Pronounced as “bone-sigh”, Bonsai are trees and plants grown in containers in such a way that they look their most beautiful--even prettier than those growing in the wild. Bonsai is not a special kind of tree, it is a method for training trees. 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-sized trees. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower. Cultivating bonsai, therefore, is a very artistic hobby. The word Bonsai literally means, in both Chinese and in the Japanese language, “tree-in-a-pot”.
Bonsai is only a part of the culture of gardening. Cruelty in general means callousness and mindless behavior, whereas in bonsai, it requires utmost care and concern for the plant. Moreover it is trying to grow the plant for years, if not generations, perhaps till the life span of the plant. Actions such as trimming the weaker branches is likely to strengthen and improve the overall health of the plant.
The bonsai of this style are reminiscent of trees growing in nature in an open location without stress. The trunk line is vertical with the apex located over the center of the trunk base, and must taper from base to apex.
This style is probably the most popular one in the bonsai. It depicts a tree in nature that has suffered from the elements, with a trunk line showing contortion and branches that sag.
Looking at trees in nature, one often sees individuals that have been tilted to one side by the forces of wind or water, or ones that lean at an angle reaching for sunlight. These trees have developed strong root systems on one side to counter the weight of the tree’s slant to the other side.
This style is meant to depict a tree hanging from the side of a cliff by the seashore or a stream. The tree grows over the edge of the pot, and the trunk bends downward beyond the rim of the container but not below its base.
This bonsai style follows the rules of semi-cascade except that the cascading line falls below the base of the container. This requires that the bonsai be displayed on a stand so that the trunk line can extend as far as it needs to. Aesthetically, the tree must never touch the surface of the stand upon which it is displayed. .
Broom-style bonsai resemble the old trees found along city streets or in orchards. A deciduous species is groomed to form a crown of radial branches that show a great deal of ramification (branching twigs), thereby creating a beautiful reflection of an old tree.
In nature, rain and weather can erode soil from the base of a tree, slowly exposing its roots over the years. Bonsai artists like to exaggerate this effect and show a great deal of root structure.
When a seed lands in a crack in a rock and finds enough soil to survive, the plant’s roots may eventually grow to spread among the thin layers of soil and moss across the rock. In another scenario, the roots slowly grow over and around the rock to the soil below, partially encasing the rock. In bonsai, this effect is created by spreading roots over a rock and then allowing the roots to develop.
This style depicts a tree with two trunks. The trunks, usually of two trees of different diameters, have grown together at the base, and the two trees are styled as one. No branches are permitted to grow between the trunks.
In the natural scenario this style seeks to emulate, a woodland tree is damaged by a storm and blown over, breaking the branches on the downward side. Over time, roots develop from the trunk resting on the soil, and the remaining branches (rising vertically from the undamaged side of the trunk) grow to look like new trees connected by the old trunk. In bonsai, a one-sided tree is wired and laid horizontally on soil, branchless side down.
When a cone or fruit containing several seeds falls in fertile soil and several trees grow at the same time, they may merge to form a tree with multiple trunks. Each trunk naturally bends outward from the group to reach for the light. The clump style in bonsai is created by planting a number of seedlings tightly together and styling them to form outward-reaching trunks.
Using five or more trees, artists can create bonsai resembling small or large forests. Sometimes the forest is styled to look as if it reaches far into the distance. By placing smaller trees in front and progressively larger ones behind, a far-view perspective can be achieved. The trees are all placed at different distances from each other. The overall effect is a canopy resembling a scalene triangle.
The literati style of bonsai is meant to show the essence of a tree. A literati has a beautiful, thin, and unique trunk line. Branches are kept to a minimum. This style is often thought to be the most difficult to achieve. Only a bonsai artist who has mastered all the rules and created great designs can successfully break the classic rules and create elegant literati.
In nature, weeping trees like willows are often found in damp areas and along streams and lakes. Bonsai artists replicate this vision by the careful use of wire to train a tree like a willow or weeping cherry.
No. All plants are not suitable to be grown as bonsais. Only those that can withstand the re-shaping in the form of trimming, repotting, etc. are suitable to be grown as bonsais. The plant should not merely survive, but should be able to grow well. Adaptability is the key.
