The Telegraph
Saturday , May 4 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bonsai is a Japanese horticultural style of growing miniature trees in small containers. The small stature of the bonsai plant is a result of the constant pruning and cutting, and all tropical plants can be made into bonsais. Here’s how to go about it...

METHOD:Buy ready bonsai soil mix. Remove your tree from its existing pot and check the roots for any insects or rotting leaves. Trim the roots of the plant in a way that it fits into the bonsai pot which has the soil mix. Generally, plants have very bushy roots, making it difficult to fit into the pot. Only remove as much root as needed to fit the plant into the pot; don’t go overboard and cut off all the roots, which would be harmful for the plant.

Every bonsai pot will have small holes at the base of the pot. Place small pieces of plastic mesh over the holes. It will prevent the soil from coming out and bugs and insects from entering the soil. Fill the bottom of the pot with a 2-inch layer of garden soil and place the plant on top.

Pack as much loose garden soil around as possible, specially around the roots so that the plant stays firmly in the pot.

Cover the soil with small pieces of stone. This prevents the soil from being washed away when watering the plant. It’s also easy on the eye.

To water the plant, immerse the entire pot in a shallow tub of water till all the soil is covered. Leave the pot in the water till the water stops bubbling. This ensures that all gaps inside the soil are filled with water and no part is left dry and means that the plant has been watered well. [However, some experts like Sujay advise against this practice of immersion for fear of the top soil being washed away. In that case, you can use a watering mug instead.]

Bonsai expert Sujay Shah was in town in April to hold a workshop organised by the Calcutta Bonsai Chapter. Based in Mumbai, Shah has been practising the art of bonsai for over 25 years. Here are some of his tips on how to grow bonsai:

1) The Calcutta weather is great for bonsais, as is the soil and water. A good bonsai takes 10-12 years to develop, so you will have to be patient.

2) A lot of people feel that the trimming of leaves and pruning is detrimental because it hurts the plants, but that is a misconception. Just like we trim leaves and branches in plants found in nature, we apply the same process to bonsai.

3) One should not immerse the entire bonsai plant in a tub of water because the top soil gets removed. Water the bonsai slowly with a mug.

4) Working with bonsais has a positive effect on your mood because you’re connected with nature. Bonsais are natural mood-lifters.

top tips

1) Buy a mature plant from a nursery. Any plant that you like will do as long as it’s a mature plant.
2) Train the plant in a 12-inch pot.
3) Keep pruning and shaping the plant for two years, just like you’d cut a hedge or shrub.
4) Move the plant to a bonsai pot with 3-grade soil.
5) Because of pruning, leaves automatically become smaller in size.
6) In the art of bonsai, you can make the plant look older than it is. The Japanese have come up with 14 different styles of bonsai found in nature.