Although the word 'Bon-sai' is Japanese, the art it describes originated in the Chinese empire. By the year 700 AD the Chinese had started the art of 'pun-sai' using special techniques to grow dwarf trees in containers. Originally only the elite of the society practiced pun-tsai with native-collected specimens and the trees where spread throughout China as luxurious gifts. During the Kamakura period, the period in which Japan adopted most of China's cultural trademarks, the art of growing trees in containers was introduced into Japan. The Japanese developed Bonsai along certain lines due to the influence of Zen Buddhism and the fact that Japan is only 4% the size of mainland China. The range of landscape forms was thus much more limited. Many well-known techniques, styles and tools were developed in Japan from Chinese originals. Although known to a limited extent outside Asia for three centuries, only recently has Bonsai truly been spread outside its homelands.
How do you care for Bonsai?
Caring for your Bonsai requires time and patience as quite a bit of work goes into transforming a small tree into a graceful, artistic creation. But if you follow basic care guidelines, you will find that Bonsai care is less complicated than it sounds. The most important steps in nurturing your Bonsai include placement, watering, fertilizing, trimming and pruning, and repotting. If you learn how to do each of these correctly you'll be delighted with the outcome.
Most Bonsai do best with morning sun and afternoon shade, although some species such as junipers, pines and other conifers (cone-bearing trees) can take all day sunshine. Even indoor Bonsai trees should be positioned so they get as much morning sun as possible. If your Bonsai is placed against a wall you will need to turn it every two weeks or so, or one side will automatically grow toward the sun.
5 +1 Bonsai tips:
1. Tip: Try to keep the Bonsai soil PH between 4.0 and 6.5. Most Bonsai trees are happy within this range.
2. Tip: When buying soil from nurseries, even if packaged as Bonsai soil, ensure there is a grit or granular content. Without this you can expect your Bonsai tree to suffer!
3. Tip: Make homemade soil! This is the best general soil mixture for Bonsai.
• 30% Akadama, loam or fine-medium granular structure
• 30% Organic medium moss (bark, peat etc)
• 40% Drainage medium (sand, pumice, grit)
4. Tip: Bonsai trees need pruning, but do not prune a tree if it is sick. Sick trees need all the strength they can get!
5. Tip: When watering Bonsai trees during summer, water them at least once a day. In hotter conditions leaves will die very quickly, particularly if the soil becomes dry. Do not allow the soil to become dry for more than a few hours!
5+1. Tip: Do not keep your Bonsai near brick walls or metal walls etc. These also reflect heat.