- Bonsai for Beginners
- Choosing bonsai
- Choosing a pot
- Tools & pruning
- Trees & shrubs for bonsai
- Tropical bonsai
- Pests & disease
- Modern bonsai
- Edible bonsai
- Root over rock
- Raft planting
- Semi-cascade bonsai
- Adaptive native shrubs
- Pointsettia bonsai
- Chrysanthemum - rock
- Formal upright fig
- Informal upright azalea
Bonsai tools & pruning
You create in this little plant a vision of what you perceive this tree to represent
Pruning establishes the basic shape of the bonsai. By removing unnecessary branches, and thus enhancing others, you establish the style the tree will be. This is usually done only once, after which small shoots are pruned or removed, new growth is pinched back, and branches are wired to change or modify their position.
There are two basic rules for removal of branches - no branch, with the exception of small ones at the top, should grow towards the front, and no branches should be seen to cross each other. All other pruning is your choice, as you create in this little plant a vision of what you perceive this tree to represent. If you truly can see an ancient tree in miniature in your hand, it's a bonsai, you created it and it's yours!
Choose good quality for your basic tool kit, as these are the ones you will use the most, for many years
In order to keep this bonsai plant small enough to be 'an illusion of a very old tree in miniature', which is our definition of bonsai today, we must prune and shape it regularly.
There are many special bonsai tools, some quite expensive, which experienced bonsai enthusiast's use or would love to own. Some are exceptionally good quality, some aren't. Most are very useful, but few are necessary, especially for beginners or the less-than-addicted!
Many tools used in bonsai are readily available and not expensive. They do not have to be 'bonsai' tools - you could have some for houseplant or garden use or general household repair. While you do not want to feel obligated to buy top-of-the-line specialty tools just yet, choose good quality for your basic tool kit, as these are the ones you will use the most, for many years. There are also sets of tools available, usually containing the basics. Be sure of the quality and also whether or not the choice of tools is appropriate for you.
First, and most important, is a pair of trimming shears, usually with large handles, used to cut thin branches and roots. A pair of 'flower shears' for flower arranging could be used, or light pruning shears (secateur type, not anvil type) with pointy tips and fine blades. This could be your most expensive purchase, and it is worth buying good quality. A smaller pair, or a small pair of scissors, similar to embroidery scissors, will be useful for fine pruning or nipping buds. Wire cutters, not too large, are not only good for cutting wire but also for cutting branches close to the trunk. They are strong and hold an edge well. Branch cutters or knob cutters are the traditional tools. A small folding saw is used for large branches - it depends on the size of bonsai you will likely be working on. Very small bonsai, called 'mame', need fine tools. If you plan on digging up trees out of the bush, you will need sturdy tools, and different ones.
For wiring, you'll need pliers - the size again depends on the size of the plant and wire. Copper wire is traditionally used, because it is flexible yet strong. It does, however, harden as it ages, increasing the risk of damage to the tree. Aluminium wire is inappropriate in its natural colour but is now available in a copper colour. It is easy to use and becoming much more popular.
A root rake looks like a fork with the tines bent down at right angles and you can do just that! You can, of course, also buy one. A root hook is sometimes used, and a chopstick is traditional. A turntable, (perhaps used for cake decorating?) is really handy. A soil sieve is used to remove the fine particles from your soil mix - some have interchangeable screens. They are available at greengate. Mesh or screening is used to cover the holes in bonsai pots to keep soil in and allow excess water to drain. Fiberglas screens are commonly used for small pots, and the mesh used for rug hooking is good for larger ones. A watering can with a fine spray nozzle is essential.
There are also a couple of household items, quite non-traditional, that you will find very useful. Green twist-ties are wonderful to hook over a branch and pull it down to another below it, or down to the rim of a pot, holding it there with Scotch or masking tape. That should be all you'll need at first. Once you have worked on a few trees you will recognize individual needs and choose specific tools for them. For those who are not fortunate enough to have bonsai shops close by, there are catalogues, which sell everything you can possibly imagine in bonsai tools, and likely a little more! Choose carefully and wisely, and treasure those special tools, which help you create your own bonsai.