Japanese art and technique of dwarfing trees is called 'Bonsai'. Bonsai is actually formed of two Japanese words 'Bon' meaning a shallow container and 'sai' meaning a plant. Bonsai are classified in three groups on the basis of size. They are (1) Mame or miniature bonsai (under 15cms), (2) Small bonsai (32 - 60cms), and (3) Big bonsai (more than 60cms).
The shape of trunk, number of plants and the way they are growing form different styles.
Styles of Bonsai:
The style depends on a number of plants and the way they grows. They are as following:
Method of Growing Bonsai
- Formal upright style: In this type, the tree is grown upright and the growing tip and the roots are in one vertical line. The other branches may be trained into a pyramidal or spherical shape.
- Informal upright type: The tree though growing like formal type has many curves in the trunk which are more towards the basal side.
- Slanting type: The tree grows at an angle or slant of about 45° towards the left or right.
- Windswept style: It is a replica of a tree growing in windy places like near the seashores or hill tops etc. The branches grow in one direction only (like as against the wind) and are horizontal.
- Twin-trunk type: In this case, the tree has trunks growing from a single root ball. Many times two plants are kept very near each other two give an appearance of twin trunk. The two trunks are never in the same line. These tree trunks can be molded or trained into other styles like upright, informal etc.
- Multi-trunk or sprout style: More than two trunks develop from the same root ball. The heights of the trunks are uneven.
- Raft style: A young tree with many side branches is taken. All branches are brought to the same side or the opposite branches are removed. The area of trunk without branches is peeled and a root hormone is applied. The trunk is burried in the soil (root ball on one side and trunk burned sideways).
- Forest or group planting: In this style, more than two plants of similar type are grouped to give an appearance of forest. The plants are generally odd in number.
- Landscape style: This is little different than forest type style because in this, a number of different types of plants are grouped together (trees, shrub, grasses, herbs etc.) to form a landscape. The bonsai can be further decorated with stones, wood pieces, miniature bridges, animal figures etc.
- Broof style: In this type, the branches are cut in half round shape. The plants having more branches produced at one point.
- Semi-cascade style: In this style, the growing tip curves on one side of the pot towards the base.
- Cascade style: It is like semi-cascade type with growing tip goes much below the base of the pot.
- Rock grown bonsai: In this case, the bonsai is grown on different types of rocks.
- Bunjin style: The main point of this style is its trunk. More than 3/4 of the trunk is without branch. The leaves on the branches are smaller.
Bonsai can be grown from seeds or from cuttings. Before sowing seeds are kept in bowl of water. Those seeds which float are removed. The seeds which sink are used for sowing. A seed-pan or big pot is prepared for sowing. The hole at the bottom is covered by plastic mesh. First sieve the soil and keep it. The three grades are separated by sieving (coarse, medium and fine). At the bottom and up to quarter of its depth, the pot is filled with coarse soil. Then put the second layer of the soil of medium type. Keep the seeds in this layer (about 5cms. apart) and cover it with fine soil. Water with fine watering-can or keep the pot in tub containing water. Through the drainage hole the water will seep into the pot. When the top soil is wet, the pot is removed from the tub. Cover the seed pot with plastic or sheet of glass and place the pot in shady place. Watering is done only when the top soil becomes dry. When the seed germinates, the plastic or glass covering is removed.
It often happens that people staying in city will not have that much of time or place to grow seedlings and then transplanting them. For them it is better choose and buy the seedlings from good nursery.
After about a year the seedlings are repotted. An appropriate pot is taken and the holes are covered with plastic mesh. Take a wire of medium gauge and pass through holes and plastic mesh. Cover the bottom of the container with coarse soil. Then spread medium soil on it. Now keep the prepared plant in position and tie the wire to the base of the plant to keep it in position. Fill the container with medium soil up to almost top. Then sprinkle fine soil on top. Immerse the pot in the tub containing water. The water enters through drainage hole. Wet the leaves with a fine watering can. Keep the container in shade for a week or so. As soon as new growth appears, start exposing the plant to the sun.
Repot the plant according to the shape of the container and style required. In rectangular or oval pots, the correct position of the plant is towards one of the ends, right or left. For hexagonal, round or square pot, the correct position of plant is in centre. The plant should be off centre if one prefers cascade or semi-cascade style. The repotting also depends on type of plant and its container. Evergreen plants (Pinus, Junipers etc.) are generally repotted after four to five years, while flowering and fruiting plants are repotted almost after every year. The plant grown in small containers need repotting more frequently than that grown in bigger containers. The season of repotting is generally spring or monsoon. Along with repotting, pruning of branches and thinning of roots are also done.
For repotting, cut the wire if its use to keep the plant in position, from the bottom of the pot. Tap the pot gently from the side. Hold the plant in one hand, and turn the pot upside down. If the plant does not come out of the pot, once again gently tap the sides of the container. The plant will come out with the boll of soil containing the roots. The soil is gently removed from the roots and the long roots are cut off. About 1/3 of the roots are cut of before repotting in the other container. The process of repotting is exactly similar to the potting of the plant (use of plastic mesh, 3 types of soil, introducing of plant at right place, watering indirectly etc.).
To give specific shape and style, often wiring is done along with the bendmg of branches. Some of the flowering plants for Bonsai
1. Allamarda cathartica
3. Butea monosperma
4. Calliandra haemeatocephata
5. Cassia fistula
6. Delonix regia
9. Saraca indica
10. Thevetia neorifolia
Some of the plants grown for foliage
1. Aurocaria excelsa
3. Casuarina equisctifolia
5. Cycas revoluta
sps.Some of the plants grown for fruits
1. Anacardium occidentale
2. Citrus aurantifolia
4. Punica grantum
5. Suzygium cuminii
6. Terminalia catappa