Introduction to the art of Bonsai

In our very first podcast we talk about the living art of Bonsai with Bonsai master Bjorn Bjorholm.

Bjorn explains how you can get started with growing a Bonsai tree relatively easy, but we also discuss the rich history of this beautiful art-form, the techniques involved in creating a Bonsai (like pruning, wiring and Bonsai care) and we look at the various Bonsai styles and shapes.

Did you know there is a Bonsai tree that survived the Hiroshima bombing at the end of the second world war? It is nearly 400 years old and was donated to the US by the Japanese government. And did you know some Bonsai trees were sold for over 1 million USD? Listen to our podcast now and learn more about the fascinating art of Bonsai trees!

The podcast takes about 30 minutes and is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Soundcloud and various other outlets.

Transcript of the Bonsai podcast

Oscar: All right welcome to this podcast about Bonsai trees, with me today is Bjorn Bjorholm and he did an apprenticeship in Japan for eight years, so I’m very excited to have him here in the studio. Today I’m going to talk with him about what Bonsai is and how you can create one yourself, and about some of the magical stories surrounding the art of Bonsai. So hey Bjorn, welcome!

Bjorn: Thank you very much, it’s good to be here. 

Oscar: Where are we now?

Bjorn: We are in Mallorca, Spain right now, of all places. So we’re here for a big Bonsai event this weekend, a company called Bonsai Sense and we’re hanging out and we’re making Bonsai trees.

Oscar: You travel around a lot, right?

Bjorn: Yeah I travel about 250 days out of the year overseas, and in the States, I’m always on the road. It’s a lot to be away from home.

A Bonsai apprenticeship, what's that?

Oscar: Yeah exactly, I just introduced you and I explained that you did an apprenticeship in Japan, what is an apprenticeship?

Bjorn: It's a very traditional way to learn any art in Japan or any craft in Japan. So with Bonsai, the way it works is you usually do a 5 year apprenticeship officially and then you give an extra, usually half a year to a year kind of as a gift to your teacher for having taken you on for so long, you work for another six months to a year. So you end up being there about five and a half for six years as an apprentice and then beyond that once you graduate you receive certification from the Japanese Bonsai Association and if you decide to go home to your own country or if you’re from Japan you go back to your own city and start your own nursery or you work at your family’s own nursery, it depends on situations. I actually stayed in Japan an additional three years beyond my six year apprenticeship so it’s about nine years but I stayed on to work in the Nursery where I did my apprenticeship.

Oscar: Yeah that’s fascinating, it’s such a special system, to be abroad and you have to learn their language?

Bjorn: Yeah, I studied Japanese before I went to Japan in my undergraduate studies at University. So I had a little bit of a base to go off on when I got there and then being, you know sort of immersed in the culture and immersed in that environment, you pick up the language quite quickly. So even for other folks who had never studied Japanese before they come to Japan, they jump into an apprenticeship, within a year to 2 years, they’re I wouldn’t say fluent but they’re at least conversational because you’re kind of forced into that situation, you know really it's the only way to learn properly you really need to be able to communicate with your Oyakata or your teacher.

Oscar: Yeah, exactly. How old were you when you went to Japan?

Bjorn: I finished university when I was 22 so I graduated in early May, that was 2008 and by the end of May that same year, I was in Japan starting my apprenticeship so I was 22 years old. 

Oscar: You were already doing Bonsai back in the States then?

Bjorn: Yeah, I started doing Bonsai when I was 13 actually as a hobby but I saw the Karate Kid movies. So I think that a lot of people get into Bonsai in the Karate Kid movie.

Oscar: Yeah same for me actually.

Bjorn: Yeah a lot of professionals now too that was their first introduction into the art, I saw that when I was 13 and throughout high school I did it as a hobby. My dad joined me and it his hobby as well. So it’s like a father and son hobby for us and then we started the Knoxville Bonsai Society, which was a town where I was from Knoxville, Tennessee. We started that together and then from there he took over as the president and he is still involved in Bonsai today just as a hobby though. 

