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OTHER ITA SITES:
Bonsai Brings Out The Artist In You
Bonsai trees are created from standard types of tress. Many believe they are some special dwarf species and that's just not true. The small size of the tree is the result of careful pruning of the branches and the roots.
Growing and creating bonsai is a wonderful hobby. It takes up little space, is not demanding upon your time, is a creative outlet and can empower you with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
Many different trees are good subjects for bonsai, but maple is one of the favorites. Some say the easiest to work on are the green leafed types such as pure Japanese Maple (acer palmatum), and Trident Maple (a.buergerianum).
To be successful growing a bonsai tree you must develop some specialized knowledge. That includes soil preparation and watering, but careful pruning is foremost in successfully turning a tree in the work of art called bonsai.
Just like any artist, before you can create a work of art you must have a vision of what you wish to create. Most bonsai experts use a simple drawing to formulate their ideas. Others may use software designed for gardeners as the first step in the process. When you completed you design you are ready to plan the pruning techniques you will use to achieve your vision.
'Finger pruning' is the next step in creating the bonsai. Finger pruning conifers means pinching new growth to begin shaping the tree. The technique of finger pruning is simply supporting the tree or branch with one hand. You then take the unwanted new growth between the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Now you just twist sharply to remove the growth, avoiding a harmful pull on the branch or tree.
It sounds simple but finger pruning takes some practice to do correctly. The first tree you grow should be considered your practice tree. Don't attempt to build your skills on a valuable bonsai. You can learn by practicing on an ordinary small bush. You will know that you have mastered the technique when you can remove growth cleanly without tugging on the plant.
Finger pruning is not compatible with all plants. Deciduous trees, such as maples and Chinese elms, require scissor tip pruning. With these trees you must trim the unwanted new shoots back to your match your predetermined design or sketch.
Defoliation (leaf pruning) is another shaping skill you must acquire. It is done with some deciduous trees and bushes, such as ficus. Defoliation is usually done in mid-summer, using a fine pair of scissors to remove half the number of leaves while leaving the stems untouched.
You will quickly learn that shaping the tree to your desired look is why you are pruning leaves and branches.
Next you must consider root pruning. This type of pruning is done to maintain the basic health of the tree. It should be coordinated with your branch pruning schedule.
The growth of the roots is affected by your pruning of the branches and leaves. Heavy branch pruning slows the growth of the root system. In this case there are fewer leaves and branches, so the roots need to supply fewer nutrients and less moisture to the tree.
It is very important to examine the roots at least every two years. Depending upon the age, species and the size of the pot, some trees can become root bound. Roots naturally curve within the soil and container. They will start to curve inward when they meet the side of the pot. They will be pressed for space and have nowhere to go but up when the available space is occupied by more roots. That's why root pruning is required.
Roots must be trimmed with very sharp scissors to prevent them from running out of growing space. It is recommended that you trim the roots to about two thirds of their current length. While you are doing this it is a good idea to eliminate a few older roots and a few of the younger roots. Just be sure you leave enough roots to support the tree.
Another way to avoid the tree becoming root bound is to transfer larger and older trees into larger pots.
The species of tree determines the proper pruning time. Full-sized trees of the same species can be used as a pruning guideline.
Some species need to be pruned at the beginning of growth season to stunt growth. Other species need to be pruned at the end of growing season to leave fewer roots, leaves, and branches prior to the dormant period.
With just a little skill and care you and your bonsai tree will share a happy and healthy life together.
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