All posts by Wayne Cosgrove

Bonsai, Pick a tree any tree

cardsIf you would like to create your own bonsai you must first decide on a method. Growing from seed is rewarding but painfully slow with some species but naturally fast growing tree’s seed might give you a good looking bonsai in a shorter period of time. My own success rate with tree seeds was not good at first but I have learnt from my failures and now germinating seeds is much easier.

Another option is to create a bonsai from nursery stock. This can be a very quick transition from a bush to a bonsai and it is much quicker than waiting for a seedling to grow. Most of my own bonsai were created from nursery stock. Many garden centres have potensai (POTential+bonSAI = potensai) in abundance and only the trained eye can spot them. Things you should look for are thick trunks, a good root spread and thicker branches towards the base of the tree and general health and vigour. I will go into pruning and wiring of potensai in a latter article.

“The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man.”-

J. Sterling Morton

The last option that I offer to you, although there are other ways is to collect a tree from the wild. This is called ‘Yamadori in Japan and the end result can be quite beautiful. The wild of coarse could be your garden, the face of a mountain or a nearby wood. You want to look for a tree that looks very old but has not grown vertically very much. Stunted trees are nature’s rejects but as bonsai they are top of the class. An old beech hedge can sometimes have many potensai to offer and if you know of someone that is clearing such a hedge it would be well worth a look.

Air-layering is another method but time consuming and sometimes not practical if you do not own the tree. You can buy ready made bonsai and there are many good quality trees’ out there but they can be expensive. There are many ways that you can grow bonsai and it is not as difficult as it may seem but you should always take your time and not rush into it if you are not ready. You should also have no fear as the worst thing you could do is kill a tree or two which you will be forgiven for.

Bonsai let's begin

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“A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to those who wield an axe to cut it down” – Buddha.

We as Bonsai lovers give the shelter, food, warmth and protection to the tree and a wonderful living organism it sure is. So many people miss or ignore the beauty of things around them in the natural world and bonsai to many people are just little tree’s in pots. I believe that many people are blind to this beauty and I myself up until a few years ago did not see anything special about bonsai. As an art form bonsai is up there with the best and is never static or finished.

As you begin your journey into the world of bonsai you may come across what is termed by many as mallsai. These are just little tree’s in pots and not in most cases bonsai. To be called bonsai a tree must have certain attributes that the vast majority of mallsai sold in hardware stores and supermarkets up and down the country are lacking. Bonsai should represent fully grown mature tree’s in nature and yet mallsai are often sold in plastic gift bags. Avoid growing malsai if you wish to expand your knowledge of bonsai and appreciation of nature and all living things.

What is bonsai you may ask? Bonsai is a tree planted in a pot but not just that as it must on a much smaller scale look like a fully grown tree and be pruned in different ways to achieve the illusion of age even on a relatively young tree. The pot also plays a big part and it must not distract from the tree and it also has to be the right size for the tree.

I have only started my journey into the world of bonsai but I already know that it is a road that I will never turn back on and as far as this road leads me I will follow it. I have a small collection of bonsai and yamadori which are tree’s collected from the wild and I hope to learn and pass on knowledge as many great bonsai masters have passed on to me through their books and videos. I guess though we all must learn the hard way at some point so what are you waiting for.