The definition and meaning of Bonsai

Oscar: Yeah the karate kid, that's fascinating for me. It’s — I watched the Karate Kid film and then I got instantly fascinated with the concept of small miniaturized trees. But, what exactly is Bonsai, what's the definition or what is it more generally?

Bjorn: Yeah, I mean technically if you just want to take the two terms ‘bon’ and ‘sai’ it basically means to plant in a pot, so it means a potted plant essentially but there is so much more involved with it than that. It’s not that every potted plant that you see at your local home depot store are Bonsai’s. Bonsai is a very specific thing. Bonsai have a single front or a single viewing angle. They tend to be trees that are woody so plants that lignify, meaning that the trunks become barky. You know Pines, Junipers. Maples - really almost any species can become a Bonsai as long as it has the ability to produce a barky trunk. Like I said, they typically have one front view and they're designed in an aesthetic way through wiring or through pruning. So it's very different than a typical potted plant or a house plant [read more about the meaning of bonsai trees here].

Oscar: Right, so it's not a tree species right, I hear that a lot.

Bjorn: It’s not a tree species, no. When I first started I thought it was only junipers that were Bonsai. I think a lot of people only think maples are Bonsai, but it could be any species, as long as the bark or the trunk becomes barky and as long as the leaf size can reduce a little bit. There’s a lot of trees that will produce a barky trunk, but the leaf size maybe 15 centimetres and 6 inches across and that’s not really gonna make a good Bonsai because the leaf size is not in proportion with the small overall size of the tree so those couple of characteristics should be taken into consideration when you’re choosing a plant for Bonsai - but it’s not a specific species. 

Oscar: Exactly. I get a lot of question from my website on how people can find Bonsai seeds for example, and that’s a funny thing when you think about it because there’s no seed that will magically grow into a miniaturized bonsai tree. So you just plant a maple, or you plant a Juniper and over the years you will train it or develop it into a Bonsai. 

Bjorn: Growing stuff from seed is probably one of the most difficult ways to start a bonsai. It's a cool way to start if you can do it. It's fun, but it's very difficult so quite often we start with material from like a local garden centre for example or if you do want to jump into the more horticultural side of it you can start taking cuttings of other plants which is much easier to produce than seeds. Seeds are difficult but if you could say I grew this Bonsai tree from a seed, that is a cool story.

Oscar: That’s cool. Why is it difficult from seed?

Bjorn: There’s a lot involved horticulturally to make the seed grow and if you’re only growing one seed, it’s likely that one seed will fail, you need like a tray of a hundred seeds and from there you choose a couple out that have good characteristics that you’re looking for, so buying a kit for example, that only has one seed in it, the likelihood that seed will fail is relatively high so it's better to a hundred, two hundred seeds and then choose from there.

Oscar: Right and it will take at least a good five years or so before you have a tree that has a bit of a small trunk, that has some branches and a—

Bjorn: Yes at least five years, it is a lot longer process.

Oscar: Same for cuttings I think? 

Bjorn: Yes, for cuttings, you take cuttings off the tree, which is basically where you have a plant that you like the foliage type on so you cut a small branch off, usually anywhere from like 4 to 6 centimeters, so like that’s two to three inches or so. And you plant it in dirt, and depending on the species it'll grow roots. So you'll have a separate new little plant. So in that regard, you know within a single growing season you'll have a full set of roots if the cutting takes, so you've already established a little tree. And by the second year it grows a little bit. So by the end of the second year you should have a decent little plant to work with.

Oscar: So that's faster than the growing from seed. But it's still time consuming. 

Bjorn: Definitely, your best bet is usually to go to like a local Garden Center where they’ve already done that work for you and you can select out from a range of different plants there. What's best for you species wise, you know what speaks to you aesthetically, in terms of trunk movement and branching and all of that. 

