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Sunday, August 10, 2008


Creating your first bonsai is not as hard as you may think. In this section we will take you through four stages.

  • Selecting suitable stock to work with.
  • Selecting a suitable style for your tree and creating it.
  • Potting soils and wiring your tree.
  • Care and maintenance of your new bonsai.
  • If you follow these steps in progressive order you should end up with a passable tree that will only improve with age. Don’t be upset if it is not up to show standard on your first attempt, you will learn all the basic techniques in this exercise and the more you look at trees the more expert you will become.

    I still have the first tree I made although it has been through several incarnations and restyles and if I was doing it from start it would probably be quite different, but it still holds sentimental value.

    So start at stage one and return to this page until you have completed stage four.

    Then send me a photo I would love to put it on this site to inspire others to take up this absorbing hobby.

    Gibson on Blade Runner

    bq. "About ten minutes into Blade Runner, I reeled out of the theater in complete despair over its visual brilliance and its similarity to the "look" of Neuromancer, my [then] largely unwritten first novel. Not only had I been beaten to the semiotic punch, but this damned movie looked better than the images in my head! With time, as I got over that, I started to take a certain delight in the way the film began to affect the way the world looked. Club fashions, at first, then rock videos, finally even architecture. Amazing! A science fiction movie affecting reality!" "#":

    Upon reading up on Moebius' "The Long Tomorrow":, which I have incidentally read--I think I found it online at some point--I came across this old quote from Gibson, on him seeing Blade Runner for the first time. It's one of my favorite 'lil' nuggets', so there you go.

    All Consuming

    So after "my recent query":, "I'm currently trying out All Consuming": It doesn't quite fill all the points I'd like it to, but then again what does? It could do with a face lift though.

    Letters From Lovecraft

    Having just rewatched In the Mouth of Madness, I was wetted for some more Lovecraft insight (having played an abundance of Call of Cthulhu in my youth), and that's when I came across "this little fact": on Wikipedia:

    bq. Despite the fact that Lovecraft is mostly known for his works of weird fiction, the bulk of Lovecraft's writing mainly consists of voluminous letters about a variety of topics, from weird fiction and art criticism to politics and history. S. T. Joshi estimates that Lovecraft wrote about 87,500 letters from 1912 until his death in 1937 -- one famous letter from November 9, 1929 to Woodburn Harris being 70 pages in length. "#":

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    the bonsai garden

    The first thing to do when you acquire a new plant is to decide which style will be the best suited to the tree's basic shape. It can also be the contrary, you might be looking for a concrete form or the plant was recovered directly from nature so its basic form might be given by a special growth motivated by special conditions as there are freeze, wind, placement aso.

    There are a lot of different style definitions to choose from. However, these styles can be classified into seven basic styles which depend on the overall form of the tree and how much the trunk is deviated from an imaginary vertical axis.
    The trees most likely suited for this style are conifers because of their normally upright and straight proportions. Beginners should start to develop a Chokkan styled tree because it is the easiest form to develop. There is no need for complete wiring and pruning techniques, it is quite simple to form rapidly a tree nice to look at.

    Essential for this style is a straight trunk with a naturally balanced branch structure. The trunk should not branch at the top. The form is conical with an erect trunk and horizontal branches, every one extending little farther from the trunk than the next. The lowest two branches should be trained to reach to the front side, one slightly higher than the other. Trim the branches that grow too near to the base as the trunk should be visible, specially in the case of conifers which have a beautifully textured bark.

    The trees formed in this style are normally planted in rectangular pots as they shouldn't be placed in the center of it; plant them 2/3 away from on of the ends.
    Similar to the formal upright style, but the top of the trunk instead of growing straight bends slightly to the front. The form of the branches are much the same but the bent stem gives the tree the look of motion, slightly moved by a light wind. Informal upright grown trees are one of the most common styles. The species I like most for this style are maples, especially Acer palmatum and buergeranium or flowering trees like pomegranates.

    It is much easier to find young plants in this form because in nature trees normally grow this way, because of irregular light exposition, heavy winds or other parameters which influence growth. Another thing you can do is to move the root ball in the direction you want the trunk to slant. Doing this, you will have to prune and wire the branches back to horizontal position.

    As the formal upright trees, Moyogi styles bonsai look best in oval or rectangular pots, planting them again 2/3 away from on of the ends. Informal uprights are one of the most common styles.

    The trunk slants in much more angle than in the previously mentioned styles. It is also important that the top of the trunk bends slightly to the front and the lowest branches grow in the opposite direction to which the stem slants. Shakan styled bonsai show trees exposed to extreme weather and gravity conditions as there are heavy winds or heavy loads of snow.

    The shakkan style can be considered the intermediate stadium between the informal upright and cascade styles as the tree still grows up, but tends to bend down. In nature, this kind of trees are normally called leaners as they seem to lean against an imaginary stake.

