How to create an authentic Chinese bonsai look

Chinese Bonsai is a botanical art form that shapes trees as they would be seen in their natural environment, giving the viewer the idea that the tree was not shaped by human intervention. Typical trees used include the Chinese elm bonsai and the juniper variant.

When using the Chinese, or Penjing, form of Bonsai, keep in mind that its principles are far less demanding than those of traditional Japanese Bonsai. This article discusses guidelines that are perfect for the beginner to follow or to refresh the more practiced Penjing artist.

First, the trunk of your tree should measure thickest at the bottom and slowly taper down as it reaches the top of the tree. Second, use a shallow container so that the roots will grow side to side rather than up and down. This will force the roots to peek out from the soil. Many consider seeing the roots as an attractive feature of a miniature tree, since it gives the whole structure a more aged, wisdom filled look. A horizontal root structure also gives the entire tree more stability. Lastly, the branches should be pruned so that they are evenly spaced around the tree. Like the trunk, they should be thicker at the base and thin at the tips. They should appear light and delicate compared to the trunk and root system. Prune your tree so that the first branch is at about a third of the trunk’s height. This branch should be the strongest in appearance.

After designing the shape of the Chinese Bonsai itself, you can work on its landscape environment. Usually, the best view is towards the front of the tree, where it looks the widest. When you have established the most pleasing view, you can find a pot that showcases both the tree’s angle and the decor of your room.

Your pot should be shallow, only as deep as your tree’s base is wide. These pots are available in a large array of styles and colors so you can find one that suits the mood you would like to create. The arts of Penjing and Bonsai may have been born in the Orient, but you don’t have to have an Asian decorating scheme to enjoy them. You can embellish your tree’s landscape with stones, moss, or even a miniature village. Use your imagination!

Chinese Bonsai in the home is an excellent hobby for both the gardening and decorating enthusiast. Take time and patience to nurture your tree and it will be with you for many years to come.

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