Many at a training programme on ‘Bonsai Making’ had never grown vegetables at home. But that did not come in the way of their enthusiasm for the charm of having one’s own private little forest in the living room, with the greenery in the city shrinking day by day.
In fact, long after the session started, the training hall was packed and participants could still be seen trickling in. “Bonsai making is an art for which one must take inspiration from nature,” said Dr K A Shanmugasundaran, assistant professor at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University Information and Training Centre, at the training programme organised by the TNAU on Wednesday. “What one needs to do is to go and explore the nature and make a Bonsai by putting together the best of what we find,” he said.
The training programme emphasised on the need to get the right plant and nurture it properly. “Nurturing a bonsai is in many ways like nurturing any other plant. What one needs is an experience in growing plants, the right seeds, the right nutritients and the right upkeep,” he said.
The best way to get the plants is either from a nearby garden or a wild area as it not only saves money, but also helps one train better in selecting the plants. This can be little plants growing on the rocks or a little branch that seems to have the potential of growing into a tree, which can be obtained through air layering or by using seeds.
“There are several organisations in the city for Bonsai culturing that look at obtaining the plants by organising walks and other events. This is by and far the best way to obtain the plants,” said Dr Shanmugham.
Once, the plant is obtained, it can be nurtured in a way that suits one’s imagination. The plant needs to be regularly pruned and nipped to cut down on vertical growth and nutrients need to be regulated in the pot in which it is grown. The plant can be shaped according to your preference either by growing it as an ordinary vertical plant, slating, cascade, semi-cascade, etc., by adjusting the growth of the trunk. It can also be done by adjusting the sunlight that it receives or by controlling its growth by tying to fix it with flexible copper wires or strings.
Characteristics to choose the plant for Bonsai culture:
Attractive bark or roots
Best time to Collect:
During March and April
Items to keep handy while collecting:
A small collapsible shovel, polyethylene sheeting and string for wrapping root balls, sphagnum moss for packing around root ball, a container of water for wetting leaves and root ball, and a small crowbar for getting roots out of rocks.
Components for the pot for the Bonsai plant: Sand, Gravel of fine granite pebbles, compost and ordinary soil in equal proportions in a shallow container to minimise nutrients.
Recommended Plants for beginners (in Chennai): Pomegranate, Lime, Ficus species, Guava, Sapota, Bougainvilla etc.
Tips for pruning
Make all Cuts Above a bud, a side branch or a main fork of the tree. Remove all buds, except those on the outside of the trunk.
Avoid cutting back so far that you weaken the main branches.
After deciding the form of the Bonsai, remove all crossed branches until the tree takes on the form of your choice.