As you go through the history of Japanese bonsai trees (among others), you will note that this term is used to refer to a ‘plant in a pot’. As per the information provided on Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum site, "the ancient Chinese were the first to miniaturize trees for ornamental purposes, around A.D. 200. Later, the Japanese, who used it to create beautiful gardens, adopted the bonsai technique.
Basically, the bonsai are outdoor plants and they flourish in cool and humid conditions, away from the bright sunlight for most parts of the day. In case you want to keep them indoors, you have to create the same cool and humid environment for them; otherwise they tend to wither away.
Podocarpus, Serissa and dwarf Pomegranate are suitable for bonsai along with some common plants, such as Schefflera, jade plant, Ficus benjamina, Bougainvillea, Citrus and Hibiscus. You can also make bonsai out of several woody herb species like bay, rosemary, myrtle and lavender.
How to care for your Japanese Bonsai Trees
All bonsai need a light and well-draining soil, but the actual soil can vary from plant to plant. So, the soil mixture suitable for growing bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) cannot be considered ideal for cultivating the southern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana).
A typical bonsai soil mixture comprises 1/3 part coarse sand to help the drainage of excess water; 1/3 part organic matter like ground sphagnum moss or pine or fir bark, which are capable to hold moisture and nutrients and 1/3 part a coarse, fired clay like Turface that also has the capacity to hold nutrients and moisture. You can adjust the proportions according to the needs of your trees.
You can select any suitable place, such as the terrace to create your traditional Japanese garden. Planning an outdoor Japanese garden is an intellectual pursuit that also requires artistic visualization and imagination. The key element of its lay out and planning is that you should not let the gardener’s personality influence the garden. In this way, the viewers can visualize the garden in their own distinct ways. Another core element is simplicity in terms of the design and lay out.
Don’t keep anything that competes with the décor of the garden or distracts the attention of the viewers away from the garden.
In your bonsai garden, you can plant clumps of Fargesia nitida, a pretty clumping bamboo. Japanese maples are also ideal and they can be transplanted into containers as well. In order to make your bonsai garden look more natural, you can put some moss over the soil beneath your bonsai tree that will look like real grass. To promote the growth of your bonsai, you have to rewire the bonsai every year and trim its center roots after one year.
Things to remember about Japanese Bonsai trees
When you see a bonsai, you must remember that it is a Japanese expression that refers to an artificially miniaturized potted plant or collection of plants, which are cultivated to recreate a natural scene. Generally, a twelve inches tall bonsai having an outcropping of strong roots can give the appearance of a very old tree.
Likewise, a symmetrical crown adorning the top of a straight trunk can provide the impression of a stately and ancient shade tree. The Japanese people possess centuries old dwarf trees and hand it over to the next generation as their living heirlooms.