Tag Archives: bonsai

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.

 

Beginner's Guide to Bonsai Gardening

Bonsai gardening is a way for you to unleash your creativity. It is a chance for you to get involved with a living piece of art. Bonsai affords you to become more relaxed because it needs a Zen-like peace of mind to start with the hobby. This will eliminate the cause of stress that you are getting from work or at home. If you are planning to start Bonsai gardening it is best to learn more about it so you can enjoy it to the fullest and achieve a healthier state of mind.

 

Patience is a virtue

 

Growing Bonsai is never easy. It takes a lot of patience to begin this hobby.  If you don’t have the patience it is best not to dabble on Bonsai gardening. If you master the art of patience it will give you better control over causes of anxiety because you have a better state of mind to begin with.

 

Look for the right Bonsai

 

Looking for the right Bonsai tree is an excellent way to start your garden. Although Bonsai can be grown from the seed, you can skip this part by choosing a tree from a Bonsai nursery. A good tree should be at least six inches tall. Choose the one with a tapered trunk and is free from any kind of blemishes. The pruning and the wiring of the tree usually starts after 24 months. You may also ask the experts or you may browse the internet for more information on the types of bonsai.  This way, you will be able to choose the kind of bonsai that you would want to take care of.

 

Learn how to style

 

In styling your Bonsai tree, you need to consider the natural characteristics of the bonsai tree. This will give you an idea on the kind of pruning method you are going to use. You need to also consider the type of pot that you will be using. Most Bonsai plants are planted off-centered; thus the need to have a pot that considers the center of gravity. Once you learn the art of putting some style on your bonsai, you can even choose to join bonsai style competition.  These competitions will allow you to be exposed to other bonsai growers and you can also learn from them, especially from those who have been taking care of several bonsai plants for many years.

 

The costs

 

You will have to spend well in order to have a respectable Bonsai plant. You can buy one at the mall but the virtues that you will learn and the amount of relaxation that you will get from growing Bonsai do not come with a price. Pruning and special instruments are needed to maintain your Bonsai plants. You would also need to have some supplies. Simply ask the nursery where you bought your plant for information on the needs and the tools that you would use in bringing up the beauty of your Bonsai.

                                                           

Check the plant’s health

 

The plant’s health is crucial in maintaining it alive. There is a chance that the soil may cause the plant to wither and die. Also don’t fiddle with the tree. Bonsai needs to be repotted annually. Bonsai is like any other plant that requires moisture. You must remember that growing bonsai takes dedication.  You have to invest time and effort in order to make this plant grow healthy and beautiful.

 

Bonsai gardening is truly a very rewarding hobby.  It gives you some sort of diversion especially when you are so stressed out from work or from doing your house chores. As you focus on tending to your bonsai garden your mind will become more relaxed.  Thus, you will be able to relieve yourself from any symptoms of stress and anxiety.  Taking care of these bonsai plants will keep you close to nature which also helps increase your environmental awareness. However, these are just few of the many benefits that you can get from bonsai gardening.  The rest of the benefits will be yours to discover and explore.

 

About the Author:

 

Ryan Rivera used to suffer from the symptoms of anxiety attacks for seven years.  He now advocates healthy living as the best weapon against anxiety and depression.  You can read more of his articles at Calm Clinic

Lazy Sunday morning bonsai

That lazy Sunday morning, just me and the trees chillin. Especially good is that lazy Sunday morning with the bright sunshine, dappled breeze, no rain when your feeling kinda of wrecked from the busy Saturday weeding the driveway or what ever other vigorous activity you enjoy doing. I kinda like it, as the Monday blues are taking a break, thoughts of that long commute are sunk deep in my head.

So on that lazy Sunday morning, chillin with the bonsai, what do you like to do? Me I like to potter, picking out that young ambitious weed that got missed, you know the type with great aspirations of fulfilling the pot! Then spending some time checking to see that ER is not needed and no panics.

A number of years ago when I lived in the city, I went away for a number of weeks only to find when I got back an invasion of cannibal bugs, scale insects sucking the sap out of my elms. These required isolation and treatment with menthylated spirits, and then a soft wash to make them feel slightly better, unfortunately some didn’t make it. So this cannibal bug was my number one Sunday morning chillin with the trees target. I say was my target, as I am no longer live in the city, a townie (living in the city) you’ll find this expression from the natives in the country, much the same way as we Dublin people have tags for our country cousins.

