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The Art of Bonsai

Most people have at least a vague knowledge of what a bonsai tree, is but few realize that bonsai is actually a millennia-old art form. A Japanese word, bonsai can literally be translated as “tray planting”, but it is much more than that. Creating and growing bonsai, an art that has changed dramatically over time from is initial origins in Asia, requires not only artistic talent but a solid knowledge of horticulture.

Contrary to what is commonly believed, bonsai began in China, not in Japan. After learning about bonsai from the Chinese, the Japanese then adopted bonsai to their own culture and reformed the art to a form that had not yet been achieved in China. Over the years, Japan elevated the art of bonsai even higher and transformed it into an industry all its own. Bonsai are now popular everywhere and appear in a variety of countries, cultures, and conditions all over the world.

Growing a bonsai tree involves more than just planting a tree in a small tray. Growing bonsai requires knowledge of how to prune and shape the correct species of shrubs or trees in order to achieve the tree shape you desire. To begin growing a bonsai tree, you must first choose a young tree or shrub to start with (good trees to choose from for bonsai are Bottlebrush, Ironwood, Silly Oak, She Oak, Crepe Myrtle, and Fig). When choosing which type of tree to use try to pick a tree that has a lot of branches with which to work and a wide trunk. Also, look for a tree with leaves that are naturally small and branches that start low to the ground.

Choosing the correct pot for planting is also important but when you first plant your tree it should be put into a large pot or into the ground until it has reached maturity. This will give the tree an opportunity to develop strong roots and actually speeds up the growing process. Once the tree has reached maturity you can then transfer it to the pot you want it to remain in. This final pot should be chosen with care, making sure that it has drainage holes and that it is not a glazed pot as this will prevent the tree from breathing. You should also pay attention to the colors and design of the pot so that you are sure that it will complement your bonsai in its final form. Prior to transferring the plant, cover the drainage holes with some type of screen so the soil in the pot does not clog up the holes after you have finished watering.
After you have transplanted the plant into its new pot, decorate the top of the soil with the pebbles or moss that you have picked out for this purpose.

Since a bonsai is not naturally an indoor plant, you should shape your tree before you bring it inside. The trunk of the tree and its branches can be shaped by using wire that has been wrapped around the trunk and the branches so that the tree is made to conform to whatever shape you are trying to create. The wire can be removed once the tree no longer springs back when the wire is taken off. Continuous pruning and trimming will allow you to obtain and maintain the shape you want for your tree and will allow your artistic talents to come into full play.

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