What is Bonsai?
Welcome to the world of bonsai. Your tree was styled and potted with the utmost care and consideration for its long health. My goal is to provide you with a tree that with the proper care will provide you with enjoyment for years and years.
Bonsai, pronounced, "bone-sigh" and most often mispronounced "banzai." Banzai literally translates to, ten thousand years. It is an exclamation, a cheer.
Bonsai is translated as bon, meaning "tray" and sai, meaning "planting" or a plant (tree) in a shallow container.
Bonsai is more than the literal translation though. It is living art. The goal is to make a tree, however old or young, look ancient. This is done primarily through its surface roots (nabari), trunk, branches and foliage. The tree is also styled to look like a very old tree. Simply placing a tree in a pot does not make it a bonsai.
Your bonsai tree was designed with a preferred front for viewing. I have marked that front with a piece of agate. You may wish to remove the agate once you know where the front is, or leave it if you like.
CARING FOR YOUR BONSAI TREE
SOIL: Your bonsai is planted in a hi-grade soil mixture that I personally sift through a series of 3 different sized screens. Bonsai grow best in a rocky soil that is of a certain size. It is designed to provide optimum health for your bonsai. It drains very well and yet holds the correct amount of water that is essential for the good health of your bonsai.
THE POT: Your bonsai pot is also designed for your bonsai trees optimum health. Look at the bottom of your pot and you'll see 1 or more holes provided for proper drainage. Also notice, that your pot has feet. This keeps the holes in the pot off the ground so that those holes can do their job. Bonsai need to be able to drain freely. Never set your pot in another tray where that trays edge is taller than the base of your pot.
WATERING: I have designed your soil to be difficult to over water. The goal is to keep the soil moist, this is best accomplished by giving your bonsai a good soak and then allowing it to lose about 80% of that moisture before watering it again. The best way to water your bonsai is to do so softly. By this I mean, don't allow the soil to be washed away as you water it. It is best to water it until the water is draining through its drainage holes, wait 2-3 minutes and then do it again. Watering your bonsai this way will insure that the soil has soaked up the optimum amount of moisture.
The following is a seasonal, watering guideline: late fall and winter water 2-3 times a week or less. Early spring water 3-4 times a week. Late spring, summer and early fall water daily. When temperatures reach the 90's, water twice daily or once and keep your bonsai in the shade the entire day. Bonsai love to be misted in the evening.
SUNSHINE: Place your bonsai in an area where it can get 2-4 hours of direct sun exposure each day. Late fall and winter a south facing exposure is OK. Spring and summer place your bonsai with an east or west exposure.
FRESH AIR: I CAN'T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH: your bonsai is an OUTDOOR tree unless I told the buyer differently when it was purchased. It will not maintain it's health if kept indoors for prolonged periods of time. If you bring your tree indoors it should be for only a single day. An exception would be for extremely cold weather conditions. When temperatures are below 30 degrees you should bring your tree into maybe a garage or shed. In your house would be OK if it was placed near a window but just until temperatures went back up.
FERTILIZING: Any liquid soluble fertilizer will work. Organics are best and time released fertilizers work well also. Less is best. Follow the manufactures recommendations. A good rule of thumb for when to fertilize is to watch the deciduous trees in your yard or neighborhood. When the buds are swelling or the trees begin to leaf out, that is the time to begin fertilizing your bonsai. Feed your bonsai every month through September. You stop feeding it when most the leaves on your local deciduous trees have fallen.
PRUNING: Spring is the time to prune and pinch your bonsai. If you wish to keep it's current shape then pinch or cut off any new growth that appears. If you want to restyle it then let it grow to that shape and just pinch or cut back areas you do not want to grow.
REPOTTING: Repotting can mean a larger, smaller or the same pot it is in. What is most important is that the roots get trimmed and the old soil is removed and new soil introduced.
WIRING: Your tree may have wire on it when it was purchased. The wire is anodized aluminum. It was used to shape and style the trunk and or the branches. When the wire is removed the tree should keep the shape it was wired into.
WHEN TO REMOVE WIRE FROM A TREE: it is removed when you see telltale signs that the tree is starting to grow around the wire. It will look like the wire is biting into the tree itself. Your tree will have come with a date that it was styled and or wired. The wire on a conifer usually stays on for about 6 months. The date will give you an idea of when to remove the wires.
When you remove a wired tree you start at the top and work downward and you start at the tips of the branches and work inward toward the trunk. Always remove the smaller wires first and then the larger ones. There are 2 ways to remove the wire. It can be unwound or cut. The rule of thumb is to unwind the smaller gauge wires and cut the larger gauge wires off with wire cutters. It is very important to support the branch with one hand while unwinding or cutting with the other hand.
JIN: pronounced (gin) it is the dead wood on a tree. Your tree may have been designed with a few dead branches. Jin also gives the illusion of age.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For more instruction on the care of bonsai I highly recommend your local bonsai society. Here in Portland it is Bonsai Society of Portland. (BSOP) For further instruction I also suggest using your computer, just enter bonsai and watch what happens. There is also the library and bookstores.