Obtaining Your Bonsai

Most people often do not realize the fact that regardless of their striking appearances, all bonsai trees are basically ordinary plants. Contrary to this, many are of the view that bonsai trees are some kind of unusual botanical species. If you look around, you will discover that your average-looking garden is actually a gold mine, especially in terms of raw materials for your bonsai culture. Precisely speaking, you can dig up any plant shrub or tree in your garden and develop it directly into a bonsai. In addition, bonsai trees can be created from numerous cuttings as well as layerings that can be obtained from different stock plants.

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Several garden plants are appropriate for developing into bonsai. The most suitable plants for this purpose include azalea, berberis, beech, box, common ash, cedar, cotoneaster, camellia, cypress, crab apple, elm, English field maple, flowering cherry, ginkgo, hornbeam, hawthorn, holly, larch, Japanese maple, juniper, oak, privet, pine, pyracantha, rhododendron, sycamore, spruce, quince, wisteria, willow and yew, to name a few.

If you want to grow a bonsai tree, the first thing you need to do is dig up the selected plant and place it in a large pot or container to help the plant get accustomed to surviving and growing in a container. Next, you need to prune the plant roughly giving it a triangular shape. This can be achieved by cutting away some branches. In case the plant has adequate roots, you can undertake the training as well as shaping right away. On the other hand, if you find that the plant does not show any indication of robustness, it is advisable that you wait until it starts growing well before trying to train it. The possibilities of the plant's survival are quite good as long as it has enough roots and its root ball can be accommodated into a bonsai pot. Then again, if the plant you have selected does not have enough roots or is not vigorous enough, it is advisable that you hold your patience and wait for some more time until it becomes properly established. If you have decided to create a bonsai tree it is essential to have enough patience. In fact, if you need to wait for a year or so, it is not asking too much.

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Where to look

Although collecting plants for bonsai may not be restricted legally, it is still important that the locations should be right for developing prospective bonsai subjects.

Basically, bonsai trees are normal trees that have been deliberately made to have a stunted growth. Such stunted growth is only possible when the trees are grown in unfavourable conditions. Growing the plants in normal conditions will make them tall and natural - something that is converse to the bonsai culture. Stunted growth may occur owing to the climate of the area (for instance, elevated altitude), or poor light (for example, permanent shade from a cliff or a dense undergrowth). In addition, poor soil (such as sandy moorland or perhaps a stony ground) may also lead to stunted growth of plants.

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When to lift

Theoretically speaking, all transplanting activities should be undertaken when the plant is in its dormant stage and prior to the commencement of the plant's growth in spring. In fact, it is very difficult to tell the precise time or months suitable for undertaking transplanting activities in places where excellent bonsai materials can be found, but the climatic conditions vary greatly. Generally, it is best to transplant deciduous trees during autumn and conifers during the onset of spring. However, in places having temperate climatic conditions, you can transplant conifers till mid-spring. In any case, you should never dig up a plant while the threats of frosts remain. Lifting the plant after rain is perhaps the perfect occasion, because the earth remains completely soaked during this time.

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How to lift

The root system of any tree is a very complex network that often goes deep into the earth and, at the same time, spreads, quite far around the tree in search of water and nutrients required by the plant. In order to provide the lifted plants the best possible opportunity to become well established, it is important for you to ensure that the roots as well as the fine rootlets suffer the minimum damage. You should never jerk out a plant from its place. Take care to excavate a trench that is sufficiently deep to make sure that all the roots of the plant can be lifted without difficulty. Try to lift the plant with maximum possible earth surrounding it. At the same time, collect some soil from the site where the tree was growing and place it in the container before transplanting the tree. This will help the tree to accustom itself from its life in nature to being confined to a container. This is all the more important in the case of deciduous trees compared to conifers. While deciduous trees essentially need to be transplanted with as much roots as possible, while you can transplant conifers practically without their original roots, as most of them will still become established in such conditions.

How to move

The roots of a tree have several functions and the most prominent among them is to supply them with adequate water. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the roots are always kept moist while transporting the trees. The most natural way, and possibly the best way too, involve taking some moss, dampen it with water and use it to wrap the roots. After wrapping the root ball with wet moss, you need to cover it with a plastic sheet or aluminum foil. If it takes several days to transport the tree, you need to moisten the root ball several times on the way. If the tree has only a small number of fine roots and remains outdoors during its dormant season, ideally, you should spray the entire tree using a transplanting spray. However, the tree should be given sufficient time for the spray to dry up before it is lifted from its position. In fact, the transplanting spray serves as a sealant and prevents moisture loss from the tree via transpiration. Thereby, it increases the chances of the tree to endure the shock of being transplanted.

Some bonsai experts advise that you trim the foliage as well as roots of the tree soon after lifting and before transporting it to its new location. They recommend that some of the leaves of the tree and the root terminals to restrict evaporation via the leaves and make it easier for the roots to absorb water. At the same time trimming the foliage and roots also enables the tree to establish the balance between its branches and roots once again.

Here are a few tips regarding moving plants. If a tree has several roots, you should cut only a small portion of its foliage. On the other hand, if the tree has few roots, you need to get the tree rid of most of its leaves and branches.


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