Friday, November 15, 2013
In a different league from your average potted plant, bonsai means plantings (sai) in a low pot or tray (bon). It is the art of planting miniature trees and sceneries in small containers.
While this art form is often associated with the Japanese, its first beginnings came from China in the form of penjing, the art of creating miniature landscapes. The Chinese believed that penjing, in its act of copying nature and the magnificence of trees, also enhances meditation and improves well-being and spirituality.
Today, bonsai has become one of the most recognized and celebrated Eastern art forms. Its popularity has spread throughout the world and has also reached the Philippines.
Bonsai is an art in itself, but aside from that, it is also a great addition to any home. For condominium units, especially ones without balconies, a bonsai can become that much-needed sense of nature in your space. Great with Eastern-inspired interiors, particularly Japanese and Chinese, the bonsai also goes well with modern designs.
You can always purchase thoroughly trained bonsai from stores, but if you have the time and fascination for this art form, you may choose to create your own. For beginners, it will be much easier to buy partially trained bonsai, which have been carefully created and trained by seasoned bonsai professionals. This process takes years as these experts start from scratch with seedlings, tree grafts and their horticultural techniques.
For those who are willing to invest their time and get down and dirty in the process of creating their own bonsai, here are a couple of techniques to start the entire process.
Starting from seeds
It takes a very lengthy process (up to five years) to create a bonsai if you start from seeds, but the possibilities are endless. You can pick out any specie and have total control over the style, shape and size of your bonsai. However, consider your geographic location and climate as you decide on the specie. Another definite advantage is the cost; it is a lot cheaper to buy seeds than partially trained bonsai. Be sure to soak the seeds in water overnight before you plant them.
Collecting wild plants
Virtually almost any plant can be turned into a bonsai, but certain considerations should be made in collecting plants. Pay special attention to the roots, trunk, branches and leaves of the plant. A plant with roots evenly spread out around it is the best option, as this is the kind of plant that would need the least amount of work.
If you want to work on a traditional bonsai form, the trunk should exhibit kokejun (taper). The trunk of the tree should be wider at the bottom and becomes narrower as it goes up. Branches take time to develop and may grow in unexpected directions, so it is best to choose a tree with many branches, so it’ll be easier to manipulate as a bonsai.
As for the leaves, just look out for shapes you want in your bonsai. Another thing to watch out for is abnormalities that may be signs of pests or diseases. Finally, collect some soil surrounding the plant and use it for your own pot. - Aislinn Kee
The most commonly used technique in creating bonsai is cutting branches. You can better visualize the future shape of your bonsai with this technique. Cutting and planting a two-pronged branch will grow a sokan (twin-trunk); while a three-pronged branch, sankan (triple-trunk). First, make an oblique cut or a V-cut to have a wider cross-section as you’re cutting the branch. Next, prune the leaves and soak the branch in water for thirty minutes to an hour. Use new soil and rinse it clean of any organic matter. Water the soil and check to see if the water has permeated throughout the soil before inserting the cut branch.
There are other techniques in the bonsai process. If you want to learn more and meet other bonsai enthusiasts, you may join the Philippine Bonsai Society (www.philippinebonsaisociety.org).