Category Archives: Grow Your Own Bonsai

Serissa Bonsai

Serissas make excellent bonsai with the right care and shaping. They are an evergreen shrub native to China, Japan, and Indochina (Southeast Asia) where it may be found growing in the woods and wet fields.

The serissa foetida has small oval leaves which are slightly larger than the serissa japonica’s. It may erupt with small white flowers several times per year giving it the nickname the “thousand star” serissa. Additionally, it naturally grows surface roots and an interesting bark pattern on the trunk which give them the desirable appearance of age.

Along with junipers this is one of the most common bonsai trees for beginners. Unfortunately this has also led to them getting a bad reputation for being easy to picky and easy to kill. With the right care this is not the case.

Serissa care

The most important thing learn about serissa bonsai is that they do not like change. They also do not like extremes. If a serissa bonsai is unhappy it lets you know by dropping its leaves and flowers.

Watering

Keeping your serissa watered properly is the most important part of its care. If you over or underwater your serissa it will lose its leaves. Serissas do not tolerate drying out and the shock may kill them. You should keep the soil moist but not wet or soggy. They also like a humid environment. We recommend that you place a humidity tray under its pot to create an area of humidity around the tree. Occasionally misting the leaves when the tree is not in bloom will also help. If you purchased the bonsai tree from a store that does not specialize in bonsai it may not be potted in the correct soil. Repotting your serissa in a well draining bonsai soil bonsai soil will help make it harder to overwater your serissa bonsai.

Light

Serissa can be grown indoors or outdoors. (Outdoor in warmer climates) If kept outdoors a mix of full and partial sun in most zones will be fine. If kept indoors it can do well under fluorescent lighting, but keeping it in a room where it can get indirect light from an open window and supplementary fluorescent lighting tends to work best. If the serissa does not get enough light its growth may not be compact enough to give it a nice bonsai appearance.

Special care should be taken when bringing the plant indoors after it has been living outside or outside if it has been growing indoors. As noted earlier, serissa do not like change. If it had been growing in a sunny area try gradually moving it into a shadier location before bringing it indoors. Additionally, make sure the indoor location receives a good amount of light. If you use a grow light it may need to be left on for 12 hours per day. If the tree was indoors move it into a shadier outdoor area before moving it to a very sunny spot.

Repotting

Serissa should be repotted during their growing season which is in spring. You should do this every 1-2 years when the tree is younger. Use a bonsai soil that holds moisture, but drains easily without remaining soggy. The leaves and roots tend to smell pretty bad when you prune them. This is normal.

Styling

Serissa tend to be pretty flexible on styles they can be trained into. They can be grown into informal upright, informal broom, oak style, and semi-cascade. They do not work very well as formal upright and formal broom. You can use the clip and grow method or wire on these trees. Wiring allows for more intricate designs. Serissa are often used in Chinese Penjing landscapes.

4 Essential Bonsai Care Tips for Beginners

Many don’t know this, but gardening is a very relaxing hobby. Re-potting, watering and caring for your plants is a great way to release stress and it allows you to think. But for those who don’t have the space or the time for a big garden, one option they have is to care for a bonsai tree.

Bonsai literally means plantings in a tray. This Japanese tradition of raising miniature trees actually dates back thousands of years. Taking care of a bonsai tree is an art not meant for the half-hearted. It requires more than just watering it and placing it under the sun. Here are some of the basics you need to know about caring for your very own bonsai tree.

Know the Species

There are many species that you can use for your bonsai tree. It is important to at least know the general name, because the needs of each specie differs. One of the more popular types to be used, however, is the juniper. If you want a flowering bonsai, you can opt for the bougainvillea, which is easy to grow. Another flowering variant is the azalea. If you want the fruit bearing type, you can try a citrus bonsai tree. The only difference between fruit/flower bearing and non-bearing bonsai is that the former needs more light.

Age Matters

You might think that since you’re a beginner when it comes to bonsai trees, you would need a young tree. In this case, age matters more. The younger the bonsai, the more sensitive and fragile it is. If you pick an older bonsai that is around 10-15 years old, you have a higher chance of keeping it alive. An older bonsai is more sturdy and can last longer without water, just in case you forget to water it on time. Compared to the younger bonsai, it can withstand a wide range of temperatures and is more resilient in handing the ph imbalance in the soil.

Watering Needs

Bonsai cultivation means you have to master the art of watering, not too much and not too little. You have to give your bonsai just the right amount of water at the right time. Remember how important it is to know what kind of species your bonsai is? This is so you will understand how much water and light it needs to thrive.

