What Is Bonsai?

what does bonsai mean?
The literal translation is "plant in a tray".  It is usually defined as the art of miniaturising trees.

where did bonsai originate?
The techniques used to control the growth of trees are centuries old and are known to have been used by the Romans.  The Chinese used the techniques for producing artistic pot plants, but it was the Japanese who formalised the art as it is known today.

does it take a long time to grow a bonsai?
Beginners to the art tend to be concerned about the age of a Bonsai, but the skill lies in developing the appearance of great age, in a few short years.  There are many beautiful Bonsai only 3/4 years old! It is a matter of balance between good horticulural practice and artistry.  It is possible, with effort, to achieve a collection in a matter of months.

are they special trees?
No, they are normal trees and plants that are trained to their beautiful shapes and kept in their minature form by special techniques.

can any plant be used for bonsai?
As Bonsai means "plant in a tray", within that definition any plant could be used.  However, traditionally the idea of a tree in a container is accepted, so whatever is used should be capable of being trained to represent a tree.

how are they kept small?
It is a combination of top and root pruning and growing them in small containers without potting on that keeps them to their chosen size.

how big do bonsai grow?
A Bonsai can be as large or as small as you like.  The miniaturising techniques enable you to grow what suits you best.

Is the hobby expensive?
To purchase ready made Bonsai can be expensive, but the hobby can be easily adapted to suit any pocket. Seeds, cuttings and seedlings can be obtained easily and at minimal cost.

Are Bonsai Valuable ?
The value of a Bonsai can range from an easily affordable price to thousands of pounds, depending on several things :
a) the age      b) the species      c) its artistic merit      d) whether cultivated or gathered from the wild
The most prized trees are those that were obtained from the wild, but the value of any Bonsai appreciates as the years pass.

Do I need to know a lot about gardening?
Many enthusiasts begin with little or no gardening experience and are delighted to find they gain gardening skills from the hobby.

do i need a garden?
No. The most you need is somewhere outside to keep your Bonsai and if that is not available you can grow indoor species.

do i need special tools?
Most Bonsai enthusiasts are very adept at utilising the most unlikely items! If you want to make use of the tools you already have, then you can manage with large and small secateurs, a sharp knife and wire cutters. However, the proper tools do make the job easier. The sketch here shows a selection of typical Bonsai tools : pruning secateurs or scissors, small trowel, trimming knife, chopsticks, soft brush, heavy branch pruning secateurs, sieve, clamp.

     Bonsai Tools
Could a disabled person grow bonsai?
There are very few hobbies so ideally suited to the disabled. The art allows for plants to be grown without the usual heavy work required in a garden. Very little physical work is required to produce a Bonsai.

can children take part in the hobby?
Most children enjoy growing plants from seeds and cuttings and easily master the pruning and training of Bonsai. Some supervision may be required to ensure the plants are fed and watered properly.

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