The high art of bonsai is the oldest known form of container gardening in the Orient. The oldest known specimens alive today are estimated at 1500 years. This devotion involves much more than the simple care of an inert plant.
The bonsai concept has great spiritual meaning. This in itself represents a remarkable achievement involving the daily devotion and care of nearly 50 generations of Japanese gardeners!
A well grown bonsai is always shaped like a triangle with the points representing the joining of Heaven, Earth and Man on the spiritual pathway. The overall representation is that of an inward image, a symbol of eternity that abolishes time and reflects the harmony between
man and nature, Heaven and Earth. The word "bonsai" literally means "plant(ed) in a shallow container.
While a bonsai can be grown in a wide variety of vessels it is best to plant these treasures in special bonsai pots. These can be of many shapes and sizes but most of them have the characteristic bonsai "feet" that not only artfully elevate the plant but also creates better drainage and air flow. The container must have good drainage holes in the base. Stoneware containers are usually best because they help retain just the right amount of moisture in the soil.
While glazed ceramic pots are fine, avoid those that are glazed on the inside as water will
literally slide away from the glazed edges too quickly and dry out the delicate root system. Remember when purchasing a container that half the art is matching a suitable container to the shape, colour, and size of the tree it holds. This will enhance the tree and create a total picture.Soil can vary dependent on the species grown.
Generally, it should be light and freely draining while holding enough moisture to keep the specimen constantly moist. Well aged, fine bark 24may2010_01amixed with small gravel chip, sand, and a peaty potting soil usually makes an excellent soil mix. To this mix can be added a slow release fertiliser, lime and/or blood and bone. All this needs to be in moderation as the idea is to maintain the plant in very slow but active growth.
Overfeeding will result in rampant growth and a poorly shaped plant. At the extreme, it is fairly easy to burn and even kill these captive babies as the roots are contained in such a small container.Early spring is an excellent time to repot or start off a new bonsai and to prune an established plant before the new growth begins. Wiring to shape a tree should wait until active growth is well established.
To gain density or to slow growth, pinch back the growing tips. To thicken stems just let them grow until the desired length and width is achieved. Bonsai are best grown outdoors in a sheltered spot. They will need almost daily watering especially in dry weather. Irish Yew, Juniper, Dwarf Spruce, Japanese Umbrella, Two and Five Needle Pines, and Satsuki or Karume Azalea are all classic species.
But be creative! Almost anything with smallish leaves can be trained as your own piece of living art.
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