Generally during summer, you have to water it every evening. Watering it in the morning will dry it out quickly. In spring and fall, the amount of water should be lessened. When the soil’s surface begins to dry out, then you can water it. In winter, bonsai requires only a little water, just enough to keep the soil moist. Do not over-water it and do water it when the soil starts to dry.

Fertilize

Since the bonsai is being cultivated in a contained environment (small pot with little soil), it is vital that you supplement it with the lacking nutrients. For any beginner, you can’t go wrong with balanced fertilizer. Organic fertilizer also works better than most. Just make sure to use the daily recommendations and your bonsai should be fine. Remember that practice makes perfect. Don’t stop with one bonsai. Get more and hone your skills in cultivating bonsai trees.  

 

Based in San Diego, California, Tiffany Matthews is a passionate writer and an avid reader. She has worked for several successful companies, including Total Landscape Care. When not writing, she can be found in her little garden, exploring her newly discovered green thumb.

 

10 Bonsai Tips for American Moms

Most of the time, the first bonsai most people buy is chosen at random on an impulse buy, usually the most reasonably priced.  Most people also learn the hard way that it turned out to be not so inexpensive if it didn’t make it past its first month.

 

  1. Buy your first bonsai at a merchant who specializes in the cultivation of bonsai (a bonsai nursery). This way, you can be sure that the tree has received proper care before you become its owner.
  2. Understand that a tree is not necessarily a bonsai just because it is in a pot. If you buy a preformed bonsai, make sure it meets the quality criteria of a bonsai cultivation.
  3. The more perfect the bonsai, the more it will cost. Many consider bonsai to be works of art, and this is reflected in the price. It takes many years of careful culture to attain a mature bonsai, so don’t think you will get one for $10 or so.
  4. Look for healthy exposed roots and make sure the tree is well rooted in its pot. You should not be able to move the tree from side to side; the roots should hold it in place firmly. The roots system of a bonsai is very important.
  5. Make sure the trunk of the tree is tapered, wider at the bottom than at the top. The trunk should also not demonstrate too many scars. (Wires are used to shape the tree, but they should be used carefully so as not to ruin the asthetics.)
  6. Look for branches that are evenly distributed around the trunk. The largest branches should be on the bottom, decreasing in size the higher up they are. There should be few to no branches for the first third of the trunk.
  7. Make sure the foliage is dense and healthy looking. The foliage is generally a good indicator of the health of the tree.
  8. The older a bonsai is, the more expensive it will be. (The oldest bonsai in the world is about 600 years old and worth approximately half a million dollars.)
  9. The look of the pot must be consistent with the tree for best aesthetics. Generally, conifers are placed in terracotta pots and deciduous trees are put in glazed pots.
  10. Choose a species that suits your environment. Tropical species require a temperature above 60 ° F all year. However, they do not require a rest period during the winter and can therefore be easier to keep indoors in winter. Hardy and semi hardy species need a rest period each year so they can go dormant. For this, they need to be below 55 ° F for two months of the year.

Don’t expect your bonsai to survive for 600 years, but if you follow these tips and you will enjoy your bonsai for many years to come.

Did you know that people search can help you find anyone in the world. Try contacting any of the thousands of Bonsai enthusiasts and experts for tips, tricks or just sharing your hobby.

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.

 

 

 

 

Beginner Bonsai – Juniper

A Juniper bonsai is one type of bonsai trees that is suitable for beginners because it is quite easy to be taken care of.

Their are many types of juniper that can be turned into bonsai, such as Shimpaku, Japanese Garden, Green Mound, Chinese Juniper, Sargents, and Needle. These trees are also adaptive as they can be placed outdoors or even indoors. This means that they are great for bringing a little greenery to a room where you might spend a lot of time reading, or spending some free time playing on websites like http://www.partycasino.com/. On the other hand, they can thrive just as well in an outdoor space, like a garden rockery. So you have plenty of options available to locate your Juniper and by following some basic rules in growing juniper bonsai, the plant will flourish without giving too many problems.

One of important characteristics of juniper bonsai is that it need a dormancy period. This period can be considered as hibernation or resting, which is required by the tree to revitalize during spring and summer.

Like other bonsai, proper watering is important for juniper bonsai. Although it prefers a dry period between each watering, you should never leave the plant dry for a long period of time as it will stress and kill it. The proper way to water the bonsai is to soak it in a tray full of water up to its trunk for five to ten minutes. Then you should allow the plant to drain properly because waterlogged soil can rot the roots of the bonsai.

