Bonsai Basics

What is a Bonsai Tree after all?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bonsai ("tray gardening", in Japanese) is the art of growing trees and plants, kept small by being grown in a pot and by the use of skilled pruning, formed to create an aesthetic shape and the illusion of age, although many bonsai trees are quite old and simply show their age in miniature form. The Chinese art of penjing is very similar to and is the precursor of the Japanese art of bonsai.

Sketches of trees grown in pots, apparently used for decorative purposes, occur in Egyptian tombs, dated over 4,000 years old. Subsequently, caravans were known to transport trees in containers of various kinds throughout Asia. The trees were sources of chemicals used medicinally by healers in the caravans and places visited along the way.

The modern-day art of bonsai originates from China over two thousand years ago, where it has been called penzai and written in the same Hanzi that gave rise to the Kanji above. It was brought to Japan by imperial embassies to Tang China (the 7th - 9th century). In the Kamakura period, penjing that recalled customs from the Heian period came to be drawn in some picture scrolls and documents. In the Muromachi period, penjing has developed into various directions in Japan. Just like a Japanese garden, it came to assume the artistry of "Wabi-sabi" to be essence. However, the bonsai was still the enjoyment of people of the chosen hierarchy in the period. In the Edo period, it became possible to enjoy the bonsai for many daimyos, samurais, merchants, townsmen, and others. The show of the bonsai was often held. In addition, the bonsai pot became popular by each daimyo's employing the pottery master who belonged exclusively to the bonsai pot. It is said that it came to be called "Bonsai" this time. Indeed a lot of bonsais were drawn in many an "Ukiyo-e".

The art is still practiced in China today, often under the name of penjing. As the Chinese art is intended for outdoor display, the plants tend to be somewhat larger than seen in Japanese bonsai.

I was given a Bonsai as a Present...

Congratulations and welcome to the world of bonsai.

Most people start off their bonsai enthusiasm with a gift and although there is a good chance your first bonsai will die out of excessive care if you start reading and practicing what you learn there's a good chance you will get teh hang of it pretty quickly.

One of the most important things you have to do when you receive a bonsai is to find out what species it is and find out the correct care for that particular species. Unless you have bought the bonsai from a reputable dealer, you might find that the information they have given you on basic care is incorrect. Contrary to popular belief, most bonsai are not indoor plants and will die if you keep them inside all year.

You must also remember to frequently water your plants - but not too much. Some trees often look healthy even weeks after they have died, and it is not until the foliage turns dull green and brittle that people actually realise they have not been keeping their bonsai correctly.

If your bonsai is already in trouble, your best bet is to leave it alone, in a semi-shady position outside, with frequent watering. (But be careful not to over water.) Do not even think about fertilizing, repotting or adding extra compost mix - this will just stress the bonsai out further and diminish any chances you had of saving it.

Common trees found in nursuries include Ficus, Serissas (very temperamental), Zelkova Serrata and Jade trees (fairly hardy).

This site will help you take care of your bonsai and there are many other sites on the internet, however there is nothing better than hands-on training and sharing with other enthusiasts to become more savvy so join the club and learn more about the art and science behind bonsai culture.

To Learn more about how to take care of your bonsai follow the following links

Basic Bonsai Lectures
Advanced Bonsai Lectures
Bonsai FAQ's
View the Novice Gallery and learn the tecqniques
View the Master's Gallery for insipration