Hi friends, I want to introduce you to one of the greatest forms of art in gardening from the East. It is the well renowned ancient Japanese art of Bonsai. It literally means “planted in a container,” but the practice of Bonsai is so much more than that. Yes, the practice revolves mainly manipulating a small Bonsai tree through the way it is potted, pruned, structurally manipulated through wiring, and defoliated. However, there is something absolutely mystical about this when practiced.
Part of the appeal is the fact that these small and delicate trees can last for several hundreds of years with proper care and treatment. They may live to see the world grow and change, long after you’re gone. There is something mysterious and wonderful about the fact that the plant you cared for may continue on and look after your loved ones. It is one unique way to continue your legacy. Also, you may come to love your Bonsai tree as if it were an extension of yourself. It is tranquil, serene, and holds no judgment for your sins.
Some people find no better haven than intricately and delicately working on their Bonsai tree. Another great reason people become interested in Bonsai trees is the fact that maintaining proper care does not cost a lot of money. The tools and supplies are typically very affordable. Of course, there are a few things to know before starting this potentially lifelong expedition of managing your Bonsai tree. First, I’ll spend some time introducing the different types and features, then talk about the tools you will need, and lastly, how to take care of your Bonsai tree.
There are several different kinds of Bonsai trees, which are branched further into sub-species. To name a few, you have your Beech Trees, Junipers, Japanese Maples, Pomegranate Trees, and many more. My personal favorites would have to be the Juniper and Pomegranate Trees for their eloquence, but a beginner may be better suited with a Boxwood. Boxwoods are much easier to care for because they are very adaptable to most weather climates, except the extreme cold. They tend to look a bit wider, but many people like this look and it really is just a matter of preference.
Aside from the species, there are also distinctive features per Bonsai tree, such as the trunk and bark surface, trunk orientation, and root status. There are Bonsai trees that look like any outdoor tree (except much smaller of course), and nebikans, which have a twisted trunk. Nebikans have a very exotic look that some Bonsai enthusiasts absolutely love.
When it comes to root status, you may encounter some Bonsai trees that are planted on top of a rock. If you look closely, however, you’ll notice the roots still go into the soil because ultimately, the nutrients are still pulled from the soil. Many people like this look, and it is not too difficult to reproduce.
You need a rock that can hold a good amount of moisture, such as scoria. Then, you need a Bonsai tree that has strong, adaptable roots, such as a Chinese Elm or English Elm.
You then prune the roots to fit on top of the rock (try not to cut off too many roots because it will take longer for your tree to recover), tape it over the rock or shrink wrap around the roots over the rock and tape it down, and then finally, re-pot the tree with at least the bottom of the roots in the soil, making sure to spray regularly with water.
Tools to maintain a healthy Bonsai Tree.
With any kind of gardening, you need to be sure to have the proper equipment and supplies. With Bonsai trees specifically, there are a lot of different sets of tools depending on your experience level. For the beginner, only two tools are needed. These are the concave cutter and the standard shear. As you develop your skill with working with Bonsai trees, you can practice with other tools that are more specified to your tree.
A concave cutter is typically needed for cutting branches that are flush with the trunk of your tree. They have a rounded blade, which is designed to leave behind a hollow cut in your Bonsai tree. These wounds heal much better, helping to eliminate the chances of scarring when you need to eliminate a rather large and pesky branch. Concave cutters come in multiple shapes and sizes (such as those with straight blades, knobs for deeper cuts, and semi-round blades), so be sure that you are buying one that fits your needs.
Shears also come in multiple shapes and sizes. They are typically used for cutting thinner parts of the tree, such as branches, leaves, or roots. They also are
used for trimming buds and thinning out certain parts of your tree. If you plan on getting multiple shears, make sure that you have ones that serve different functions. You have your standard shears, your long-slim twig shears for reaching the difficult twigs or working on a canopy, and many more. It is recommended that a beginner starts with at least the standard and long-slim twig shears.
The last thing that you should really know before getting started is how to take care of your Bonsai tree. Trees need mainly three things: water/humidity, sunlight, and nutrients/oxygen in their soil. When it comes to watering your tree, one thing you must understand is that every tree is different, and because of this, you must be really careful to water your plant with as much water as it needs, no more and no less. Too little water will dehydrate your tree, and too much will essentially drown it.
Also, be sure you are using the right kind of water. I have seen people pour their leftover coffee on their plants, which is never a good idea. I recommend for your Bonsai tree to use rainwater, tap water, or distilled water with a cal-mag supplementation.
Please keep in mind that distilled water is usually at a pH level of a neutral 7, and most trees prefer a lower pH level. Your Bonsai tree should also have a fairly high amount of humidity, so if you have an indoor Bonsai, I would recommend getting a humidifier. With sunlight, you first need to determine what kind of Bonsai tree you have, an indoor or outdoor tree. For most outdoor Bonsai, I recommend keeping it in direct sunlight but protected from the wind. If it is an indoor Bonsai, it should also be in direct sunlight, with a fairly constant temperature.
Lastly, with the soil, you must be sure to keep it oxygenated. Did you know that approximately 98% of the oxygen a plant uses comes from the soil and not the air? First, please make sure that your pot is big enough for the roots of your tree. If your tree outgrows the container it is planted in, then be sure to report it in a better-suited container as soon as possible. The best tip for the soil I can give is making sure your soil has plenty of porous materials and is water absorbent.
A good soil will be mixed with several different items, such as lava, bark, tree leaf mold, and so on. If your leaves are turning yellow, but you’re watering them the right amount, chances are that your tree is not oxygenating correctly. Make sure the soil is not too compacted and that there is drainage at the bottom for the water to come out of.
That’s all I have! I sincerely hope you give the art of Bonsai a chance. It is a great thing to get lost in, and can teach you many lessons if you let it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my passion with you, and I hope that this will provide you with a good foundational knowledge of taking care of a Bonsai tree.