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An Introduction to Bonsai Trees

Japanese gardeners have practised the art of bonsai over centuries, and in the last hundred years an interest in bonsai has spread through the Western world as well. The bonsai gardener plants a tree or shrub, tends it and trains it with cutting and wires so that it grows to the gardener’s preferred shape in a miniature size.

In recent years, bonsai gardening has also been taken up in the western world by hobbyists who share an interest in Japanese culture, landscape design or Japanese garden design.

Some of the hardier varieties of bonsai tree may be planted outside in the garden, directly in the soil. Other, more delicate, species require more care and protection from the elements. For this reason, bonsai trees are often grown in

Photo By: Johann Dréo

pots, so that they can be moved away from extreme temperatures, or into better light and shade conditions. For example, gardeners may move them indoors in the winter to protect them from frost. The pot itself provides another opportunity for artistic design, and may be chosen to harmonize with the appearance of the tree, or to contribute to the appearance of the miniature landscape.

When choosing which species to cultivate, the Chinese elm and Japanese maple are both good choices for beginners. You can either look for ready grown bonsai trees for sale online or in your local nursery, or grow one from seed with one of the bonsai growing kits available on the market. You’ll need a pot and some basic tools to get started, and a kit will typically include these, along with growing instructions. A well designed bonsai garden can create a sense of peace and wonder, as the gardener’s artistic expression works with nature to create a beautiful landscape in miniature. Who knows, one little bonsai tree could be your first step towards a beautiful Japanese garden!

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