Plants - Indoor Plants

Bonsai for beginners

Hilary Haupt

Learn what it takes to care for a bonsai and perhaps try your hand at training your own tree

Monthly pruning is necessary to keep your tree in its compact shape. The bulk of your tree’s pruning will occur during the spring and summer months. Do not give the top of your tree a “hair cut!” Always prune new growth from the bottom of the trunk, moving your way upward to beneath the crown. “Be selective,” advises Volman. “Don’t prune too many branches as any cut will be visible until it grows back.”

The amount you spend on your bonsai equipment depends on how involved you want to be in the creation and training of your bonsai. For pruning, a pair of sharpened garden sheers can often do the trick. However, there are helpful tool kits available that contain the essentials: trimming sheers or scissors, concave, knob, and wire cutters, and pliers, to help maintain your tree’s unique shape. Tropical Expressions and Lee Valley, for example, have a variety of good-quality bonsai tools that can be shipped across Canada.

If you are planning to manipulate the shape of your bonsai, you may need to purchase a variety of different thicknesses of wire, relevant to the thickness of your tree’s branches. Wire is what holds and trains your tree’s branches to grow in their altered, eye-catching positions. Copper wire has more holding power, while  anodized aluminum wire is more malleable and may be easier for a beginner to work with.

Creating your own bonsai

Once you’re confident and ready to create your own design, “look at nature, take or study some pictures, and imagine your tree before you decide to prune it,” says Volman. A tree will need to be properly rooted before it can be shaped so take care not to damage the delicate root system. Once the tree is secure in its new home, expose the branches that will be the main focal points so that they may be wired in the future. Bonsai clubs, like the Toronto Bonsai Society, often offer inexpensive workshops to help you hone your craft. Above all, be adventurous, take risks and remember that practice makes perfect!

Main image from istock/photohomepage, inset image by Hilary Haupt


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