Living in the country with has its advantages when it comes to insects, yeah more variety, but not many invasive ones that I have seen yet. Where I am located is windy, a constant breeze, it makes growing trees more challenging for different reasons and the cannibal bugs that haunted my city garden many years ago, I guess these guys may visit but only for a rest bite (excuse the pun) before travelling on to a more sheltered haven.

So on that lazy Sunday morning when you are chillin with your trees, what is it, that you like to do? Send us your short story and the most liked one on social networks will get a copy of that perfect lazy Sunday morning book. ‘The Complete Book of Bonsai’ by Harry Tomlinson. 

Send your short story copy to [email protected]

[hr]

complete-bookof-bonsai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[hr]

 

Fuchsia in New Zealand

Fuchsia (named after Leonhard Fuchs, a 16th century German botanist) is a genus of over 100 species of shrubs and small trees. Although there are four New Zealand native species (colensoi, excorticata, perscandens and procumbens) and one from Tahiti, the vast bulk of the genus occurs in Central and South America. 

Think of fuchsias and chances are the fancy garden hybrids come to mind first. Showy as they are, it is not difficult to see they are related to wild species such as Fuchsia magellanica, Fuchsia denticulata and Fuchsia triphylla. 
Some species, however, are less easy to distinguish. Our common native tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) has fuchsia-like flowers, though it can be hard to see the connection with the garden plants when it is not in bloom. But the likes of Fuchsia arborescens from Central America, with its panicles of tiny flowers, scarcely matches the common idea of a fuchsia. 
The most widely grown of New Zealand’s native species is Fuchsia procumbens and it too is quite unlike the garden cultivars. It is a low spreading plant with small rounded leaves and can be very hard to pick as a fuchsia until it flowers. Indeed, my initial experience of the plant was with cultivated specimens and I have to admit that I didn’t immediately recognise wild plants when I first saw them. 
This species was discovered in Northland in 1834 by Richard Cunningham. (some authorities call him Robert; in any case he should not be confused with his better known brother Allan.) However, it wasn’t introduced into Europe until 40 years later in 1874. It has at times also been known as Fuchsia prostrata and Fuchsia kirkii. 
The species occurs naturally in the north of the North Island down to northern Coromandel, often in coastal areas, and is now endangered in the wild. Though wild specimens can spread to several metres wide, cultivated plants are usually quite compact. 
The flowers, which appear from mid to late spring are sometimes hard to see among the dense, sprawling foliage. The blooms are not the usual fuchsia colours – green and yellow, not red and purple – and most unusually, they face upwards rather than being pendulous. The blue pollen-tipped anthers are also very distinctive. 
Upward facing flowers are scarcely surprising in a plant that grows so close to the ground. Nevertheless it is a feature that hybridisers have long been trying, with limited success, to breed into garden hybrids. 
The real feature, and the reason why Fuchsia procumbens is grown by enthusiasts world-wide, is the berries that follow the flower. All fuchsias bear berries, but none can match the fruit of Fuchsia procumbens. While the bright red berries of wild plants are scarcely larger than redcurrants, cultivated plants may have fruit the size of small plums. The fruit has a grape-or plum-like bloom and is particularly showy because it is carried on top the foliage, not hanging below it. Fuchsia procumbens is a plant that likes to show off its wares. 
This little trailing plant makes a superb hanging basket specimen and is very easy to grow. Despite its northerly natural distribution, it tolerates frosts and even withstands some drought. But strangely enough it is one of those New Zealand natives that is better know abroad than at home. British and American growers wouldn’t be without it, but how often do you see a good specimen in a local garden?

[hr]

Photo: Flora Press.

Keeping your bonsai healthy

In general, every two weeks feed bonsai with a high-nitrogen fertilizer from late spring, and then in summer feed them with a balanced fertilizer, stopping for four weeks during the hottest part of the summer and starting again in late summer with a low-nitrogen or tomato fertilizer. High-nitrogen fertilizer feeds leaves and buds, and low-nitrogen fertilizer feeds twigs, roots, trunks and branches.

Spray bonsai with foliar feed every two weeks in spring, and mist the foliage with water in the warm summer to keep the humidity levels up. To avoid lush or soft growth initially, such as in pines or maples, use a zero-based nitrogen fertilizer, 0-10-10 or at the worst a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as tomato fertilizer at the beginning of the season. to get bright autumn colours in maples, do not feed them more than twice in the entire season.

