Bonsai trees are expensive because of the skill and expertise required to grow them and the time it takes for the trees to come to maturity. So why am I suggesting that you should try growing your own? Although a beginner cannot hope to become an expert overnight there is no reason why you cannot apply the basic principles of bonsai to various plants to see how they turn out. This article by Jill Nicolaus which I found over on Dave’s Garden website explains how to do it.
Instead of seeing bonsai as something only experts would dare, let’s view it as just another fun and interesting way of growing plants. No expertise required!
Admiring the elegant bonsai at a botanical garden or even a little specimen for sale at a nursery makes many of us wish we had the nerve or the expertise to try our hand at it. While mastering the art and science of bonsai can take a lifetime, anybody can give it a try. What do you have to lose, a small plant and a little of your time? And you could gain the satisfaction of showing off a sweet little bonsai and saying, “I grew it myself!”
The basic concept of bonsai is straightforward. A plant’s normal growth is limited by cutting its tap root and growing it in a shallow container. Over time, the plant takes on a mature yet miniaturized appearance. New growth is pruned and shaped, and the main branches and lateral roots often take on a gnarled appearance. As an art form that’s been refined through centuries, bonsai has a number of very specific types and styles. However, there’s nothing wrong with simply trying to achieve an interesting or pleasing form with your bonsai, without worrying about formalities.
Choose a Plant
Any relatively small tree, shrub, or woody herb can become a bonsai. Little inexpensive plants from a nursery or “volunteer” seedlings from your yard will work just fine. You might also choose to start from seed, although seed-grown trees will need a couple of years in a regular-depth pot to get established before being planted as bonsai. Hardy evergreens, ficus, and woody herbs such as rosemary or scented geraniums (Pelargonium) are all good “beginner” choices, but it’s hard to resist a cute little maple seedling or squirrel-sown oak-ling.
There are different styles of bonsai, from gnarled and twisted forms to waterfall shapes to little groves of symmetrical trees. base of bonsai showing gnarled fat spreading roots Choose a starter plant with an idea in mind of the “look” you are aiming for. Yews and other tough evergreens can be heavily pruned right away to give your bonsai its initial form. Most young plants will put out new branches readily, so don’t worry about making a mistake. If you don’t love the shape of your bonsai, let it grow out a little and then prune it again.
See more at Dave’s Garden