Bonsai growing is a Chinese/Japanese art form which involves growing miniature trees and plants in containers. The actual seeds used to grow bonsai trees are the very same seeds that are used to grow traditionally large, outdoor trees. However, because they are confined to small pots or dishes and due to their constant pruning, their roots are unable to allow them to grow into life-size trees.
The art of growing is believed to be derived from ancient China, by healers who wanted to distribute and transport medicinal plants through the use of containers. Its early focus was on the display of stylistic trunks in the shape of animals and mystic figures. A number of these early works exist today, and are highly valued. Japanese bonsai is derived from the Chinese art form, and was introduced to Japan by imperial embassies in the Chinese Tang Dynasty (the C7th-9th).
There are various styles, including formal and informal upright, cascade, raft, literati, semi-cascade and forest.
If you want to have your own, you can either purchase an already grown bonsai tree from nurseries. However, these are quite pricey and prices increase with the type and age of the tree. For a cheaper alternative, and if you have the patience, you can purchase the seeds or seed packs from your local nursery and grow your own. Here's how:
The pack generally consists of a specific type of seed, a miniature pot, a small bag of compost, a drainage sheet as well as instructions and illustrations to help you get started. Different packs will give you different instructions, and it is important to follow these to the tee for optimal growth.
Watering them has also been said to be an art form in itself. The soil needs to be monitored every day to ensure that it is neither sopping wet nor bone dry, not even for a little while as this will cause damage. In the warmer climates, it is also advisable to set your bonsai in a shallow tray filled with water in order to allow it to absorb water throughout the day.
Once your tree has sprouted, you can begin shaping and dwarfing it through a variety of techniques. There are many resources available to help you achieve this in the form of books, classes and online resources. Pruning is also essential together with a lot of love and care. Remember that bonsai trees are like humans -- they will get depressed (die) if they are not given enough attention. It is important to ensure that your bonsai is not exposed to too much heat, sun or wind, as this will cause it to dry out.
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