Tag Archives: Grow Your Own 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.

 

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.

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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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Feed that blooming bonsai!

florlion-(c)-ShutterstockThe proper soil and fertilization rates are imperative for a healthy bonsai. Typical bonsai soil is a fast draining loose mix of several compounds such as course sand, gravel, fired clay pellets, expanded shale, peat, and bark. Dependent upon your location the soil components may change or some extra components added such as in Japan the use of volcanic soils.

The harmonic mixture of organic and inorganic components set the base for the cultivation of your bonsai tree. The fast draining soil harmonizes with the bonsai containers made specifically for proper water drainage. The whole beginning process of acquiring the proper soil for your specific species of bonsai compliments the whole harmony effect achieved from a finished bonsai masterpiece.

Soils that contain little to no clay or native soil to the specific species of bonsai requires regular fertilization to overcome the soils lacking. Bonsai planted in non soil components definitely need nutrient elements added.

Plants fluctuate significantly in their reactions to soil nutrients that are programmed in their natural growth rates, the length of their growth periods, their ages, the types of root systems they have, and their ability to take in nutrients. Plants have broadly diverse growth rates and amplified nutrient intensities in the soil will not change natural growth rates. For an example, trees within the same species can have notably diverse nutrient needs and will respond in their own way to nutrient intensity in the soil.

Although one may think by increasing the intensity of fertilizer given to their bonsai will produce greater and more rapid growth rate, in reality it can have a complete negative effect and cause great distress to your bonsai. There comes a point when too much is just that, too much and the fertilizer begins to use the initial effect it was meant for and begins to cause more harm than good. Overdosing on fertilizer with your bonsai can result in a toxicity effect; make it more susceptible to disease, abnormal unbalanced growth, and nutrient imbalances.

Knowing and studying the specific species of bonsai you are working with is the first step in optimizing your fertilizer routine and save you from undue harm to your bonsai. Plant growths differ as well as the season s the plant displays the most growth and need for extra nutrients. Feeding fertilizer in doormat times or times of slow inherited growth is not only senseless but can be disastrous.

Depending on the maturity of your bonsai will also determine the amount of fertilizer it will require. Young bonsai will require more fertilizers than their slower growing mature counterparts. You cannot make a doormat tree begin growing by adding fertilizer. Absorption rates of nutrients by plant roots also vary dependent on several factors: salt levels in soil and high levels of other nutrients. Fertilizers specifically made for all sorts of varieties of bonsai are the best bet of any bonsai artist.

Organic Bonsai Techniques

Because of the toxins associated with fertilizers and pesticides, many people are turning to organic gardening. The Bonsai is one plant that people are adding to their organic gardens. Originating in Asia, bonsai gardening has become very popular throughout the world. Bonsai plants require a lot of loving care. Growing them is often considered an art form.

Organic Soil and Fertilization
The proper soil mixtures and fertilizers are essential for healthy bonsai growth. Research shows that the best bonsai soils are soils that have organic matters. Bonsai soil tends to be a loose, quick-draining mix of natural and non-chemically treated soil. The foundation is a mixture of sand or gravel, fired clay pellets, or shale, which is mixed with an organic compound such as peat or bark. Volcanic clay soils are a preferred selection in Japan. Kadama and Kanuma are two popular choices.

Bonsai trees require a fair amount of organic fertilizer. Fertilizer should only be given to the bonsai after watering. Feeding is usually performed once every two weeks during the summer months, and then reduced to once a month for the remainder of year. Organic fertilizers, organic liquid fertilizers are available at many online organic plant stores. You should call your local plant store to see if they have any organic bonsai supplies in stock. Manure and compost are two examples of organic feeds that can used when growing a bonsai tree. It is important to work organic mixtures into the soil.

You use your own compost in your bonsai organic soil mix. To do this, you will require more than one type of compost. According to most bonsai experts, the best organic bonsai soil mix is 40% compost, 30 % seramis clay granule, and 30% grit.

Watering Your Bonsai
With minimal space in a bonsai pot, careful and frequent attention is required to make sure the tree is adequately watered. Sun, heat and wind can dry bonsai trees in a short time which ca result in permanent damage. You need to know the needs of your particular tree because some trees can survive short periods of dry spells, while others need constant moisture. Deciduous trees are more susceptible to dehydration. Evergreens can appear to handle periods of dry conditions better, but do not display any signs of damage until it is has occurred. One indication of damage is that the leaves will start wilting.

The process of watering is different than how you would normally water regular houseplant. Bonsai trees require submersion of the whole pot in water for several minutes. Once you remove the pot, allow the bonsai to drain. Too much watering can result in root rot and fungal infestations. Free draining soil prevents water-logging. To maintain proper soil, provide water in small amounts frequently because there is a flushing effect when the water is added. Bonsai plants are repotted regularly during their development. This encourages new feeder root growth so that the tree will be able to absorb moisture better. When they mature, they are repotted less often.

Young bonsai, known as potensai, are placed in ‘growing boxes.’ The large boxes permit the roots to grow which allows for food and water consumption as well as adding life to the tree. When the bonsai has outgrown the ‘growing box,’ it is then replanted in a ‘training box.’ This box is smaller allowing for a denser root mass. This makes replanting the bonsai in its final pot much easier.

