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Table Of Contents


Where do I start?

Plant selection



This section of the site is devoted to all things Bonsai. I will constantly be adding things as I get the time so be sure to check back often. Feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions, etc, or just post them on the messageboard.


Where do I start?

At first Bonsai can be rather intimidating for the novice, but after learning a few basics even the uninitiated will begin to gain more and more confidence quickly. Before a plant can be purchased though there are a few things you will need to get started. Essential items needed are as follows:

A good, solid pair of pruning scissors

Plastic mesh

Thin, flexible wire

Well draining potting soil

A stick

A pot with large drainage holes

Wire cutters


All tools should be sharp and comfortable to handle. The wire will be used to tie the plant into the pot as well as fix the mesh in place so will need to be of a flexible nature. The mesh should be plastic so it doesn't rust and can consist of flyscreen sheeting or even something as simple as shadecloth. The stick will mostly be used to tease free the rootball of the plant as well as push soil into the root zone when potting. Personally I use thin pieces of bamboo which are often used to stake small nursery stock.

The pot is one of the most important aspects of bonsai and should be a colour and style which will enhance the plant without detracting from it. The drainage holes must be large to ensure the plant doesn't get waterlogged and develop root rot. Soil is also one of the most important items on this list to consider as it is the main source of food for the plant and should be customised to suit the specific specimen housed within it. Important factors to consider when choosing a soil is it's PH level and nutrient content, these should be consistant with the plant's needs. Soil should also be well draining.

The wire should be in several different sizes as it's uses are not of a singular nature. Thin, extremely flexible wire is used to hold the plant in the pot while thicker wire is used to train branches and trunks. The sizes you need to obtain will differ depending on the species of plant you choose as well as it's age and robustness and can even differ depending on which part of the tree you are training. In general, the thicker the branch or trunk, the thicker the wire and the less you can manipulate the plant without causing damage. There are exeptions to this rule though, depending on the species of plant chosen.

Plant selection

Now that we have the materials needed to begin we can start thinking about obtaining a plant. Before you rush out and buy the first plant you lay eyes on however, there are a few important things to consider. Some plants are much more suited to Bonsai than others and some species are more suited to certain styles than others. Choosing a plant that easily conforms to the style you are after will make life alot easier for the novice. That is not to say it isn't possible to create a certain form from a plant not generally used for that style, it's just something best left until you advance a little more. The last thing you want to do right now is become discouraged due to a poor choice of plant or style for a beginner. Some great plants to consider when starting out are listed below. These are generally fairly forgiving species, many of whom are easily trained as well.

Chinese Elm -Ulmus Parvifolia

Japanese Maple - Acer Palmatum

Trident Maple - Acer Buergerianum

Juniper - Juniperus

Crab Apple - Malus

 The plant you choose should be a healthy specimen with no signs of disease or pests, if it looks sickly then avoid purchasing it. Before buying a plant take a while to look at the specimen at eye level from all sides. Choose the most asthetically pleasing angle of the plant as this will be the front. Try to visualise how the plant would look in different styles. If there is a stray branch here or there then put your hand in front of them to make it easier to get a feel for what the plant would look like if they were missing. If you have trouble visualising how a plant would look in a certain style, or it isn't pleasing to your eye then put it down and look at another.

You are looking for a tree that has the best balance of elements for the style you want and choosing one that is below par means that you will have to work much harder to get the tree where you want it. Some basic things you want to look for are a tapered trunk, that is a trunk that is thicker at the base than the top, small leaves and plenty of branches that divide and branch out. There are exceptions to this of course, such as with a literati style, the trunk shouldn't be too tapered. These forms are generally best left until more skill has been aquired though and aren't relevant to what we are doing right now.

In general, finding a suitable specimen may take a little time due to the fact that alot of nurseries deal more with stock suited for the general garden, barerooted monstrosities with little branches and way too large to be of any use. Many have ugly grafting scars which take a long time to heal as well. Don't be afraid to leave a nursery empty-handed and visit a different one, patience is the key to every aspect of Bonsai and choosing a plant is probably the most important time to adhere to this. Considering your plant will most likely outlive you and is something you will, in time, take pride in you want to be as patient as possible to ensure the best possible choice.