Bonsai Trees

Bonsai Trees

In today’s hectic world, it can often feel that we are being pulled in every direction. Minutes, hours, and days pass by in the blink of an eye. Lost in the mundane tasks of everyday existence, it is sometimes difficult to feel a true sense of achievement. Technological advances have also lead us towards impatience. We want it, and we want it now! When everything seems to happen so quickly, feeling like you have little to no control over them is quite understandable.

Although many great things have come from the technological advances, there is still much that we can learn by way of tradition. After all, if we cannot learn from the past, we may be doomed to repeat it.

Bonsai trees, which are (to offer the most basic definition) tiny trees, have been enlightening people for centuries, bringing harmony and deep satisfaction to cultivators’ lives in return for their investment of time and nurture. Bonsai is a tranquil and delicate art that must be approached with diligence. In the art of Bonsai, growth is a never-ending process that has no shortcuts. This is just one of the many teachings that the process of cultivating a Bonsai tree that you can apply to your life.

It may seem bizarre that a little tree could really help you obtain peace in your life, but Bonsai is a tried-and-true teacher of many important life lessons. Even if you are resistant to learning these life lessons, Bonsai trees are still great to look at!


Significance & History of Bonsai Trees


The art of Bonsai dates back to 600 A.D., although some experts suggest that it may even be much older than that. Pronounced “bone-sigh,” the word Bonsai is comprised of two Japanese characters: “Bon,” meaning tray, and “sai,” meaning plant. Literally, Bonsai translates to tray plant. While “tray plant” may be an accurate description of what many people think of when they picture Bonsai trees, it is but a compressed representation of the different styles of Bonsai trees.

Although Bonsai is typically thought of as a Japanese practice, its roots actually extend to China. Long ago, Buddhist monks in China sought a way to bring the tranquility of nature and the outdoors into their temples.Traditionally, miniaturization as a science was quite popular in Chinese culture. It was believed that miniature objects were concentrated sources of mystical and magical powers.

Traditionally, miniaturization as a science was quite popular in Chinese culture. It was believed that miniature objects were concentrated sources of mystical and magical powers.

Called Pensai in Chinese, Bonsai grew as an art in China and eventually spread to Japan and Korea. Today, the Bonsai culture is alive and well. After World War II, most bonsai trees seen in the United States or Europe have Japanese origins. Bonsai trees of Japanese origin appear more refined and are generally more well-groomed than the Chinese variant, which may appear crude to the untrained eye. Both of these styles have their own unique histories and draws.
The aesthetic appeal of Bonsai trees is only the beginning of the list of ways they can improve your quality of life. Throughout their storied history, Bonsai trees have come to signify harmony, peace, order, balance, and a connection to nature. In 1976, the country of Japan gifted 53 magnificently curated Bonsai trees to the United States in celebration of America’s bicentennial. These significant Bonsai trees are on display to this day at the United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. The Nation Arboretum receives over 200,000 visitors annually, including many foreign dignitaries. The beauty and grace of Bonsai trees are universally undisputed.

The study of Bonsai most certainly yields a much higher reward than increased botanical knowledge. Over thousands of years, the art of Bonsai has been pursued meticulously by those who realize how much there is to be learned. The passion ignited by Bonsai has been shared worldwide and continues to grow, just like the Bonsai trees themselves.

Bonsai Tree Care for Beginners—Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever admired other people’s plants and gardens and wondered: How do they manage to get their plants looking so beautiful and flourishing? Wonder no more—in this blog, we’ll show you how to easily care for a bonsai tree.



“The more you learn about the art, the more interesting the bonsai can be—many find the art of bonsai very meditative and great
for stress-reduction.”
Megan Matanzo,
ProFlowers Director

of Merchandise 

 

The bonsai is a delightful and fun plant to have around the home or office. Though it does need proper care and attention, don’t let that intimidate you. ProFlowers Merchandising Product Designer Nikki Kinowski says, “Our juniper bonsai (outdoor option) and our golden gate ficus (indoor option) are the most forgiving options for beginners.” ProFlowers also offers a kit just for beginners, which includes an outdoor juniper bonsai, a humidity tray and pebbles,

an instruction booklet and a pair of bonsai clippers.

 

Here are some tips on how to care for your bonsai:

Water your bonsai!

You may think this is a no-brainer, but the bonsai has very specific watering requirements. Approximately once a week or so (when the topsoil feels completely dry) immerse the entire bonsai plant in a bucket or basin of water. Once the air bubbles have risen to the top, the bonsai has absorbed enough water.

