Tips for Growing Bonsai
Growing Bonsai from Seed
There is no such thing as bonsai seed. The seeds used for bonsai are ordinary tree and shrub seeds. If you wanted to try bonsai Chinese quince fruit ( lagenaria), then you should be aware that the plants germinate very readily from seed. The ripe fruit can be collected in autumn and the seeds taken from inside and sown straight away. Seeds sown in the autumn will germinate in about ten days, or they can be left until spring for spring sowing.
The seeds are best planted in small flowerpots or seed trays, usingor an equal mix of peat and fine silver sand. Quince and crab apple seeds germinate very readily and can be sown at any time of the year. When the young germinate they should be sheltered or over-wintered in a cold greenhouse or conservatory. Alternatively, simply place them on the kitchen window sill.
The young seedlings should not be pricked out until they have two pairs of leaves. Individual seedlings should be planted in three-inch (7.5 cm) flowerpots and grown on for a full year before any wiring or training is done.
The plants are about 1/8 inch (3 mm) in diameter and they can now be wired to give the trunk a more interesting shape. Once the tree is wired into shape and planted in the appropriate bonsai pot the little seedlings take on a completely different character. By wiring the trunk into an ‘S’ shape the height of the seedling is reduced to give a more squat appearance.
Most junipers propagate very readily from. Heel cuttings root faster than nodal cuttings. To make a heel cutting tear off a shoot of about four to five inches (10-12.5 cm) from the main trunk or branch of an established tree. The end should be trimmed with a pair of sharp secateurs or a knife and then dipped into hormone rooting powder. The cutting should be inserted into a seed tray or five-inch (12.5 cm) flowerpot filled with pure peat or with an equal mixture of peat and sharp sand. The cuttings can take from between one and three months to root.
Once the cuttings have rooted, they should be potted up into individual flowerpots and grown on for a full season.
Wiring Bonsai for a Pleasing Shape
Once the tree is potted, the next step is to trim the branches to give a pleasing overall shape. The aim is to create a conical outline. Cut off the tips of the long protruding shoots. Spread out the branches so that you can get a better idea of the eventual shape of the tree you wish to create.
Now wire the trunk and the branches. This is done with soft aluminium wire. The thickness of the wire will depend very much on the thickness of the trunk or branch to be bent. Here we have used ½ inch (2.5 mm) diameter wire. Always use one piece of wire to link two adjacent branches. As a rough guide the length of the wire should be about one-third longer than the combined lengths of the two adjacent branches. The wire should be wrapped around the branches fairly tightly.
Start by wiring the branches at the bottom first and then work your way towards the apex of the tree. You may wire in either a clockwise or an anti-clockwise direction. It does not really matter which way you do it. The wiring should be kept neat and the front of the tree should be left uncluttered as far as possible. Do not criss-cross the wires as this will look untidy.
Once the branches have been wired they can be bent into virtually any shape you want. The branches are bent so that they lie horizontally or hang slightly downwards.
Repotting and Planting a Bonsai Tree
The roots should be teased out and the root-ball then placed roughly in position in the bonsai pot in which it is to be planted. Cut off just enough root for the root-ball to fit snugly into the bonsai pot. Leave about an inch (2.5 cm) of space all round the perimeter. About two-thirds of the root-ball will need to be removed, but this will not harm the tree in any way. New roots will soon grow and these will be much finer than the ones that have been cut off.
The final trimming is a manicuring process in which all the little twigs and shoots which were not wired are removed. Shoots which hang downwards from each of the branches are also tidied up. Final touches include the placing of pieces of moss on thesurface to make the tree look as if it has been growing in that pot for a long time. The finished tree is a simple elegant design. The branches from inside the main curve have been removed so that the sweep of the curve is enhanced. This bonsai is reminiscent of the ‘literati’ style as the lines are very clean and the tree itself looks like a Chinese brush stroke painting.
When the root-ball has been reduced sufficiently the tree can be potted into a bonsai pot. The soil used is the standard bonsai mix, or John Innes No. 2 with extra grit added. The tree is planted so that both trunks are fully visible from the viewing side. The next step is to cut away the superfluous branches in order to give the shrub a more tree-like appearance. The branches are arranged in flat tiers with the help of wire. Aluminium wire of 1 mm in diameter is perfectly adequate for fine branches of any bonsai tree.
By revealing the trunk and creating more space between the branches a dwarf spruce can be been made to look like a tall elegant pine tree. In bonsai it is quite usual to use one species to create the image of another species.