Give Bonsai a Go
Bonsai Nursery Stock
If you have ever been fascinated by those tiny trees in shallow pots, seen at garden centres and horticultural shows, give them a go, they are deceptively easy to create.
Of course, that statement needs clarification, if you want a specimen tree that is many years old, you will need to devote a lot of money, and many years of care and training to your tree. However, a tree or shrub in a 1-litre pot from a bonsai nursery or the garden centre, with a little bit of care and shaping, can produce an acceptable bonsai in a few years
There are few myths about bonsai that do need clearing up.
Tree is inherent in the word; ‘bonsai tree’ is as wrong as, ‘Sahara desert’.
There is no such thing as indoor bonsai; trees never grow indoors. Some trees growing in shallow pots, or even in the open ground, need protection during the colder months, but all trees need fresh air, rain, and sun; exposure to the weather, in fact.
Bonsai are not special trees, they are normal forest, plains, or mountain trees that have been pruned, trained and cared for in small pots.
There is no such thing as bonsai seed. The packs of seed we see marked as such, are just ordinary tree seeds, although they are a good source of seeds for exotic species: trident maple, Japanese Black Pine, Japanese Grey Bark Elm, etc.
Growing bonsai from seed is the subject of a later Hub, as is, bonsai from cuttings.
A much quicker way than seed is a spring trip to a bonsai nursery, not to buy a ready made tree, unless you are experienced, you are likely to spend a lot of money, not learn anything, and probably kill it. Have a good look at the ‘proper’ bonsai for ideas of style, size and health, and then ask to see their starter material. This will often consist of cuttings and seedlings of trees such as, Japanese Black Pine, Japanese Grey Bark Elm, Chinese Elm, Chinese Juniper, Japanese Larch, Trident Maple, and Japanese Mountain Maple, etc. These trees will have been transplanted and root pruned at least once, they will be growing in good, open compost, and fibrous feeder roots will have formed. They are most often growing in 1-litre pots; although bigger trees are often available, at the moment, stick to this medium size.
When you get your purchase home, don’t be in a hurry to style it, instead, transplant it into a 10-inch diameter clay half pot, or a full sized seed tray, anything where the width is greater than the depth, this will have the effect of making the roots spread and get the tree used to a shallow container. Plant in a mixture of potting compost, sharp sand and aquarium gravel, please, not the coloured stuff, if your pet shop doesn’t have natural, find another pet shop.
If you are not in striking distance of a bonsai nursery, you can find suitable starter material at you local garden centre, or even supermarket, but like seeds and cuttings, it is the subject of a later Hub.
I’ve been growing bonsai for 25 years, with a much longer interest; I’m completely self-taught, learning from the bonsai books by:
Adams, Peter D
Koreshoff, Deborah, R