BONSAI THE HISTORY OF A LIVING ART AND INTRODUCTION
I guess you could call bonsai a craft of molding miniature trees into a small pot and this first came to pass in China over one thousand years ago. If I asked you what first comes to mind when asked "what is art"? You would more than likely think ofpainting or sculpture. I guess in looking at it from a narrow perspective it is a kind of sculpture and has as its raw material neither stone nor wood but a living tree. That,my friend,is the art of bonsai.
It is amazing, in that by gone era,the variety of indiviual minatures as depicted on ancient drawings. There were gnarled,faux-windswept trunks,with few leaves,to incredible full flowering bonsai like the photo above.The Japanese word for a "tree in a tray",bonsai became the art of shaping trees by careful pruning to produce miniature trees or bushes. These plants are the end result of years of patience in shaping of ordinary species by master artists.
These chinese artists went beyond nature and shaped the trees into replicas of real animals and imaginary icons. It included native birds,mythical dragons and a host of other shapes from which models were formed for many exquisite sculptures. The art of bonsai eventually spread to Japan in the late 12th century. In Japan its development brought it to one of the highest forms of art. The art of miniatures was practiced and refined in the monasteries among the learned scholars and artists of this rural area.
Japan became an industrial and trading nation in the 19th century at which time an ironic historical twist presented itself. The agricultural art of miniatures spread from the cloistered monasteries to the general public. As Japan opened its doors to the West,the distinctive tiny trees caught the attention of the fascinated visitor. This resulted in a rush to own such a treasured piece that was crafted to look like their larger cousins.
Exhibitions around the world began to feature animals and artifacts from travels.Miniatures became the rage at all such displays and the Paris World Exhibition of 1900,sealed the future of these miniature trees as they gained worldwide fame.All kinds of miniatures and accessories can be found at the web site below. Just click on the flashing sign.
BONSAI HAS MANY NEEDS NOT FOUND IN OTHER FORMS OF ART
These miniature plants are developed from ordinary trees and plants such as maple and pine. This makes extreme care a requirement to continue the health of the bonsai.Soil and temperature requirements must be just so and pruning techniques takes years to master. It is essential that the techniques of potting and repotting be learned as there are many and varied.
Watering is extremely complicated for these small trees and bushes. You provide too much water and they drown or conversely too little water and the leaves wilt and die. Soil is just as important because of the need for proper drainage.Pruning activites interact with shaping your bonsai which in turn can be affected by soil and watering practices.
It sounds like a never ending circle but these are the things you must take into consideration in either learning the art or participating by purchasing an already shaped and healthy plant and leaving only the maintenance to the purchaser. Miniatures are considered one of the most difficult arts to create but I am going to show you on this web page some of the techniques to either grow or maintain your bonsai plants.
Interested in exotic bonsai trees see them here
HOW TO CARE FOR THE MOST COMMON BONSAI
Let's first assume that most gardeners would rather acquire an already healthy and growing miniature plant rather than attempt to start from seed,growing,wiring for the type of shape,proper soil,and pot condition. The juniper was one of the most popular and often seen miniature plant as can be viewed in the photo so I will start with the purchase and care of this plant.
This is normally the sought after plant for both beginners and enthusiasts and for good reason. It is extremely beautiful and can survive in a wide variety of conditions. An excellent style would be the kengai(cascade)pictured above. The trunk and branches grow out over the pot. The bonsai juniper will take full sun and assimilate to moderately dry soil conditions. A word of caution here is not to allow the soil to completely dry out. The feeding should be done every three to four weeks from early spring to autumn.The opinion of what to feed is a variable with some preferring organic fertilizer but appears to be based on a theory rather than good bontanical science.
The available commerical fertilizers can be extreme and need to be used with care to make sure you have the proper proportions. The best method is to apply half strength of 20-20-20 npk that is nitrogen,phosphorous,and potassium. This should be avoided during very hot months or within a few weeks of repotting.