    Contrary to the previously mentioned Chokkan and Moyogi styled trees, Shakan trees should be centered in round (also square) pots, as the goal is that the trees bends out of the container.

    The trunk starts growing upward, but then turns downward and reaches a point below the base of the pot and for this reason the bonsai should be placed on a higher base. My cascade style trees are positioned at the border of their stone basements. Normally a great part of the foliage is situated below the soil level as cascade style trees try to simulate natural trees growing at the edge of an embankment or the slope of a mountain.

    It is not easy to force a tree into the cascade style as trees normally grow up and never down, so the plant is actually trained into a very unnatural position. The first thing to do is to move the root ball at least 45 degrees to the side where the cascade will be formed. The upper part of the root ball has to be removed and straightened. After that, the rest of the work will be fulfilled by pruning and wiring the branches in a naturally falling form.

    Cascaded trees are usually planted in a round or hexagonal pot that is higher than it is wide. The tree is planted at one side of the pot, normally at the cascading side.


    The trunk grows straight for a while and then cascades down at a slight angle, not as dramatic as in the cascade style. I have a pine mugo in semi cascade with three main branches of which only one cascades, might be a special style but looks quite nice. Species to recommend could be al kind of junipers and especially flowering plants. Normally the cascading branch or branches should be the front of the tree, and the semi cascade should not reach below the bottom of the container as the full cascade does but should also reach down below the level of the soil surface.

    Semi-cascaded trees are usually planted in the same kind of pot as the cascades with the only difference that the pot needs not to be that high. The tree is planted, as usual, at one side of the pot, always at the cascading side.

    This windswept style simulates the effect of extreme exposure to strong winds. Every part of the tree is swung in the direction of the gust of wind, nude branches simulate foliage loss due to weather conditions. These trees are usually modeled on trees found in coastal areas (in Spain, particularly on the island Formentera), where ruff environmental have given them their shape.

    The Literati style is maybe the strangest of all the styles. There are lots of different shapes but they all have long thin trunks which can culminate in a small tree top or curve back down finishing in a cascading form. A species often used for this style is the Japanese Red Pine, but every kind of conifer is adequate.

    The idea behind Bunjingi is that in nature the tree, under adverse environmental conditions, has found its way to survive, being forced to contortions and un normal shapes.

    In conclusion there are a lot of other styles which finally derive of those mentioned previously. Also the trunks can grow in many different manners, imagine single and multiple trunks.

    I haven´t either talked about other forms like forests (Yosu-Ue) or trees planted on or over or clinging to rocks, these are styles on their own, with their own characteristics, with a lot of varieties.

    Before you plant a tree in a pot, it is very important to visualize what the tree will look like in its new container. No matter how you plant the tree, which style you choose to apply, keep always in mind that you are trying to reproduce a natural scene and that is roots showing up at surface, irregular trunks, dead branches (Jin) etc. You can read more about bonsai styles in the Terms section.

    Simple Styles and Techniques...

    Every experienced bonsai enthusiast has his/her own personal idea of what bonsai is to them and what defining factors make them aesthetically appealing.

    "Don't be drawn into the trap of taking everything that this person says as gospel!"

    This applies especially if you are using a book as a reference when you are situated in a different part of the world from where it was written.

    If a beginner is unable to have the experience of being taught the important principles of bonsai by an expert, he must obtain as much material on bonsai as possible - whether this may be just pictures of trees, discussions on the different styling processes involved or lists of suitable species to use. This mass of information will familiarise them to bonsai and help them gain experience by experimenting on cheap bonsai material. Frequently going to bonsai nurseries and bonsai shows will also allow the beginner to see true bonsai in real life from all sides, opposed to the usual 2D format. This will enable the beginner to see the way bonsai should be displayed and what the end result will be like

    The two basic styles of bonsai are the classic (koten) and the informal or 'comic' (bunjin). In the former, the trunk of the tree is wider at the base and tapers off towards the top; it is just the opposite in the 'bunjin', a style more difficult to master.

    Over the years, bonsai enthusiasts have frequently tried to reclassify the styles, and their many sub-divisions into which plants can be trained. Once you understand the principles behind these designs/styles, you will have a reference point from which to assess a tree's potential for bonsai and to decide what style suits it.

    If you study very carefully the way trees grow in nature, it is possible to design a realistic bonsai without knowing the names of these styles. You do not need to stick strictly to the precise rules of your chosen style: adapt them to suit a plant's natural habitat.

    When you start a bonsai, always remember that you are working with a living plant. Look carefully at its natural characteristics and you may discern within them a suitable style, or styles. All conifers are reasonably unsuitable to the 'broom' style, for example, but are very suitable for all other styles, especially formal and informal upright - to which they are particularly suited. Often you can train a plant into several styles, even if it is basically upright like a beech or elegantly slender like a maple. Even if one style only really suits a particular plant, you still can interpret this in many different ways.

