system. In due
course, this course being centuries long, the heartwood will rot and the
tree will collapse.
How Can A Bonsai
Live Forever? The main difference between a bonsai tree and a
tree growing naturally in the wild, as mentioned above, is human
intervention. A tree in nature, growing in perfect conditions, will grow
until it reaches the maximum dimensions for that species, with consideration
given to the specific environmental conditions that it is exposed to, and
inevitably it will die. Conversely, a bonsai tree, which it is not a
"species" of tree, but rather a traditional set of techniques and
styles for growing and caring for a tree - almost any kind of tree can be
trained as a "bonsai" tree - is prevented from ever reaching its
maximum dimensions through regularly pruning of both the root system and
branch structure. A non-bonsai example of this pruning technique extending
the life of a tree is that of trees that are grown as hedge. Hedges live
much longer than their full-size counterparts growing in their natural
habitat, because they are never allowed to reach their maximum dimensions.
My Aunt Agnes still lives in the home that her father built and the hedges
that separate their property lines were planted by her grandfather before
the war - World War Two! While the practice of trimming hedges is not
exactly like the practices of branch and root pruning in a traditional
bonsai sense, it is a good "Western" gardening style example of
how the life of a tree can be extended through regular and careful human
So... Then, How
Does One Keep A Bonsai Alive Forever? Trees that are being:
grown, nurtured, trained, and developed using traditional bonsai techniques
have the very real potential of living forever. The reason this potential
exists is because a bonsai grown by a professional (and so must yours for
the same incredible results to be possible) is cared for very precisely and
very meticulously. On a daily basis the every need of the bonsai are met,
starting with the essentials of proper watering and sunlight exposure.
And on a seasonal basis, the bonsai's health is monitored and maintained
through the observation and pruning of the trees root system. This enables
potential problems to be seen and addressed before they can jeopardize the
health of the bonsai and the pruning encourages the development of healthy
new roots. The branch structure is also monitored and maintained on a
regular basis, allowing branches to be removed if they are deemed as
possibly dangerous to the tree and beneficial new shoots are allowed to grow
so that they may benefit the future health of the tree.
This careful and calculated care management keeps the bonsai in a constant
state of growth, because the bonsai, just like its full-size cousin on the
front lawn, is genetically programmed to achieve maturity. The essential
difference is: by preventing the bonsai from reaching maturity, you are
preventing it from ever reaching old age and falling victim to the troubles
that inevitably go along with aging process.
A bonsai tree - your bonsai tree - if given the proper and essential care,
will always remain healthy, growing, and youthful. And, if everyone that is
responsible for its care, after you become mulch, continues to care for it
properly, it will and should out live them, as well!
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
Have You Ever Wondered Why Leaves Change Color?
The answer to that perplexing query begins with this question: what are
leaves? Leaves have been dubbed as: nature's food factories. During the
spring and summer leaves serve as factories where a large amount of the
foods necessary for the tree to grow are manufactured. The process that
trees utilize to turn water and carbon dioxide into sugar is called -
photosynthesis. A chemical called - chlorophyll - enables photosynthesis to
take place. Chlorophyll is what gives leaves their green color. Along with
the green pigment of chlorophyll, there are also yellow and orange pigments
- carotenes and xanthophylls - that, for example, give the orange color to
carrots. However, most of the year these colors are masked by the large
amounts of green coloring from the very busy chlorophyll.
Why Does this Change Occur? As summer
ends and autumn begins the days progressively become shorter and the amount
of light that trees receive is reduced. Along with the changes in daylight
hours, overall temperatures become cooler. It is these two principal changes
that "tell" trees the time to begin getting ready for winter has
arrived. Trees start preparing for their winter dormancy by shutting down
their food-making factories, their leaves. The reason they do this every
year at the same time, is because there are not enough hours of daylight for
photosynthesis to take place. When the leaves stop their food-making
processes, the chlorophyll begins to diminish. The prominent green color of
the leaves dwindles, as the yellow and orange colors permeate the leaves,
giving them their celebrated fall grandeur.