It is important to remember that using liquid feeds allows the food to pass quickly through the soil, and if the soil is correct, then some will be retained during the feeding process. While watering during rain is sometimes unavoidable, soil and foliar-feeding of bonsai with large canopies of foliage during rain is not a good idea, as the water will wash through the soil much faster.

Small trees can be immersed in a bucket or sink filled with feed, and when the bubbles stop rising the tree will have received sufficient food  and water. Do not do this every day if you have outdoor trees. On the other hand it may be the only available method for an indoor tree. (if you live in a flat or apartment) In that case, you will probably find that your tree will only need watering once or twice a week and feeding once every two weeks.

[hr]

Period Very Young Trees Trees in Training Established Trees
Winter Dormancy No Feed No Feed No Feed
Early Spring (At bud break wait until the leaf has fully opened) Start feeding high-nitrogen fertilizer at half strength. Feed every week. To avoid lush growth, feed a zero nitrogen fertilizer, such as 0-10-10, or tomato feed. Feed two weeks at half strength. Zero-nitrogen feed once in early spring.
Late Spring (Leaves are now fully developed and candles are swelling on pines. Protect from winds, as the leaves are soft) Feed at half strength every week. Increase to full strength at the end of this period. Continue to feed every two weeks, but now start introducing high-nitrogen fertilizer. Feed once with high-nitrogen fertilizer at half strength.
Early Summer (Leaves are now firming up, so continue with feeding. Protect from pests) Increase to full strength high-nitrogen feed. Use a balanced fertilizer towards the end of this period. Use a balanced fertilizer at help-strength every three weeks. Or start to use slow-release cake fertilizer: Maples, elms and zelkovas need less feed, to develop fine twigs. One feed of high-nitrogen fertilizer and plant tonic during this period. Do not overfeed established trees, as they will grow to length.
Mid-Summer (The tree enters a semi-dormant period at this stage, so it is wiser to stop feeding for between two to four weeks) Stop feed. Stop feed. Stop feed.
Late Summer (This is the period prior to leaf change, but after the heat of mid-summer) Start using a low-nitrogen fertilizer every week at full strength. Use a foliar feed as well each week. Start using a low-nitrogen fertilizer every week at full strength. Use a foliar feed as well each week. Two applications of low-nitrogen fertilizer or, even better, 0-10-10, during this period. Foliar feed once.
Autumn (Leaf change heralds the onset of dormancy in deciduous trees) Stop feeding when leaves start to change. Keep feeding evergreens. Reduce feed when leaves start to change. Keep feeding evergreens. Stop feeding deciduous trees, but give evergreens one more application in late autumn.

 

 

Always Remember:

 

  • Do not feed deciduous trees before bud break
  • Do not feed in winter, because trees cannot absorb the feed
  • Do not feed sick trees, as they will not be able to absorb nutrients easily
  • Do not feed after repotting for at least 6 to 8 weeks, as the delicate roots can be damaged

 

 

 

Selecting Appropriate Scrolls for Bonsai Display

A 表具師 Hyougushi is an artisan that works in paper, textiles, glue, and wood to create a variety of products. The two primary products made by a Hyougushi associated with bonsai display, are 掛け軸 kakejiku (hanging wall scrolls) and 屏風 byoubu (folding screens/partitions). The reader will be introduced to the methodology of judging scroll formality, how formality is related to different scroll designs, and some rules of thumb regarding the cloths and the pictures themselves.
The principles that the Hyougushi uses to design the frame for the scroll is entirely different from the principles used to display the scroll with a bonsai or viewing stone. When I first started working professionally as a Hyougushi, I understood little of the needs of the bonsai artist. It led me to learn new ideas, methodologies and ways of thinking to understand how to make scrolls more suited to the bonsaiist’s tastes.

The system of display that I have begun to study is called 雅道Gaddou or the “Way of Elegance/Refinement”. This display style focuses on the display of shohin bonsai and utilizes a very simple system of determining the formality of the display based upon every element. This article will only focus on the elements of the scroll in determining its use for a display. Additionally, the reader should realize that there are many more different types of scroll styles. Only the most basic elements of the scrolls will be presented to provide the bonsai artist with the ability to recognize the level of formality of the scroll. By recognizing these elements, decisions to select an appropriate scroll for a display may then be made with confidence.
The crux of understanding about the kakejiku is the ability to verify the level of formality of the scroll. Some basic attributes applied or omitted will resolve whether the kakejiku is ranked as 真Shin (formal), 行 Gyou (semi-formal) or 草 Sou (informal). This classification method also applies to the tree varieties, styling, pots, tables, slabs, calligraphy , accent pieces et.al.