Following are certain guidelines in deciding whether a plant can be distinguished as a Bonsai.
There is nothing unnatural about a bonsai. Nature has the ability to adjust and adapt to various environmental conditions. There are a number of trees and plants that have grown fully, except growing in size, due to adverse situations. But a bonsai grower carefully observes the plant and meticulously provides the plant with all the requirements to ensure that it grows to its full potential, except for the size.
The tree is measured from the soil line up to the apex
It is very difficult to generalize on watering the bonsai, since there are a number of aspects like the type of tree, the environment, (humidity, temperature, etc.) size of the pot, etc. However there are certain fundamental points that need to be kept in mind.
Normally bonsai need to be watered every day or two. The ideal time would be morning and evening or late afternoon. The soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. The bonsai should not be covered by a material that prevents water from evapourating from the surface. Inserting a finger into the soil, would reveal whether the soil is wet or dry enough to be watered.
Generally trees live outside year round in their native habitat. Thus, the more sunlight they receive, the better they will grow. Some very general guidelines for temperate climate, woody trees are: Most conifers require a lot of light, full sun all day is preferable. Most broad leafed trees like a lot of light but will do well in partial shade. Some broad leafed evergreens like azaleas are shade tolerant. Tropical and semi-tropical trees are equally variable, and must be approached on an individual basis.
Feedings vary from plant to plant depending upon the plant type. Bonsai do not need a great deal of fertilizer, as we do not want to encourage rapid growth. A water-soluble fertilizer is usually applied every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season, in a half-strength solution. Never fertilize right after repotting. Wait for 3-4 weeks. Don't feed if the tree is sick. Never fertilizer a very dry bonsai.
Dimensions relative to the tree size :
Shape of pots for different types of bonsai
The extent of pruning depends upon the type of plant. However the basic types of pruning are Maintenance Pruning, Structural Pruning and Shoot and leaf pruning
Maintenance pruning perhaps most need when the tree is at it zenith of growth. Maintenance has primary goal, is horticultural in nature and deals with enriching a plant’s growth and vitality, by encouraging new shoot development and ensuring the bonsai tree does not become to big for its pot
Structural Pruning is resorted to when the Bonsai need to undergo some radical or structural change to its shape and usually involves removing Primary Branches of a Bonsai. Structural Pruning is driven by an artistic need to shape and coax the tree in to a new form.
Shoot and Leaf pruning can be carried out throughout the growing season and is carried out when a lot of new growth appears and begins to unbalance the shape of the Bonsai.
A bonsai must periodically be repotted i.e., after every two or three years to supply a pot-bound root system with fresh soil. This depends on the growth of the tree and also on the size of the pot. Repotting should generally be done in the early spring and water the plant well after it is over. Do not fertilize for 3-4 weeks after repotting. Do not let the roots go dry while repotting.
Bonsai is an art form and not merely a dwarfing process. Dwarfed plants would be weak and not likely to live for long. Therefore only healthy plants in a very good condition, readily adaptable to the new environment ( i.e. inside a pot) which will grow vigorously keeping in tune with periodic trimming as per the grower’s creativity and imagination would be grown as a bonsai. Hence it is an art form rather than mere reduction of size. Bonsai would attain beautiful shapes not likely if it grows about on its own. But the important point is that only certain plants are suitable to be grown as a bonsai.
It is a misconception that bonsai is they should be grown indoors. With the exception of tropicals and sub tropicals, all bonsai should be grown outdoors.
This is a misconception. A good bonsai is never starved and made to be a stunted plant. The mark of a good bonsai is healthy leaves, trunk, roots, etc. At times due to lack of knowledge or understanding a novice might not properly feed the tree, under which circumstances, it is likely to be a weakling. Otherwise a bonsai is not meant to be a stunted plant. It is a healthy plant or tree in a miniature form.
A bonsai is nothing more than a miniature version of a normal plant, therefore it can be treated with commonly found insecticides and fungicides according to directions on the package. Insects such as aphids, spider mites, scale, and root aphids are a common problem corrected by sprays, soapy rinse or a systemic.