Growing bonsai is a very rewarding hobby but it can be daunting for those just starting out. This article will help those who are keen to learn more about bonsai.
So here are my top 5 tips for bonsai beginners.
1. Don’t be put off by information overload. If you put the word ‘bonsai’ in an internet search engine you will get millions of results – literally! The sites cover everything – the Wikipedia definition, bonsai trees and kit for sale, information about different bonsai techniques, styles and species, ‘how to’ videos, myriad bonsai organisations and clubs. And the list goes on and on …. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all this information and to give up before you get a chance to start. To me this is one of the downsides of the internet. Sure it’s a great resource but as a beginner what you need is some help to direct you to the appropriate reliable information. That leads me on to the next tip.
2. Find a more knowledgeable person to help you. If you can identify one or two bonsai enthusiasts in your area you will find that such people are usually very happy to help. You can then ask as many questions as you like and view their bonsai trees. Find out what trees grow well in your climate and how much time is required to look after them. If you can’t find some help locally then you can tap into the knowledge available via the internet. Amongst all the bonsai information, there are many helpful forums where people are very willing to answer your questions and give advice. Since some forums are better than others it’s always a good idea to get a recommendation.
3. Build up your bonsai collection, your toolkit and your knowledge gradually. As already mentioned there is a huge choice of bonsai trees, tool kits and information available. Don’t try and learn everything or acquire an extensive bonsai collection with every possible tool in 6 months. That would be a daunting challenge and very damaging financially! Instead go for the gradual approach – acquire or buy one or two or three trees. Perhaps one fairly mature bonsai and a couple of specimens at an earlier stage of growth so that you can fashion their development. Start with a basic toolkit. Read and acquire information on a ‘little and often’ basis.
4. Practice, practice, practice …. No amount of theory can compare with the hands on experience of working on bonsai trees. That is how you will learn to grow and style bonsai in your particular environment, be that indoors or outdoors. Once you have enough basic information and tools to get started don’t be afraid to get going – and to make mistakes. That happens to everyone and it is the best way to learn. If you’re local bonsai club is running a workshop or demonstration make sure you’re there and take every opportunity to practice.
5. Don’t ‘over fuss’ your bonsai. For the novice with one bonsai tree there is a huge temptation to give it too much attention. You will need to check its moisture requirements regularly but it doesn’t need to be pruned every time a new leaf appears. There are times when bonsai trees need to be allowed periods of growth to develop properly. That is why it is often a good idea for those new to bonsai to have more than one tree so that the risk of giving too much attention to one bonsai is reduced.
If you take on board these 5 tips you will quickly move on from being a ‘bonsai beginner’ to being a more proficient and informed bonsai enthusiast. But the great joy of bonsai is that there is always something new to learn and discover. Enjoy!