The art of growing bonsai is well adapted to the
urban gardener. These plantings require less water,
less soil, and less square footage. But just because
they’re diminutive, doesn’t mean that they don’t
need great amounts of care and tending. Regular
waterings are the most essential. Tasks such as
repotting and restyling are done when needed, as
well as pruning, training, and shaping. These chores
are not without reward. Because bonsai can recreate
complete landscapes, the impression of grand
natural space exudes from these small displays.
Aesthetics dominate the art of bonsai. Many stringent
rules exist for the purists dedicated to this art. Ancient
standards declare that certain trees are to be grown
in certain shapes and planted into certain pots. But
the modern, creative gardener follows her own path
toward beauty. Just be sure to never lose sight of the
visual appeal and design of your plantings.
The more you learn about bonsai, the more you realize
what you have yet to learn. To properly cultivate a
design could take decades. From the beginning, art
is made and life is growing, but the passage of time is
the core of bonsai. Many experts in the field have been
growing bonsai 50 years or more. This is a simple
primer to help you establish your roots.
1.CH OOSE YOUR TREE
» SOIL MIX, SMALL ROCKS
» SMALL RAKE, FINE SHEARS
» COPPER WIRE
» HEMP TWINE
» FERTILIZER, VARIOUS TYPES AND STRENGTHS
» MOSS, PEBBLES, OTHER PLANTS (OPTIONAL)
Bonsai are often classified into five basic styles
— formal upright, informal upright, slanting,
cascade, and semi-cascade — based on the
overall shape and how much the trunk slants.
You’ll also find dozens of additional styles such
as literati, windswept, and weeping branch,
which you can mix and modify as you see fit.
A good introduction can be found at craftzine.
com/go/bonsai or in Bonsai for Beginners by
Craig Coussins (Sterling Publishing).
Choosing the species of tree to grow is the first, and
possibly most difficult, task. Pines and maples are
perhaps the most recognizable bonsai. These trees
are classic beauties and well suited for miniaturization. Flowering and fruiting trees are popular as well,
especially the quince and pomegranate.
But bonsai trees are not necessarily always trees.
Many shrubs can be grown and manipulated into
bonsai forms that belie their natural state. Wisteria
vines and azaleas can be shaped into thick tree
trunks that they would never produce normally.
The tree can be grown from seed or propagated
through a cutting. The easiest way to begin is to
select a sapling from your favorite nursery (Figure A). A