REPOTTING AND SOIL REQUIREMMENTS FOR JUNIPER BONSAI
The time of repotting is an excellent opportunity to trim the roots but do it gradually and never give your miniature a severe root trimming. You should never remove more then one-third of the roots. Repotting itself,in trees younger than ten years,should be performed every two years and older bonsai junipers every three to four years. This would be the time to carry out the pruning of unwanted branches. The rewiring is best carried out in late autumn when the growing season has slowed. It can be carried out during the active growing season and you will see your results faster but careful observing will be required to ensure there is no scarring. I will discuss wiring later.
The soil combination is normally 60% soil,10% peat and 30% coarse sand.However there can be many variations to the relative amounts and the material. For instance,loam,leaf mold,and sand in equal proportions can be subsituted as a viable method. Whatever methods of soil and repotting you choose,the most important factor is to observe your bonsai over a period of a few weeks to ensure you have employed the correct methodology.Discover Over 95 Pages Of Insider Secrets To Creating Stunning Bonsai Trees. Click Here!
OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS CONCERNING YOUR JUNIPER BONSAI
It maybe a good practice to use pinching in the removal of new shoots that are seen during the growing season. The best method to deal with pinching is to take the new growth between the thumb and forefinger and give it a sharp twist to remove. Care must be taken not to move or bend the tree or branch. This pinching off should be done frequently during the growing season to control the growth of new foliage.
A common pest of this miniature juniper are red spider mites. You must check your plant on a regular schedule to ensure your plant is free from this pest. A good sign is yellowing foliage just check under the branch for small spots. The double check method is to hold a white sheet of paper and sharply tap the branch without too much force. This will release a few of these,if they are present,in your plant. If they move on your paper,you will suddenly realize that these moving pests are not welcome in your tree.
A homemade recipe of nicotine solution can be made by soaking tobacco in water overnight but since the days of no smoking have been invoked you may not have tobacco lying about. A commerical insecticidal solution will be more effective. I just thought that those of you who still smoke could put your tobacco to a useful result.After the insecticide or tobacco have had a day to penetrate,then spray your foliage with water daily during the growing season and dry in full,but early sun. Full sun is not recommended and should be avoided for a few weeks.
See how to wire your work of art
ANOTHER FAVORITE CHOICE IS THE BONSAI MAPLE
Maples come in a variety of sub species. These will all turn into beautiful bonsai trees. These maples are little more difficult to deal with but are still in great demand by enthusiasts of the art. The leafy appearance is extremely eye catching and especially when they turn yellow and red in the fall of the year. They follow their giant cousins in every respect.
These bonsai trees are really an outdoor plant and opinion is always revolving around how much sun is required for these miniatures. I definitely think that partial sun and partial shade is a decent bet with this type of miniature. In the miniature tree form, less water is called for in the winter and care should be taken so the roots do not freeze. This will require moving the plant indoors in the freezing zones. It should be placed in a bright spot in the house and preferably where it will receive some window sunshine through the day.
The summer is a different story when copious watering is required provided there is sufficient draining like with any bonsai tree. A little additional moisture isn't bad for the flowering tree but maples like the soil moist. They can adapt to various styles but the informal upright(shakan) is the best because of the leafy nature and stiff or brittle branches. This can be noted in our photo above. It is possible to train them into the han-kengal(semi cascade) and some others,but you must take extreme precautions in doing so since this bonsai type is prone to splitting the trunk or branches.
The feeding should be conducted once a month. A slow release fertilizer should be used from spring to fall. During summer hot weather,the fertilizing should be tapered off. Again an organic type works well but a 20-20-20 is also a good mix.It would be best to hold off any feeding for a few weeks after repotting.
This maple bonsai will produce sufficient branches and leaves and,of course,the root system tends to grow with addition of more branches and leaves. Pruning,in this case,will be a concerted effort. It will require the pruning of fewer branches and leaves but the root system should be pruned aggressively.
Branch pruning is best done in the fall or winter when there are fewer leaves. This enables you to have the proper visual working area in order to maintain the desired shape of your miniature. Incidentally,maples heal better if a little pruning paste is applied to seal off the wound after removing branches. Again,as in the juniper,pinch back any new growth during the growing season. It is good to remember that you are attempting to maintain a bonsai. A fully leaved tree will resemble a houseplant rather than a miniature.