Do Other Changes
Occur At This Time? As the traditional fall colors emerge,
additional chemical changes occur, resulting in the development of
anthocyanin pigments. These pigments produce of a bonus number of brilliant
colors ranging from red to purple. Cool temperatures - above freezing -
favor the formation of anthocyanin, thus producing bright red leaves on
maples and deep purple leaves on dogwoods and sumac trees. Temperature,
light, and water supply all have an influence on the degree and duration of
the colors of autumn. Rainy and overcast days have a tendency to amplify the
intensity of fall colors and an early frost can weaken the brilliant colors
It is the combination of all these things that create the striking colors we
enjoy so much every fall. The mixtures of yellow, orange, red, and purple
are the result of chemical processes that take place inside the tree as,
outside, the seasons change from summer to autumn and then to winter.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the awesome colors of autumn is with a big
bag of candy and my favorite Halloween costume. Trick-or-Treat!
The Practice of Displaying Bonsai
What Elements Are Utilized In The Display Of
Bonsai? Displaying bonsai is an art onto itself and whether you
display your bonsai formally in a show or informally in your home or in your
backyard, a creative and compelling display will give you and everyone who
views it a completely new appreciation for bonsai. An awareness of the
traditional elements associated with the display of bonsai is advantageous
to the success of your display and having a keen awareness will enhance your
understanding of and appreciation for the art of bonsai display.
The traditional elements of bonsai display include: a bonsai tree, a display
table or stand, an accent item, and a scroll. Each of these elements plays a
vital role in the display by constructing, generating, and producing an
emotional and intellectual panorama. The bonsai tree is and always should be
the most important component of every display.
An exceptionally intriguing bonsai that is truly inspiring can conjure up an
entire panorama by itself and, therefore, may be used in a display alone;
though this is rarely the case, do not let that stop you from working to
create such a masterful bonsai.
If it is necessary to give more hints or evidence of the setting you are
trying to suggest, then an accent item should be added to the display. If
still more "information" is required, then a scroll can really
provide a desirable impact and can help to complete the impression being
made by your display. When presented harmoniously, these elements will
enable you to successfully produce, in the mind of the viewer: a landscape,
a season, or a secret mystical spot - a panorama of the mind, if you will.
What Is The Purpose Of The Display Table or Stand? The purpose of the
display table or stand is to raise the bonsai tree up to the ideal viewing
height. This viewing height is traditionally considered to be halfway up the
trunk of your bonsai. This height enables the viewer to distinguish, and
more easily follow the main trunk line of your bonsai. By directing the
viewer's attention to this focal point, the displayer can influence what the
viewer perceives and determines as noteworthy. The bonsai and the accent
item should both be positioned on a table or stand to raise them from the
bench. However, it is important to remember that the dominant element of
your display, the bonsai, should be placed on a higher table or stand than
the accent item - ensuring that it is unmistakably regarded as more
On a practical level, the table or stand you utilize can be: antique,
modern, a slab of wood, or a bamboo mat - but you must use a stand in your
display. A table or stand that is more versatile is one that looks
appropriate with several different types of trees and is, therefore, much
easier to work with. This versatility is something to take into
consideration when choosing a table or stand to purchase. The legs of the
display table should look sturdy enough to support your bonsai tree, but not
appear overpowering. Dark woods, such as Rosewood and Mahogany, are
preferable for use with most kinds of bonsai, but a light colored wood, such
as bamboo, may be used with a flowering bonsai, such as an azalea, or with a
flowering accent item, such as a miniature hosta.
What Is The
Traditional Purpose Of The Accent Item? The purpose of the accent
item is an important one and an appropriately selected Accent item will
enhance the overall display. An accent item can be almost any
"item" that helps to evoke in the mind of the viewer a notion of a
landscape, a season, a secret mystical spot or whichever natural phenomenon
that the displayer is presenting to them. When selecting an accent item
there are a couple of things to keep in mind: always remember that the
bonsai tree is the dominant and most significant element in the display and
that the accent item is there to enhance and not overpower it. Also,
remember that it is important for the overall harmonizing effect of your
display to select an item that inhabits the same region as the bonsai being
displayed. It would be an incongruity to have a bonsai tree that is
indigenous to a warm climate presented alongside a small plant or animal
from a cold mountainous area. This type of circumstance would actually
detract, instead of contribute, to your display. Accent items should not be
randomly chosen elements that are scattered throughout the display to
brighten it with color or draw chaotic attention. Accent items should be
elements that bring to the display a semblance of something natural or in
nature: by adding a few pebbles you can depict a babbling brook, bringing a
sense of sound and movement to your display; a quail or some geese resting
can signify the coming of autumn, bringing a sense of time to your display;
a crane or a young boy catching fish will suggest thoughts of summertime and
What Is The
Purpose Of A Scroll And Its Selection? The purpose of the scroll
element is as important as the accent item and selecting a suitable scroll
will augment the overall effect of the display. Original silk scrolls are
exceptionally expensive and in Japan a serious art collector will pay
millions of dollars to own the work of a particular artist who is famous for
their scroll paintings. Of course, you do not have to spend millions of
dollars to purchase a Japanese scroll in order to effectively present your
display. Any store or shop that specializes in Asian Decor will certainly
have a selection of reasonably priced scrolls for you to choose from. The
important thing to keep in mind when selecting a scroll to purchase is that
it, just like the accent item, lends itself to the overall feeling of your
display. A scroll can be a painting that portrays anything that will help
bring to mind, for the viewer, an impression of a landscape, a season, or a
secret mystical place that the display is offering to the viewer's
imagination. For example: a mountain vista promotes the sense of a
mountainous area where a pine tree would obviously be indigenous to, a
seagull evokes thoughts of the coast, and a scroll painting of a
snow-covered hill connotes winter.