The following are the most formal , Shin style scrolls. The most striking feature is the intermediate paper, called 台紙貼りDaishihari used as a buffer between the artwork and the cloths.

[hr]

jm-figure1
Figure 1; Photo provided courtesy of Al Keppler, and the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture

 

What type of scroll is pictured in Figure 1 to the left? This is the Shin no Shin style scroll, and is often reserved for Buddhism and religion related theme. Such religious themed works are not the most appropriate motifs to use for display.

In Figure 1 it is hard to see the picture, but it is quite clear that this is not religious themed artwork. This display was critiqued by my display Sensei and Figure 2 shows that the scroll being reduced in width would have produced a simplified display. In this case, the shin no shin is transformed into a shin no gyou scroll.

 

 

 

By removing the fuutai, the entire display becomes less busy and pushes the eye more to the bonsai. Additionally, by removing the 草者 kusamono there is no competition in the height between the tree and the accent. Replacing it with the 茅葺 Kayabuki, which is an old thatched roof Japanese house, correctly provides the depth (space) for this size of 地板 jiita used in the display. 

jm-figure2
Figure 2; Photoshop version of Original Al Keppler photo courtesy of Kuzuhara Ikkou, Shihan Rank of Gadou Style of Display

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[hr]

jm02

[hr]

[one_half]What is the scroll type in figure three to the right? The scroll is an excellent example of using good whitespace, and also has good color combinations of gold on light brown with khaki.Both of these points will be discussed in more detail below. One thing to consider when displaying this type of scroll is to properly straighten out the fuutai. In this case the fuutai are slightly bent and affect the display negatively.[/one_half] [one_half_last]

jm-figure3
Figure 3; Photo Courtesy of Bob Hilvers, Bonsai Curator, Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture

[/one_half_last]


 

 

[hr]

[hr]

[one_half]

The scroll to the right in Figure 6, is an example of a Gyou no Shin scroll. In this case the Fuutai are replaced with suji (the four vertical black lines running along the Ten or top of the scroll). Matching the season to the image on the scroll is very important. Appropriate images will not be discussed in this article, but the Magpie is often associated with a fall display. Based upon the information above though, this is too strong an image to be paired with a bonsai. It could become the focal point of the display rather than the bonsai.

[/one_half] [one_half_last]

Figure 6; Photo Courtesy of Rich from Bonsainut Forum.

[/one_half_last]

[hr]

Calligraphy with Scrolls

[one_half]

When placing a scroll which utilizes calligraphy, it is recommended to hang one written in the 草書Sousho (Full Cursive) or かな Kana styles. If one looks closely, the character for 草 Sou is the same as that for the informal scroll style. The full cursive style is the most informal writing style, and is appropriate for display with a bonsai, because it is softer, less bold and does not compete for the viewer’s attention. The example in Figure 7 is a sample of Sousho writing and reads, 清風万里秋Seifuu Banri no Aki. This is a poem and means the Pure Wind is the Completion of Autumn.

[/one_half] [one_half_last]jm-figure7[/one_half_last]

[hr]

[one_half]jm-figure8[/one_half] [one_half_last]One additional note is that one character scrolls are discouraged to use with bonsai because they compete for the viewer’s attention, but often do work well with certain types of 水石 suiseki. The scroll labeled Figure 8 is actually not a character, but is an abstract painting of the Ru Yi (Chinese) or 如李Nyoi (Japanese) scepter. It was a scepter held by the Chinese Emperor and would grant a requestor their wish by using the scepter. Poems and Sutra’s like the one outlined in Figure 7 are better suited to display with a bonsai, particularly those that expound on nature or the seasons.[/one_half_last]

[hr]

裂地Kireji (Cloth) Colors

[one_half]The correct term for the cloth mounted into a wall scroll is Kireji. This is the last point to consider when selecting a scroll for a display. The Gadou style of display encourages the use of very light earth tones for the cloth color. The justification of this is that these colors are soft, neutral and do not compete with the bonsai or main display piece. Khaki’s, tans, golds, grays, light greens, and light browns are the most desirable colors. The above Crow scroll in Figure 6 is a good example of using a light brown and tan. It can be further pointed out that colors can go with the seasons. The green with gold ivy arabesque with the khaki cloth in Figure 7 was designed specifically to represent fall colors that would likely be seen during the Autumn season. The last scroll in Figure 9, is a spring scroll written in Semi-cursive style and reads梨花一枝春 Rikka Isshi no Haru. This is a spring poem that states the blossoms on one branch of the Nashi (pear) tree signals spring. In this case, the scroll cloth colors of the light green with a moss design and a celadon/teal cloth were used to represent colors related to spring, especially young growth of the flower buds.

