Chairman's Tips
MARCH 2021

Chairman’s Chat

Growing a healthy potted tree in the desired shape is the essence of the art of bonsai. Since
the desired shape and size are invariably not the natural shape and size of the plant material
used, the bonsai artist must use his knowledge and skill to modify the plant’s natural growth.
While it is simple enough to force the plant into the desired shape through pruning, wiring,
carving, and other means, an accommodation of the horticultural needs of the plant is
necessary if the artistic creation is to remain alive and healthy.

There are many useful techniques which, if thoughtfully applied, bring a high level of
perfection to the look of a finished Bonsai. The same techniques can bring disaster or death to
the tree if applied in an inappropriate manner or time.

Root pruning in the production of pre-bonsai is energy related as well. Roots gather nutrients
and store energy in their fleshy parts. Pruning large roots back encourages the production of
large numbers of small roots then would otherwise occur near the base of the trunk.
Regular root pruning is critical to the development of top quality pre-bonsai material.
Because of the labour involved, this is seldom adequately done by commercial plant
nurseries. Root pruning distribute the plant’s stored energy among a large number of small
roots that are closer to the trunk, thus compensating for the energy volume lost in removing
the large roots. This facilitates successful transplantation into small containers. More surface
roots also improve the appearance of the final bonsai design.

Once the design of a bonsai has been decided and implemented, the artist’s activities are
directed towards maintaining health of the tree whilst refining the details of the bonsai. Limbs
and trunk have been trained to the position, shape and size desired by the artist.

The buds of most plants control the amount and location of growth that takes place when they open in the spring. Large buds, usually at the branch terminal, produce rank growth when they open and chemically suppress the development of smaller buds. The plant produces the dominant buds in quantities and location on the plant that attempt to assure the successful creation of the plant habit inherent in its genetic program.

Large buds also suppress the development of adventitious buds on older wood of species capable of reliable back budding. This fact is a great aid to the grower in redirecting the energy of the plant during the subsequent growing season. Removal of large buds divert energy to smaller buds on that limb, encouraging weaker shoots. These shoots will have smaller leaves and shorter internodes, both desirable in the miniaturization process. Adventitious budding on that limb is also encouraged later in the season or for next year. In the areas where a plant is attempting to express its own ideas about where it wants to grow, removal of enough large buds causes the plant to distribute its energy more informally through the plant in an attempt to find an unhindered path of growth. This is very important in sustaining the foliage in those portions of the bonsai design that would not be naturally supported by the plant habit of the medium. Bud removal and other energy redistribution techniques are all directed towards the goal of having uniform bud size throughout the bonsai. Uniform bud size over the entire bonsai is a sign of uniform energy distribution and a properly maintained tree.

As the buds open, shoots and leaves are produced from the buds. In the quest to intercept as much of the sun’s energy as possible, the leaves grow and the shoots lengthen. Large leaves and long shoots are not desired for bonsai. At this stage of growth, pinching of the new shoots is undertaken to further manage the energy of the bonsai. Removal of the extending terminal of the shoot sends a chemical message to the bonsai that further extension in that direction from that branch is likely to be unsuccessful. Internode distance is greatly reduced for a pinched shoot and the remaining leaves of the shoot do not develop to full size. Larger buds will produce more vigorous shoots. However, if bud removal has been done carefully, most buds on the bonsai will be of similar vigor. Many species will produce secondary shoots in the axils of the remaining leaves after shoot pinching. This helps increase ramification but requires a second round of shoot pinching as the secondary shoots extend. Locating the bonsai where ample light intensity is available is particularly critical during the opening of the buds, extension of shoots, and maturing of the leaves. If insufficient light intensity is available, the new leaves will be larger than desirable and the internode distance will be too long. Low light energy causes the plant to attempt to reach out for more energy and grow larger collectors to compensate. Light energy incident on the foliage can be controlled by various means. One of the simplest is to move the bonsai to a more appropriate location in the growing area. Controlling the incident light energy is a useful means of responding to the seasonal variation of day length and sun elevation angle. For example, a Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum, may enjoy almost full sun during early spring days when the daylight hours are reduced and the sun is not so high in the sky. In late spring, much more shade is appropriate a leaf formation is mostly complete and concern increases for leaf burn and excessive root temperatures.



Chairman’s Chat

Here we are once again starting a bonsai new year. I do hope you came through Christmas
and the new year safe and well, and enjoyed the time as much as possible.
We are still in trying times, but with Bonsai, we can work on them safely.
You may have the most beautiful Bonsai in the world, but if you cannot keep it alive, your
bonsai is of no use except perhaps to remind you of your future.

