Bonsai or Topairy

A forum dedicated to bonsai, the art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees or shrubs in small shallow containers.

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Bonsai or Topairy

Postby dolicus » Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:17 pm

I have been playing around with container grown plants and have a few that are in traditional Bonsai pots.
I have been shapeing and trying to get a nice looking healthy specimens.
I am not sure if I can call these plants bonsai or just mini topairies.
Is it the pot that determines the term, or the shape?
Is there such a thing as a contemporary bonsai?
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby taffyman » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:21 pm

Not an easy question to answer Dolicus.

No, it isn't the pot that determines a Bonsai. The pot does two things. It contains the tree and also compliments it. The focus should never be on the pot. It should be on the tree.

There are a number of recognized Bonsai styles but the five basic ones are: Formal Upright, Informal Upright, Leaning/Slanting, Semi Cascade and Cascade (as in the sketch below)

Image

Within those categories there are quite a few more, like Root over Rock, Root on Rock, Broom, Windswept, Twin Trunk, Group (or Forest), Raft (or Sinew), Clump, Literati and some other minor styles.

All the styles should conform to the rules governing them. Most aren't that easy to create so some leeway has to be given - trees do what trees want to do. We can only help them on their way.

If your trees are pruned into shapes of animals or geometrical shapes then it doesn't matter whether they're in a Bonsai pot, normal Garden pot or a bucket, they would still be a form of Topiary. A friend of mine grows flowers in Bonsai pots but they couldn't really be called Bonsai.

The Chinese way of styling trees is called Penjing and differs to Japanese Bonsai in that some pretty radical shapes can be produced.

Can you post some photos of your trees? It'd be interesting to see what you've achieved (and I mean that in a nice way). It would give us more of an idea of what we are talking about.

There isn't really such a thing as a 'contemporary' Bonsai as there is in art, but the main thing is that you are happy with what you're doing with your trees.
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby dolicus » Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:28 pm

Thanks for that great answer.
I will get some shots this weekend and post them.
The plants were in pots for about a year and we decided to go traveling and rented the house to fund our travells.In 2005 I found a spot in the garden and planted the trees with no expectations. Last year we returned and I found that all had survived so I have lifted most of them and potted the plants in Bonsai pots. Apart from the shapeing before they were planted in the ground they are pretty much the same so I will need to do some work.
The other thing that I enjoy doing is planting the tops of the pots with moss.
I am very interested in the layering of plants to get that Japenese dimension.
I will show you what I mean with some othe photos.
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby dolicus » Fri Aug 14, 2009 7:41 pm

I found it hard to capture these plants. Are there any tips on photographing Bonsai plants?
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby dolicus » Fri Aug 14, 2009 7:52 pm

Three others the plants are green island figs? There are round leaf and pointy leaf types.
The smaller plant is a murraya.
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby taffyman » Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:45 pm

Mmm, Green Island! Me love Green Island. Green Island exceptionally easy to work with (Y) Now I've had my bit of fun, let's see if we can come up with some useful suggestions.

I've found the best way to take photos of my Bonsai is to do them out in the sun or with a black non-reflective background (I have a piece of black material that I hang behind the subject tree). If doing them in the sun, they need a neutral background like a white/yellow wall or sheet of fibro cement - you can see both in some of the photos I've posted.

Another tip is to photograph the tree full on from the front (side and back views as well if explaining or asking something) and fill the viewfinder or screen on the back of the camera with the subject and the pot.

If you intend to stay with the forum, it might be an idea to have your own photo gallery here on GE. On the main index page at the top is the Garden Express Photo Gallery. If you go there and create your own gallery, you can then upload larger photos and use the 'thumbnail link' below the photos and insert that in your topics. Anyone clicking on the thumbnail will then be able to see the full size of the photo you've saved there.

The botanical name for the Green Island Fig is Ficus Microcarpa Crassifolia var: Green Island (that's a mouthful in itself). It's a great tree to work with and exceptionally easy to propagate from cuttings and air-layering.

When you say you're interested in layering the plants to get that Japanese dimension, do you mean more like the Japanese styles of Bonsai? If so, then I'm sure we can offer some advice on getting there.

Your Murraya could be made into quite a good Informal upright tree within the next growing season. What it needs is to be moved to the centre of the pot (especially with a round pot) and turned more upright. Allow that centre pad of foliage to fill out more to the left and up - to fill out the centre of the tree. The low branch on the right would then need to be wired down to more of a horizontal angle - sort of where it is now, but with the trunk upright. Have a look at the photo below - I've had a play at modifying it. Is that more to what you'd like to achieve?:

Image

I'll write some more tomorrow on your other trees. Also, have a look at the link below (down towards the bottom of the page), it might give you an idea of where to place trees in Bonsai pots for the best effect:

placement
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby dolicus » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:02 pm

When I said the layering of plants I meant that traditional Japenese garden where the plants are puned to give dimention.
I have azaleas and some Baekeas that I have been working on.
I have a four year plan with the landscaping I have just about got the planting complete now comes the shaping.
The 20 large green islands have covered a area around a small palm grove I will start to clean them up.
We will have a small clasic jap meditation hut and benches for the bonsais.
I will get some more shots soon.
The energey and the passion i have for this is amazing its art that I can greate.
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Re: Bonsai or Topairy

Postby taffyman » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:43 pm

Now I understand what you meant by layering. You've got a great vision Dolicus.

Please keep us updated with your progress in achieving your goals (with photos??) (Y)
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