The Bonsai: a Long History
The art of Bonsai first appeared in Egypt 4,000 years ago, before being developed in China, and then codified in Japan. This art that crossed the planet only came to Europe as late as 1878.
According to evidence from the time of the Pharaohs, growing plants in pots began on the banks of the Nile around 4,000 years ago. The technique was invented to allow for the transport of plants. Later, the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Indians used this technique for the same reason. Growing for aesthetic purposes was invented by the Chinese at the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC. to 220 AD.). At the time, the technique involved recreating a landscape in a large bowl. The first single trees grown in a pot appeared during the Qin Dynasty (220 to 581 AD.).
The codified structure of today’s Bonsaï was created in Japan. The art of growing Bonsaï most likely crossed the sea from China with the arrival of Buddhist monks who came to preach their beliefs in the 6th. and 7th. Centuries. Documents confirm that it took several centuries before the Japanese adopted this art.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1279 to 1386 AD.), Japanese politicians and merchants brought these trees back from China and the first full collection was brought back by the Chinese civil servant Chu Shun-sui when he was sent into exile in 1644. This passionate Bonsaï grower fled the Mandchou rule and initiated a few Japanese in the art of Bonsaï to while away his time in exile.
A privileged few continued to follow his teachings over several centuries. Only the dominant, feudal, and religious classes mastered the art, which really became popular after the first national exhibition of Bonsaï in Tokyo in 1914. It wasn’t until 1934 that it became officially recognized as an art form in Japan.
The first Bonsaï exposed in Europe was shown at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. Documents from this time show that these Bonsaï were totally different than the ones we know today. Today’s codification dates from the 1950s.
The Americans imported many specimens from Japan during the Second World War. Bonsaï was introduced to Europe from 1965 on, mainly coming through Germany and the Netherlands. They only became popular in France in the 1980s.
The Different Species of Bonsai
Although all trees, or almost all, can be developed as bonsaï, some species are more suited than others.
In theory, there are no trees specifically grown by bonsaï lovers, but varieties with small leaves, flowers, and bonsai fruit trees are usually preferred. Among these, there are three main categories.
Rustic species are preferred for growing outdoors. The most common of these are the Japanese white pine, the trident maple, the field maple, the alder, the European barberry, the box tree, the common hornbeam, the cedar, the Cyprus and false Cyprus, the hawthorn, the spindle, the ash, the ginkgo, the Japanese holly tree, the juniper tree, the crape myrtle, the larch, the Common Privat, the American Sweetgum, the honeysuckle, the crab apple tree, the redwood tree, the olive tree, the vine, the pine, the cinquefoil, the Chinese quince, the firethorn tree, the pomegranate, the English and the cork oak, the yew, the Chinese, Siberian, caucasian or small-leaved elm, the wisteria, and the Japanese zelkova.
Read More: The Novice Gardener’s Guide To Tree Care
The Orange Grove Species
Like their rustic cousins, the orange grove species need to be protected from severe winter frost. The most common of these is the Bougainvillea, the sacred bamboo tree, the snow rose, or the rhododendron.
The more fragile species, especially tropical tres, must be kept in a warm place, with a temperature not exceeding 10°C… The most common of these are the Jade plant, the Carmona, the tropical fig tree, and other varieties of fig.
As every species has different needs, it is highly recommended to ask the advice of specialists concerning the treatment of these trees. The main differences of treatment concern the proportion and frequency of watering, the amount of exposure to the sun, and their resistance to frost.
Local rustic species generally tolerate severe frost if the pot is sufficiently protected from this. Tropical species commonly sold are logically more fragile. They need to be kept in a cool place in winter, which must also have plenty of sunlight and a stable humidity level. If you don’t have a place like this (a veranda, a glass roof, a greenhouse) it is advised to grow outdoor rustic bonsais.
The Bonsai: Strictly Codified Styles
Considered as an art form in Japan, bonsai growing follows very formal aesthetic codes. Imagination is only tolerated after the fundamentals of art have been fully assimilated.
For the purists, a perfect mastering of the art of bonsai growing can only be achieved after having assimilated all the ‘compulsory figures’ of the traditional styles. These highly codified styles follow very strict aesthetic imperatives which represent forms of trees found growing in the open.
