The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 5, 2000

Bringing up bonsai
By Reet Singh

BONSAI in Japanese means a tree grown in a small pot. As its usually said its not a dwarf species or sapling shaped as a tree but it’s a craft where love and hard work, over the years, combine to create a work of art, resembling a mature aged tree in nature. The culture of Bonsai started in the 3rd century in China and came to Japan in 10th and 12th centuries through Buddhists monks.

There are four basic classes of bonsai: (a) Mame — upto 15 cm only. The pot can comfortably rest in the palm. (b) Small — 15-30 cm. (c) Medium — 30-62 cm. (d) Large — more than 62 cm.

A beginner, in order to have a "potential bonsai" plant, should:

Select a one or two- year-old plant with a flexible, main stem.

Select species with smaller leaves and short internodes. Leaves of large plants can be reduced considerably in size over several years only in some species.

In fruit plants, select a variety with small fruits as the size cannot be reduced by training.

The plant should have profuse branching starting within 3-4 inches of the root base and should have vigorously growing foliage.The plant should have a uniformly spreading root base, free from disease.


Bonsai compost:
Since bonsai is grown in a restricted space, compost is very important for the growth of the tree. It should be extremely nutritious and be able to support the plant. It should have good drainage and also contain oxygen in the form of air. It should be able to maintain proper PH for a good length of time and should not become compact. The compost is made as follows:

 Bottom-layer compost           Coarse badarpur                                 2 parts

                                                     Leaf mould                                        2 parts

                                                     Garden loam                                     1 part

 Middle layer compost              Medium grade badarpur                  2 parts

                                                     Leaf mould                                       2 parts

                                                     Garden loam                                    1 part

 Top dressing layer                    Garden loam                                    1 part

                                                     Leaf mould                                       1 part

The three mixes are prepared separately and to one bucketful (15 litres) of each add

Love and hard work, over the years, combine to create a work of art.Bone meal — 2 handfuls

Tracel — 1 tablespoonful

Themit or Furaden — 2 tablespoonfuls.

The compost should be mixed thoroughly, moistened and kept in a shaded area covered with polythene for two weeks. The Furaden or Themit fumes kill any nematodes or their larvae. If leaf mould is not available, highly decomposed cowdung manure can be used. The cowdung manure should be sterilised and seived with Furaden or Themit fumes for 2 weeks before use.

Bonsai is grown in restricted space. To keep them in good health and growth, a regime of feeding is necessary. Three most common elements for plant growth are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in their soluble form. Other elements important are calcium, manganese and sulphur. Trace elements like boron, copper, iron, zinc etc. There should be a supply of all these important ingredients. There are two types of manure: artificial and natural manure. Natural manure can be divided into vegetable and animal manure. Vegetable manure is leaf mould or any form of oil cakes like neem cake or oilseed cake. Cowdung or other animal excreta are too strong for bonsai unless they are highly decomposed and used sparingly. Animal manures are bone meal, fish meal etc. Artificial manure comes in various forms and combinations. NPK is used in the ratio of 12-32-16 marketed by IFFCO. Ammonium sulphate is used sparingly. Urea for manuring plants should not be used in pots or trays.

No fertilising is done for four to six weeks after repotting till the plant shows free growth. A highly diluted fertiliser feed is to be given at regular intervals. Bonsai fertilisation is started in spring before the bud outbursts. Here the plant benefits form a dose of bone meal application. Bone meal is scattered on the surface of the soil after a watering. Fertilisation of plants is done throughout the growing season. No fertilisation is done during the monsoon rains. In winters, if due to warmer climate the plant is containing its growth, then an application or two maybe made. Always give fertilisers in dilute doses.

Pruning and wiring:Compost is very important for the growth of the tree.
Select a very healthy growing Potsai with a fairly thick trunk. The Chinese used repeated pruning as the main technique to shape a plant into bonsai over several years. This was a slow and laborious method. Nowadays along with pruning, wiring is done. Selected plant is carefully examined for the trunk line and distribution of branches. Never rush to start pruning. For wiring, copper or aluminium wires are used for the thinnest ie 24 gauge, for very thin twigs of junipers, to 3 mm thick wires needed for thick trunks.

Bonsai pots:
Pots and containers for bonsai fall into two categories. Training pots are used which can be ordinary earthen or plastic pots with good drainage, holes, wooden trays that are easily portable. Display containers are ceramic containers glazed on the outside and rough inside. They should have large drainage holes with fairly deep feet. The colour and texture of the pot should not subdue the prominence of the tree but should enhance the same. The length of display pots and trays is generally 2/3rd of the height of the plant or its diameter. The depth should be relative to the girth of the plant at the level of the rim of the pot and as a rule not more than ½ to 2½ times the thickness of the trunk.

Home Top