All of these traditional elements when displayed in faultless accord
assemble, produce, and bring into being an emotional and intellectual
panorama - taking bonsai to the next level. As stated above, this panorama
resides in the mind of the viewer and as each viewer has different powers of
perception, the panorama they perceive, and their reaction to it, will be
unique to them. A perceptive viewer and a compelling display will result in
a successful collaboration, leaving one to ponder one of the fundamental
conundrums of our time: "Does life create art, or does art create
Are There Cultural
Differences Regarding The Display Of Bonsai? One of the cultural
differences concerning the display of bonsai trees is, very basically, that
traditional Japanese homes are architecturally and characteristically
designed so as to contain within the structure itself a tokonoma or - a
place of honor - where bonsai are arranged and displayed on a seasonal and
celebratory basis throughout the year; while in a typical Western style
home, a bonsai display would, more likely than not, be arranged outside or
in an outside setting, because bonsai - and the practice of displaying
bonsai - is not culturally traditional in the West (.yet!).
Methods of Tree Propagation
Why Is Tree Propagation So Significant?
- Trees that are sought-after for use as bonsai material have several
characteristics that make them appropriate for the smaller design
arrangements of bonsai. These characteristics assist in the persuasive
reproduction of nature from a miniature perspective. The range of
characteristics desirable for use as bonsai material include: form, color,
branch and trunk structure, bark texture, a wide range of leaf shapes,
sizes, and textures, and for pines - a wide range of needle shapes, sizes,
colors, and textures. The ability to faithfully reproduce trees that contain
these desirable characteristics, through the use of different methods of
propagation, is essential to the future of these valuable varieties of
trees, and by extension, to the future of bonsai, itself.
from Seed - There are two very advantageous features to growing
bonsai trees from seed - for both beginning and experienced bonsai
enthusiasts. The first advantage is that you can grow "hard to
find" species of bonsai trees for a relatively small price. A pack of
bonsai seeds can be purchased, on average, for under $5. The second, and
most important, advantage is that once your seeds have successfully
germinated and your trees begin to grow, you can control every aspect of
your tree, at every stage of its development into a quality bonsai. The
size, shape and style of your trees are yours to control from the very
- Cuttings are one of the most popular methods to propagate quality bonsai
material. Cuttings are an excellent propagation method, because they will
create numerous trees that are genetically identical to the " parent
" tree or bonsai. By taking cuttings, you can create new trees from a
tree that contains the characteristics you consider to be important and
suitable for a bonsai tree to have. An additional reason that makes cuttings
one of the more popular ways to propagate bonsai material is that it is
faster than starting bonsai trees from seed. Some species of trees will
produce a rooted, growing tree - from a cutting - before the seeds of
another tree can even sprout! Saving you tons of time and, quite often,
weeks of worry.
- Air layering is a method for propagating trees through the removal a large
branch or section of the trunk to create a new tree. One of the main
attractions to propagating bonsai material through air layering is that you
can create a sizable new tree with in one growing season, as opposed to the
other methods - except collecting - which all involve several seasons of
development. Removing a branch from a desirable tree or bonsai requires the
removal of the bark, cambium, and phloem. This prevents carbohydrates and
photosynthates from flowing down the trunk, past the removal site, but still
allows water and mineral nutrients to flow upward to the leaves through the
xylem. The removal site should be 1" wide all the way around the
branch. It must then be protected with sphagnum moss, peat moss or other
water retaining media, wrapped to in dark poly or tin foil and allowed to
root. When there are enough roots to sustain the branch independently
(approximately between 3 to 6 months depending on species) the branch is cut
off of the "parent" tree and then the new bonsai is planted in the
ground or a large, deep pot.
