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As a gardener, you probably appreciate the art of gardening. You carefully choose plants and miniature accessories for the fairy garden. You cultivate beauty in the backyard, the container, the raised bed. Gardening is an active art form that celebrates creativity, especially in the miniature garden, where innovation abounds. Bonsai trees are an example of miniature plants that grow at the intersection of art, science, and history. This ancient Japanese art form produces small, container-bound trees with the same scale and shape of full-size trees. Rather than genetically dwarfed plants, these trees are trimmed and shaped to create realistic representations of “life-size” trees.
Remember: Bonsai trees are not “set it and forget it” plants. It takes time, patience, and artistry to cultivate a Bonsai garden. That said, these miniature trees are accessible to gardeners at all levels. Once you fall in love with Bonsai, you could be hooked for life! Some trees, when carefully cultivated, live for hundreds of years. They can be passed down from generation to generation. Ready to dive in and try it for yourself?
When it is literally translated, the term “Bonsai” means “planted in a container” or “tray planting.” Traditionally, these tiny trees have been planted in shallow containers or trays. The shallow tray restricts the capacity of the plant to grow roots and store food. Suitable containers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Look for one with a drainage hole and saucer for convenient care. Bonsai are usually planted off-center in the container. This makes it easier to prune the tree as it grows.
Just like any other plant, a Bonsai tree needs moisture, light, fertilizer, and regular trimming. As they are trees, rather than houseplants, Bonsai trees will require six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Though these trees can thrive indoors, you will likely see the most healthy and beautiful version of your plant when you locate it outdoors. A homebound plant should be placed in a south-facing window. Consider using a humidity tray.
Experienced gardeners know that watering schedules can make or break a delicate plant. Bonsai are no exception. During the warmer months, plan to water your tree once a day. As the temperature drops and the tree heads into dormancy, water less often, but continue to test the soil daily to make sure it does not dry out completely. For best results, use a watering can or hose. This will help distribute the water over your plant in a gentle shower.
Since Bonsai trees cannot extend their root systems to find nutrients, fertilizing is an especially important step. Younger trees are fertilized frequently throughout the growing season using a balanced fertilizer. Liquid or solid fertilizers are both acceptable.
Bonsai gardeners must trim, prune, repot, and wire their trees in order to obtain the desired shape and keep the tree small. Proper pruning of the branches promotes healthy growth and helps the plant create attractive shapes. Both branches and roots should be trimmed, especially prior to repotting. Most Bonsai gardeners repot their trees every two years or so. As the tree grows and the container fills with roots, it can become harder for the tree to absorb air and water through the soil. Repotting increases longevity by keeping the roots healthy. Right before repotting, it is recommended that about a third of the old root mass is removed. Then, the tree can be placed in the same pot or a slightly larger container.
Additionally, some gardeners will attach aluminum wires to the trunk and branches of the tree to create turns or adjust unwanted curves. While this is not a necessary step for every tree, it can help a grower achieve the desired shape.
Love the Bonsai look, but prefer a low-maintenance plant? You can choose from a wide variety of faux Bonsai trees! Both faux and real Bonsai trees will help you achieve a pleasant mix of art, history, and science in your garden.
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