The wiring phase of most bonsai art is diminshed in the maple and beyond the brittle branches,a good reason for less wiring,is these minatures seem to acquire pleasing designs with leaf and branch pruning without all that extra effort. The other thing to take into account is the ease of scarring.
The repotting should take place every two years. As with the previous specimen a mixture of 60% soil,20% peat and 20% course sand will give the ideal drainage environment. The repotting should be accomplished in early spring,before the tree begins to show signs of budding.
THE WHITE PINE BONSAI
Pine is among the easiest to care for in the miniature world because it is much more tolerant to drying. They adapt well in the pot and just require regular trimming and biannual repotting. In the wild the white pine can attain heights of 50 feet and with trunks that get reach a foot around. They still make stunning miniature trees in this form and lend themselves to the formal upright(chokkan)style. In this style the trunk is straight and rises vertically from the base. The chokkan makes a good starter style for the beginning bonsai grower.
The repotting of these miniatures can be done during the spring but can be postponed until early fall. Make sure when it is time for repotting,that you have provided for good drainage. Pines do tolerate dry spells more than others so please do not over water. A mixture of 50% soil,10% peat and 40% coarse sand will work well with these miniatures.
The pines need a deep pot in order to establish a deep root system. So when repotting, be conservative in root trimming by removing only one-third of the system during repotting. It is common for needles to turn brown and fall off during the summer just like their giant cousins.
The presence of a tumor can be identified as large hemispheres of very dark growth. If there are none,with only a small percentage of the needles being brown,then the condition is normal. You should periodically check for this condition and remove a serious growth if it appears to be growing in size.
Aphids and mealy bugs are your insect enemies here. These are not difficult to control by a commerical or home grown concoction. This would be a slight misting with a diluted dishwashing detergent which will temporarily relieve the problem. The needles should be misted again with plain water a day after this application.
Pines can be watered daily with proper drainage but not as heavily as other miniature trees and if you miss one day it is okay for every other day watering. The feeding should be every two to four weeks from early to late spring and again at the end of summer into early fall.
Well there you have three popular miniature plants to start your career.
THE PROPER BONSAI TOOLS
You know as a hobby grows be it gardening,photography or bonsai it is also possible to purchase additions to your basic equipment. A number of these tools are helpful while others represent unnecessary fluff. Tools do not an artist make the artist uses the tools to improve his or her skills.
However there are essentials to pruning an already existing miniature art as well as to the creation of one from scratch. I guess you will find this kind of interesting but for a miniature tree you need the same essentials as in the giant cousins and pictured above in a tiny style. These would include shears,cutters,tweezers and rakes. These tools will help you to either shape your own creation or keep the shape of a commerically purchased miniature work of art.
If you envision a creation from the ground up,believe it or not it will require paper and a colored pencil or a good design program. This vision should be sculpted using clay so that you can refer to it over the months and years. Now if you do not have the inclination to pursue this avenue,you will still need to have a good set of shears to maintain the shape of your purchased bonsai.
In this case quality counts,poor quality tools will dull quickly and provide poor performance in the maintenance of your minatures. The shears pictured above are a pair specifically made for bonsai work and if you google bonsai tools many suppliers can be found.
Concave cutters are necessary for the shaping. This tool is essential in the removal of branches and produces a concave wound. This type of scar heals faster than a straight cut. It truly works a little miracle because in the end you will not be able to see that branch existed at all where this cut was made.
At some point you will want to wire your bonsai or cut the old wires for reshaping and pruning. The proper wire cutters are essential to the unwinding of wire which may have been in place for months or years and represents a great risk unless the wire is cut off. The cutting of wire requires a certain amount of skill but without the proper wire cutters it is nearly impossible. The wire is wrapped tightly and most times covers a large area of the tree. It requires snipping it off in very small sections without stabbing or snipping the existing trained branch.
A good pair of cutters will be easy to keep sharp and ones that can cut thicker wire without shaking or pushing at the tree which can do considerable damage to the roots.It would be useful if they are the type that the wire can be cut with the tip of the cutter thus avoiding shoving the tool into the plant and damaging another branch.
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