- Grafting is a commonly used method for propagating trees, when propagation
by seeds or by cuttings is impractical or impossible. Grafting techniques
are often applied at nurseries for reproducing large numbers of a desirable
species for use as bonsai material. The species of tree to be grafted it is
called the "scion" and the tree to which it will be attached is
called the "root-stock." Customarily, the "scion" is of
a fine or unusual species and the "root-stock" tree is usually a
common version of the same species.
- Creating a new bonsai tree by "collecting" wild plant material
is certainly the most thrilling method of bonsai propagation. Finding a tree
in its natural habitat that has been shaped by the forces of nature alone is
tremendously exciting. It is one of those few phenomenons that defies
description and must be experienced to fully appreciate. Collecting a tree
from the wild is best done in early spring and with the explicit permission
of the landowner. When collecting a tree it is important that you dig up a
large amount of soil surrounding it, in order to avoid shocking your the
tree and then immediately transplant it into your growing garden or a large,
deep training box. Collected trees usually require a couple of seasons to
recover, so don't attempt collecting your first tree, until you feel you are
skilled enough to care for it during this extended time of rehabilitation.
Collected trees hold a special place in the world of bonsai and are, by
virtue of their unadulterated form, highly venerated.
Did You Know?
That autumn is the most favorable season of the year to prune a
majority of deciduous bonsai. There are at least two good reason for this:
first, the fact that all of the leaves have dropped off of your bonsai is a
good sign that it has entered dormancy and, therefore, will not 'bleed' or
lose sap when it is pruned (although it is still advisable to apply
'cut-paste' or 'wound sealant' to all sizable cuts); and second, now that
the bonsai is bare you can see and reach undesirable and/or dead branches
that had been covered and made unnoticeable and/or inaccessible by the trees
That bonsai trees, as well as, other
trees and plants, are capable of absorbing synthetic nutrients through their
foliage - oftentimes more readily then through their roots. When foliar
feeding, be sure to carefully follow all of the manufacturers' instructions
and never foliar feed in direct sunlight, as leaves can burn quickly. While
applying synthetic nutrient, use a spray to mist the foliage and be sure to
check the undersides of the leaves, as there might be 'pests' hiding. This
is also an ideal time to check the wires and make sure that they are not
digging into the bark.
That it is important to use both round
and sharp shaped particles when mixing the components for your bonsai soil.
The reason for this is that round components, which do not compact, provide
good aeration, however, they allow a tree's root tips to grow unobstructed
and this encourages upright and very strong top growth - an unwanted
characteristic for bonsai culture. On the other hand, sharp shaped
components, which do have a tendency to compact, interrupt the passage of a
tree's new root tips, forcing them to divide, thus resulting in varied shoot
growth and more sideways top growth, which is a positive growth
characteristic for bonsai culture.
That the two jumbo jets that very
carefully carried the very generous Japanese gift of 53 bonsai trees and 6
viewing stones for our country's bicentennial celebration were insured for
over 5 million dollars and that after their safe arrival the bonsai were
kept in quarantine for an entire year before they were put on display.
What Is Bonsai Soil? - Bonsai
"soil" is a mixture of organic and inorganic compounds that
provide a suitable growing media for the cultivation of bonsai trees within
the confines of a bonsai container. A bonsai container or pot is an
unnatural and restrictive environment that, consequentially, requires a very
well draining soil mix to maintain a healthy bonsai tree. Bonsai soils that
work well in a specific set of environmental conditions, may or may not,
work well in the specific microenvironment of your backyard. So, it is
recommended that you to speak with your bonsai supplier or another local
bonsai enthusiast that has experience growing bonsai in your locale.
