The Japanese bonsai tree dates back many centuries. Bonsai, literally translated as “tree in a tray”, is an art involving miniaturizing tiny woody plants that are fashioned into tree form. The art of bonsai comprises of cutting, trimming, shaping, watering, and re-potting in different types of ‘bons’, or tray-type pots.
The Japanese bonsai tree is mainly used as a decorative plant in many people’s houses. Cultivating bonsai trees is a very involved and complex hobby, and it requires much patience. However, it is not too hard for a beginner to learn different techniques of cultivating the Japanese bonsai tree.
Japanese Bonsai Tree Techniques
There are a variety of techniques used in growing and maintaining the Japanese bonsai tree. Most of the techniques are unique to the art of bonsai, whereas some others are just a spin on common plant-growing techniques.
Leaf Trimming: cutting back either the leaves or the needles of the plant, depending on the type.
Pruning: removing bark and branches in certain spots, while still retaining the bonsai look and feel of the tree.
Wiring: wrapping wire, usually aluminum or copper, around different parts of the tree, to shape it out as it grows.
Clamping: a more heavy-duty approach to shaping thicker and larger parts of the tree that cannot be accomplished with wiring alone.
Grafting: adding branches/roots to expand upon the design of the Japanese bonsai tree.
Defoliation: clipping off the leaves so that they grow back smaller, to add to the dwarfing nature of the art of bonsai.
Deadwood: removing the bark from a branch to emulate maturity in the Japanese bonsai tree.
Japanese Bonsai Tree Care
Watering: As the bonsai tree pots are relatively small, the bonsai cultivator must be very careful when watering. Too little water may dry out certain species of bonsai, whereas too much water may contribute to fungal infections and rotting in the root.
Re-potting: Bonsai plants are re-potted usually after the specific species’ dormancy period (typically around springtime). This is to ensure that the growth of the roots is not inhibited by the small pot that the plant is in. Much like a growing hermit crab must move to larger shells, growing bonsai plants must be re-potted.
There are a group of special tools that one must use when cultivating a Japanese bonsai tree. The most universal tool is known as the concave cutter, as it cuts pieces of the tree flush with the bark, so that no stubs remain after cutting. Some examples of other tools are wire pliers, branch bending jacks, and different-sized shears for trimming and pruning.
The Japanese bonsai tree comes in many different shapes, sizes, species, containers, soils, etc. Some are indoor, and some are strictly outdoor plants. Through proper care, practice, maintenance, and patience, anybody can cultivate a Japanese bonsai tree into a beautiful visual piece for home or garden.
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