Learn Bonsai facts, information and how to make a Bonsai. A bonsai is an art form that is very rewarding. If a bonsai is cared for, it will live for many generations. The goal is to produce a mature-looking tree at a fraction of its normal size. This article will give you instructions on how to bonsai, the bonsai tools you need, bonsai sizes and terminology, and types of shrubs and trees to use for your bonsai.
It is important to choose the right bonsai tree. Most small-leaved trees or shrubs such as fir, spruce, pine, maple, yew, cotoneaster, azalea, and pyracantha make good subjects for bonsai. There are many more good specimens to use, but these are the most popular ones.
Starting a Bonsai
Bonsai can be started from seeds, cuttings, young plants, or sometimes even older plants. Strangely shaped nursery-grown plants that are left over at the end of the season can make good bonsai. Nursery plants might already have some of the branch stubs, skinned places on the trunk, and other characteristics desirable in bonsai.
Bonsai Pruning Tools
Careful root pruning and branch and foliage pruning keep normally full-size trees less than 3 ft. tall. Over the centuries, many specialized tools have been developed for bonsai pruniing. These tools have strange names compared to the more familiar landscape pruners. The following are specialized bonsai pruning tools: concave branch cutter, utility bonsai shears, trimming scissors, bud and detail shears, knob cutter, bonsai cut paste, jinning pliers, branch bender, and graver.
Many bonsai resemble ancient seaside trees shaped by strong storms, or timberline trees battered by ice and blowing snow. To achieve these characteristics, special pruning techniques have been developed. Small-leaved trees are used so the leaf size appears in proportion to the small size of the tree. Narrow-leaved evergreens are also a favorite for training because the small scale foliage appears in proportion to the tiny tree.
Creating a bonsai is much like painting a picture. A plan of action should be developed and many decisions must be made. The eventual size of the bonsai is one of the first decisions. Sizw categories have Japanese names. Mame are plants less than 6 inches in height. Ko range in size from 7 to 11 inches. Chui is considered a medium size and is 12 to 24 inches to more than 36 inches. In choosing a size, consider that the plant must be large enough to give the impression of old age yet small enough to be easily moved and worked with.
Steps on How to Bonsai
- During the initial potting of the bonsai, remove soil from the roots and spread out the root system. Determine the position of the tree in the pot and prune back roots so they will not touch the sides of the container. Place the tree in the container, then add soil and firm it over the root system. If some of the roots will be exposed where they attach to the trunk to give a feeling of old age, gradually start the process by removing some soil at the first potting. If the tree is top-heavy and tends to fall over, place some rocks on the surface of the soil for stability.
- Re-pot and root-prune as needed. Only when the roots touch the edge of the container is re-potting necessary. For a young deciduous tree, this may be every two to three years, for older trees every five to six years. Conifers require less frequent repoting-every three to four years for young trees.
- Remove the tree from the container and gently take away some of the outer soil from the root mass. Specialized root cutters work well for larger roots and pruning in soil; gritty soil dulls regular pruners. Prune back the roots so there will be a few inches of room between the root mass and the edge of the container. Replace the tree in the container and add fresh soil. Prune the top growth to keep in proportion to the smaller root mass.
- Pruning bonsai is micromanagement. Fingertips are the first tool to use in pruning. Carefully look at where new growth is developing; if it is not in a desired location, pinch it out. The more twigs and foliage a branch contains, the more diameter it produces. Allowing large amounts of foliage to grow on a thin branch reaches the desired diameter, match the foliage to the tree.
- If removing a larger branch, use concave branch cutters. They leave a small indented cut that reduces scar tissue. Coat the cut with bonsai cut paste; it contains a fungicide and an insecticide to enhance wound closure.
- Prune larger bonsai using knob cutters to remove unsightly knobs from trunks and branches. You ay find it helpful to place a piece of newspaper over a branch to block it from view before removing it. This give a view of the tree as if the branch wasn’t there. The best bonsai result from a clear vision of how the tree should look as it is trained. The vision of a shoreline tree that has been battered by storms usually includes some dead branches. In bonsai these dead branches are called Jin. Use a dull knife to scrape away bark and foliage on branches where Jin are desired. A dull knife will scrape off only the bark and won’t cut the wood.
- Training branches and shoots to a desired shape involves wiring as well as pruning. Copper or anodized aluminum wires are readily available and easy to bend into the desired shape. If the wire is too stiff or too shiny, annealing will make it more pliable and dull the bright finish. To anneal wire, heat it with a propane torch or fame from a gas stove.
- Several sizes of wire are necessary to train different size branches and young shoots. Having wire from 6 gauge through 20 gauge is helpful. Use wire cutter to cut wire; cutting it with pruning shears will ruin the shears. Larger branches require larger-size wire (smaller gauge number). Start by wrapping the wire around the trunk, then out onto the branch, wrapping just the branch is difficult. Without wrapping around the trunk to start, the angle of the branch to the trunk cannot be changed. Avoid crushing buds or small shoots under the wire.
- Gently bend the wire and branch to the desired shape. Leve the wire on during the growing season, or for at least three to four months. Train large, difficult-to-bend branches using a special branch-bending tool. Use tweezers for delicate work, such as removing evergreen needles or small buds.
- Wrapping the wire around branches and trunks is not always necessary. If a branch needs only a gentle bend, bend a hook in each end of a wire, then hook one end around the branch and the other end to the pot or some other object. Or wrap a wire around a rock and bend a hook into the other end of the wire; place the hook around the branch and use the weight of the rock to bend the branch downward.
*Tip- Plants grown in the home as bonsai must be tropical or subtropical in origin. Ones from temperate zones require winter dormancy.
Bonsai supplies that are available: Bonsai Tools, Bonsai Pots, Bonsai Trees and Seeds, Bonsai Soil Mixes, Bonsai Books and much more.