With these ideas in mind, it is hoped that the bonsai artist can be more confident to look for certain characteristics associated with scrolls that will enable them to select or design something that will complement their tree and add value to the entire display. If the reader has questions, please e-mail to [email protected]

[/one_half] [one_half_last][/one_half_last]

[hr]

Selecting Appropriate Scrolls for Bonsai Display
By Jonathan Maples, 表具師Hyougushi of Custom Japanese Calligraphy

[message_box]No Portion of this article may be copied, distributed, or disseminated without the express written consent of Custom Japanese Calligraphy and Jonathan Maples.[/message_box]

[hr]

From Bonsai: Writers comments and statements in their articles are the subjective opinions of the writer.

[clear]

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:

[bullet_list icon=”check” indent=”10px” style=””]

[/bullet_list]

Japanese Stroll Garden, a silent place!

Imagine gliding across bamboo, around the centerpiece of a water fountain, surrounded by classical greenery, evergreens and symbolic stones, being embraced by Japan to find two bamboo seating chairs on either side of a center table holding the ever patience bonsai tree, all in the back garden. This is the stroll garden.

There are several different garden types from flat gardens to hill gardens; all of which are achievable by anyone with the desire to produce a quiet stillness, as well as an appreciation for nature. The design and existence of gardens has been a very important art in Japan for centuries. The stroll garden was developed between the 17th and 19th century, after the medieval period, due to the lack of travel. This garden has a specific purpose, the path is the importance. The path in the stroll garden has symbolic references and memories of destinations. This creates the desired transportation to those far away places. This garden succeeds at a rare accomplishment, getting away without leaving.

In earlier gardens, with artificial hills and ornaments, were dictated by belief of myth and legend. Between 1185-1392, the Kamakura period, the Zen Buddhist priests developed the gardens for meditation. Though royal gardens did flourish again, seemingly as a result of Zen gardens, the newly vivacious gardens consisted of waterfalls, hills and a variety of plants, while the tea garden still adheres to meditative qualities rather than decorative. Close attention to symbolic features and the arrangement of elements is necessary.

Creating a Japanese garden can be an inspiration. Gratification is awaiting you at the conclusion of the garden’s uprising, beyond the serenity that is created, the patience that is taught, the perseverance that is achieved… there is an invitation of peace. Remembering this is not an English garden, it is not to be extravagant and overwhelming. The garden is simple and natural and invokes the spirit of the surroundings. The ultimate objective to a Japanese garden is to solicit harmony and pursue peace.

Styles of Bonsai

cedar-forestThere are many styles of Bonsai and all refer to natural styles in nature. Many have Japanese names such as Ikadabuki, Netsuranari, Nebari and Shari. These terms have become generic although originating in Japan and they work in the same way as Latin terminology works with garden plants. It allows everyone, no matter what country he or she is in to understand each other.

In China where the other great art of Penjing, the Chinese name for Bonsai, originated they have many styles reflecting the landscape in the many regions that these styles are commonly seen in nature. The five main regions of China have within these regions a number of forms.

My point is that while we grow Bonsai or Penjing outside Japan or China, we have to work with our own native trees and try and reflect the styles that we see around us in our own countries landscapes. This means that we should be taking the opportunity to create unique styles of American, Australian, African or Scottish Bonsai and not just Japanese or Chinese styles.

John Yoshio Naka, a great American Japanese teacher and authority on styles and size definitions, identified both the major styles and heights, which help us, determinate the style descriptions.  John is no longer with us and like many others having studied with him over the years, I was taught these styles by John and I have put his descriptions in the following chart. This is a good start to the understanding of the names in both Japanese and in English. Chinese styles have their own terminology. I teach in many different countries where English is not the prime language so the terminology is useful as everyone will understand Chokkan rather than Formal Upright. I prefer using the English terminology in English speaking countries though.