    Shrubs like azaleas that are not tree-like in nature have fewer restrictions in the style you choose, but, generally, it is best to base any design on the way a tree grows in nature. People that are still learning the basic principles of bonsai should not try to train a bonsai into a style totally unlike a tree's natural growth pattern, although this is quite possible as you gain more experience.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008



    A Specimen Bonsai is a one-of-a-kind bonsai that has exceptional beauty or potential.

    These trees are all old trees with good pedigree and have been passed down from the orginal bonsai artists and owners of the trees from around the world.
    These specimen bonsai have been selected out of our huge inventory and are grouped by species.
    We are constantly updating our listing!

    Bonsai West has one of the largest selections of imported Korean Hornbeam, Japanese Azalea, Shimpaku Juniper, and a huge assortment of other fine specimen Bonsai seldom seen outside of Japan. Should any of our trees catch your eye, we are more than happy to send you additional photos and information about any particular tree you request.

    Growing Fuchsia from Cuttings

    Two leaf cutting ready for potting

    Cuttings tray and 6 week old plant

    Three stages of propagation

    Make sure that the plant you are going to use for cuttings is in good condition, free from disease and pests and has been watered a few hours beforehand. Soft-tip cuttings are the best, it is not necessary to use hormone rooting powder. Peat based compost is ideal, a little vermiculite can be added if you wish.

    Using a sharp knife remove cutting from stem just underneath a leaf node (cutting approx. half to one inch long according to variety ).

    Hold by leaves not stem, bruising of the stem can result in failure. Place cutting into prepared compost, do not press down the compost with fingers, give the pot or tray a few taps, this is sufficient to settle the compost.

    Water and place in propagator 60F - 15C. If you do not have a propagator, cover tray with clear plastic lid or pot with clear plastic bag, place in a well lit situation , but not in direct sunlight.

    After approximately 3 weeks new growth will appear, get plants acclimatised from their humid growing conditions. Remove plastic lid or bag 2 or 3 times per day for a few minutes

    When more growth is apparent it is time to plant into individual pots. Keep plants cool and damp but not soaking wet. Grow on in the normal way.

    Preparation for a Hardy Fuchsia Bed

    A Hardy Fuchsia border

    Whether growing a plant yourself from a cutting or puchasing a plant from a nursery, always grow-it-on until it fills a 5 inch pot, the growing tips should have been pinched out at least once. Preparation for a hardy fuchsia border can begin the previous Autumn by digging in well rotted manure. You must remember that a plant will be in situ for many years, so preparation is important. Before planting your new fuchsias into the garden, wait until all risk of frost has gone and night temperatures are no lower than 10c/50f.

    A position of dappled shade is ideal, if this is not possible don't worry. As long as the root system has plenty of moisture they will virtually thrive in any position in the garden. If you only intend planting a single plant in an established border, just prepare the planting area. Make the planting hole at least twice the size of the pot and a few inches deeper, add a sprinkling of a nitrogen type fertilizer.

    Before placing plant in hole, remove any leaves on bottom of stems, 2"/3" inches. Level of garden soil will come up higher on stems than when it was in the pot, quite alright, by placing the plant deeper this will help protect the 'crown' of the fuchsia during it's first winter against frost. Water-in and make sure soil is kept moist for the first few weeks.

    In late Autumn when they begin to die down you can trim them back to 18 inches (never cut them down to ground level at this stage, especially if your area is prone to frosts).

    Only cut the old stems to ground level in late Spring when new growth appears at soil level. If you live in areas e.g. Zone 10 and do not really get cold winters, give them a light trim and feed, this will strengthen your plant. The only exception to cutting down to ground level is if you are growing the Magellanica type for hedging.

    In late Spring when new growth appears dig in a granular type Nitrogen feed, during the summer months dig in e.g. fish,blood and bonemeal, pelleted chicken manure, or fish emulsion.

    When the flowering season arrives, remove dead flowers/seed pods, then your fuchsias will continue to flower for a much longer period.



    Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing beautiful trees in miniature. Almost any kind of tree or plant can be a Bonsai, with the right care and styling techniques. The important thing to remember is that a Bonsai is a tree, and has a tree’s needs. Trees respond to your care, and will thrive with your attention!


    Bonsai need direct sunlight, from which they make their food. A lack of direct sun will damage them, causing weak foliage and other problems. They like to receive 5-6 hours of sunlight daily, whether inside or outside. All Bonsai love to be outside in the warmer months (May-September), though there are many species which can be kept indoors year-round. Remember that the more sunlight and warmth your Bonsai receives, the more often it will need water.

