The Basics

By Rachel Gleeson

for The Village Observer March 2021

For many gardeners, caring for a bonsai is a creative, rewarding and space saving form of gardening. A bonsai plant can recreate a forest or a beautiful mature tree in miniature, allowing us to enjoy the wonder of nature in our suburban homes.

The art of Bonsai originated in China and was then embraced and further developed by the Japanese(“bon-sai” meaning “plant in a pot” comes from the Japanese language).The artform and its popularity spread throughout Europe and America thanks to returning soldiers from World War 2 who took home these fascinating little trees as mementos.

Many plants are suitable for bonsai however those with interesting trunks and compact fine foliage are ideal. Apart from buying a readymade bonsai you can buy young nursery plants, prune the branches into shape and watch them grow or rescue garden castaways that can be cut back and pruned into shape.

Many people think that caring for and maintaining a bonsai is difficult. This is not so! The watering, feeding and pruning of bonsai are general gardening techniques that can be learnt easily, even by beginners! The main reason why people fail is by allowing the plant to dry out or suffocate it in waterlogged soil. Bonsai pots are small and heat up quickly when exposed to intense sunlight meaning delicate roots can become dry very quickly. To avoid this keep your bonsai in a semi shaded position/bright light and avoid full sun. On the flipside bonsai do not like to be waterlogged and need free draining soil.

Because your bonsai plant lives in a small pot, it has limited soil to obtain nutrients. Replacing the growing media every couple of years and trimming the plants roots enable’s more nutrients to be replaced and space for fresh new roots to grow. Use a good quality potting mix and add in one third sand to help provide adequate drainage. Because bonsai plants are constantly being trimmed (always producing new roots and shoots )

A bonsai will essentially remain young and never reach maturity. This in theory means that your bonsai could potentially live forever!

Some recommended plants for Bonsai in Sydney

• Bougainvillea • Callistemon

• Jacaranda • Japanese Maple

• Trident Maple • Serissa

• Port Jackson Fig • Japanese Box