Fascinated by bonsai and want to grow your own? Hema Vijay tells you how

Chennai Bonsai Exotica (CBE), an association of experienced bonsai enthusiasts, recently held a workshop for aspiring bonsai enthusiasts, on how they can start up their own bonsai.

CBE president K. Sivaji and other members of the association give us this roadmap.

Seed or sapling? Bonsai can be started from seeds, saplings, cuttings, layering, etc…

Choosing trees : Tropical and sub-tropical plants with long life and small leaves are best suited for Chennai climate.

For a beginner, Banyan, Philken, Ficus varieties, and jade are good options. Choose plants that would bear flowers and fruits, which make the bonsai more interesting.

Pruning and shaping: After deciding on the shape and size for your bonsai, prune branches and leaves as the plant grows.

Transplanting into the bonsai tray: The starter bonsai plant should be grown in a growth pot first.

When it has grown to become a good looking bonsai (after a minimum of six months), it can be transplanted into a bonsai tray or even a pot. Size of the tray should be two thirds of the height of the bonsai. The pot should have good drainage and should be of enough height to hold the roots.

Soil and manure : A soil mix that consists of one part river sand, one part compost and one part garden sand is ideal.

Sieve the mix to remove very fine sand. The soil mix should have good drainage. There should not be any water logging.

Watering: The quantity of water varies according to the plant, but the soil must be moist always. When the soil is dry, the plant is to be watered.

Tools : For a beginner, a scissor, a wire cutter and some wires will do. Bonsai tools can be obtained from nurseries or hardware stores.

Indoor or outdoor? For Chennai conditions, bonsais should be kept in sunlight or semi-shade, depending upon the plant. Finally, have patience. It takes time for a plant to turn into a bonsai. For instance, a bonsai raised from seeds would require two to four years.

The Chennai Bonsai Exotica conducts regular classes on bonsai and its members offer to guide novices. CBE may be contacted at 9444881688 / 22592226, emailed atchennaibonsai@gmail.comand for more information, check out www.bonsaichennai.com

Bonsai, like all Japanese arts, needs a lot of patience and dedication

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