    Proper watering is essential to the health of your tree. Bonsai like to get a little dry in between waterings, but they must never be allowed to become bone-dry. Check your Bonsai daily to see if it needs water by pressing down firmly on the moss or soil at the base of the trunk. If it feels moist or cool, or sort of soft and spongy, then it does not need water. When the topsoil feels dry, set the whole pot in a basin of water, right up to the base of the trunk, allowing water to saturate the soil. This will cause air bubbles to rise up, and the bubbles are a good indicator of how dry your tree is. The soil will be saturated very quickly; let extra water drain off.
    Bonsai really don’t like to be wet all the time, nor to sit in water for long periods, it is bad for their health. During the winter months, you may be watering once a week, or even less; in the summer, it may every day or every other day, depending on location and climate. The cycle will vary, so avoid strict schedules and you will soon recognize the watering needs of your Bonsai.

    Misting and air:
    Any time your tree is inside, the air is very dry, and the leaves want humidity to keep them healthy and green. Mist as often as you like during the day. Definitely avoid having your Bonsai near a vent or a draft, as this will dry out the foliage. Using a pebble tray is a great way to increase local humidity. A pebble tray is a shallow tray filled with small stones. Keep some water in the bottom of the tray, making sure that the water does not reach the bottom of the Bonsai pot. As it evaporates, it helps to create a more moist environment.

    Fertilizer is not quite food for plants, it is more like vitamins and minerals. As with vitamins, a small amount on a regular basis is the best plan. Most Bonsai should be mildly fertilized once or twice per month. You can use a Bonsai fertilizer, such as Pokon, at the recommended strength, or a houseplant fertilizer such as Peter’s or Miracle-Gro at half the suggested strength. Always water your tree before fertilizing. Warning: do not fertilize weak or freshly repotted trees, and don’t over-fertilize! This may burn the roots and cause stress to the tree.

    Insect Prevention:
    It is a good idea to spray you Bonsai tree once every month or two with a non-toxic insect spray. We recommend either Schultz-Instant houseplant spray, or Safer Insecticidal Soap. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day. Trees should not be sprayed in full sun, or when the soil is dry.


    At Bonsai West, we have found it useful to group trees into three general care categories: Indoor, Temperate, and Cold Weather Bonsai, according to their natural habitats and maintenance requirements.

    Following are some general rules and guidelines for Bonsai care with these categories in mind.

    Indoor or Tropical Bonsai are trees which normally grow in the deep south or in tropical climates. These trees are cold-sensitive, and should not be allowed temperatures below 45 degrees F. They do not like extremely dry or arid conditions, and they want lots of sun. Tropical Bonsai may be kept on a sunny windowsill year-round. During the summer they love to be outside, but they will do well indoors. The air inside the house is very dry, so the use of a pebble tray or frequent misting is important. Tropical Bonsai like to be fertilized year-round. They will need pruning 3-4 times per year, and root pruning or repotting every 2 years in the summer.
    Bonsai in this group include Serissa, Bougainvillea, Figs, Fukien Tea, Olives, Jade, Sageretia, Natal Plum, Cherries, Jasmines, Palms, Gardenia, Brazilian Raintree, Jaboticaba, Podocarpus, Ilex-Shillings, Pomegranate, Texas Ebony,Okinawa Holly, Schefflera, and Buttonwood.

    Temperate Bonsai are trees which grow in regions with distinct seasonal changes. They like to be outdoors for the summer and fall, or in an open window with good sunlight and ventilation. Place them in a cool but protected area for the winter. They can generally handle a light frost, even down to 25 degrees F., but no colder than that. Gradually decreasing temperatures will put a tree into hibernation, slowing growth and storing the tree’s energy for Spring. Whenever a tree is kept at 40 degrees and above, it needs sunlight. Darkness does not make a tree go dormant.
    Keep temperate Bonsai in a sunny window from late February through mid-May. Place them outside from May through mid-November. In November, bring them in to the coolest place you can find which still receives some sunlight. A grow light may be used during the winter, because the sunlight is so decreased. It is important to compensate for low humidity in winter. Use a pebble tray to keep local humidity up, and mist your tree as often as you can.

    Temperate varieties include Juniper, Azalea, Boxwoods, Sawara Cypress, Tsukomo Cypress, Andelyensis Cypress, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Chinese Elms, Yews, Ilex Pagoda, Holly, Roses, and most Herbs.

