Tag Archives: Tinytrees Garden

How small can a Bonsai get!

It is true that Bonsai are miniaturised versions of the wild things that can be found on the edge of famous lakes and gardens or seen hanging off the edge of cliffs. But did you know that Bonsai too have their miniature versions!

These Bonsai are commonly known as Shohin and Mame.

Shohin is a Japanese word that means ‘tiny thing’ and in Bonsai this means that the tree has to be within a certain size to qualify as a Shohin. So the rule is that the tiny-thing must be 35 cm wide and 21 cm high.

Mame are another thing. These can be between 10 to 15 cm. These are also called ‘mini-bonsai’.

Some Bonsai classifications:

  • Up to 2.5 cm high: Keishi
  • Up to 7.5 cm high: Shito
  • Up to 15 cm high: Mame
  • Up to 40 cm high: Kifu Sho
  • Up to 60 cm high: Chu
  • Up to 100 cm high: Dai

Creating Mame Bonsai

Creating Mame is a very difficult task. It’s challenging enough training a normal Bonsai tree, but these Mame are incredibly small.

One of the most important aspect of growing Mame or any Bonsai is to understand your tree and its growing habits.

Selecting the right species for your small bonsai adventure is very crucial to its success. Ideally you should go for a plant with naturally small leaves; this will make it easier to train the bonsai as it grows. Due to their extremely small size it would be very difficult to trim the leaves and roots, you could use a magnifying glass to help you whilst carrying out these activities on your plant. Best plants to use, are the Chinese Elm or Cotoneaster. These have naturally small leaves and would be best to start off with.

Another important aspect of growing your Mame is choosing the right kind of pot. You would need to get an equally small pot to give your bonsai the effect of miniaturisation. Watering such small bonsai is a difficult task. You could easily over water these plants, as the pot sizes are small and it becomes difficult to gauge the exact amount of water required by the plants. To create a moist atmosphere for your tree, keep the pot buried in damp sand, only to bring out for presentations.  However your Mame cannot completely do without water.

Considering the fact that Mame Bonsai do not have a lot of growth to support, fertilizers should be used less than you would use with normal Bonsai. It’s probably best practise to dilute your fertilizers.

Since the size of the pot is small, the amount of soil is also very less. As a result of this the soil looses its fertility very early. Hence you must repot the Mame more frequently than you do repotting for normal bonsai trees. The average repot time for normal bonsai is every two years. See Repotting Bonsai.

For more information on Shohin Bonsai, check out Shohin Bonsai Europe.

Training a Bonsai from seed

jacandra-in-potHave you ever considered training a Bonsai from seed and putting your own style to a tree. It’s not that difficult and it is a great way of developing a collection at a lower cost and most importantly if you are starting out, you don’t experiment with expensive trees.

The only disadvantage is that you will have to wait about 3 years (dependent on species, growing rate etc) before you can start training your tree. The main reason for this is to give the seedling a chance to harden itself.

So what are the best tree’s to start with?

Well, almost any tree can be trained as a Bonsai. I once trained a Horse Chestnut and miniaturised its large leaves. The tree’s I would start with would be Maples, Fir’s or Chinese Elm, the Chinese Elm have naturally small leaves. So the balance between roots and leaf can be easier to achieve. If you live in an apartment try some indoor trees like the ‘Japanese Wax Privet’ , ‘Blue Jacaranda’  with it’s blue flowers and fern like leaves or the ‘Silk Tree’ with its feathery leaves and delicate flowers.

jacandra-beforeOver 10 weeks ago (Jan 2010) I placed ‘Blue Jacaranda’ (Indoor Bonsai) seeds in a pot of vermalite (well watered)  and placed them in a warm location. If best use a propagation unit that can supply bottom heat. These seeds took approximately 6 weeks to sprout.

The next stage is to transplant the seedling into their new home, a pot with good free drainage soil. At this stage I would cut back the tap root to encourage more fiberous roots and begin the miniaturization process.

The best tool to use is a Bonsai trimming shears as this will give a nice clean cut. After this use a dibber to create a whole in the soil, then place your seedling in the holding the stem and backfill the soil. Thenjacandra-after water well and don’t let the soil dry out. Your seedling will require good attention as it develops its new roots.

The images above show the tap root before and after trimming.

As the trees progress I will keep you up to date.