Bonsai is pronounced as bon – sigh not bonzai, it is now widely accepted that it was first created by Chinese. In Japanese, this art of miniature landscapes and trees that we know now as bonsai can be literally translated as tray planting.
One of the earliest Chinese legends contends that it was in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) that an emperor created a landscape in his courtyard that represented his entire empire. He created the landscape so that he could gaze upon his entire empire from his palace window. Anyone else found in possession of even a miniature landscape was seen as a threat to his empire and put to death.
The earliest documented proof of bonsai was discovered in 1972 in the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai, of the tang Dynasty (618 – 907 A.D.) Wall paintings discovered in the tomb show servants carrying plants resembling bonsai and a pot containing a tree.
Bonsai in Japan
The Buddhist monks brought bonsai to this island in 794 – 1191 A.D. (The Heian period). For many years bonsai art was only practiced by wealthy and thus came to be known as a noble privilege. The art almost died out as it was limited to the noble class. But with Chinese invasion in the fourteenth century the art started to be practiced by all classes.
Bonsai in West
The earliest bonsai that came to west were mostly from Japan and China. The showing of bonsai at the Third Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878 and later exhibitions in 1889 and 1900 increased western interest in bonsai and opened door for first major exhibit held in London in 1909. in the early years many westerners felt that the trees looked tortured and many openly voiced their displeasure. It wasn’t until 1935 that opinions changed and bonsai was finally classified as an art in the west.
Today, bonsai are sold in department stores, garden centers, nurseries and many other places. To create a true bonsai work of art you need to learn as much as possible about the art and the trees you use. Information is the key to success and it is important to read as much as possible.
Bonsai tree is a miniature piece of breathtaking natural scenery grown in a small pot. Its an art of training a tree to grow in specific manner.
Trained Bonsai: If you cannot wait to begin your bonsai experience than the best way is to buy a bonsai tree from your local nurseries or bonsai garden that has already been trained, that way you can save your time. If you buy a partially trained bonsai than you can train and shape it according to your own will.
Collecting Wild Plants: You can almost use any plant to make a bonsai. Collecting a plant that has been shaped by Mother Nature is definitely an exciting experience. It is best done in early spring time. When selecting a tree to make a bonsai, inspect the plant using following procedures.
Roots: Get the tree whose roots spread evenly in all directions rather than whose roots are in slanting form.
Trunk: Young trees with thin trunk can be pruned into desirable shapes; however you cannot do same with think trunks. Avoid trees whose trunks have swelling parts.
Branch: It is good idea to choose a tree with abundant branches as it provides freedom in imagination and you can make bonsai according to your wish.
Leaf: Leaf quality is generally hereditary. If you do not like curly or withering leaves, you should avoid trees with such leaves.
Pests & Disease: You should pay special attention to choosing trees with healthy leaves and barks.
There is a specific bonsai tool for every specific bonsai activity and using correct tool is the best tool and the best way to get correct results.
Secret of Shaping Bonsai
Root Pruning: it is an integral part of bonsai. No plant can stay in a container with out some sort of root work. In container roots tend to colonize the container, that is they saturate the container with roots. In some cases they even push the plant upward from the container. When this happens the plant is said to be root bound. There is constant new root growth, root pruning (cutting the roots) will help plant grow.
- Branches growing from the bottom of the tree.
- Branches growing at the same height on the both sides of the tree and one of them should be removed
- Branches crossing the trunk.
- Branches growing close to each other and are short, of the same length and in the same direction.
- Branches growing from the middle of the trunk.
- Branches growing straight up.
- Branches growing straight down.
- Branches growing in the opposite way of the branch they are growing from.
- Branches growing from the same spot in many different directions.
- Branches crossing other branches.
- Branches growing much longer than other branches.
- Branches pointing at the viewer from the front side of the bonsai.
Leaf Pruning: Leaf pruning involves removing the leaves, it forces leaves to produce a replacement set of leaves, which results in increased leaf density. Leaf pruning is done once in any growing season and when the tree is in its most active state – mid June to July usually e and when the base of the shoots have begun to harden. After leaf pinching the bonsai needs to be protected from excessive rain, but expose to sun. The new leaves will be smaller and more proportionate to the size of bonsai.
How to Wire Bonsai Tree: The bonsai wire size should be about 1/3 of the branch or trunk size you are bending. There are two kinds of wire, aluminum and copper. Aluminum wire is easy to use because it won’t get harder like copper so you can shape easily. Copper wire is the one basically used to wire and shape bonsai. Hard and need some practice to get used to use it. Try to avoid the time when the tree is growing new leaves or branches and also avoid winter time (around December to February). Once wired, leave it on for at least 2 months to 3 years (depends on the tree growth). The best time to remove the wires is just right before the wires start to cut into the tree.
Bonsai Soil: Always these things are important – water drainage, aeration. Water absorption. Bonsai Soil types are – Inorganic soils, organic soils, volcanic soils, Japanese Bonsai soils, green moss, akadama soil, kanuma soil, keto soil, coarse soil
If these miniature trees have inspired you enough to learn more than simply google it. You can also become a member of Pakistan Bonsai Society or join their facebook page. You will get expert advice and they have enough material to get you started. You can benefit from their articals and training vedios.