Growing bonsai trees can be a very peaceful and spiritual experience. With the right care and trimming techniques, you can grow a beautiful living piece of art.

Organic gardening guide features tips and solutions to common garden issues – Redenta’s is committed to a natural and sustainable approach to organic gardening and organic gardening supplies.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Amy_Nutt

Bonsai let's begin

wayne-acer-group

“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.

What is a Bonsai and how it works!

Autumn-Shishigashira-Craig-CoussinsBonsai has become one of the most popular hobbies worldwide. Some hobbies such as Ikebana are based on artistic expression while growing cactus is based on horticultural knowledge for that particular range of species. Bonsai straddles the artistic and horticultural worlds. Yes, we need to know the means required to take care of, grow and maintain the tree but the tree that is growing will only grow in a random style and would take many years of growth to achieve its final mature image.

The artistic input means that we can develop that tree onto a miniature image of its final destination in a very short period. Keeping the roots and branches dense and healthy, while growing the plant in a shallow container and pruning and shaping the branches into a tree like structure that will eventually give the illusion of a mature, full grown, or very old tree, requires knowledge.

Growing Bonsai is an art form. Reading this article and attending a convention will contribute to your artistic knowledge, as will going to classes by Bonsai Masters. Without the artistic knowledge, it can be difficult to understand the techniques that are required to get to this point of its development into a Bonsai. Perspective, placement and design are all part of this process. Looking at nature and seeing ideas from the forests, plains, deserts and mountains can all help us become better Bonsai artists.

Understanding perspective is probably the most important element in Bonsai Design.

We are creating illusions, an illusion perhaps, to something that can be anything from 50 to many hundreds percent larger. Skill is necessary to do this and this book should help you with some projects that look at different ways of creating that illusion. For example, perspective planting where the illusion of distance is achieved by planting a tall Bonsai slightly towards the front of the pot while placing a similar shaped but much  smaller one slightly to the rear and one side of the pot will give the illusion of distance.

What we should also look at  the work from Bonsai Masters from around the globe as they deliver their own thoughts and designs. This should give you some insight into how these quite different artists approach a subject.

In many countries other than the west and Japan, Bonsai are called by other names. In Vietnam the style of planting preferred over Bonsai are called Hon Non Bo and in China, Penjing. Of course, the art has developed in different ways around the world and no more so than in the west. The generic name of Bonsai was taken originally from the Chinese Pentsai nearly one thousand years ago and translated in a literal form by the Japanese as Bonsai.  The present day Bonsai that is practiced in places outside Japan can be quite different to that practiced inside Japan.

Naturally, each country has its own species, climatic conditions and the practitioners of the art of Bonsai are at many differing levels of competence.  As a teacher of Bonsai, I feel that it is always better to return to a ‘back to basics’ section in any article that I write to bring the newer growers, as well as more experienced growers, the opportunity to see new techniques or perhaps offer some suggestions to develop their own abilities based on correct basic techniques.

Article written by Craig Coussins and originally published in his third and fourth books, Bonsai School and Bonsai Masterclass. Available from Amazon Books.

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Waynes Bonsai

In the April ezine I ran two competitions. One was for Bonsai tips for beginners and the second, I asked collectors to send me a short description of their love affair with their favourite tree.

The best entry for the favourite tree was from Wayne Cosgrove from Co.Wexford, Ireland.

waynes bonsaiMy best and most loved bonsai is my CRYPTOMERIA japonica or temple cedar.

This tree was a 6ft tall bush when I bought it but I done some radical pruning and now it stands at 30 inches. It is a twin trunk style and I think the tree gives off a sense of majesty and assurance and also age which is what we strive for in bonsai but young or old the tree’s soul is most important.

Ok here is the funny bit.

My beloved Cryptomeria bonsai is in fact potted in an Emile Henry oven dish which I got from a friend who was chucking it out. I drilled some drainage holes in the base and it passes as an oval bonsai pot.

I just hope my bonsai does not cook in the summer sun.

April Bonsai Update

favourite_treeThe April newsletter was just sent to all subscribers, aptly named ‘April showers, no snow please’ after the the snow showers we had over the past few days. It should disappear by morn!

In this months newsletter we are offering two competitions, one for members offering a selection of Bonsai books and meditation CD’s from Damascus Acoustic Meditations. For non-members we have a great prize if you are a collector of Bonsai books and that is a specially signed copy of one Craig Cousins Bonsai books. To enter see competition page for more details.

Other news:

A prominent Irish Bonsai collector passed away last September and I have been asked by his family to sell off his collection of over 200 trees. The range of trees is mainly outdoor trees, including a selection of Yamadori. More details to follow in the May newsletter.

Bonsai Activities for April:

Your main focus of activity for April is trimming. As spring has finally started the growth on your Bonsai tree will become elongated and out of form from your preferred design. Trim back the leaf growth and remove unwanted suckers from the base of the tree. The following video will show some pruning techniques as well as showing you how to create a Bonsai from nursery stock.

The subject tree is a Juniper. For more information on Juniper for beginners see the following post.