    Cold Hardy Bonsai are varieties which need a full change of season to do well. These trees cannot be grown as indoor Bonsai! From May through mid-November, keep your cold-hardy Bonsai outside, in a fairly sunny spot. Gradually decreasing temperatures will put your tree into dormancy, slowing growth and storing energy for spring. When it becomes too cold for your Bonsai to stay outdoors, move it to a protected but unheated area. Some options are a cold-frame, a garage, and enclosed porch, or a bulkhead. Be careful to avoid temperatures below 20 degrees. If you suspect that your winter location will go below that temperature, you should mulch your Bonsai in with pine needles or peat moss.
    Your Bonsai can be frozen during the winter, and you must never water a frozen tree! However, you should keep an eye on the temperatures: every 4-6 weeks, there is usually a thaw, and your tree might need water at that point.
    Some trees may begin to break dormancy early: begin checking on your tree in February for signs of budding. When your tree is at 40 degrees or colder, it does not need sunlight, it is fully dormant. When temperatures begin to increase, the tree will begin to wake and grow. If your tree breaks dormancy, you need to give it light: move it into the coolest possible place where it still receives some sunlight. Your Bonsai now will be needing more water, and protection from freezes. Sudden freezes can damage new growth. By May, the temperatures will have become warm enough to place your Bonsai outside again.

    Evergreen varieties include Pines, Spruce, Hinoki and Blue Moss Cypress, Cryptomeria, Rhododendron, Andromeda, Hemlock, and Cedars. Among the deciduous trees are Maples, Elms, Larch, Hornbeams, Beech, Birch, and Wisteria.

    Monday, April 14, 2008



    The millennia-old art form, still going strongly today!

    In Japanese, bonsai can be literally translated as 'tray planting' but since originating in Asia, so many centuries ago - it has developed into a whole new form. To begin with, the tree and the pot form a single harmonious unit where the shape, texture and colour of one, compliments the other. Then the tree must be shaped. It is not enough just to plant a tree in a pot and allow nature to take its course - the result would look nothing like a tree and would look very short-lived. Every branch and twig of a bonsai is shaped or eliminated until the chosen image is achieved. From then on, the image is maintained and improved by a constant regime of pruning and trimming.

    It is the art of dwarfing trees or plants and developing them into an aesthetically appealing shape by growing, pruning and training them in containers according to prescribed techniques.

    Overall, bonsai is a great interest, hobby or even profession to undertake. Although famous theologians have claimed that it is actually 90% art to a meager 10% of horticulture, it has to be said that a successful bonsai is most definitely a horticultural masterpiece.

    Once arriving in the Western World, this enjoyable and rewarding pastime has never turned back, and has gained a magnificently diverse range of plant material and techniques.

    Whatever you need to know - you will be sure to find it here - at The Bonsai

    Additional Features...

    There are functions for everything in bonsai, and mosses and lichens, used as ground covers, are no exception. They, of course, look great, covering the soil surface with 'green velvet' and helping to retain water while holding the soil in the container. For people buying bonsai, the presence of moss is always a good sign. There are a great number of types of mosses and lichens and these can be mixed to provide a very effective result overall. When not used for 'conservation' purposes, they should be planted sparingly so that their effect is natural, and they do not prevent water from reaching the soil.

    There is a particular method of mossing a potted bonsai that will produce a smooth mat of deep green, with none of the lumpy growth that can be typical of piecing bits of moss together. With a sharp knife, slice the moss from its growing place, taking as little soil as possible. Put this moss in a container lined with paper, and moisten it lightly (it should be moist, not wet). Remove most of the remaining soil from the moss using sharp scissors, pulling each little tuft away from the larger piece.

    Prepare the surface soil in the bonsai pot by scratching it to roughen it up. With long handed tweezers, start inserting each tuft of moss close to, but not against, the trunk. Work out and away from the trunk until you have the look you want, then brush off most of the tufts. Sprinkle dry soil over the moss and press it down with a flat spatula or small trowel (even your hand if you are careful). Mist gently two or three times and the soil will settle down between the tufts.

    As an alternative to collecting moss and going through this somewhat time consuming process, you can use dried moss. Gather it, then place it in the shade for a few days until it is completely dry. Put it through a fine strainer - a sieve will do - to crumble it. Mix the particles with some soil and spread it over the bonsai soil in the pot, making a thin, even layer. Press it down with a flat spatula or small trowel and gently mist continually until the soft green moss begins to grow. Some people just scrape soil off the bottom of the moss and put this on the soil of the bonsai, but takes a much longer time to root and is a delight for small birds when looking for worms if left exposed.

    Along with the growth of a healthy crop of moss often comes the appearance of a silver fungus around the soil line at the trunk of the tree. This is a sign of a healthily growing bonsai. The fungus develops as the moss takes hold, and it cannot be artificially implanted. In the heat of summer, moss may turn brown. Do not despair - it means the bonsai is getting the water it needs. As soon as cooler temperatures and higher humidity return, so will the 'green velvet'.

    Ground Covers for Bonsai...

    There are many ground covers that can be used as an alternative to just plain moss. For one, they are a lot more hardy and tolerant of changes in temperature and also more interesting than a simple green covering.

