A Thing or Two About Growing Bonsai
AS AN age-old masterpiece that is an art of perfection in itself, bonsai is a fantastic option for those who love landscaping design.
It takes years of patience and attention to get the trending display which might even change over time.
However, it’s a labor of love when it comes to creators.
What is a bonsai? To put it simply, it is a plant grown inside a pot that is artificially and aesthetically dwarfed to create a miniature landscape within its container.
It is subject to horticultural and sculptural techniques such as constant mowing, pruning and also controlled feeding.
The plant variety doesn’t have to be old to be good, but it can always be perfected with constant care and restructuring by the owner.
Origin of bonsai
Not much is known about the origin of bonsai, but the Chinese have long cultivated and maintained miniature landscapes in shallow containers with rocks and mosses called “penjing”. The earliest pictorial record of penjing appeared on Chinese temple murals, dating to the Han dynasty around 200 BC. The root of the Chinese word “punsai” and the Japanese word “bonsai” have an identical meaning – the representation of artistically formed trees, other plants or landscapes in miniature.
The main purpose of bonsai is to create a miniature tree form. There is an endless variety of forms in nature that are imitated in this horticultural art. The Japanese have come up with a number of classic styles, each with distinct aesthetic rules. These rules govern, among other things, the shape, angle and proportion of the trunk, the number of trunks and the location of the branches.
Main types of bonsai
- The formal upright style ‘chokkan’ bonsai, with a straight trunk and evenly tapering branches from base to tip on the alternate side of the trunk.
- Informal upright ‘moyogi’ bonsai, with the trunk having a number of curves with branches on each curve and on all sides of the trunk.
- Leaning and windswept styles, with the trunk leaning to one side but the branches being alternately arranged or swept to one side as if by the wind.
- The semi-cascading ‘Han-kengal’, as if the tree grows on the cliff with the curved and tapering trunk well below the level of the pot. All branches should have abundant leaves on the upper side.
- ‘Sharimiki’ driftwood, echoing the natural look of mountain junipers that produce an area of bare, sun-bleached wood. The focal point of interest would be the beautiful and dramatic grain shapes in the exposed wood. The form may be natural or created by elaborate carving, then whitened and persevered with lime sulfur. The masses of foliage serve as a foil or frame for the driftwood.
- “Sekijoju” rock on rock: In rocky terrain, the rare soil is always eroded away, exposing the rocks and the roots of the trees growing on them. This bonsai can be of any style, with roots well attached to the rock.
- Winding ‘netsunanari’ raft: This is a raft plantation where the original horizontal trunk has an attractive snake-like curve and is exposed to show the feature.
- Exposed Root ‘Neagari’: Especially in the peat soil region, we have rubber trees exposing the roots above ground. This bonsai shows the curved trunk with horizontal branches with leaves away from the pot at the base.
- Twisted ‘bankan’ trunk: This is the most artificial of all bonsai styles – the trunk spirals from base to apex, while the structure of the branches follows that of the informal upright.
- Group ‘Yose-ue’: This bonsai takes many trunks, from seven to 10, with different sizes. It is arranged to represent depth and perspective.
Basic Growing Techniques
- Root pruning and repotting in a container for growing a bonsai. The plant types can be obtained from the nursery and we really need to prune the foliage and branches. Most important of all is the pruning of roots that continue to sprout, which could make the plant pot-bound, resulting in poor health. To make it healthy, control the supply of nutrients absorbed by the roots.
- Fill the pot with your chosen potting soil over a layer of coarse sand at the base for good drainage. Insert the prepared tree into the pot and secure it with wires to allow for an upright or tilted position depending on your preference. Fill the remaining space with potting soil and press down firmly before watering.
- Shape the plant with copper wires by wrapping them around the branch. This would make it easier to bend or twist to get the shape you want, albeit slowly. Sometimes pliers are used to bend the branch gently – and slowly. Remember to check the wiring to prevent it from leaving traces on the branch.
- Branch pruning: Use sharp tools to make clean cuts and do it close to the trunk. Any new growth should be removed. Carefully remove any buds and prune close to the bark.
- Constant maintenance also requires feeding and watering.
Remember that establishing a good bonsai takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.