Bonsai is an art form which deals with the growth and care of miniature trees. Practically any tree can be made into a Bonsai. The lifespan of a Bonsai Tree is the same as that of the tree in the wild. With proper care and nutrition, many trees last generations and are passed over as prized heirlooms within families.
There are specimens which are said to be 500 years old. In the wild, the roots of the trees can grow underground in search of water and nutrients. At home, in a Bonsai tray, the plant is entirely dependent on the owner for its nutrients and water. Thus, the Bonsai should be cared for like a pet. Trees which are taken care of are healthy and live longer. They can resist pests and diseases better. Temperature and Humidity are important parameters to be maintained.
Bonsai should not be exposed to frost or excessive cold.
Trimming of the Bonsai
Trimming plays a role in longevity by removing diseased or unhealthy branches of the tree. If a portion of the tree has been attacked by disease or a pest, it is better to remove the branch.
The age of a tree cannot be determined from its appearance. This is because many trees are deliberately manipulated by twisting and pruning to give an aged appearance.
Calculating the Age of the Bonsai
The Age of a Bonsai can be calculated by counting the tree rings in its trunk. It may not be possible to see the rings in the trunk. You can count the rings in any of the primary branches to get an idea of the age.
Many people want their bonsai trees to take a particular shape. This can be done by guiding the growth of the tree by means of wires. Bonsai wires are wrapped around the trunk and the branches and then gradually bent in the desired direction.
The thickness of the Bonsai wires should be a third of the thickness of the branches.
Bonsai wires are made of two materials, anodized aluminium and annealed copper. Anodized aluminium is usually preferred over copper. Aluminium is cheaper than copper. However, aluminium is also weaker than copper. Thus, thickness of aluminium wire will be more than the thickness of copper wire of the same strength.
Copper, due to its colour, blends well with the color of the trunk and is not easily visible when used in trees. Besides, it is also thinner.
Aluminium on the other hand is more visible. Nevertheless it is cheaper and is the material of choice for amateur Bonsai enthusiasts. Raffia, plant based material is sometimes used with wires to prevent damage to the trunk and branches from the wires.
Raffia in Bonsai
Raffia is a natural plant material. Raffia strips have the property of being flexible when wet and becoming rigid when dry. They are used instead of wires to shape bonsai trunks and branches.
The strands of Raffia are soaked in water for about 30 minutes. They are then wound around the trunks and the branches in the desired shape. When the strands dry, they become rigid and support the branches. Raffia does not cause the scars on the branches unlike wires.
Traditionally, used for making baskets and hats, these strands have come to used extensively in Bonsai. The strands are made from the leaves of a palm tree which is native to the island of Madagascar.