    An easy, and very hardy ground cover to use that can be constantly multiplied is 'Helxine/Soleirolia solerirolii' (Baby Tears). A lot of bonsai nurseries use this, providing an instant and bright covering to greatly enhance the plants' appearance. This creeping plant has yellow-green small round leaves and tiny white, pink-tinged flowers, which occur singly in the leaf axils. It has an indefinite spread, and can be invasive if not controlled - but this is no problem in a properly maintained bonsai. It does not crawl up the tree, and if it does hang over the edges of the pot, just pinch the growing tips off. The small flowers are not that prominent, but having the plant is a great asset. The cover is usually expensive if you buy it at the nursery, but if you buy just buy one pot or propagate it of a friend, the plant will multiply quite rapidly after a few weeks.

    A good feature plant to be planted sparingly alongside bonsai to give a very realistic effect is 'Kyoto Dwarf' Mondo Grass ('Ophiopogon Japonicus' or 'Liriope Japonica' ). This fine-leafed species is native to Japan and Korea and thus has quite a significant prominence in the world of Japanese bonsai. The short, dark green recurving foliage arises from rhizomes, spreading to form dense, soft mats of at max. 4-5cm high. It is a good cover to use, but should not be allowed to cover more than an sixth of the area of the pot (especially small pots) as this could restrict the bonsai's growth. It should be divided up each time that the bonsai is repotted - every 2-3 years. It is again a very hardy plant and multiplies rapidly from a very small portion. Used frequently in Asian courtyards and formal gardens, it should not be that hard to obtain. (Also used as an accent plant for bonsai.)

    An alternative to using a 'live' ground cover is using a very popular medium among bonsai nursery owners called 'iron stones'. These are very small stones (2-4 mm in diameter) not made out of, but in the colour of iron. They are reasonably cheap if bought in bulk. Only a little amount is needed to just cover the area of a bonsai pot. They make the bonsai look very professional indeed, and are an instant solution if you can't be bothered with, or can't get, moss to grow.


    Depending on the actual size of your bonsai and bonsai pot, you can also use small bulbs which appear every spring with quite a magnificent show of colour (also used as accent plants) - although you have to be wary that they do not take too much focus off the main tree. Some varieties you could try are 'Ipheion Uniflorum' (Spring Starflower) which have triangular, white, light or dark blue shaped petals; and you can also try 'Rhodohypoxis Baueri/Baurii' (Rose Grass) which is a small tufting shrub with short, grass-like foliage and colourful pink, red or white flowers during spring and early summer. This plant is quite well known and you might be able to find it in pots at nurseries when it is in season - or order it from a bulb mail order catalogue.

    Although these plants work quite well in bonsai as either ground covers or plants to complement the main tree - be careful by routine pruning and repotting that they do not take over the pot.

    Containers/Pots for Bonsai...

    A simple, stylish rectangular pot When it comes to bonsai, it is not just the plant and its styling that makes the bonsai appealing to the viewer. The choice of the container that the bonsai is in is also quite important to the overall look and 'feel' of the tree. The container is as important as the tree in a bonsai design. Usually, growers select the pot after styling the tree, so that the two harmonise in shape, size, colour and texture. Practical and aesthetic factors affect the choice of pot. The purpose of the container is of course to provide suitable accommodation for the tree's needs, but also to compliment its branch structure and seasonal or year-round colours.

    The pot must hold enough soil for the roots to develop over a year or two. It should be frost-proof with enough drainage holes. Bonsai containers are usually shallow, but sometimes you may use a deeper one to hold a fruiting tree for example, that needs plenty of water to swell its fruits. (Never try to save on watering time by using a pot too large for the tree, as the roots may become waterlogged and rot.

    Vibrantly coloured pots are effective. It is said that unglazed, dark-coloured containers are usually chosen for classic bonsai or to impart a look of age. Evergreens such as conifers, look best in neutral brown pots, but glazed containers should be used for flowering trees or trees with unusual colours or characteristics. Pots of the colour featured above work well with plants such as Cotoneasters - with their bright red berries. Over the years, it has become traditional to select rather neutral shades of brown, grey and red for evergreens and the more colourful pots of green, blue and white for deciduous trees. It has also long been recognised, for example, that flowering trees look good in green, blue and deep purple pots. The exception to this is that trees and shrubs with red flowers look best in white pots. Fruiting trees can handle the competition of coloured pots and certain traditions have developed around them. For instance, it is considered the norm for trees with red fruit in white pots, and trees with yellow or orange fruits in blue pots. Basic brown pots are always correct.

    Glazed pots for unformal, interesting trees Both evergreen and deciduous trees known for their highly coloured foliage follow the norms, with almost any vibrant colour looking well in green, red-leafed trees looking well in white, and yellow and orange looking well in blue containers. Again, the finishes can either be glazed or unglazed.

