Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tropical Bonsai with Charles Gamble

Written by Charles Gamble - Nassau, Bahamas.

Many years ago I saw a Bonsai, those small Japanese trees. I wanted one but it was too expensive. I thought that to make one was too difficult for me to master, but it was not. Bonsai require some special attention but they are not that hard to grow - if you have the knowledge.

The Chinese originally developed Bonsai more than a thousand years ago. However, it is the Japanese form that is the most familiar to people in the West. The Japanese believe that growing a Bonsai is the highest achievement of the gardener's art.

Bonsai is a tree in miniature. It can be as small as two inches high or as big as seven feet or more. The size is not important, but a Bonsai is a miniature representation of a full size tree.

So it should:

look in scale in all parts.

have leaves and branches smaller but with the same appearance as a full size tree.

have a trunk wider at the bottom and tapering to almost a point at the top. (Depending on the style.)

have thicker branches at the bottom, thinner branches at the top. (The first three branches, from the bottom, are the most important.)

have an interesting root structure showing on the soil surface.

have an interesting trunk with a twisted or graceful bend.

a tree does not have to be old - it just has to look old.

(Please note that not all trees fit these profiles but they are still valued by their owners.)

I grow Bonsai in the Tropical Method. I use local plants and the results are fantastic! Look at the picture and judge for yourself. That Bonsai is a Cherry tree and yes, it does have cherries from time to time.

I have taught many people how to make their own Bonsai. We take a potted plant, trim the roots and the branches and re-pot in Sphagnum moss. As long as you water the plant each day, add some fertilizer from time to time, trims the branches to keep it within limits, the tree will flourish. We start with a Ficus as they are easy to work with but any tree with a woody trunk will work.

The big mistake that some people make with Bonsai is to "baby" them. Bonsai are trees. They need the same conditions as full size trees. They should be kept outside in full sun. I have twenty trees, all are outside. From time to time I bring one indoors but most of the time they remain outside even in the full summer sun.

Classes to learn and make your own Bonsai are by appointment only. Usually I teach one-on-one but groups of no more that four can be accommodated.

Email me! Charles Gamble at