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Bonsai Trees are miniature trees grown in pots. The aim of Bonsai Tree culture is to develop a tiny tree that has all the elements of a large tree growing in a natural setting. This look is achieved, principally, by branch and root pruning and shaping, but other factors are also important. The texture of the trunk, its look of age, the moss and the under plantings in the container � all contribute to the illusion of a miniature tree as it is seen in nature. A presentable Bonsai Tree can be created in a few seasons. Cultivating these miniature potted trees is both an intriguing hobby, and a means of adapting a wide range of plants to specialized and decorative uses. Bonsai Tree require daily watering during their growing season, and, because the plants are rooted in shallow pots, careful pruning.
Bonsai Trees are kept outdoors most of the year, but , from time to time , these miniaturized versions of nature are brought indoors for display. Only certain tropical trees, shrubs, and vines can be continually kept indoors full time as a Bonsai Tree.
Bonsai, as an art form, stems from ancient oriental culture. It originated in China and was developed by the Japanese. In the 13th century, the Japanese collected and potted wild trees that had been dwarfed by nature.
These naturally formed miniatures were the first Bonsai Trees.
When demand for the small trees outstripped the supply, Japanese gardening specialists began to train Bonsai from native trees. They shaped the trees to give them the illusion of age and naturalness. Over the years, the Japanese devised standards of shape and form, which gradually began the classic Bonsai Tree styles.
American bonsai are much freer in concept and style than Japanese bonsai. American bonsai growers have recognized that the horticultural and aesthetic rules are important, but are specifically aimed at Japanese culture. Because of this, Americans have taken oriental styles and applied them to plants never grown by the Japanese. Therefore, the rigid procedures and names used by the Japanese are not used in this bulletin.
Not all plants are equally effective as bonsai. To produce a realistic illusion of a mature tree, look for plants with the following characteristics:
� Small leaves or needles.
� Short internodes, or distances between leaves.
� Attractive bark or roots.
� Branching characteristics for good twig forms.
All parts of the ideal bonsai � trunk, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruits, buds, roots � should be in perfect scale with the size of the tree. Plants used for bonsai should have small leaves, or leaves that become small under bonsai culture. Plants with overly large leaves, such as the avocado, will look out of proportion if chosen for bonsai. Sycamores also develop leaves that are too large. Certain species of both maple and oak trees usually respond well to bonsai culture and develop leaves that are in proportion.
Among the plants with small leaves and needles are spruce, pine, zelkova, pomegranate, and certain oaks and maples.
Plants chosen for a bonsai tree should have attractive bark, and the trunk must give the illusion of maturity. The trunk should have girth, but must remain in proportion to the entire tree. The trunk should taper gradually toward the top of the tree. Sometimes one or two of the main branches must be shortened to emphasize the vertical line of the trunk and give the trunk a balanced appearance.
To give the appearance of age, the upper one-third of the root structure of a mature bonsai is often exposed. This is especially effective if the roots have good girth and form. Twisted and tangled roots should be straightened before potting or repotting a tree to achieve an aged appearance. Bonsai from nursery stock, and trees collected from the wild, should have a root system that will � when exposed � add to the appearance of the finished bonsai.
Plants have a �best profile� just as people do. Decide on the front of the tree at the very beginning, because planting and shaping are done with the front of the tree in mind. However, you may change your ideas about the plants ultimate shape as you clip and prune.
The front of the bonsai should offer a good view of the main trunk, which must be clearly visible from the base to the first branch, typically about one-third the way up. Everywhere on the tree, but mostly from the front, the branches should look balanced and appear to be floating in space; they should not appear lopsided or top-heavy. The branches should not be opposite one another with their lines cutting horizontally across the trunk. The branches give the bonsai the dimension and establish the tree�s basic form.
A bonsai tree should have a harmonious arrangement of branches without unsightly gaps. Flaws can be spotted by looking down on a bonsai. Upper branches should not overshadow lower branches.
Before deciding on the shape of your bonsai, study the tree carefully, and take into account the natural form of the species. Observe the way mature trees of the same kind grow in their natural setting to achieve an impression of age and reality.
Decide on the final shape and size of your bonsai tree before starting. Make a rough sketch of what you wish to create and use it as a guide.
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