Humidity is also an important consideration for the health of the bonsai. All ProFlowers bonsais come with humidity trays and bag of pebbles. The humidity tray is unwrapped by the recipient, covered with the provided pebbles, and then the pebbles are covered with a little water. This will increase the humidity level for the tree, in addition to protecting the desk or table surface on which it is placed.

 

Where to put the bonsai
The bonsai brings a natural and peaceful feel to any living space. Since it’s not technically a plant, but a tree, it makes a unique and enchanting addition to a room or outdoor space. Just make sure it gets plenty of direct sunlight, so place it either outside or indoors near a window.

Since the bonsai is known for its tranquility, we like the idea of placing it in an office space. Dad or a coworker would love a bonsai to spruce up their workplace. According to ProFlowers Director of Merchandise, Megan Matanzo, “The jade bonsai is a fairly easy indoor bonsai choice,

and does well in an office environment.”

 

Prune your bonsai
First, take a deep breath. One of the greatest attractions of a bonsai is the calming effect of simply trimming this miniature tree. The goal with pruning is to maintain its shape as it grows. Plus, cleaning up the top growth ensures growth elsewhere on the plant.

Use bonsai clippers (not scissors!) to remove any dead branches. Then decide which branches to trim in order to maintain the desired design. Bonsai pruning is considered an art form, which is why this little tree makes such a great gift for creative friends. Matanzo says, “The more you learn about the art, the more interesting the bonsai can be—many find the art of bonsai very meditative and great for stress-reduction.”

 

The right bonsai soil
Not just any soil will do for your bonsai. The goal is to find a soil that drains quickly, but still manages to retain its water. It also needs to contain small particles to ensure proper aeration, allowing oxygen to reach the roots. Luckily, we’ve done some research for you!

There are specialty soils on the market made just for bonsais (the easy route), or you can mix your own (if you’re feeling ambitious). It is also imperative to add fertilizer to your soil during growth season (typically early spring to mid fall).

 

Connect with other bonsai enthusiasts
Find other plant and bonsai lovers in your community to learn more tricks and tips. Go to your local botanical garden or nursery and sign up for a class. This is a fun way to meet new people and also perhaps pick up a new and exciting hobby.

 

Looking for a great gift for Dad this Father’s Day? Or perhaps you want to treat a good friend to a unique and relaxing gift. The bonsai is unique, beautiful and something to be cherished for a long time with proper care—our smallest bonsai is likely five years old and the larger ones can easily be 10 to 20 years old! Check out more care tips and get started shopping for just the right bonsai tree for someone special, or for yours

Introduction to Bonsai Trees

There’s definitely something magical about Bonsai trees.

Able to live for decades at a time (and in some instances centuries), Bonsai trees are traditionally meant to represent nature.

Bonsai trees are miniature living trees grown in pots by gardeners. Bonsai is a Japanese word meaning a potted tree or plant, and the Bonsai practice of Japan is all about re-creating the varied landscapes of nature on a smaller scale.

Bonsai trees are not genetically different from regular trees; they are bred and cultivated to reach maturity without getting large, through practices like pruning, utilizing metal wires, and regulating their intake of water and fertilizer. Aside from keeping a Bonsai tree healthy, growers of Bonsai often like to design and craft their trees into artistically planned shapes. Wires are used to guide the weak baby branches into desired forms, and it’s even advisable to advance the wire at a 45-degree angle from the direction of the branch. There are also more advanced techniques involving branch cutting, and trunk tapering, to help you avoid ending up with a thick Bonsai trunk, which looks like it was clumsily lopped off. The point of Bonsai is to create miniature trees that look like real full-sized trees and to connect that tree to the fact that trees themselves are an entire ecosystem unto themselves. Many kinds of species and varieties of life can live in and on a tree– from woodpeckers to squirrels, to termites and bees, and so on. Trees are nature, and Bonsai is about bringing little bits of nature into our own individual spaces and gardens. 

Coniferous Bonsai Species

Almost any conifer species can be grown as a bonsai. The cedar, taxus, juniper and pine families all have many subspecies and varieties to choose from. Japanese black pine, Shimpaku juniper, cypress, white cedar, spruce, Japanese white pine and larch are among the most beautiful when trained as bonsai.

Some species are more challenging than others. Pines are the most difficult because the growth pattern of their needles is much different than that of other conifers. They make beautiful bonsai but their structure must be carefully studied before training or pruning begins.

