Steamboat Springs Bonsai translates to mean "planted in a tray" or "potted dwarfed tree."
This form of container gardening originated in China more than 2000 years ago.
Years later it was introduced to Japan, Egypt and eventually Western countries.
No two bonsai are the same as it is a form of living art.
The five basic styles of bonsai are formal upright, informal upright, slanting or windswept, semi-cascade and cascade.
Most tropical plants, elms, crabapples and flowering trees are good starter plants for the beginner. When choosing a plant, remember that temperate plants such as pines, spruces and junipers require a winter dormancy period.
That means they need to be in an unheated garage or protected cold frame for six weeks or three months. When choosing a bonsai, make sure it is healthy. And make sure you purchase the bonsai from a reputable business. The tree should be insect-free with no roots growing out the drainage holes. Check that branches don't have wire scars on them. Spring is an excellent time to purchase a bonsai as it will then have the summer to acclimate to your indoor environment.
The amount of light is an important factor for the bonsai. You need to know if the plant prefers direct or indirect light in nature. The greater the sunlight and heat, the more the bonsai needs water. Soil plays the role as anchor, and mineral and moisture supplier. Bonsai growers often have their own recipes for soil mixtures.
A typical bonsai soil may contain 1 part loam, 2 parts Canadian sphagnum peat moss, and 2 parts granite grit.
The main thing to remember with soil is don't use regular potting soil. Either make your own or purchase specific bonsai soil. Temperature and watering frequency should be according to the plant's needs. Water should be applied with a fine gentle mist overhead to wash the leaves on the plant. You may need to steep or immerse the container in tepid water. You must water before the soil is bone dry, and the soil should drain well. Bonsai do like adequate humidity. Placing the plant over a tray filled with water and pebbles will increase the humidity.
Do not allow the plant to sit in the water. There are specific fertilizers for bonsai, and it is always better to follow the instructions.
Pruning encourages new growth and defines the chosen art form of the bonsai. Some plants are wired to accent the architecture of their branches. The roots of the bonsai are the means for which nutrients enter the plant. If the tree seems healthy, then its roots are healthy. Root pruning is a regular event for the bonsai.
The goal of a bonsai artist is to create the natural look of the mature tree on a smaller, more relative scale.
Camille C. Fisher is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County.