    Generally, the more mature and aged the bonsai, the plainer the container should be. The more delicate the tree, the lighter in colour the container should be.

    Feel free to chose whatever container that you think looks best for your individual bonsai, but as a general rule, oval containers compliment deciduous trees and rectangular ones suit evergreens best (particularly conifers). Hexagonal pots are softer in effect than other shapes - perfect for trees with arching or short and prominent trunks. The colour, weight and size of a pot should also be given great consideration, as well as whether it should have decoration or not. Larger pots are usually subdued in colour and texture, so that they do not dominate the tree. A smaller pot can be brighter. A container that is too overpowering, is too big, or is not the right colour, takes an enormous amount of the simple beauty of a bonsai away, and detracts from its overall aesthetic appearance.

    Simple pots work well with conifers Keep the container in scale with the tree: an individual tree should not look lost in a large pot, nor overwhelm a tiny one. A dense evergreen bonsai, for example, needs a deeper pot than a delicate maple. As a guideline, a mainly vertical tree needs a pot with a length between two-thirds to three quarters of the tree's height. The pot's length should be two-thirds and three-quarters of the overall width of a strongly horizontal tree. As a reservoir for soil and water, a smaller pot needs more depth in proportion to its width than a larger pot does. Certain styles and types of tree demand deeper pots.

    The 'Drum Pot' is effective with large, dominating trees. One very important thing to remember when buying a bonsai pot is : never buy a pot with a glazed interior. It may look neat, but this drastically interrupts drainage and heat loss. The roots could rot very easily. Most good quality bonsai pots are very expensive, but it is better to pay more for a container that you know is good quality, than to buy a cheap pot that could turn out to be detrimental to your bonsai's health. Some people might even want to use a slab of rock or slate instead of a traditional container to make a design look especially natural as an alternative to a pot for a forest planting or a bonsai that is spacious and dominating in design. These are usually granite, slate or volcanic rock, but can also be made from painted fibreglass and other materials quite cheaply.

    An Unglazed pot mainly used for more elaborate trees Overall, the container of your bonsai should always suit your personal tastes - as you are the artist, but it also should compliment the basic design and layout. e.g. you would have to have a cascading bonsai in a tall, narrow pot. Remember, if you cannot make up your mind on what pot would suit the plant, experiment, and don't be afraid to try something original. You can always repot the bonsai the following year into a more preferred style. Bonsai is a constantly changing process and one that requires a great amount of patience, but is never permanent.

    Using Ornamental Rocks...

    If you want to increase the impact of your bonsai, introducing one or more rocks is a good idea. Solid, elemental-looking rocks can give the impression that a bonsai is part of a landscape. A single rock can resemble a rugged cliff, a towering mountain, or a rocky island. A group of smaller rocks, positioned as outcrops protruding from the soil of the bonsai container, can recall the rocky terrain in which the tree lives.

    The use of ornamental rocks with a bonsai tree was always something of great importance in ancient times. This practice has become less used these days, but can add just that one final touch to your bonsai masterpiece. Excessive use of rock and statues around a bonsai is known as Saikei, but a single one or two rocks along with the tree still classify as a bonsai.

    The choice of what type of rock to use basically is up to the bonsai artist. Personally, I use interesting and weathered pieces of granite and slate that I have collected from the wild, but you could basically use anything that looks natural and suits the type of tree for the bonsai, and the pot. Note that if you are going to use rocks collected from the sea, or estuaries, that these have been exposed to the elements for two years at least (such as in a corner of your garden) where this has allowed the salt and any other chemicals to leach from inside. If you do use a rock that has been exposed to chemicals or substances that are detrimental to your bonsai - either do not use it, or make sure that these substances are properly eliminated.

    For your rock 'planting' you obviously need to find a beautiful rock that is harmonious and complimentary to the tree's structure and colours. Many types of rock exist around the world, but some are better than others for bonsai. The best kind for bonsai work is a hard type that will not crumble away. It should also have an important colour, shape, and texture. Pay particular attention to the rock's shape and type. It should be intrinsically interesting. A round, smooth rock, for example, suggests a watery scene, so it would enhance trees such as willows. A bland rock is unlikely to produce a good effect. On the whole, pick a rock with a natural-looking shape, but you should not find this a limitation, because nature produces a wide range of fantastically contorted mountains, boulders and rocks. Pleasing texture and colour are also important: black and shades of grey are usually impressive.

    A popular choice of rock is the Japanese Ibigawa rock. It is a volcanic conglomerate, a mixture of several rock types welded together by the heat of volcanic activity.

    Do not use marble or quartz because their intensively shiny, glittering textures will detract from the natural effect of the trees. Frost may split the strata lines of sandstone and other types of sedimentary rocks.