What Kinds Of
Bonsai Soil Are Available? - There are many kinds of bonsai soils
available for sale from your local bonsai supplier, but the Japanese soils
are, in my humble opinion, of the highest quality and consistency. They are
composed of clay granules that have been heated at extremely high
temperatures, so that they will resist compacting and will maintain their
structural integrity for long periods of time. The Japanese soils include:
Akadama - general purpose bonsai soil that is suitable for most deciduous
trees; Kanuma - a yellow colored Japanese soil from the Kanuma region of
Japan that is great for azaleas & acid loving bonsai; Kureyu - a soil
that is suitable for most conifers.
What Type Of A
Soil "Mix" Should I Use? - There are no
"absolutes" in bonsai and soil mixes are no exception. There are,
however, some general soil guidelines that work well for certain types of
bonsai trees. All of these mixes contain some combination of the same three
major components: grit, organic, and loam. Grit, also called aggregate and
sand provides vital drainage for the soil mix. Organic, which is peat moss,
pine bark, and leaf mold, provides water retention qualities for the soil
mix. Loam, is a combination of sand, organic and clay, sometimes added by
portion to augment the specific needs for a soil mix.
Is Using The
Proper Soil Important? - Yes. All things in regards to bonsai are
interrelated: environmental conditions, water, the time of year, fertilizer
use, pruning practice, light, shade and soil. So, using the proper soil is
important for growing healthy bonsai trees.
Deciduous bonsai soil mixes should be "approximately" 60 percent
organic material to 40 percent grit and an alternative soil for deciduous
trees is the Japanese Akadama.
Azaleas and rhododendrons bonsai soil mixes should be
"approximately" 50 percent organic to 50 percent grit and an
alternative soil for acid-loving trees is the Japanese Kanuma.
Conifers bonsai soil mixes should be "approximately" 30 percent
organic to 70 percent grit and an alternative soil for conifers trees is the
Indoor or Tropical bonsai soil mixes should be "approximately"
compromised of 70 percent organic to 30 percent grit.
REMEMBER - local climactic
conditions will help dictate what type of soil mix you should use for
successful bonsai in your particular locale, so be an informed enthusiast.
Why Do We Graft? - Grafting is a
commonly used method for propagating trees, when propagation by seeds or
cuttings is impractical or impossible.
The species of tree to be grafted it is called the 'scion' and the tree to
which it will be attached is called the "root-stock." More often
than not, the 'scion' is of a fine or unusual species and the
"root-stock" tree is, to some extent, a common version of the same
The "root-stock" tree should be of the same species as the 'scion'
tree in order for a successful grafting to take place and a healthy tree be
produced. A frequent match for bonsai grafting is: a five-needle pine
"scion" grafted onto a Japanese black pine "root-stock."
Why Is It More Desirable? - Grafting
techniques are often applied at bonsai nurseries for reproducing large
numbers of a desirable species. Trees that are desirable for use in bonsai
have characteristics suitable for smaller design arrangements, which will
persuasively reproduce nature in a miniature perspective.
A range of desirable characteristics for use in bonsai include: form, color,
branch and trunk structure, bark texture, a wide range of leaf shapes,
sizes, and textures, and a wide range of needle shapes, sizes, and textures
- for pines.
Why Is It More Expensive? - Grafted
trees are expensive for two reasons:
The first being grafting itself is a horticultural challenge that requires
years of dedication - depending on species, only 10 percent to 80 percent of
grafts will take; a comprehensive education - instruction of the many and
varied grafting techniques is essential for success; and an artistic sense -
as unsightly scars and uneven trunk tapers are detrimental to a tree's
Secondly, a masterfully grafted tree will contain several desirable
characteristics, which do not occur naturally, making it an excellent
candidate for use in bonsai.
Examples Of Grafted Trees That We Offer For Sale Include: Lace leaf Maples
green and red they are great looking trees and make wonderful bonsai.
What Are Witches' Brooms? - A Witches'
Broom is a localized area on a tree that has, as a result of disease, insect
infestation or adverse environmental conditions, developed an abnormally
high branch, or tuft of branches, with unusually small stem elongations
making it exceedingly dense, especially in comparison to the rest of the
tree. This tall and very dense growth of branches loosely resembles an
upside-down witch's broom.
Why Is Witches'
Broom Material Sought After? - In a certain sense, a witches
broom is like an untrained bonsai that just happens to be located in the
canopy of a full-sized tree. This odd analogy will hopefully help you to
appreciate why witches brooms are sought after for use as bonsai material.
Contained within the tuft of branches in witches' brooms are characteristics
complimentary to the endeavors of bonsai design and development. The dense
branching and complete distinctive traits of the parent tree make witches
brooms a more than suitable source of bonsai material.