On the other hand, if you use a tap water, you should repeat the process several times. You can water the juniper bonsai, wait for several minutes, and then start watering again. This repetition is to make sure that the soil and the bonsai has stored enough water to grow.

Maintain the right humidity is important for your juniper bonsai. To create the preferable environment, you can place the plant on top of tray filled with small stones and water. The stones prevent the pot to be soaked with water, while the water will evaporate and create humid environment around the plant. Another good strategy in this regard is to use moss on the trunk of the juniper bonsai. Moss will improve moisture retention and additionally it also gives a more natural look.

Sufficient amount of sunlight is another factor that you should pay attention at to take care of your juniper bonsai. Low intensity sunlight, such as in the early morning and late afternoon, is enough for the plant. If you put the juniper indoors, you can place it near a window to get the essential sunlight. Fluorescent lamps can be used as an alternative if there is no enough sunlight available. You need to expose the plant around twelve hours a day if you use this artificial light.

Every two weeks, you should fertilize the juniper bonsai so it will receive important nutrients. Organic fertilizer is the most suitable type for this purpose. Repotting the plant should be done once every year or two years. During this repotting, you should also prune the roots to keep the plant small and to reduce the pressure experienced by the roots as it is contained in a small pot.

 

Written by Cindy Heller


How to Determine an Effective Bonsai Soil

Bonsai that delicate tree that lives in a tiny pot is very dependent on the quality of the soil that helps it breathe, gain nutrients and water. Without this proper mixture your tree would suffer and if not cared for properly would most likely die.

 

How do I know the best bonsai soil?

Soil is the primary medium in which your tree will get its air and water. Bonsai requires a more thoughtful selection of soil and soil additives in order for it to thrive more.

Actually, there’s no best bonsai soil to use. The secret comes from different brands and types of soil you use; and from your own incredible techniques in combining and mixing soil until you’re satisfied with the results.  In fact, the bonsai tree soil and its additives will determine the health of your bonsai’s roots. Moreover, determining an effective bonsai soil is extremely important if you want your bonsai to flourish. A good bonsai soil mixture is made up in such a way that any water added to the soil drains out quickly, and prevents the roots of your bonsai from washing out.

What do I need to make bonsai soil?

If you wish to make a bonsai soil at home, you will need a loam, sphagnum peat moss, and granite grit. This mixture can give you a good blend for your bonsai tree. To prevent damage roots, make sure that the water is drained completely.

There are some complete potting soils available which includes Akadama, Fujiyama Potting Medium, and Kanuma. The additives or components to make a complete potting medium are zeolite, river sands. Pine bark, peat moss, grit, and calcined clay.

Akadama is also known as red clay soil. This type is widely available and is manufactured in Japan. It is graded by particle size whether it’s fine, very fine and standard.  It contains no organic matter and the granules retain their structure for years and are able to drain and hold sufficient water. Moreover, Akadama is best suited to high summer rainfall and moderately cold temperatures in winter. This type of soil prevents water-logging and freezing.

Fujiyama is best used as a wetting agent and very useful for all bonsai plants.

Kanuma in Japanese is ‘dirt’, and is dug up from 10 feet below. It is named after the region in Japan. This soil is ideal for acid-loving plant like Azalea, Gardenia and Camellias.

Kiryu is a Japanese imported mixture which is made up of clay and pumice. This mixture is deal for plants which require extra drainage like pine trees and evergreens. Kiryu is also mixed with normal oil for it allows air circulation.

Kyodama is a traditional volcanic grit and is often mixed with other soils. This soil holds moisture, and has a neutral ph.

 

About the Author: Elias Cortez is freelancer writer that specializes in writing in the education field for students looking to pursue a career in graphic design. Read his latest articles titled “Graphic design schools” and “Graphic design career information” to learn more.

Inspiring Winter Bonsai

Bonsai artists the world over look to nature’s more spectacular trees for inspiration. A tree variety is studied year-round to understand how quickly it grows in height and width as well as what changes occur on a seasonal basis. Especially important is to see the Autumn changes.

There are some exquisite displays among the maples, oaks and elms, just to mention a few. Coniferous and most other evergreen trees do not show such profound changes in the fall, but they are striking to witness nevertheless within the context of their natural surroundings.

The sharp contrast of their foliage, trunk and branches against an azure sky and the velvety softness of moss are attributes worthy of artistic emulation. Another factor that bears investigation when looking for a suitable variety of tree to “bonsai” is its exposure. From which direction is the sun coming, and how cool or warm, moist or dry must the air and soil be? Such things as leaf size and shape, as well as capacity for color are assessed. Armed with such knowledge, the bonsai artist knows what to do to manipulate the necessary factors to ensure a brilliant Autumn display in his own miniaturized collection.

