Before you decide on the kind of bonsai tree you are going to buy and maintain, decide what kind of design you prefer. Many types of trees are used in the art of bonsai, but each one is suitable for a different kind of style. If you try to train the wrong kind of tree into an unsuitable shape, you’ll end up killing the tree or growing an unattractive specimen.
Thankfully, at Down to Earth Living, we know our bonsai inside and out. After all, they’re smaller versions of the types of trees we plant in landscaping the custom water gardens we create.Each of these different styles has a different symbolism, as you can tell simply from looking at the bonsai itself. The straight trunk, for example, is based on the ideal, healthy tree growing in an open field without crowding. The slanting style, on the other hand, is meant to evoke a natural tree that is leaning or toppling because of strong winds, or a storm. The windswept style is meant to evoke thoughts of a tree on a mountain peak, withstanding strong winds, etc.
Trees suitable for this style – perhaps the easiest of all styles – are evergreens such as the Japanese white and the Japanese black pine, juniper, and hemlock. On the deciduous side you can try gingko, beech, or r larch.
This style is suitable for practically all evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs. The most popular include pine, spruce, cherry and azalea.
As a result of the wind blowing in one dominant direction or when a tree is in the shadow and must bend toward the sun, the tree will lean in one direction. Experts suggest the pines, junipers and larches fit this style well.
The branches as well as the trunk grow to one side as though the wind has been blowing the tree constantly in one direction. Experts suggest pines and junipers for this style.
A tree living in the nature on a steep cliff can bend downward as a result of several factors, like snow or falling rocks. These factors cause the tree to grow downward. With Bonsai it can be difficult to maintain a downward-growing tree because the direction of growth opposes the tree’s natural tendency to grow upright. Cascade Bonsai are planted in tall pots.
The semi-cascade style, just like the cascade style, is found in nature on cliffs and on the banks of rivers and lakes. The trunk grows upright for a small distance and then bends downward. Unlike the cascade style, the semi-cascade trunk will never grow below the bottom of the pot. The crown is usually above the rim of the pot while subsequent branching occurs below the rim.
Traditionally, juniper, spruce and pine are used in this elegant style.
The broom style is suited for deciduous trees with extensive, fine branching. This bonsai style is best suited to deciduous trees such as ginkgos, Japanese gray-bark elms and Japanese maple.
The double trunk style is common in nature, but is not actually that common in the art of Bonsai. Usually both trunks will grow out of one root system, but it is also possible that the smaller trunk grows out of the larger trunk just above the ground.
In theory the multi trunk style is the same as the double trunk style, but with 3 or more trunks. All the trunks grow out of one root system, and it truly is one single tree.
The forest style looks a lot like the multi-trunk style, but the difference is that it is comprised of several trees rather than one tree with several trunks. The most developed trees are planted in the middle of a large and shallow pot.
On rocky terrain, trees must search for nurient rich soil with their roots, which can often be found in cracks and holes. The roots are unprotected before they reach the ground so they must protect themselves from the sun: a special bark grows around them.
In this style the roots of the tree are growing in the cracks and holes of the rock. This means that there is not much room for the roots to develop and absorb nutrients. Trees growing in rocks will never look really healthy, thus it should be visible that the tree has to struggle to survive. It is important to fertilize and water this style often, because there is not much space available to store water and nutrients.
Sometimes a cracked tree can survive by pointing its branches upward. The old root system can provide the branches with enough nutrients. After a while new roots will start growing, eventually taking over the function of the old root system. The old branches, which now point into the air, develop into trunks with multiple branchings as a result of the increased influx of nutrients.
As time passes, some trees develop bald or barkless places on their trunks as a result of harsh weather conditions. The barkless portion usually begins at the place where the roots emerge from the ground, and grows increasingly thinner as it continues up the trunk. Intense sunlight will bleach these parts, forming a very characteristic portion of the tree. With Bonsai the bark is removed with a very sharp knife and the barkless spot is treated with calcium sulfate in order to speed up the bleaching process.
The pot or container in which the bonsai is placed is as important as the design of the tree itself. The containers should always have feet, allowing them to be raised up to make drainage easier. Also, a bonsai tree is never centered in the pot…typically the tree is placed at the rear of the pot. Pots with dull earth colors are usually best, although more colorful pots can serve their purpose. Whatever you do, don’t use a pot that has glazing within, since this can prevent the roots from adhering to the sized of the pot and make them unstable.
Nonporous plastic pots and glazed ceramic pots may create watering or drainage problems. Therefore, these are not typically recommended.
Other bonsai container materials, such as metal or wood can present their own sets of issues, especially for novice bonsai enthusiasts. Since many metals tarnish, they may require periodic cleaning or polishing. If excess water is left standing indefinitely in the pot, it could corrode the metals. Plant roots that touch the sides or bottom of a copper pot, in particular, will die. This shouldn’t radically affect the plant’s health, since the remaining roots will live, but as a general rule of, copper should be avoided as a bonsai container for the optimum health of tree’s roots.
Stained or varnished, wood is usually nonporous. Untreated wood containers can be porous and, like clay pots, should be soaked before you plant in them. If drainage holes are present, place a waterproof saucer under the pot to catch excess water. If your wooden container is slatted, the sides may not be watertight. This could create a seepage problem that would be unattractive, as well as hard on furniture surfaces. It’s best to use these containers as decorative sleeves rather than planting in them directly.
Growth media for bonsai should contain sphagnum peat moss and coarse perlite in equal quantities. A good basic mixture consists of one-third clay, one-third humus, and one-third sand.
Bonsai trees can be planted in a soil mixture with smaller lava rocks or lava sand – in even in one larger rock as a container. Note that lava rocks and lava sand are not intended for a sole ingredient for potting bonsai, but as an additive to your current bonsai tree potting media.
Lava rocks are great for planting bonsai trees because they come in many different sizes and are a planting medium that will not break down, are non-toxic and are completely re-useable.
Important! Never use aquarium gravel to dress your Bonsai tree, as it’s laiden with chemicals that will harm your bonsai tree.
At The Pond Shack, we know our bonsai and we know what type of potting gravel, top dressing and other rocks are best for each and every bonsai tree. Call 845-304-2183 or stop by to find out what types and styles of bonsai we have available at The Pond Shack (at Down to Earth Nursery, 1040 Route 45, Pomona, NY 10970). (at Down to Earth Nursery, 1040 Route 45, Pomona, NY 10970).