Bonsai Learner Permit

Someone once told me a long time ago to get a ‘Learner Permit’ for a Bonsai. I wasn’t too sure at that stage of my early Bonsai life what they meant. After all it is only a tree that just happens to live in a pot!

How wrong could I be. You see Bonsai or as I used to say ‘bon-sigh’ (Its still alive) is more than just a tree in a pot. Every aspect of the wee tree can be trained. From the root structure below ground, the root structure above ground, the trunk, dead branches hanging off the tree, if its windswept, cascade, upright like a broom, indoor, outdoor, Mame (the baby bonsai 3″ tall), shohin (slightly larger) or even three foot tall. Many things to learn old wise one!

So where do you start with your ‘Learner Bonsai Permit’?

The Single Bonsai Tree Lover.

Okay, lets look at it this way, you can have a Bonsai as a beautiful decoration with one tree that you can pay alot of attention to, even give it a name. I have never named my trees. I wonder what you would name your Bonsai as? (be clean)  

Having a single tree is the easy path to learn. In that way you can name your tree ‘Bert the Bonsai’, learn how the balance of the tree works. Watering at the right time at the right temperature, keeping the roots and leaf growth balanced, keeping a pleasing shape and when Bert the Bonsai gets too big for his boots, eh pot then having the confidence to repot your tree. 

Learner Permit Bonsai Tree

My first Bonsai was a Serissa also known as the ‘Tree of a Thousand Stars’ or the ‘Snow Rose’ for its tiny white flowers. Its the typical tree that most of the planet starts with. Other trees would be the Ligustrum also called a Privet.

Any indoor Bonsai in temperate climates can be difficult to maintain. For the first couple of weeks you have to make sure your little Bert has enough light, not direct but enough. Also that his soil doesn’t dry out too quickly. Bert is not too fond of direct heat. The soil will dry out too quickly and become very flaky and not retain water. There is a difference between water clogged soil and good water retention. If you see small pools on top of the soil or the water is not draining enough on what has gone in, then change the soil.

My first Bonsai back in 96′ was gift bought in a supermarket. If you bought your Bonsai (Bert) from a supermarket give it a once over health check and beauty treatment. You see Bonsai bought in supermarkets have a short shelf life 9excuse the pun) after spending too much time in a box, been cared for by people who are not gardeners. They dont have the best of starts. If you do happen to buy a tree from a supermarket here are some quick tips to ensure your little Bert will stand some sort of a chance.

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  • Before buying, check that leaves and branches are not damaged. 
  • Check that it is not pot bound. a pot bound tree is sure to be drained of nutrients
  • That the soil is not too flaky. It can retain water but drain properly.
  • Dont buy a tree in a cardboard box. If you must, buy one in a transparent container.
  • Make sure the Bonsai comes with a drip tray. this will ensure that the water will drain clearly and it has not been sitting in a damp container.

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Try to buy your first Bonsai from a specialist dealer or garden center, at least you have some come back and professional advice.

Three Months on and Graduation!

If your tree has survived its first three months, you can kiss your beginners indoor learner permit goodbye and look at more interesting Bonsai challenges. By now you have a strong appreciation of Bonsai although it does seem difficult it is not. Your first three months is learning about balance, the yin and yang and that patience in growing a tree educates.

Whats next? You could join a club, read copious amount of Bonsai books, spent hours reading and researching, writing articles for your favourite Bonsai website (me) about your Bonsai journey or discover the other aspects of Japanese gardening and art. 

Perhaps after a couple of years when you become a Bonsai teacher you too can tell people how you started with your ‘Bonsai Learner Permit’.

 

Over the next few weeks I will be bringing you more articles from ‘Bert the Bonsai’ and the ‘Bonsai Learner Permit’ series.

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Other articles for the Bonsai Learner Permit!

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If there are any topics that you would like to see covered on bonsai.ie please email me or leave a comment at the bottom of this article. 

 

Snow Rose Bonsai image courtesy of LinuxArtist.

 

 

 

 

Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging

A Tokonoma is a time-honored architectural detail of many older Japanese homes. These alcoves occupy a corner in a room, and often hold a scroll, an ikebana flower arrangement or other artwork. More than a display area, a tokonoma is seen as a sacred space that is not to be invaded, and the seat closest to it is often reserved for the most honored guests.

