Creating a Bonsai from Garden Centre stock

This is a great way of starting a bonsai collection. You will need above all to remember what you are setting out to do. It is not unusual when creating a bonsai this way to find yourself cutting off 75% off the original tree in order to reveal the bonsai inside the massof foliage. Remember on a well maintained tree the areas of foliage you keep will develop quickly into reasonable pads. Don't be fainthearted about it.

A two year sequence would look like this:

With the tree on the left as you might have purchased it.

Try not to select a tree with a straight trunk unless you want a Formal Upright. Look for something with a good taper or perhaps somthing with a branch that can make a new top to the tree if you remove the existing leader. Doing this and wiring the new leader upright will give you instant trunk taper.

Selecting a tree for conversion

Walking around a garden center, looking for a tree to convert to a bonsai can be a bewildering experience for the beginner. I would suggest that you start with a conifer, preferably a juniper type.

Explore the Garden center, looking for trees with good, thick trunks and a reasonable number of branches radiating away from the trunk in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel.

At this point you will need to select the front of the tree. This is usually the point giving the best view of the trunk. Ideally it will not have any branches growing toward the viewer, or any there are, when removed will leave minimal scars.

The tree you select may start as a blob of foliage, but will with the aid of wiring and pruning end up as a good bonsai.

Within this blob of foilage is a trunk and branch structure,

You can reduce the height of an overtall tree, and at the same time increase it's taper by removing the top of the tree above a suitable branch and wiring the branch upward to produce a new head for the tree. You then have the choice of either removing the unwanted top or jinning it.

If you talk to the owner of the centre you may find they have an area (usually out of public view) where they put any damaged stock or those trees that don't conform to the ideal (for a garden). If they know your interested you may be able to do a deal and get some good material at knock down prices.

When you've got the tree home spend some time looking at the trunk, and draw out the various options, both how the tree looks now and how it should lookin a few years. Then when you are happy mark those branches you wish to cut out and remove them.

This generally means using something like secaturs or a small saw, however if you have access to specialist bonsai tools get yourself a pair of 'wen'or parrot beak cutters. These cut a small dimple into the trunk and this will heal over better than a level cut.

having finished removing material your thoughts will turn to wiring. Don't be in to much of a hurry to do this. in fact it's probably better to leave this until the following year.

Don't be in to much of a rush to repot the tree. Forests of potentially good bonsai have been killed by rushing them into a pot. Have patience, leave the tree for a year to recover and then pot it up. That will give you some time to select a matching pot.

When either purchasing a tree for conversion, or collecting a tree from the wild, you will find the tree will have a major root going downward. This is called the taproot and must be removed for the tree to fit into a shallow bonsai pot.

This process may need to be carried out over several repottings and can in the case of pines take quite a while to achieve. However if you read the section on layering you will be able to induce new roots above the place where you wish to cut the taproot.

You may, if you have removed a lot of root at one time, have to remove some of the foliage to 'balance' the tree.

Allen. C. Roffey 01:05 07/01/2006