FLOURISH – The ancient and fine art of bonsai
A certain ad on TV promoting gambling shows a Chinese man interrupted while practising bonsai. The whole scene is obviously a fake. A bonsai branch does not just drop off like that!
Bonsai, in fact, is the pinnacle of horticulture. It is the ancient and fine art of growing miniature trees. Bonsai has been around for over a thousand years.
Invented by the Chinese (who needed a portable source of food when travelling and trading), the art was perfected by the Japanese (the Japanese word bonsai means “planted in a container”).
The basic rule of bonsai is to observe nature. You might see miniaturised trees growing in shallow soil, in-between bricks or stones, even around roots.
There are rules (but there are no rules!). Pruning is very important – prune roots, stems and branches. The main thing is to restrict the roots – to prune the plant to suit the pot.
Suitable candidates for bonsai include pines, figs and citrus. There are many options. You can read more about techniques and traditions here: www.bonsaiempire.com.
You need to be careful not to over- or under-water. Bonsai is very artistic, and the trees are sensitive, very vulnerable (because the roots are so small). As well as first-class soil you might need to use netting (for support) and pay close attention to shade and sunlight. You will definitely need quality gardening tools: very sharp secateurs and knives.
There are different styles: broom, formal and informal upright, slanting, cascade, windswept and double-trunk.
All the best with your bonsai experiments.
I’d love to hear from you – please send in your stories and photos. Write to Chris: firstname.lastname@example.org.