An essential reference for growing indoor and outdoor bonsai.
The popularity of raising exotic miniature trees continues to grow, with bonsai gardeners cultivating tropical and subtropical species. Successful Bonsai is an essential reference, providing a wide range of bonsai styles and shapes, along with step-by-step instructions and illustrations that expertly guide the gardener through the many pruning and wiring techniques.
This easy-to-use book explains how to grow bonsai both indoors and outdoors; features an illustrated A-Z list of bonsai species with detailed descriptions of 80 plants, including 15 classic species; and recommends a proven pruning regimen. It includes information on:
Successful Bonsai is not only an informative and practical guide, but also a superb source of inspiration. It will instill confidence in the beginner and spark the imagination of the experienced bonsai artist.
David Squire is a horticulturist, gardening writer and editor, and the author of more than 70 gardening books, including The Bonsai Specialist and The Scented Garden. He lives in England.
Growing bonsai is an all-consuming hobby and one that will enthrall you with its techniques and artistry. Traditional bonsai is the practice of growing miniature hardy trees, shrubs and conifers in containers outdoors in temperate areas according to time-honored Chinese and Japanese customs, whereas indoor bonsai is concerned with growing tropical and subtropical shrubs and trees indoors, again mainly in temperate climates but also in warm and colder areas.
Traditional bonsai can be traced back 1,000 or more years to China, while there are claims that a form of growing miniature trees was known much earlier in India. Whatever its true origin, traditional bonsai has come to be associated with religious thoughts and naturalism, as well as with the concept that mountains, trees and rocks have a soul. Some bonsai historians even suggest that the gnarled and contorted shapes of the miniature trees represent the bodies of the immortal in the next world.
About 1,200 years ago the Japanese absorbed bonsai into their culture, where it was perfected into an art steeped in beauty and correctness. It is this preciseness of purpose, and desire for perfection in mirroring nature, that has encapsulated the soul of bonsai. Incidentally, the term bonsai is derived from bon-sai; bon being the Japanese word for "tray", while sai translates as "planting". The word "bonsai" is both singular and plural in its usage.
The history of bonsai
For many centuries, the Japanese refined the techniques of the art of bonsai to a point where an aged specimen was considered to be a prized family heirloom. Bonsai was little known in the West before the beginning of the 20th century. In 1909, however, an exhibition of bonsai was held in London, England, where it caused a sensation. The art of bonsai was, as a result, taken up by many people throughout the world and is today a keenly followed facet of gardening and cultivating plants.
Indoor bonsai -- the creation of miniature plants in small containers by using tropical and subtropical plants -- is a relatively new concept and, at first, was not accepted by traditional bonsai enthusiasts as they believed it did not reflect the true spirit of bonsai. Nevertheless, indoor bonsai has advanced, enriched and enlarged the original concept of the art, making it possible for many more people to grow miniaturized plants.
Where did indoor bonsai originate?
Pinpointing the exact place and time when indoor bonsai originated is not easy. It is certain, however, that many enthusiasts of traditional bonsai sometimes took these plants indoors for limited periods.
Indoor bonsai began when someone in a temperate climate pruned and remodelled a tropical or subtropical houseplant, such as the Ficus benjamina (Java fig -- occasionally also known as weeping fig), Malpighia coccigera (Singapore holly) or Schefflera actinophylla (Australian ivy palm). In the mid-1970s, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York state published a book about indoor bonsai following a widely praised and acclaimed display of these plants.
City dwellers without gardens were especially enthusiastic about growing bonsai indoors. Unlike traditional bonsai, which in temperate regions are outdoor plants, tropical and subtropical plants are able to survive central heating.
Thirty or more years later, enthusiasm for indoor bonsai has spread to many countries and added to the wealth of plants that can be grown indoors. Traditional bonsai enthusiasts were initially scathing of this new concept, but most are now embracing it with the enthusiasm it deserves.
How do indoor bonsai differ from outdoor bonsai?
The major difference between an indoor bonsai and a traditional bonsai is that the traditional type is hardy outdoors in winter in temperate climates, while the indoor trees are tropical and subtropical and need warmth during winter -- although some can stand outdoors in summer if the weather is warm.
The techniques of pruning and training both these types of bonsai are similar, but whereas the growth of traditional bonsai is strongly influenced by the changing seasons, indoor bonsai often have a continuous growing period, although their growth is more active in spring and summer than in winter.
As much care needs to be invested in choosing and buying an indoor bonsai as an outdoor bonsai but, because many of the species for indoor bonsai are also grown as houseplants, there is greater opportunity to buy and modify a plant. This can be an inexpensive way to start -- as well as to expand -- an indoor-bonsai collection. The styles in which plants can be trained are mainly the same for both types of bonsai.
The growth of traditional bonsai is significantly influenced and regulated by the changing seasons and invariably by harmonious temperatures and light intensities. A temperature rise in spring, for example, is balanced by a higher light intensity. Indoor bonsai, on the other hand, are often exposed to an imbalance of high temperatures and little light in winter. Plants can be selected to survive these conditions, but another solution is to provide growth-inducing light (see p. 78). As well as encouraging healthy growth, this illumination highlights indoor bonsai and makes them more distinctive as room features.
Whether you are progressing from outdoor to indoor bonsai, or from houseplants to indoor bonsai, you will be captivated by these plants that will enrich your life as well as bring great vitality and interest to your home.
A brief history of bonsai cultivation and a look at the fundamental differences between outdoor and indoor plants, as well as the nature of indoor bonsai.
Buying and propagating indoor bonsai
Where to buy your plants and what to look for. Raising new plants from seeds or seedlings; growing a bonsai from cuttings. Converting established plants through pruning.
Choosing and training indoor bonsai
A look at the various styles of bonsai, from the classic and slanting forms to modern informal designs, with step-by-step guidelines to many pruning and wiring techniques required to shape a bonsai.
Looking after your bonsai
A focus on tools, materials, pots and potting as well as soil, feeding and watering. Seasonal care instructions are specified, as are tips on how to protect bonsai from pests and diseases.
A to Z of bonsai
Detailed descriptions of 60 popular indoor and 15 outdoor species, each featuring botanical and common names with suitable training styles and specific care and propagation instructions.