 

Japanese Name English Name
Chokkan Formal Upright No curves or bends in trunk
Moyogi Informal Upright –Trunk changing direction.
Shakan Slanted
Sho-Shakan Small Slant
Chu-Shakan Medium Slant
Dai-Shakan Extreme Slant
Hankan Very coiled trunk
Fukinagashi Windswept
Bankan Old coiled trunk
Saba kan Hollow trunk
Shari Kan Exposed deadwood on the trunk- Shari miki dead wood with dead branch stumps like fish bones
Neijikan Twisted in wind trunk and- or – branches
Kobukan Lumpy trunk, gnarled with age
Kengai Cascade.
Han Kengai Semi cascade
Dai Kengai Straight cascade, extreme or long.
Gaito Kengai A tree that is on the edge and cascades with a round Ju Shin, apex.
Taki Kengai A cascade changing direction
Ito Kengai Multiple thin cascades
Takan Kengai Twin or more trunks cascade
Netsuranari Raft style from roots
Ikada Raft style of trees from fallen trunk
Ikadabuki Raft style from a fallen tree, branches takes root.
Soju Twin trunks
Sokan Two trunks of differing size from single root
Yose-uye(pr. Yohsay-ooay) Forest / group style
Tako Zukuri Octopus style. Very twisted branches and trunk
Ishi-zuke Root over rock
Ne-agari Exposed root style-erosion exposed roots
Hoki dachi Broom style. Fan shape with even growth
Bunjin Literati. Similar to elegant Sumi paintings long trunk with slight growth at top. Not heavy
Some Trees in Japanese English Names. I have listed just a few here for general reference
Momji or Kaede Maple
Sugi Japanese Cedar
Keyaki Japanese Grey Bark Elm
Ichijiku Fig
Shide or Soro Hornbeam
Goyo-Matsu (mats) Five needle white pine (also Pinus pentaphylla)
Kuro-Matsu (mats) Japanese Black Pine, two needles
Shimpaku Juniper. The most popular Juniper grown as Bonsai
Kashu Shimpaku California Juniper. Also Utah and other similar species such as Western Juniper and Common Juniper (communis)
Benishitan Cotoneaster
Botangi Buttonwood. Silver Buttonwood. From warmer climes in America, Florida etc.
Kashi, Kunugi, Oak. Many varieties
Maki Podocarpus pine
Satsuki Flowering Azalea. Kurume Azaleas
Ezo-Matsu Spruce, Japanese. Jezo, Ezo or Yezo spruce
Ichii Yew. Japanese, American or English
Sarusuberi Crepe Myrtle
Tsuge Box. Stiff when old but great for Bonsai
Other Terms*
Ara-kawacho & Arakawa Rough bark
Mastu (Mats) Pine Bonsai
Ju –Shin Top of a Bonsai tree
Shoki Collected Bonsai that is  well established as a Bonsai
Yamadori* Collected Natural material for Bonsai or Natural Bonsai not yet refined into a Bonsai
Tangei Bonsai material or material good for making Bonsai
Bonsai A tree in a tray or container-From the Chinese Pentsai-later Sung Dynasty.
Bonkei Landscapes with other plants, animals figures, buildings etc. In China its Pentsai.
BonsekiBonsekei Landscape planting but no figures Only rocks, moss and trees.
Uro Hole in trunk with healed edges
Nebari * Surface Roots
Saba miki Split trunk
Shari kan Bark split from trunk
Shari, * & Shari Miki Exposed areas on trunkDead trunk areas with jinned twigs sticking out like spines
Jin,  & Jinn * Jinning Exposed areas on branches or tipsTo remove bark and create dead wood
Dai Table to display a Bonsai
Daiza Shaped Table or a base for a Suiseki

 

  • · common terms

[hr]

Bonsai heights and names

 

Many years ago John taught us that we need to have a structure of size descriptions as well. Bonsai come in a variety of heights ranging from one inch up to six feet. Essentially the larger Bonsai are known as Garden Bonsai or Yard Trees while most Bonsai are of a reasonable size around a maximum of 40 inches. In some instances trees that require two persons to carry it are simply big trees in pots and not accepted (in some quarters) as true Bonsai. Nothing is fixed as to what is a Bonsai however and this size chart is a guideline.