Japanese Black Pine

In the wild, this tree can grow to 40 feet or more. As a bonsai, its graceful, irregular shape is pyramidal. This is the most difficult of trees to train and is very slow to grow.

Shimpaku Juniper

The tender foliage of this conifer is easy to work with. Despite its flexible branches and soft look, Shimpaku can withstand extremes of heat and cold.

Cypress

Cypress trunks have a beautiful, weathered look and can be curved and trained over time. This bonsai tree is excellent when planted alone or in groups.

White Cedar

This tree is also excellent for planting in groups. It is especially popular with those who practice deadwood techniques. The wood and foliage of white cedar are highly aromatic.

Spruce

Like most conifers with needles, spruce is difficult to train as bonsai but well worth the extra effort. Its small needles are prized by experienced enthusiasts.

Japanese White Pine

A striking, pyramidal shape makes white pine a dramatic bonsai subject. Its needles are a paler green that Japanese black pine with a grayish, cloudy cast. Its foliage is extremely dense.

Larch

Larch is the only deciduous tree in this list. Bright autumnal color followed by a dormant, defoliated period make this type of bonsai endlessly interesting to study.

Potting & Repotting

Soil for coniferous bonsai should be 70 percent organic material and 30 percent grit, allowing it to drain well while providing adequate nutrients. Bonsai soil can be bought premixed at garden centers to ensure the correct ratio.

Spring is the season for repotting coniferous bonsai. Watch for new buds to appear. After removing the tree from its old pot, examine the roots for signs of coiling or compression. If this is the case, trim the roots lightly to free them and stimulate new growth. After root pruning, fill a slightly larger pot with soil and transfer the tree.

Repot young conifers every year to keep the soil fresh and full of nutrients. For older trees, repotting every other year should suffice. As the tree grows, use slightly larger pots to accommodate the growing root system.

Growing Conditions

Like most evergreens, conifers are winter-hardy and require periods of cold weather. Bonsai conifers are no exception, so do not try to grow them indoors. Conifers prefer full sun to partial shade, with plenty of water and humidity during the spring, summer and fall. At the end of growing season, it is common to see a few yellowed or dead needles. Simply brush them away as they occur, and remove dead needles from the surface soil in the pot before winter.

Coniferous bonsai may be kept slightly drier during the dormant season. In spring, when bright green buds appear at the branch tips, a light application of NPK fertilizer will help get the growing season underway. The buds will gradually become longer and taller, and are called “candles.”

Design & Shape

The best bonsai trees are those grown in a natural, flowing shape. Study the shape of a mature example of the species, noting its structure, number of branches and the vigor of its foliage. Most conifers have a pyramidal, conical form.

Of the infinite number of bonsai styles, conifers lend themselves best to the formal and informal upright styles. They may also be pruned in a dramatic slant or trained to cascade over the sides of the pot like a waterfall. No matter which style is chosen, remember that what is taken away will not regrow for months, if ever. This initial period of planning and study is extremely important.

Pruning & Training

Once the desired shape is visualized, it is time to prune the bonsai. Aggressive branch pruning should be done in late autumn and early winter when the tree is dormant. Leave a small stub when cutting branches close to the trunk so that new growth can invigorate the inner areas of the tree. Pinch off buds in spring with fingertips to stimulate thicker growth at the branch ends. A month later, clip off candles with sharp pruning scissors to control vertical growth.

Wiring coniferous bonsai is a technique that directs the tree’s vigor horizontally or downward, producing a dramatic effect. Anchor one end of the wire in the pot and wrap the other end around the branch or trunk with enough tension to move the branch slightly. Over time, increase the tension to achieve the desired angle of growth. Done gradually, wiring does not inhibit growth, merely directs it.

Never shear a bonsai to achieve shape. Doing so will result in browning of foliage tips, damage to needle groups and overall poor growth. It can even kill a young bonsai.

Pruning and training are the most challenging parts of bonsai. It is easy to make the mistake of doing too much rather than too little. The tendency to pinch buds at the ends of branches can result in an undesirable “poodle” look. Conversely, removing too many branches or too much foliage can damage the tree’s vitality. A conservative approach is often the most successful.

Deciduous Bonsai Species

There are two main groups of bonsai trees: indoor and outdoor. Indoor bonsai trees tend to be tropical or subtropical species. Outdoor bonsai trees include two groups: evergreen trees and deciduous bonsai trees.