A bonsai is not just a carbon copy of a normal tree – it should also be a reminder of the power of the tree. The most beautiful specimens must possess the essence of a normal tree in miniature. Although most bonsai come in many styles, there are three main categories.
Bonsais With a Single Trunk
These are the ones most appreciated by the purists as they are the most difficult to grow. The trunk may be perfectly straight (Chokkan), it may have some curves (Tachiki), it may be leaning over as if it was bent by the wind (Shakan and Fukinagashi), it may be cascading as if it was growing on the side of a mountain (Kengai), in half-cascade (Han-Kengai), it may be twisting (Bankan), it may be bare and topped with masses of leaves like a pine (Bunjinji), it may have the shape of a brush (Hôkidachi), it may be split and devastated (Sabamiki), or sinuous (Takozukuri), etc…
Bonsais With Multiple Trunks
Each style has a specific name according to the number of trunks it possesses :
Sokan (2 trunks), Sankan (3 trunks), Gokan (5 trunks), Nanakan (7 trunks), Kyukan (9 trunks), and Tsukami-Yose (more than 9 trunks). Specificities complete the codification of every specimen. Trunks grouped on a single root are classed as Kabudachi, those on a stump with the form of a tortoiseshell are classed as Kôrabuki, trucks growing out of a sinuous root are classed as Nestsunagari, and trees lying down carrying new trunks with their branches are classed as Ikadabuki.
Bonsaïs Planted in Groups
The same pot contains several trees in order to recreate a landscape. The style carries a specific name according to the number of trees: Soju (2 trees), Sambon Yose (3 trees), Gohon Yose (5 trees), Nanahon Yose (7 trees), Kyuhon Yose (9 trees), and Yose-ue (more than 9 trees).
Other Classifications for Other Styles of Bonsais
Apart from the classification by style, there also exists a classification by size. Small bonsai (from 5 to 15cms.) are called Mame or Shôhin, medium-sized bonsai ( from 15 to 60 cms.)are called Kotate-mochi or Komono up to 30 cms. and Chumono up to 60 cms., and big bonsai (from 60cms. to 120 cms. or more) are called Ömono.
Leaving a Bonsai Tree in your Indoor Home
Many beginners learn the hard way – leaving a bonsai unattended for several days will kill it. This demand for constant attention explains why bonsai growers are so passionate and patient. Indeed, the art of growing Bonsai requires many years of practice before being fully mastered. Growing the “perfect” bonsai demands great patience.
This art is recommended for gardeners with a ‘zen’ attitude! It is highly recommended to learn the technique and the know-how from confirmed, specialist growers. The oldest recorded bonsai is a Japanese white pine that dates from the year 1500. It can be seen in the Tagagi Bonsai Museum in Tokyo.
How to Grow a Bonsai Tree
Growing Bonsai Tree is an interesting art that assumes the form of a hobby and a professional business. Bonsai tree growing has been practiced from ancient times and still continues to be a major hobby with many people across the world. Growing a bonsai is a technique, an art, and a passion.
It is a skill that needs a lot of practice and patience. Bonsai growing has certain definitive rules and set procedures. Growing a bonsai tree is not in fact as discouraging as you may have been thinking. When you use the right techniques and exercise the right precautions you are bound to get a beautiful bonsai tree.
The birth of the bonsai starts from the stage when the tree seeds have been laid. These seeds are given water, sunlight, fertilizers and grow up to be a shrub and then a plant. This is the right time to put some restrictions on the plant. In case you are selecting one from your neighborhood nursery, a bonsai with a not-so-thick trunk at the base can be a handy one. You may also select the variety that you wish to grow in your garden or indoors.
There are many options like the silky oak and the she-oak bonsai, the fig bonsai variety, apple bonsai, citrus bonsai, etc. These varieties and species can be extensive and can be chosen from before adaptation. You don’t need to settle with whatever the nursery has. You can explore and get varieties.
Once this is decided, you need to offer some sunlight to the bonsai tree in order to allow the bonsai plant to grow up healthy. On warm days, it is advised to keep the bonsai plant in shade and restrict it from being exposed to the biting afternoon heat. In case you have your bonsai indoors, you need to keep it in natural light for about 4-5 hours. In case you are not in a position to do this, you can use indoor specialized plant beams.