Ikebana is an important part of such a display. First developed by Chinese monks in the 1500s, its principles were a closely guarded secret for many centuries. When the art arrived in Japan, this method of floral arranging was practiced only by Japanese royalty and samurai families. Much later, it became better known to more people, spreading eventually to the West.

The word itself means “the way of the flower.” Its purpose is to create a harmonious balance between flowers and the environment. Where Western flower arrangements are often a profusion of wide-open blossoms, ikebana’s art is based on the idea that less is more. Arrangements are spare, and emphasize the linear rather than the circular. An arrangement consists of three main parts, each with its own spiritual meaning. The center section is the tallest, and represents Heaven. The second section on one side represents Mankind, and the third section on the opposite side represents Earth.

Proportion is also very important. “Mankind” is designed to be three-quarters the height of Heaven, and “Earth” is meant to be three-quarters the size of Mankind. Thus, a beautiful proportion of descending height is created, bringing the spiritual into balance with the corporeal and human worlds. After the three main stems are established in their proper proportion and place, a few carefully selected, smaller stems may be added, but it is always a good idea to add as little as possible so as not to overwhelm the eye. Also of great importance is the choice of container as an added artistic element. Containers may be wide and shallow, such as the type used in bonsai arrangements. They may also be tall and slender. The base of the container should hold a heavy piece of metal with closely-set prongs called a kenzan, to hold the stems in place.Ikebana-Yoshiko_Nakamura

There are three main styles of ikebana: Rikka, which is upright and vertical, Nageire, which has a natural form that can be upright or cascading, and the lower Moribana, which means “piled flowers.”

Much like the art of bonsai, this type of floral arranging can take many enjoyable, meditative hours. The life of the arrangement can be extended by various methods such as charring the ends of stems, crushing them and adding salt, vinegar or even rubbing alcohol, however, it is best to research the best method for each particular type of flower before applying one of these methods.

To learn “the way of the flower,” begin simply. There is no limit to the type of arrangements that can be made if the basic philosophy of heaven, mankind and earth in proportion is observed.

 

 

 

  • Shiko Ikebana image with permission from Junko. Ikebana training school and shop.
  • Image on right side. Photo taken by Joe Mabel. Artwork created by Yoshiko Nakamura.
  • If you are interested in antique Ikebana pots see the Craig Coussins Tokonoma page.

 

 

Bonsai, the silent garden

Life is hectic and perhaps stressful at times. Everyone needs an outlet to discharge those struggles and anxieties of the day and growing Bonsai can help you achieve this much-needed balance in one’s life.

Bonsai’s offer a uniqueness to the grower. They allow you to feel liberated as you release your creativity in designing your tree to be natural, mimicking nature from a wind-swept tree that could be found in West Cork to a cascade hanging off a cliff in the Mourne mountains. The benefits of growing a Bonsai tree continue farther than the realms of imagination alone. Bonsai gardeners feel an immense reduction in stress as this silent garden grows.

Growing this intricate plant takes time and patience. It is not a request but a requirement. This amazing plant will grow, develop, and thrive with each passing year. A sturdy plant that necessitates a patient set of hands to cultivate, trim, and water, it is what this particular plant appreciates. Be kind and gentle to the serene plant, and it will recompense the care with the progress of a relaxing silent garden. This is a garden that evokes tranquility by its mere presence.

Growing and caring for plants is directly related to caring for Mother Nature, and a sense of peace and serenity is most often felt by gardeners. The trimming and caring compels gardeners to relax and feel at peace. The time and patience involved with gardening creates the idyllic Zen atmosphere as one becomes a single entity with the plant. When one cares for a plant, they are focused, disregarding the materialistic world that surrounds them, and taking pleasure in the most basic forms of life. To be Zen is to be a part of the evolving universe. This plant allows one to take part in the evolution of life by caring for a living thing.

The silent garden also silently works hard to purify the air that surrounds it. As with most plants, Bonsai strive to rid the atmosphere of dangerous pollutants and toxins in the air. The better care the plant receives, the stronger it will be to filter the air. Cleaner air, decreased stress, and a real sense of achievement as the plant flourishes is only the beginning of the many rewards one will receive as the begin this life-changing hobby.

To learn more about bonsai, take a look at one of the following links:

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