Bonsai Secrets for Beginners

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Imagine taking a tree that is meant to grow many feet tall, miniaturizing it to fit your balcony or interiors and still maintain its natural and mature look. This is the art of bonsai-a truly rewarding hobby to those who practice it.

Bonsai may not be widely practiced in this part of the world but it is an art that has been around for centuries. While its origins are deeply rooted in the Asian culture, bonsai has found a place in contemporary gardening. It adds not only a touch of class to a garden, but also a beautifully sedated focus for relaxation and meditation.

However bonsai is a hobby that requires a tremendous amount of patience. It is not an art of perfection but rather greatly depends on the artist’s individuality and personal preference. Here are a few secrets of the mystery of bonsai.


No bonsai style is the “right” style. Like I said, it really depends on the perception of an individual. Bonsai is meant to be a representation of a tree in nature. Crafting a bonsai masterpiece is therefore tantamount to how the craftsman views the tree.

There are two general styles of bonsai. The first is the classic style called ‘koten’. It is the easier option and is generally recommended for first timers. The other style is the informal or ‘comic’ style. Traditionally referred to as the ‘bunjin’, it is a much more difficult style and is best left to the bonsai masters.

Start right

Although you can start your bonsai from seed, it is not always recommended. The problem with seed is that it takes such a long time to see results. Hence unless you start your bonsai hobby as a kid, you’ll probably have more time to enjoy the results if you go for established seedlings.

In general, select a hardy specimen that will be tolerant to the stress of being cut, wired and replanted. Although any type of tree or shrub will be suitable for bonsai, beginners are highly advised to select ones that are more “forgiving” to mistakes. For instance, instead of pines, you are probably safer with broadleaf species such as ficus and dwarf junipers.

Whichever tree you choose, remember that a bonsai tree should always be positioned off-centre in its container. This asymmetry is not only vital to the visual effect, but also bears a great deal of symbolism drawn from Asian cultures. The centre point was believed to be the spot where heaven and earth meet, and nothing else should occupy this place.

Pruning and Wiring

A great deal of pruning is often necessary whenever you start with a seedling off the nursery to remove excess foliage and undesirable limbs. All buds except those on the outside of the trunk should be removed to force growth outward and upward. Remember to leave stubs flush with the stems and avoid cutting back too much such that the main branches are weakened.

Do not shear bonsai as you would a hedge; the objective is to make the plant look like a replica of a mature tree. Keep the branches growing toward open space and away from one another.

This kind of heavy pruning need only be done once. Subsequent procedures would be more like nipping to control new growth, shape the tree and to help it develop lush foliage. Tiny spurs that appear on the trunk are removed before they are too large.

Wiring a bonsai may be a daunting technique to master at first. It is however important as it is the only way to get complete control over the growth of a plant. It enables you to easily manipulate the trunk and branches of your bonsai.

By coiling wires around the limbs of the bonsai, you are able to bend the tree into a desired position upon which it is held by the wire. After a while, the branch or trunk ‘learns’ to stay in that position even after the wire is removed.


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