    You can use soft rocks such as lava rock and tufa, but don't rely on these too heavily as they can erode quite quickly. Soft rocks should never be used for clasped to rock or root-over-rock styles.

    Bonsai Stands...

    Properly displaying your bonsai will enhance its beauty - Enhance your decor with these handcrafted bonsai stands. Each stand is hand carved by Chinese artisans and hand finish with a stain that gives the piece a rich luster while protecting the wood for a long-lasting finish. The quality hardwood construction of these bonsai display tables brings character to your home. They are an ideal way to display personal treasures in an elegant way. The purpose of a bonsai stand:
    The bonsai stand is an element of formality. They come in many different designs, shapes and sizes to fit your needs. They are designed to draw attention to the bonsai, not necessarily to the stand. A lovely stand will add to the decor of a room while also bringing attention to the bonsai on display.

    Slanting Bonsai style

    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.
    With Bonsai, the leaning style should grow at an angle of about 60 - 80 degrees relative to the ground. The roots are well developed on one side to keep the tree standing. On the side toward which the tree is leaning, the roots are clearly not as well developed. The first branch grows opposite the direction of the tree, in order to balance it. The trunk can be slightly bent or completely straight, but still be thicker at the bottom than at the top.

    Shakkan (leaning or slanting) Bonsai style

    Windswept Bonsai style

    The windswept style is also a good example of trees that must struggle to survive.
    The branches as well as the trunk grow to one side as though the wind has been blowing the tree constantly in one direction. The branches grow out on all sides of the trunk but will all eventually be bent to one side.

    Fukinagashi (windswept) Bonsai style

    Choosing a Bonsai pot

    The importance of selecting the right pot to plant your Bonsai in is often underestimated. The pot as well as any grasses, moss, stones, figurines and plant stands are important element of the composition, and should be chosen carefully.

    General. Bonsai are planted in small pots, often imported from Japan or China. Japanese pottery is high quality, quite expensive, elegant, natural and often unglazed, while Chinese pottery is cheaper (quality is getting better and better though) and often brightly glazed.
    Old Bonsai trees, which do not need to be trained anymore and have been repotted and root-pruned many times over the years, are adapted to live in small pots. Younger trees however, still need more room to grow and will be trained step-by-step to adept to live in increasingly smaller pots, by pruning their roots every time they are being repotted. Young trees should be planted in rather less expensive pots or in plastic containers, widely available at (online) Bonsai shops.

    Size. Trees still being trained should be placed in rather large containers, providing the roots with enough space to grow and help the tree to cope with intense training techniques used, like style-pruning. Older trees however have a more compact root-system and can be planted in smaller pots, esthetical considerations are more important now.

    Esthetics. Choosing a pot that really suits the tree is difficult, as different variables (like shape, choosing between glazed/unglazed and color) need to be taken into account. A few basic guidelines can be used to select the right pot:
    1. Use unglazed pots for conifers and pine trees.
    2. For deciduous trees you can use both glazed as unglazed pots; do not use a bright glaze unless the tree has flowers or fruits.
    3. Use a pot with a width of about 2/3 the height of the tree.
    4. The depth of the pot should be equal to one to two times the thickness of the trunk at its base.
    5. For ‘masculine’ trees use angular pots, while for more gently shaped ‘feminine’ trees use rounded pots.

    Finally, it is most important to select a container that is large enough for the tree to sustain its health and to use a pot that is subordinate to the tree .

    Overwintering Bonsai trees

    During the autumn outdoor trees start preparing for the coming winter by hardening up new growth and (for deciduous trees at least) dropping leaves to reduce moisture loss.

    During overwintering trees enter a period of dormancy, which is important for Bonsai trees to follow as well, so don’t overprotect them by placing them inside ((sub)tropical trees are an exception and should be placed indoors during the winter).

    In nature trees are often subjected to temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius (50 °F) the roots however are too deep under the ground to freeze. Therefore, as long as the root-system of a Bonsai is protected, low temperatures are not a serious problem as the foliage protects it selves when it enters the period of dormancy.
    Keeping your trees in a greenhouse or cold frame during the winter is recommended for those living in cold areas, as roots in the shallow pots easily freeze. When such accommodation is not available, use covers around the pots to prevent your Bonsai. When living in warm, (sub)tropical environments you can most of the times leave your trees unprotected.
    When in dormancy, be careful not to expose your trees to an extended period of high temperatures (open greenhouses when they warm up during sunny days for example) as this might bring them out of dormancy. Once it gets cold again the trees don’t have their natural protection and buds die off.

    When overwintering, keep a close eye on your trees. Water when the soil dries out, the trees don’t absorb much water when in dormancy so be careful not to water too often. Also check your trees for insects or infections regularly. During the spring you can place your trees outside again, but be wary to protect new growth against late frosts.