Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Choosing a Bonsai Pot

You are going to have to repot your tree every year or so, so you should know a little about the traditions of pots for bonsai trees.

Willow Leaf Ficus (ficus nerifolia/salicafolia)

First of all, bonsai trees are either "feminine " or "masculine." Most pines are considered to be masculine, if they don't do a lot of bending and curving. A masculine tree will be one that sort of comes to a point, rather than having lots of branches going here and there.

Lots of curves and twists and spreading branches generally dignify a feminine bonsai. Most deciduous trees would be though to be feminine trees. This is not a hard and fast rule, as modern bonsai growers are rarely tied to strict tradition.

Unglazed Ceramic Pot

But traditionally a masculine pot will be earth toned and either fully or partly unglazed, and most likely textured. A feminine pot will be a glazed pot, perhaps with decorations or carvings. A feminine pot can be many different subtle colors, like red or blue or green. A pot with legs or feet helps with drainage, which is vital to the health of the bonsai tree.

Blue Hexagon Shape Ceramic Bonsai Pot

There are experts that say that the only pot for a bonsai is an unglazed one. That the roots need something to hold on to. Others say it doesn't matter. Read a good ebook on bonsai care to learn as much as you can about the subject of pots.

Houtoku Pot, Rust Colored

There are pots with legs and pots without legs, and they come in all shapes.

Before you choose a pot, plan in your head or on paper exactly what you hope your bonsai will eventually look. In a rectangular pot, the depth should be equal to about 2/3 of the height of the above ground tree. Some like to limit the depth of a round or oval pot to as little as 1/3 of the above ground tree height. Get some expert advice on this, as it is important, and the depth varies with species and pot shape and size.

Choose the color and shape according to your vision of what the plant should become.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Expensive Bonsai For Sale

For most of us, these old, established bonsai trees for sale are just a dream. But they are still nice to look at.

This one is a Dwarf Black Olive, native to the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Not the edible olive that we all know and love but does produce a small, black seed capsule. And this gorgeous specimen is 46 years old...and it is on sale for $1000!

Well beyond my means, but I can certainly appreciate the effort and care that went into creating just the right shape for the tree. I would have had to start the seed when I was 14. But that's part of the allure. You can actually own a tree that's seen more history than you have.

Here's another one that is tempting me.

Isn't that just the prettiest thing you've ever seen? $1500, but wow! It's a Buttonwood (conocarpus erectus, if you are technically minded, which I am not.) This old gent is somewhere between 50 and 75 years old.

With my budget I set my sites on an occasional $160 juniper bonsai or Chinese elm, and get my big thrills by looking at pix!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bonsai Trees from Bonsai Seeds

There are no such things as bonsai seeds. Nearly any tree can be miniaturized using bonsai techniques. But you can't just walk into the garden department and pick from a selection of tree seeds. If you're going to buy bonsai seeds you should buy them online from a reputable bonsai expert.

Personally I don't recommend anyone go this route, though. It takes a long time for a seed to germinate, and some seeds need to go through a wintering period before they will even sprout. And you could wait five or more years before your little tree is strong enough to start training.

You'd be better off buying a seedling, if you could find one locally. You can walk in the woods and search at the base of a nice tree for a seedling, if you live near a forest. Some suppliers sell young trees already in pots with some root pruning already done. If you have your own ideas about how a tree should be trained, this is probably the easiest way to do that.

Young bonsai trees with only the basic start already done don't cost an arm and a leg like a beautifully established specimen would. And you can get out your copper wire and raffia and get started toward your vision of the perfect bonsai without having to wait 10 years.

Still, if you plan on staying in the hobby for years to come, there is nothing wrong with buying some bonsai seeds and putting them in good bonsai soil or soil alternative and letting them grow while you work on your already started young bonsai.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bonsai Humidity

Bonsai Humidity

Let's face it. Trees were never meant to grow indoors. The sun doesn't shine indoors, and neither does it rain.

It's not possible to totally recreate a natural environment for your bonsai in your home. Homes that are heated and cooled artificially don't have the moisture in the air that a bonsai requires. You can help that lack of humidity with the use of a humidity tray. This simply puts moisture into the air around the tree to keep it healthy.

As for rain, you can't really approximate that, either. Your tree is living in a mini environment, a pot. The "rain" that it gets should also be mini. You can and should mist your bonsai every week of so. Do this at night, and if your tree shows any sign of molds, add a tiny pinch of baking soda to the water. Do not soak your tree...just mist it.

The misting will clean dust off the leaves and branches, but is not related in any way to watering.

How much water your bonsai needs depends upon the variety of tree it is. Some will require more frequent watering than others. Do a little research on the net to find the conditions your tree needs. More on that in another posting.

One thing to remember is that nearly all bonsai will benefit from being outdoors for periods of time. This is especially true of deciduous bonsai. But leaving a deciduous bonsai outside in freezing weather is a no-no. The roots in the tiny pot cannot be protected from freezing. You can artificially create a "winter" season indoors, but it's not easy. I'll talk about "seasoning" a bonsai in a future post.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Flowering Bonsai Trees

I made this little movie/gallery about flowering bonsai trees. I hope you like it!

All these lovely specimens are available HERE.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What kind of bonsai lover are you?

Chinese Flowering White Serissa S-Shape - Large Tree of a Thousand Stars (Serissa Japonica)

There are several kinds of bonsai enthusiasts. Some people simply want to collect interesting specimens. Yet, even there, we find diversity.

Among collectors we find the folks who:
  • collect only evergreen bonsai
  • collect deciduous tree examples
  • collect flowering bonsai
  • collect fruit-bearing bonsai
  • collect very old specimens
you'll also see collectors who:
  • view the bonsai as an art form (count me in...)
  • appreciate the history of owning a very old bonsai tree
  • just like to display them in their homes
  • like to give a bonsai as a corporate or personal gift
After the collectors, we find the hobbyists who want to actually grow their own from bonsai seeds. This is a special class of people, as growing bonsai from seed is an art in itself. This is nothing like backyard gardening at all. One needs to know about:
  • bonsai soil
  • bonsai tools
  • bonsai pruning methods
  • care, light and feeding.
The rarest kind of bonsai lover is the person who considers a rare or very old bonsai tree to be an investment. Some excellent trees can go for as much as $7000.

I guess I'm a little of all three kinds of enthusiasts, although I haven't spent more than a couple hundred dollars on any one tree yet. I tend to like the flowering and fruit-bearing varieties, but I can also appreciate the innate beauty of a juniper bonsai!

Your Bonsai How To

The ancient art of Bonsai has always fascinated me. I remember the first bonsai tree I ever saw. It was a Japanese red maple, about 50 years old, and it surprised me that it was a real living tree and not some kind of artificial bonsai tree figurine.

The branches on the tiny tree were filled with beautiful miniature red maple leaves. How could that be? It was magical. OK, I was a kid and everything was magical...But from that one sight was born my lifelong fascination with the many facets of bonsai growing, pruning, care and display.

I hope you'll enjoy my "bonsai how to" blog.