The pot needs to be selective. There are various colorful and aesthetic pots that can match the requirements of your tree. Bonsai is after all an art and a matching pot can taker the art forward. You also need to offer a good mixture of soil with the necessary manure and ingredients so that the plant can grow in the healthiest of conditions. Fertilizers also need to be added to the pot and liquid fertilizers are a good option for indoor bonsais as watering is important to prevent drying up.
Watering is indeed the most important aspect of a bonsai. Bonsai varieties are so wide that watering is a crucial element for them. One bonsai variety can live long in desert conditions and the other variables can get unhealthy if the soil dries up a bit around it. Underwatering and overwatering are also crucial aspects of these kinds of bonsai trees.
Once these things are ensured, you can bring a wire and some pruning tools in order to trim and groom the tree in an artistic manner. Pebbles are also used for decoration. Various designs can also be crafted on the Bonsai branches and trees. You can test your artistic instincts and grow your bonsai into a perfect one this way.
Bonsai Tree Planting
Bonsai planting is a challenging as well as an interesting art. Bonsai planting has been in limelight from the early Chinese and Japanese civilizations and has today, become an organized activity across the world. Bonsai planting has become famous around the world due to rapid globalization. Bonsai planting is a hobbyhorse for many people around the world and also assumes a form of a popularly practiced art in horticulture.
The expression and creativity of an artist come out through the Bonsai tree planting that he/she does, and how aesthetic he/she makes them. Bonsai planting is an awesome hobby, job, and art and has a set of techniques and precautions in order that it blooms into a fully developed bonsai plant, with a beautiful image. Thus, bonsai planting is possible through the exhibition of the right skills.
What Bonsai Variety Can I ¨Plant?
Bonsai planting is done through the sowing of tree seeds that are available in the market. Even before this step is taken, bonsai planting needs a specific background informational check-up to put your efforts and investments on your favorite bonsai variety. You can choose from different fruit varieties like apple, cherry, orange, pomegranate, lemon, etc. then there are other varieties of bonsai trees like juniper bonsai tree and oak bonsai. You need to ascertain if the tree seeds are suited for your area temperature.
In case you want an apple bonsai, you need to grow it in a hilly area. A citrus bonsai will not respond positively to hill temperatures but needs a moderate plain temperature. Once you are decided on this, you can look for the respective tree seeds from a nursery or the internet as well.
Sowing the Tree Bonsai Seeds
The tree seeds must be planted in a pot suitable for the future of the tree. In case the specific variety of bonsai trees has a thin trunk, the pot needs to be a narrow one and vice versa. A proper drainage system must also be provided for the pot and a manured soil must be placed into the pot. Conditions for planting like sunlight, water, minerals, etc must be provided to the plantation that you have done.
In case you have chosen an indoor bonsai tree, you must bring it to the sunshade at least for 4-6 hours a day. Artificial indoor lights can help when manual work is not possible. The growth stage needs that the bonsai tree to be placed in the sun. one must be careful of overwatering and under-watering for bonsai varieties. The plant will suffer if not properly cared for.
Bonsai Plant Pruning
Pruning of a few roots must be done occasionally and unwanted branches can be trimmed. A farmer’s knife, wiring material, trimming shears, root rake, and bonsai wire cutters may help in the proper designing and maintenance of the plant.
Hence, bonsai planting is a daunting yet interesting art, especially when the final plant is out in the open for everyone to see and enjoy.
Bonsai Tree Care Instructions
Bonsai care is necessary for the plant to grow in healthy conditions and to keep healthy. Bonsai tree needs care like all the healthy and long-living trees. You need to remember that the most aesthetic Bonsai trees are offered the right amount of care by the owners. Bonsai care starts from the time when the shrub stage itself. If the right care is not provided to the Bonsai tree it will grow up like any other tree.
You will not be able to differentiate your tree from the other variety of normal trees. Hence, Bonsai tree care is essential and includes certain specialized faces in which care can be taken. Here are general and indispensable bonsai care elements.