Bonsai is a living art and you must keep horticultural principles in mind.
Growing bonsai requires skills in both art and science. From science, you learn about pH,
fertilizers, fungicides, identification of harmful insects, and most importantly watering. The
art aspects include studying the different styles and designs of bonsai at exhibitions, from
books, and taking lessons.

When creating a new bonsai, remember that it should be protected from freezing
temperatures after root pruning. Don’t over water the plant for at least two weeks if you have
cut off most of the roots, pruned branches, and planted into a fair amount of fresh soil. It
takes, at least, that long for the roots to regenerate. Water thoroughly immediately after it is
created, then wait two or three days and water again. At the end of the two weeks you can
begin a regular watering cycle. Misting the plant during this time is helpful.

A newly collected plant has suffered shock and should be treated as an intensive care victim
since many of its roots may have been sacrificed to collect the plant. It is wise to replant in
the ground or a large pot for a year, to help it grow a good root system near the trunk. The
Japanese recommend that you do one drastic operation at a time. Prune, then wait to wire,
then perhaps repot in another operation.



Chairman's Chat

Saikei and Bonkei
In Japan there are art forms which are of interest to us Bonsai enthusiasts; Bonsai is what we
associate with along with others, such as Saikei and Bonkei.
Bonsai is explained as consisting of two words, bon, a pot or tray, and sai, planting, therefore
bonsai is translated as a plant in a tray or pot.
Saikei, sai as in planting (the second written character of bonsai) and kei means landscape thus
saikei is translated as a planted landscape.
Now put the written characters bonsai and saikei together and take away the redundant sai and sai,
you end up with
bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.
Saikei was founded after World War 2 by Toshio Kawamoto in Japan. Saikei means much the same
as bonkei, the difference being that bonkei is essentially a dry landscape where living plants are
seldom used and saikei which depends exclusively on living plants for effect.

Saikei is the art of creating a planted tray landscapes that combine miniature living trees with soil,
rocks, water, and related vegetation (like ground cover) in a single tray or similar container
The term saikei means the art of creating a miniature landscape. This too is a form of Bonsai, which
goes back to the tradition of the most celebrated Japanese gardens, even though the origins of this
type of composition are to be found in China.

Saikei can be found with miniature statues, tiny houses, and other landscape items, contained within them. However, in its purest form, this type of Bonsai calls exclusively for natural items, such as trees, soil, rock and sand.
In order to create a Bonsai landscape, you will go about it in exactly the same way as if preparing a forest group. Plants of the same species are generally chosen, but of different ages and sizes even though they should all be relatively young. The trees should then be introduced into the landscape itself.
At this point the imagination of the Bonsai enthusiast comes into play; who, through an inspired choice of miniature rocks and stones, should open up the widest horizons. It is also a question of experimenting with sizes and proportions, colours and perspectives, to create a scene that is both remarkable and individual.

We hope, when meetings resume, to have David Penny, who was due to give a talk on Saikei/Bonkei last year, will give us a talk and demonstration on Saikei/Bonkei.

Figures show some of David Penny’s Saikei at last year’s UKBA Auction.
The use of stones and pebbles in a saikei composition are also part of another artistic technique from the Far East, that of bonkei.
Although bonkei materials are usually dry, flowing water and seaside’s are often depicted, with varying colours of gravel or sand making up the land and the water elements. A bonkei may also contain miniature figures of people, animals, buildings, bridges, and other common outdoor items. Both bonkei and saikei in fact originate in Zen philosophy, introduced into Japan from China in the late twelfth century. The School of Zen Buddhism teaches that contemplation of one’s essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the single way to achieve complete and pure enlightenment.
Chinese Zen has developed with the hardship of monastic life and early paintings depicted monks in contemplation amid an austere mountainous landscape of rock, sparsely leaved shrubs, and coniferous trees. There are five keys available to the observer, the rock can be seen as a mountain, as an abstract representation of an animal, as a stylized figure. It can be chosen for its colour or for the imaginary flowers to be seen growing on its surface.
As in the case of the Bonsai, it is essential to that the bonkei be placed in the appropriate container, which will serve to heighten the reading of the subject. The only human participation which is allowed in bonkei, is the arrangement of the container, in which case the base of the selected stone may be cut and shaped accordingly. The natural growth cannot be tampered with in any other way, and it is essential when displayed, that the bonkei succeeds in showing off to best advantage its sides and its most notable features
Figures show typical bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.