Some dramatic examples of well-known trees which inspire bonsai artists are the Lone Cypress of Monterey Peninsula, the Major Oak of Sherwood Forest, and the General Sherman of Sequoia National Park.

The Lone Cypress, with its silvery gray trunk, and deep green boughs, is windswept, salt-sprayed and clings stolidly to bare rock. It is stunted due to the constant buffeting of the elements and the lack of sufficient soil nutrients for over 200 years. Poised solitarily on a cliff jutting into the bay, it is a poor example of a Monterey Cypress; its brothers, nestled further inland are much larger. The twisted limbs and sparse foliage are stark against the backdrop of the sometimes wild ocean. But it endures, testament to a marginal existence.

the-major-oak-sherwoodAnother magnificent example is The Major Oak of Sherwood Forest in England, an amazingly large and very old tree. The folklore surrounding it captures the imagination of people everywhere, not just bonsai artists. The tree that sheltered Robin Hood and his troupe of “merrie men” has an intensely gnarled trunk which is quite thick at ten meters in girth. It never fails to give an Autumn show, although some years it is more colorfully arrayed than in others. Rising from its massive trunk are many angular, finger-like branches that bear heavy masses of leaves. The bark is scaly and rough; its trunk is split open in a gaping maw. There is speculation that the tree is really comprised of several small oaks which grew together over centuries.

Lastly, the stately General Sherman, largest of all the Sequoias, continues its inexorable climb to the heavens. Its breath-taking tonnage and sheer height are awe-inspiring. The reddish-brown, deeply-seamed trunk appears to diminish in circumference as it ascends, almost to the point of infinity, as you gaze upwards. Its birth dates back twenty-three hundred years or more. The needled branches sprout thinly in relation to the immensity of this tree, as they compete for space to grow in this forest of giants.

These famous trees are just a few favorites, the characters of which are captured within the deft manicuring, delicate pruning and careful wrapping of their elfin counterparts. In a small way, the essential experience of beholding these and other revered trees can be perennially enjoyed, through the artistry of bonsai.

Photograph by Ken Thomas.

Great Bonsai, part one

Bonsai that mysterious tree that has intrigued and inspired many great artists has been around for many centuries.

One great example is a famous tree known as the  ‘Hiroshima Survivor’, a 400 year old Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) that survived the bombing of Hiroshima by the infamous bomber ‘Enola Gay’ in 1945.

Ironically in 1976 the tree was donated to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum, as a gift to celebrate the American Bicentennial. The tree was presented by the Japanese Bonsai master Masaru Yamaki.

Image copyright by Ragesoss [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Bonsai Beautiful Journey

Have you ever wondered what went into creating that piece of living art known as a bonsai? How the precise cutting and trimming and tying kept a tiny tree, just that, tiny?

Craig Coussins has travelled to many countries teaching the art of bonsai. In between these journeys he has managed to find time to write a series of practical books, among them “Bonsai for Beginners”, “Bonsai Master Class”, “Bonsai School and the “Practical Guide to Growing Bonsai: A Guide to the Art of Shaping, Growing and Caring for Miniature Trees and Shrubs”.

Bonsai for Beginners
Bonsai for Beginners

Combining photos and text, Mr. Coussins covers such topics as proper watering, soil requirements, how to repot bonsai trees and how to prune both the branches and the in some cases delicate root structure.

In “Bonsai for Beginners” there is also a step by step section, including photos, on how to turn a cascade style bonsai, where the branches and leaves grow down and below the lip of the pot, into an upright tree by carefully turning the tree upside down. This is more for advanced growers, but it is something to work up to. Other parts of the book focus on the more elementary steps of bonsai. This particular book has over 450 photos throughout its pages, covering a variety of plant species. Some are inspirational photographs of finished bonsais; others are to lead you in your step by step journey through the process.
“Bonsai School” is equally endowed with hundreds of photos along with instructions and a calendar to help you keep track of what needs done when on your bonsai. Various bonsai tree artists from around the world are included in the book, each sharing techniques and pointers of the craft.

Whether you choose “Bonsai for Beginners” or “Bonsai School”, or any of Craig Coussins’ other books, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of the elegantly fascinating art of bonsai gardening. Through his photos and his novel like, easy flowing text, you just might find that trying to turn a tiny tree into a living, breathing, sculptured work of art is something you just can’t wait to try. Go for it, and bring a little bit of cultivated Mother Nature into your world.