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Bonsai - An Overview

An Introduction to Bonsai

Bonsai is an ancient art form which originated in Japan.  Bonsai deals with growing and maintaining miniature trees.  The trees can be made to grow into very small versions of adult trees by special techniques of pruning the branches and the roots.

The Bonsai Trees look like perfect miniature replica of the original trees.  Bonsai trees can be placed  in homes or outdoors. 

Sometimes wires are used to direct a branch in a particular direction.  A Bonsai tree can be accommodated in a small pot or a tray. Though originally from Japan, the art of Bonsai is hugely popular around the world.

It is a very rewarding hobby , particularly for those with an artistic bent of mind.  Bonsai trees take many years to grow.  However, many shops and hobbyists also provide sell bonsai which is a few years old.

Tools for Bonsai

It is only natural that a specialized art form like Bonsai will have its own set of instruments ad tools.  The tools developed for Bonsai are intended to make the process of cutting and pruning easier.

These tools are specially designed so that the plant is not damaged and there are no unsightly scars or other blemishes in the tree.  There are special tools available for making special cuts on the bark of the bonsai tree to give it an aged appearance.

The roots of a Bonsai plant need to be carefully handled especially when moving the plant from one pot to another . Special rakes are available to prevent the roots from getting entangled and to separate them from the soil.

Special tweezers may also be required to remove dead tissue and debris.

The list of Common Bonsai Tools are

1. Bonsai Scissors

2. Concave Cutters to Trim branches closely

3. Root Cutters to Trim roots when repotting

4. Wire Cutters to trim the Bonsai Wires

5.  Bonsai Knife

Selecting a tree for Bonsai

While any tree can be made into a Bonsai it is necessary to choose a species of tree keeping the following factors in mind.

Climatic condition. 

Trees should be chosen keeping the climatic conditions in mind. Try to locate a tree which can survive in your particular temperature. Certain trees cannot withstand heat while still others will not tolerate cold. Some trees may be vulnerable to pests and insects.  Such trees are best avoided.

Look at the adult tree of the species from a distance and see if you like it. Personal preference is important.

A Bonsai is an investment of a great deal of time and effort.  Select the tree you like after observing all its features such as the trunk, the branches and the leaves.

Outdoor Bonsai

Bonsai are usually placed inside homes. Some people feel that having a bonsai inside the home brings a piece of the wild forest home. Another reason is to protect the small plants from the elements. Bonsai plants may not be able to withstand the temperature and climactic variations if placed outside.

However, keeping bonsai carefully arranged in a garden outside the home has an aesthetics and charm of its own.

When placing a Bonsai outside the home, it is necessary to check the ability of the particular species to withstand the maximum and minimum temperatures throughout the year. You must also check if the bonsai can withstand snow or rainfall or wind.

In summer, outdoor Bonsai trees may have to be protected from excess sunlight. 
Bonsai Trees can also planted in terraces or balconies. 

Bonsai Soils

Selecting the right soil is very important while growing a Bonsai Plant. The soil provides the nutrients to the growing plant. It also serves to retain water so that the plant can absorb. Each Bonsai species has specific requirements and hence requires the proper soil.
The soil in a Bonsai plants should retain water so that the plant may absorb
provide nutrients for the plant to absorb

Provide aeration for the roots to absorb oxygen
The Bonsai soil should not get compacted. This can prevent the free flow of water and air within the soil and can damage the plant. The soil may be turned periodically to prevent compaction. 
The soils used for Bonsai Plants are classified into two main categories. 

Organic soils and Inorganic Soils. 
Organic soil contain components formed by the decomposition of natural plant matter. Examples are leaf litter, peat and bark

Inorganic Soils are materials which are materials such as fired clays, volcanic lava. These soils do not contain any organic matter. 

Organic soil materials have the advantage of containing the nutrients required for plants. However, there are significant disadvantages of using organic soils. Excess water retention can damage the roots. Organic Soils tend to break down and compact. This can prevent water flow from reaching specific regions of the roots. 

Inorganic soils do not “break down”. They retain their original granular structure. This ensures that the water drains and no excess water remains. Aeration is better.

Organic soils specially composed for different bonsai species are available at most hobby stores.

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