Tag Archives: Articles by Craig Coussins

Which bonsai species to start with?

As a beginner of bonsai one of the key questions that you will always ask is, which species to start with? Craig Coussins explains your options.

The best species to choose largely depends on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere. Popular outdoor species in temperate areas of globe, such as northern USA, Canada and northern Europe, parts of South Africa, New Zealand (South Island), Japan, and other temperate areas of Asia, include junipers (Juniperus), pines (Pinus), maples (Acer), larches (Larix), cotoneaster (Cotoneaster), hemlocks (Tsuga), oaks (Quercus) and beeches (Fagus).

These are also many local species that have their own particular requirements.  In the USA these include buttonwoods (Conocarpus), cypresses (Taxodium) and desert junipers (Juniperus). South Africa has acacias, white olives (Buddleja), peaches (Kiggelaria) and figs (Ficus). Australia also has figs as well as gums (Eucalyptus), while New Zealand has Tortaras, Pohutukawas and Rimus. Local climate differences will determine the species used.

For complete beginners cotoneasters are almost impossible to kill, and cypresses, such as the Chameacyparus pissifera, are very easy to develop. Maples are excellent, except that you must keep them out of frosts, but conversely they are also a temperate species, and conifers, pines, larches, cedars etc., are a little slow to grow.

Elms (Ulmus) and Zelkovas are excellent for bonsai and can be grown almost anywhere in the world because there are so many varieties of indoor and outdoor elms these days. Any of the indoor species used in temperate climates such as Sageritia, Serrisa and Chinese elms, are also very to grow. It is a good idea to find a species that are quick-growing, so that you can see the result, or else growing a bonsai could end up like watching paint dry!

Seed culture is extremely slow, and in my opinion should only be tried in addition to other methods.

Buying a bonsai is easy and is the usual route into the hobby, but only buy a tree that is workable. Avoid pines to start with, as they can be slow to develop if you are a beginner. A maple, juniper, or cypress will be an excellent first tree as they are all vigorous plants. In colder climates, the indoor varieties consist of tropical trees. These include figs, a succulent known as the money tree (Crassula), sageritia, serissa and many other species. 

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.