Some Basic Supplies
Along with tools, there are some basic supplies that you will need to produce your bonsai. These include pottery, soil, and training wire.
Bonsai pottery comes in many sizes and shapes. It is usually made of a clay material, although inexpensive plastic bonsai containers are available. Bonsai containers contain drainage holes in their bottoms so that excess water can drain from the container. Bonsai containers come in glazed and unglazed clay. Unglazed clay containers can be various shades of gray, dark green, or brown depending on the type of clay. Because bonsai pots contain drainage holes in the bottom, screens must be used to hold soil in the container.
The type of soil used to plant bonsai depends upon the type of tree planted. Evergreen trees typically enjoy more humus or pine bark in their soil than do tropical plants. Tropical plants commonly enjoy more sand in their soil. Our basic soil mixture is composed of the following:
1 part ProMix BX
1 part coarse sand
1 part Turface
Turface is a coarse clay material that is commonly used on baseball fields to manage water. Some other popular soil mixtures are as follows:
50% River Gravel
3 parts terragreen
2 parts peat
1 part soil
25% Leaf Mold
There are many types of soils and more and more additive options to choose from as you search around. This can make soil and additive selection confusing. There are two very important key elements to keep in mind. Make sure that your mix drains water well and make sure it contains organic material.
Quick Note On Mass Produced Bonsai with Glued Stones on Top of the Soil
We receive quite a few questions regarding mass produced bonsai trees purchased at a good price from local superstores. While the trees themselves are ususally commonly used bonsai trees, the main concern pertains to the stones that are typically glued on the top of the soil. Here are a few of our thoughts and suggestions:
Training wire is used to train the bonsai branches the way that you want them to grow. Wire is typically anodized aluminum or solid copper. The wire is placed on the tree wiring two branches together or a branch and the truck together, winding the wire in a 45 degree angle snug around the trunk and branches. Wire is removed within a few months before the trunk and branches begin to grow around the wire, creating undesirable wire marks. Snub nose wire cutters are available to cut wire close to the trunk and branches. The wire should be cut off in small sections and not unwound. Unwinding the wire can result in damage to the delicate branches.
Pruning and Design Guidelines
There have been more than quite a few books written on the pruning and design aspects of bonsai. A handful of the many guidelines form the fundamental basics of bonsai. Below we will outline a few of the most important guidelines. For more in-depth explanations and to learn more we would suggest you further your readings in one of the many good books written on the art of bonsai, as this serves as only a brief overview.
You may not realize at first glance, but bonsai is meant to be viewed in a certain position. That is, a bonsai tree has a front, a back, a right side, and a left side. How can you tell the difference? The front shows an open truck line. The front is typically free of branches sticking straight out from the trunk towards the viewer except for the very top, or apex, of the tree. The back shows depth by extending branches from the back of the truck, the exact opposite approach as the front. The sides show alternating branches. The following is an example:
**Spruce Displayed at The National Arboretum in Washington DC
The following are some pruning basics to keep in mind while shaping and pruning your bonsai:
These are only a few of the many guidelines associated with the designing your bonsai. They are important guidelines but it is important to also realize that beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder. Have fun developing and training your bonsai and don’t get too wrapped up in the rules unless you plan to compete. Unless you are planning on entering your bonsai in a competition, trim and design your bonsai so that it looks pleasing to you.
Have fun with your bonsai!