Both deciduous bonsais and evergreen bonsais enter a dormancy period during the winter months. During this dormancy period neither type of bonsai can be indoors. They must be kept outside in cold weather in order to facilitate the dormancy period. Unlike Evergreens, which keep their leaves all year round, deciduous trees lose their leaves during the winter months. The term “deciduous” actually means, “falling off at maturity”.

Types Of Deciduous Bonsai Trees

Four of the most popular deciduous bonsai trees include Elms, Maples, Ginkgos, and Apricot trees.

Elms

Out of the many species of Elm used for Bonsai trees, the Chinese Elm is one of the most popular. At normal growth it can reach up to sixty feet high. If kept indoors it tends to keep most of its leaves. It only becomes deciduous when it is taken outside. This is a good bonsai for beginners because its growth pattern is predictable and it is very forgiving when it comes to pruning.

Maples

Maple bonsais are also great for beginners. They tend to be sturdy and easy to care for, and on top of that the color changes of their leaves are beautiful, turning to vivid reds and golds throughout the seasons. There are many different species of Maple. The two most common Maples used for bonsais are the Japanese Maple and the Trident Maple.

Ginkgos

The Ginkgo tree is native to Japan where its fruit is most commonly thought to improve health and memory. The leaves are fan shaped and turn a stunning yellow in the fall season. Its lifespan can be as long as a hundred years and as a bonsai it can grow up to sixteen inches tall.

Apricot

The Apricot bonsai hails from China where it is grown and maintained for the beauty of its flowers as well as its fruit. Their life span tends to be about nine years and they can reach about seventeen inches high. The flowers begin to show near the end of winter while the fruits will begin to ripen in early summer.

How Do You Care For A Deciduous Bonsai Tree?

Caring and maintaining a bonsai tree is an art form. The proper care and maintenance of a bonsai tree can result in extraordinary beauty. The following are five steps necessary to the health and beauty of a bonsai tree.

Location

A deciduous bonsai tree should be placed outside during the spring, summer, and fall seasons in a place where it will receive plenty of sunlight. Locations such as the balcony, the garden, or on a patio are all suitable. The deciduous bonsai tree should not be indoors for more than a few days at a time. During the winter months the bonsai should be stored somewhere where it will not receive any sunlight and where the temperature is relatively cold. One option is to bury the bonsai outside in an area that doesn’t receive sunlight. The other option is to keep it somewhere dark and cold, like a garage. The important thing is that it is in a cold area without light during the winter months so that the bonsai can enter its dormancy period.

Watering

The deciduous bonsai should be watered whenever the soil appears dry. The soil should always remain slightly moist. If the tree is in direct sunlight then it may be necessary to water almost every day. Water the bonsai using a hose attachment or a watering can and stop when the water begins to run out of the holes located in the bottom of the pot or tray. The act of watering the bonsai is very important as watering it too little will dry it up and watering it too much will drown it. It is a balancing act that has to be learned from monitoring your bonsai. When the bonsai is in its dormancy period it will still need to be watered at least once every two weeks.

Fertilizing

There is no need to fertilize the bonsai during the winter, but during the other three seasons fertilizer should be added once a month. There is very little soil in a small pot or tray containing a bonsai and it is a good idea to refresh the nutrients in that soil to keep the bonsai as healthy as possible.

Repotting

Deciduous bonsais should be re-potted every two to three years so that the tree receives fresh soil. It is recommended that this be done in the middle of summer.

Aesthetics

Trim and pinch the branches of the bonsai tree to keep it at a miniature size as well as to keep it aesthetically pleasing. There is an art to this that takes both research and practice.

Taking care of your deciduous bonsai tree requires delicate care and attention. The meditative act of doing so, as well as watching your bonsai grow more beautiful over the years, is a truly rewarding one.

Introduction, Training and Harvesting

Introduction to Bonsai Trees



This East Asian method of growing plants has grown in popularity over the last few years. A bonsai tree is not just another plant. These miniature trees are carefully trained over a number of years to get the perfect shape and form. Any plant can be turned into a bonsai tree if an adequate amount of time is spent in training it.

The process of developing bonsai trees started about 2000 years ago in China. Later, this method of growing plants traveled to Japan with Chinese Buddhist monks. The current method of raising bonsai trees that is popular in the United States and Europe comes from Japan.