First of all, whether you are placing your tree indoors or outdoors, the Bonsai tree needs enough sunlight in order to grow healthy. The bonsai tree needs to be put in the sunlight for a few hours in case you possess an indoor bonsai tree. The time period ranges between 3-5 hours, every morning. You must pick up the tree from the sunlight and put it back indoors before the tree is overexposed to sunlight, especially the hot afternoon beams. You may also prefer indoor substitutes of light that are available in the marketplace.
They can be appropriate and comfortable for you. If your bonsai tree is placed outdoors, you must look for the right place, with a blend of shade and light to avoid overexposure of the tree to the scorching sun rays, especially in the summer months. This can be the first step in daily Bonsai care.
Experts and knowledgeable bonsai owners adopt a scheduled system for bonsai watering. You need to water the bonsai regularly based on the variety of bonsai you possess. Expert bonsai owners water the bonsai tree at frequent intervals when they notice the soil area drying up. They don’t wait till the soil completely becomes dry. Traditional Japanese people also submerge the plant up to the lowest branches in tap water, in order to provide refreshing conditions to the roots of the bonsai tree. This is done once a week or a couple of times a month.
POT AND FERTILIZERS
The right pot must be used for the Bonsai tree. The pot needs to be narrow in case the bonsai tree has a thick trunk. The pot needs to be of the right color, shape, size, and make in order to provide the best conditions and aestheticism to the bonsai tree. The right fertilizers need to be used inside the pot. The pot needs to have a drainage system for water and must be checked in order to prevent bacteria and insects at the drainage hole. Re-potting is also popular as the tree grows.
PRUNING AND FARMERS TOOLS
Pruning of the heavy branches and roots needs to be done occasionally in order to keep the tree healthy. A wire, cutting tools, pebbles, and few other things can make the tree aesthetic.
Buying A Bonsai Tree
The training and shaping of bonsai trees is a hobby for many people, so looking for a good bonsai tree for sale is the first important start. Their different characteristics, their uniqueness, and the constant and delicate care needed for them make them an interesting choice for passionate hobbyists. An attempt to start caring for bonsai trees may turn into an overwhelming experience for many.
This is more so as with over 100 different species of bonsai known, many of which are meant to be grown indoors, knowing the specific requirements of a particular type of bonsai tree could be a challenging experience. Hence, the best way to start growing these plants is to buy a ready-made tree from any bonsai shop or else buy online. One will find many commercial bonsai growers, plant nurseries, and garden centers that are experts in the art of creating bonsai trees.
It must be noted that with the right care, any small tree could be turned into a bonsai tree. In addition, there are many different shapes available that one can choose as their preferred bonsai. Most of these trees are pre-trained and it would be wiser to leave buying a seedling and training them should be left to advanced growers. This is because the chance of growing a bonsai from seed is bleak without the required knowledge.
Another important consideration is the placement of the bonsai. It should be noted that plants of bonsai trees need a good amount of light, air circulation, and the right level of moisture. Hence there is a need to have special plant lights, the right humidity in your home to grow bonsai trees.
Things to Consider When Buying a Bonsai Tree
A good place to buy bonsai trees is at large garden centers where the trees are priced low. However, it is best to check the quality of buying. One can also buy these trees at the many online shops that sell such trees, though the cost could be slightly higher due to shipping charges. However one can definitely look into this option of purchase to begin.
Some Basic Advice When Buying Bonsai Trees:
- Go for a species of tree that need less maintenance. An easy-to-care type of tree is a great way to get started.
- Select your tree depending on where you want to put it; if it is for indoors, select the indoor (sub-tropical) trees, whereas for the outdoor, go for the outdoor types.
- Have a good understanding of your species of tree; it will help you take the right care needed for it.
- Check that there is no damage done to the pot of the tree.
Buying a Bonsai Tree Online
A good thing about purchasing a bonsai tree on the internet is the ease of selecting them in the privacy of your home and have these shipped directly to your home. A variety of bonsai trees are found at online shops stores and they also sell tools and accessories required for care and maintenance of these trees like potting soil, tools, and pots.
However, before you purchase online, you should read the available feedback of other sellers who have previously purchased from these online stores. Make sure that the right shipment method is followed so that it survives the trip.