How Do We Use
Witches' Broom Material? - Through grafting and cuttings,
witches' broom material is used in the propagation of many popular dwarf
varieties of trees; such as: the Bird's Nest spruce and the Little Gem
spruce. Both of these valued trees are dwarf varieties of the Norway spruce.
A bonsai tree propagated from witches' broom material is trained as any
other bonsai material would be and there is a good chance that one of the
trees in your collection started its life as a witches' broom.
A Few Examples of
Witches' Brooms: Witches' brooms developed for bonsai in Japan
are called "Yatsubusa." This is the Japanese for "many
budded", reflecting the dense characteristics of their branches. These
dwarf varieties of trees are designated or described as such in the labeling
of their name, for example: Cryptomeria japonica "Tenzan Yatsubusa";
Ulmus Parvifolia "Yatsubusa"; and Acer Buergerianum "Yatsubusa".
What Is A Dwarf Conifer? - A dwarf
conifer is often defined as a tree that fails to attain the size and stature
of the parent plant. To be more precise, a "dwarf conifer" is
simply a slower growing version of the parent plant (or species) and, as
such, you could plausibly have a "dwarf conifer" that over a very
long period of time grows to a height of 8-10 feet! The name conifer is
derived from the Latin "conus", meaning cone and "ferre",
meaning to bear, so conifers are those trees that are cone bearing.
Why Are Dwarf
Conifer Desirable? - The typical landscape of your average home
today is limited in scope, thus making size an important factor when
selecting landscape plants. The compact, slow-growing characteristics of
dwarf conifers make them an excellent choice when space is at a premium.
Many commercial nurseries saw this need for smaller trees and propagated
many of today's most popular dwarf conifers from witches' broom material.
Their efforts have proven to be beneficial to the bonsai enthusiast, as
compact size and slower growth rates, make dwarf conifers excellent
candidates for container cultivation of bonsai.
How Can A Conifer
Be Identified? - One method of identifying any conifer, dwarf or
otherwise, is to look at its leaves. Conifers have linear, needle-like or
scale-like leaves that are readily visible and very distinct from the wider
and flatter leaves of deciduous trees.
Pines, spruces, hemlocks and firs are all good examples of trees that are
evergreen and bear cones. There are also several species of trees that are
deciduous and bear cones, including: Larch, Dawn Redwood, Golden Larch and
Did You Know?
That the trunk of a bonsai tree contributes more to the illusion of age than
any other design element. Accordingly, you should first focus on developing
a well formed trunk that has - depending upon the style objectives you are
working towards - good taper, smooth curves, uniform slant, etc. The other
design elements of your bonsai, such as: branch location and foliage
distribution, root spread, leaf reduction and overall scale can be
established later on in the design process.
That there is only one exception to the "rules" that govern the
pruning of flowering bonsai - and that exception is azalea bonsai. Azaleas
are highly prized by bonsai enthusiasts around the world for many of their
traits; one of them being that their flowers come in a very wide range of
remarkable, and even multiple, colors. However, azaleas produce their
flowering buds at the tips of the previous year's growth, so pruning should
not be done in late summer, like the rest flowering bonsai should, they
should be pruned shortly after flowering - or you will be pruning off the
flowering buds and, as a result, you will have no flowers.
That you can provide a dormancy period for
your bonsai by keeping it in the refrigerator. Temperate climate bonsai
trees need a dormancy period, of at least six weeks, in order to maintain
their health and vigor. If you want to keep your bonsai tree indoors, it
must be supplied with everything it needs survive, including: proper light,
temperature conditions, water, air circulation, humidity, and a dormancy
period, if that particular species requires.
That many of the health concerns that
trouble bonsai trees, regardless of which species they may be, are much like
those that trouble humans - in that they are easier to prevent then they are
to cure. Being neat, orderly and vigilant throughout your daily "care
and cultivation" routine will be more beneficial to the long-term
health your bonsai than a closet full of chemicals or a room full of
specialists, by enabling you to spot a problem for it becomes a dilemma.
What Are "Candles"? - A candle
or candles (plural) is the descriptive term used for the soft new needle
growth on your pine; and "candling" is the bonsai practice of
"pruning" those new needles before they are fully elongated to
create and shape a shorter and tighter foliar mass.