Unlike the popular conception of bonsai trees, these plants are not naturally small trees. Instead, they are trees that are trained to be smaller. Owners must constantly prune and care for their plant to make sure that it grows into the desired form and stays small. Special attention has to be paid to environmental factors, watering and sunlight. Too much or too little of any of these factors can severely harm the plant and even cause it to die.

Anyone who wants to get started with bonsai trees can find numerous resources at their disposals. If someone is short on time, they might want to consider purchasing an already trained bonsai. Other individuals like to start their plants out from seeds so they can better control the process.

Trained Bonsai


The easiest way to get started with bonsai plants is to buy one that has already been trained. Seeds can take years to grow into full-sized plants. With trained bonsai, users have an alternative. These plants can be found at nurseries, garden centers and online stores around the country. Expertly trained professionals spend years painstakingly training the bonsai into its correct form. The only drawback for trained bonsai is the cost. Since professionals spend so many years cultivating the plants, the bonsais naturally have a higher cost.

For individuals who do not want the wait time, these plants offer an alternative. Since they are only partially-trained, owners can still shape them into the exact form that they want. With partially-trained bonsai, users get the same experience without the wait.

Harvesting Wild Plants



For the nature lover, starting a bonsai tree using a wild tree can be a very stimulating experience. Taken directly from Mother Nature, these bonsai trees let users work closely with nature and the natural shape of the plant.

When the plant is collected, users should make sure that it is done with the permission of the land’s owner. Harvest the plants early in spring and take enough of the surrounding soil so the plant does not go into shock. Over the course of a few seasons, the plant will recover enough to begin the training process. Just about any plant can be transformed into a bonsai tree, but all plants will require a significant time investment if they came from the outside world.

Layering, Cuttings and Seeds

Air Layering


If individuals want to have a large tree within their first growing season, choosing to do air layering is an option. This propagation method involves taking a large branch or portion of a tree and using it to make an entirely new plant. Once the branch has been removed, it should be protected with sphagnum moss and wrapped in tin foil while it roots.

In roughly three to six months, the branch should have enough roots that it can be planted in a pot. Users should always use caution when doing air layering. Air layering that is not done properly can cause scars on the mother plant.

Cuttings

If a user already has a bonsai tree they love, they can take a cutting so that they can have multiple trees that are genetically identical. Compared to seeds, bonsai trees that are from cuttings take far less time and is often easier to do.

To take a cutting, users just have to cut a branch from a tree and then place it in the soil. It can also make the process of growing bonsai more efficient. Unwanted branches from older plants can be reused to create beautiful new bonsai. As users start the bonsai process, they should always try to take cuttings in the springtime. During this season, plants are already coming to life and any cutting will have a better chance at surviving.

Seeds

Beginning and advanced bonsai enthusiasts often turn to seeds for starting out their bonsai plants. One of the greatest reasons for this is the drastically cheaper cost. A packet of rare bonsai seeds is much cheaper than an already trained bonsai tree.

Once the tree has started to grow, bonsai enthusiasts can completely control the entire process and put more hours into nurturing it. Many people also like the experience of watching their plant grow and transform over the years. The main negative with this method of growing bonsai is the excessive amount of time it takes. It can take plants anywhere from three to five years to grow into full bonsai when they are started from seed. For people who have the time, the joy of watching the plant transform into an aesthetic masterpiece is worth it.

About Grafting, Defoliation and Clamping

Grafting


If propagating a bonsai by seed or cutting is impossible, choosing to use a grafting method is a decent alternative. This procedure entails taking a branch from the desired plant and attaching it to the potted tree. Often, nurseries will do this so that they can create huge numbers of plants in a shorter amount of time.

Unfortunately, grafting can be a cost prohibitive option. Part of this reason is because of the low success rate of the grafts. Even a professional who has had years of experience may still only get 10 to 80 percent of their grafts to grow. Since this method is highly desirable, it often fetches a higher price on the market. For individuals not concerned about the cost, grafted bonsai trees are a beautiful alternative that contains many characteristics not seen in the typical bonsai tree.

Defoliation

 is one of these techniques, and is mainly used to reduce the size of leaves. It can also stimulate growth and increase the number of leaves over time. Defoliation also stimulates production of delicate new branchlets, allowing twice the growth in a single growing season.

Clamping

In order to shape the plant the way you desire, you can use clamping to force the trunk and branches to change direction. It might already be headed a certain way, but you can change this with the right equipment. The advantage of using a clamp is that you can work with the thicker trunks that would normally be unmovable