Bonsai Basics

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The art of bonsai has been around since it originated in 1700s China and is still widely practiced today. The main purpose of bonsai is to gain a connection between man and nature. By adapting nature to a certain desired aesthetic, you can control what is represented by the plant. It’s a fun and challenging way to show off your creativity. 

Bonsai can be made from any tree, but the key is pruning, trimming, and re-potting. Pruning back the branches and roots are what give the plant a miniature look. There are many different styles of bonsai. For example: 

  • Formal: A single upright trunk that tapers towards the top. 
  • Informal: A single upright trunk with well balanced curves. The top usually bends towards the front. 
  • Semi or full cascade: A single arching or cascading trunk either severely slanting or extending below the container.
  • Group or forest: Usually trees of related species representing a miniature landscape. 
  • Free form: A sparse single upright trunk- straight, slanted, or curved characterized by a simple, tasteful elegance. 

When choosing a plant for bonsai, you will want to make sure it has the following characteristics: a woody plant, tree-like growth habit, strong surface rootage, good trunk taper, proportional foliage, and healthy material. Bonsai can be done both inside and outside as well. Some examples of plants that work well for outdoor bonsai are junipers, maples, azaleas, and pines. For indoor bonsai, you will want to use a plant that cannot be allowed to freeze. For example: figs, citrus, jades, and gardenias. 

In order to have a successful bonsai, you will need to adhere to the needs of the specific plant that you have chosen. The main concern with bonsai is making sure that you do not end up with a root bound tree. Along with pruning, it is very important to re-pot your bonsai to prevent this. 

Practicing the art of bonsai is a fun and rewarding experience that people have enjoyed for hundreds of years. With practice and patience, you can create a look of your very own to represent whatever you please. This hobby is one that can be passed down for generations and generations, with dedication.

For more information on bonsai: https://jcra.ncsu.edu/events/details.php?ID=1250 

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