When Is The Proper
Time To Candle? - The proper time to "candle" or
"prune" pines is in the spring. It is a good idea to speak to your
bonsai supplier or another bonsai enthusiast in your area to get an
experienced opinion for the "most advantageous" time of the spring
to candle in your particular locale.
How To Candle Your
Pine? - Start to the candle your pine at the lowest branch. Be
sure to use both hands and make sure the entire candle is not pulled or
broken off. Remove about 50 percent of the candle by pinching it between
your thumb and index finger (using your thumbnail). Leave all weak branches
untouched and wait at least five days before moving up to the next branch
level. After that, follow the same procedure upwards candling slowly and
safely on your pine.
Concerns? - It is vital that you candle in stages, from the
bottom on to the top, because the stronger growth is at the top of the your
pine and if you started to candle at the top, the pine would automatically
use all of its energy to repair the top section and bypass the lower,
weaker, sections. This could result in the loss of an important lower
If your bonsai is healthy and well established, you can remove up to 75
percent of the candle to maintain a tight, well-shaped bonsai. Be sure to
carefully monitor weak sections, as well as, carefully reigning in the
Candling done correctly will produce an attractive and compact bonsai.
Wire and Wiring
Why Do We Wire? - We wire because it
allows us, the bonsai enthusiast, to train, to shape, to style, and
ultimately, to create bonsai. Bonsai is a living art form. It is a
collaboration between nature and us. Nature provides the inspiration and we
must provide the imagination. Wire provides us with our artistic license.
That license gives us the freedom to place a branch where our imagination
tells us one is needed. It allows us to give movement to the motionless. It
provides us with the ability to supply stability where stability is
required. Wire is an essential tool of the bonsai artist and wiring is an
essential skill of the bonsai artist. So, it behooves anyone serious about
bonsai to become proficient at and familiar with, wire and wiring.
Types Of Wire?
- There are two types or kinds of wire used in bonsai: copper and aluminum.
Copper wire is stronger, but in my experience, is less forgiving. If it is
not monitored very closely, it will invariably bite into your bonsai,
scaring bark and branches alike. Aluminum wire, on the other hand, has
one-quarter the strength of copper wire, but it is easier to apply and
easier to remove. These two fundamental characteristics make aluminum wire
an advantage for the beginner and a blessing for the experienced.
How Should You
Wire? - The rule of thumb for selecting the proper gauge wire is
to use a wire that is roughly 1/3 the width of the section of your bonsai
that you are planning to wire. Apply the wire at a 45-degree angle; making
certain that it is wrapped neither too tight, nor too loose. Bending the
trunk or branch, should be done using both hands. It is important to support
the trunk or branch, as much as possible, as you proceed. Be sure to hold
the wire from behind with your thumb, as you proceed forward, bend the wire
and not the trunk or branch.
If you are wiring the entire bonsai, it is best to begin with the trunk and
then move on to the largest branch and then to the next largest branch and
so on... Also, it is imperative that you wire in the direction of yourself.
It is easier and safer, because you will be able to avoid wiring over any
buds, leaves or twigs that may be hidden by your arms or hands; and on a
pragmatic level, you will be able to cut off the excess wire as you reach
the very end of the branch.
When Should You
Wire? - You should always secure a bonsai that has just been
repotted with a wire running up the from the bottom of the pot through the
In regards to what season is optimal to wire your bonsai for styling
purposes, the answer is: it depends upon what type of bonsai you're styling.
If you grow pines, it is often recommended that you wire in the late fall or
early winter, when sap levels are low and trees are more flexible. If you
grow deciduous trees, then early spring - before your bonsai leafs out - is
a good choice, as a leafless tree allows you to see the entire branch
As for when to remove the wire from your bonsai, the safest answer is:
before it bites into the bark of the tree. If you are using copper wire,
checking weekly is prudent. If you are using aluminum wire, checking
bi-weekly is advisable. You should only remove wire with the use of wire
cutters. Trying to unwind a wire usually results in a crack or split, which
is followed immediately by inconsolable weeping.
Wire & Wiring
Concerns: Only wire a healthy bonsai. The wiring process stresses
your bonsai and if it is already weak, you may be hastening its journey to
the pearly gates. Also, it is a good idea to allow your bonsai to dry out
for a couple of days before wiring, because a slightly dehydrated bonsai is
more flexible and less likely to split or crack while being wired.
Content used by permission from Bonsai