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How we create and style trees in miniature.

Bonsai has a reputation for being fairly esoteric, with mysterious and magical components to the art of fashioning small trees that endure a long time.This blog is intended to give a few pointers about the techniques of bonsai, time honored methods that have been developed to ensure the trees’ survival and give pleasing structure and detail for the viewer’s enjoyment.

1) Branch reduction– This is simply the art of pruning…! Lots could be said, but the key is knowing the species you are working with and its needs. The tree will teach you if you learn to listen! Pruning involves having a sense of perspective. We try to imagine how the tree will respond with new growth, and how to open up the structure to reveal the tree’s character.

2) Trunk refinement– This involves deciding how tall the tree will be when it is “finished” to create the illusion of a large tree in nature. Methods range from minor trimming of the crown to “chopping” an entire length of trunk to create a thick caliper on a miniature specimen. Cutting a tree’s height down from ten feet to sixteen inches seems drastic, to say the least… but if there is enough new growth to sustain life, this method can create a vibrant and exciting profile with much vigor and movement, as the tree responds by putting out new branches and foliage. The effect created is of an ancient and venerable “presence,” a tree that has withstood the ravages of time and natural events.

3) Root pruning– This is the most dramatic of the techniques used to create a good bonsai. We don’t usually think about how much of the root mass of a tree is no longer functioning to sustain life. Reducing the rootball to allow placing in a shallow pot or tray allows the tree to “stand tall” in a micro-environment that is in proportion to its tiny stature. These are the most important techniques, developed over aeons by those who wish to create a world in miniature.

4) Wiring– This technique is used to redirect the tree’s growth to create a more pleasing and sculptural form. The final method in creating a “finished” bonsai, this approach requires skill and attention to the finest details of the tree’s profile and growth pattern. The contours and movement that wiring gives enhance the vitality and authenticity of the bonsai specimen. The goal is always to enhance the tree’s natural character with “movement”– an expression of the tree’s relationsip with its environs. We see a mirror of the tree in the forest, yet in miniature form, allowing intimacy and wonder for the viewer!