 

Sizes are measured from soil level to the Apex of the Bonsai. The right size of pot to enhance the tree acts as a frame to a picture. It should be seen but not seen. A pot should not take over from the tree but have a quiet elegance in its own right. A pot should not be a distraction.

One inch = 2.5 Centimetres

 

Height Name English or other Name
1” Keishi Tsubo Thimble size –Within the Shohin category
1-3” Shito Mini size-very small-Within the Shohin category
3-6”
Mame*
Mini size –Within the Shohin category
6-8”
Shohin*
Katade –Small Size also Gafu-Bonsai, or  Miyabi-Bonsai. (Gafu is a term for excellent small sized Bonsai)
8- 16”
Kifu
Sho or Kifu – Small to medium size
16-24”
Chu
Chuhin Medium Size
24-40”
Dai
Also Oomono – Both terms mean Large Size but Oomono means a large size that can be carried by one man.
41—65” Very large sized Bonsai. Sometimes termed as Yard Bonsai. Needs two men to carry this size. Not always accepted as Bonsai in Competition (subjective)

Article by Craig Coussins©   

[hr]

bonsaibanner


[hr]

 

Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees

(c) Dan Robinson
(c) Dan Robinson

As you read this book you can feel the emotion of understanding, an understanding that bonds the ‘Author to the Artist‘.
From the moment that Will and Dan first met, when Dan explained to Will the true pronunciation of the word
Bonsai, as Bone-sigh and not Bonzai (The karate kid yelled voice with a chop to match), this friendship was moulded.

This book is more than a story of a life enriched by trees. It is a descriptive piece that leads you the reader into an understanding of this great American pioneer, a depiction that details the challenges in Dan’s life in more than just creating ’Gnarly’ masterpieces.

The main character, the artist, the champ as we used to say for our favourite western flicks is known to his peers as the ’Picasso of Bonsai’, a pioneer who coined the phrase ’Phoenix Grafts’. A ‘Phoenix Graft’ is a technique were you bond a dead tree with a younger tree using various techniques.

Dan is also known as the man who changed the traditional styling of Bonsai to new techniques back in 78’. Very much a western style, a controversial technique using power tools for designing and crafting his trees, it is a technique that has been adopted globally since.

The imaginary in this book is awe inspiring, it is an inspirational piece of work that will bring you through the journey of this great man’s life.

(c) Craig Coussins
(c) Craig Coussins
There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.
What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.
I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.
When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.
That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’

Article by Craig Coussins on Dan Robinson.

There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.

What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.

I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.

When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.

That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’  (By Craig Coussins)

(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers
(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers

In Hawaii they call it “mana.” In Japan it is known as “ki.” This is the life force contained within man, animals and the plant world. It is the reason why the power of touch is healing. Those who possess such a touch along with an artistic bent and an innate respect for the natural world have the ability to create great beauty.

Dan Robinson is such a person. His gentle hands sculpt, nurture, caress and coax tiny and sometimes wizened bonsai trees into delicate works of art. His life force connects with the trees and they respond.  Now, with his new book “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” Dan is sharing his creations, and a good portion of his life, with the world. Follow the pages as the “Tree Guy” reminisces about his early days when his life force was new, but untrained. Discover the artist behind the art, the philosophies of a man arguably more in tune with trees than with fellow humans. Follow him as he searches for new trees in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and brings them back to be part of his seven acre Elanden Gardens.

Dan views each of his bonsai trees as an independent spirit. He respects the mana of the tree and understands that by caring for and respecting that tree, it will return the favor by putting it best “trunk” forward. Proper bonsai form is sometimes trumped by a tree’s penchant to grow a certain way, creating something more beautiful than the artist might imagine. Sometimes the tree knows best.

Within the pages of “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” are stunning photographs of bonsai trees that have been nurtured to perfection. Some are older than the artist, but in a tree’s world, that is still young. At times it might be hard to tell whether Dan or the trees take center stage in the book. Since they have shared their life force to create such beauty, there really is no difference. This is not only a charmingly told tale about a man and his trees and the ancient art of bonsai, it is a love story. (Review by Monica Wachmann)

This above pre-release reviews were based on limited information received from the Publishers ‘Nara Press’. We have been invited to do a full review after the book is published in early October. We would like to thank Will Hiltz, The Author, Chief Photographer and Publisher of ‘Gnarley Branches, Ancient Trees’ for permission to use these images.

So as they say ‘Watch this space” for more book reviews.