(a) (b) FIGURE 26–1 Bonsai can be created using a variety of species for specific effects. (a) A juniper bonsai shows the traditional bonsai shape. (b) A fruiting bonsai created from an orange plant. (Source: George Acquaah) 26.1 PRINCIPLES To successfully produce a bonsai plant, four general principles—plant selection, design, pruning and training, and management—should be understood and observed. 26.1.1 PLANT SELECTION All plants are not suitable for bonsai. Those with small leaves (deciduous or evergreen) are most desirable. It is also desirable that the species be able to grow in restricted space. Bonsai are essentially outdoor plants, although recently they have been adapted for indoor display. In China and Japan, where the art originated, bonsai plants are obtained from temperate and humid forests. The three groups of plants used in creating bonsai are discussed in the following sections. Conifers Conifers are hardy plants and tolerant of the pruning and other manipulations customary with bonsai culture. The beginner may fare best with conifers as a starter material. Conifers require a short period (usually a few years) to be ready for displaying, and therefore keep the enthusiasm of the novice alive. Another desirable characteristic of conifers is that they are mostly evergreen and as such can be enjoyed year-round. A selection of conifers suited to miniaturization is presented in Table 26–1. Deciduous Trees Deciduous plants shed their leaves in the fall season, after displaying dazzling fall foliage colors. During the dormant period, when all leaves drop, the tree offers a good opportunity for pruning and reshaping. Vigorous growth resumes in spring. As such, deciduous 26.1 Principles 711
TABLE 26–1 Selected Conifers Used for Bonsai Plant Cedar Silver fir Japanese cedar Chinese juniper Japanese white pine Japanese black pine Spruce Yew Larch False cypress Scientific Name Cedrus spp. Albies alba Cryptomeria japonica Juniperus chinensis Pinus parviflora Pinus thubergii Picea spp. Taxus baccata Larix spp. Chamaecyparis spp. These are evergreen species (except for the larch, which has deciduous needles). Silver fir has upright cones, and spruce has pendant cones. Cedar has dark green needles, and Japanese white pine has a bluish-green color. TABLE 26–2 Selected Deciduous Trees Used for Bonsai Plant Trident maple Japanese maple Chinese elm Hornbeam Crab apple Black birch Beech Gray-bark elm Scientific Name Acer trifidum Acer palmatum Ulmus parvifolia Carpinus laxiflora Mallus floribunda Betula nigra Fagus crenata Zelkova serrata bonsai require regular pruning to keep their leaves small. Species from Asia are desirable because their leaves are naturally small in size. Table 26–2 presents a selected number of deciduous trees adapted to bonsai culture. Ornamental Shrubs Conifers are most commonly used in creating bonsai. However, ornamental shrubs that bear small fruits and flowers also make good bonsai. Their spectacular display of flowers and fruits is a sight to behold. Ornamental shrubs that are suitable for use in creating bonsai are listed in Table 26–3. 26.1.2 DESIGN Because bonsai is an art form, creativity is critical to the overall appeal of a finished product. Longevity is an important aspect of bonsai; designs are meant to produce plants that appear old, rugged, and weathered. It should be acknowledged that, to a large extent, the art of bonsai imitates nature. Therefore, some designs portray plants responding to the impact of natural forces such as the wind, as is the case in the Fukinagashi design and the Nejikan twisted trunk design (Figure 26–2). Designs may involve a single tree with a single trunk, a single tree with multiple trunks, or a group of trees. Group designs offer an opportunity to create a miniature landscape. Some designs are very creative, with cascading branches that hang over the edge of the container. 712 Chapter 26 Bonsai: The Art of Miniature Plant Culture
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