Oscar: It's a bit of a head start. It doesn't necessarily have to be like a Bonsai Nursery, right? Any plant nursery? 

Bjorn: Yep, exactly, it be any plant nursery any local Home Store like in the states here we have Home Depot and Lowe's for example, they have a section where they sell plants and quite often you'll find you Juniper's or little Pines or Cypress, sometimes Maples and Azaleas in those areas that could turn out to be nice little bonsai. 

Oscar: Yeah, right. On the Bonsai Empire YouTube channel, there's one movie I created about a year ago where I showed the progress of this young Nursery stock and put it in a bonsai container and prune it and wire it, the work on the tree took maybe two or three hours work. I posted on YouTube and and suddenly exploded now it I think it has like four million views [watch the Bonsai movie here].

Bjorn: That’s crazy. 

Oscar: So a lot of people are interested in this in this faster way of doing Bonsai, but still on the cheap, because a starterkit costs only 20 or maybe 30 bucks. But the hard thing is then to style it, to miniaturize it and that that's a bit of a process. So if you would explain to a beginner, how you miniaturize a tree into a bonsai, how would you explain it?

Bjorn: How to miniaturize the tree? Okay —

Oscar: Because that's what bonsai basically is. Right? 

Bjorn: Sure. I mean, you know we plant the trees in small containers so that restricts the root growth by a certain degree tree. And every few years we’re going to repot the tree, so contrary to how this might sound, the roots on a tree actually will cause the tree to grow more because you're basically removing the roots and adding new soil. So you're adding new soil for those new roots to grow into which is going to make the tree healthier, so that doesn't necessarily miniaturize the tree but simply keeping it in a small pot will miniaturize it to some degree. And then in terms of the branching on the tree, we apply wire to the trees. We prune the trees to keep them in the proper shape, the proper size, but you have to assess what species of tree are working with and that'll sort of dictate how much pruning you can do, the time of year you'll do that pruning to it, how much you should allow it to grow out first before you prune it back. So all of this information is difficult to explain unless you have a specific tree that you're working with. But just know that in general it involves wiring and pruning to keep the tree into shape, to keep it relatively small. 

Oscar: Exactly. There’s a lot of techniques involve in Bonsai, and I guess that’s why it took you seven years in Japan to really study the art at a very high level. But techniques like pruning, wiring, repotting but also the watering, the fertilizing, knowing where to locate or where to put your tree, in full sun or even inside or outside. There's so much to it. 

Bjorn: Exactly.

Oscar: Is it a difficult thing to get started with then?

Bjorn: I don't think it's difficult to get started. You know, my recommendation for new beginners is to find a species that you enjoy and purchase that species, but don't purchase 40 trees from all sorts of different species. Just find one that you want to work with first, learn about that particular species. Learn how to take care of it and how to water it properly, how to prune it properly and then from there kind of branch out a little bit. So getting involved with Bonsai and learning how to do the art is really not that difficult it just becomes difficult when you have too many species and too many trees to take care of. Then you kind of lose track of what you need to be doing throughout the course of the year at specific times. That’s my number one recommendation for new people getting into Bonsai. Don’t overly purchase stuff, find something you like and then focus on that to really learn how to take care of it, and then branch out from there.

Suitable tree species for Bonsai

Oscar: Okay, are there tree species you would recommend to get started with?

Bjorn: In the States, probably the number one species people get as a first Bonsai is a Procumbens Juniper, so that’s a Juniperus procumbens Nana, which is a dwarf version. It's I think a Japanese green Mound Juniper is what they call it. You'll find it at basically any Garden Center. They're relatively slow growing. They're not apically dominant. They grow out laterally so it's easy to keep them compact. You don’t have to constantly keep cutting the apex down because it grows sideways rather than up. So you get this kind of flowing branch pattern to the tree. And they don’t require a ton of water either, so you water once per day. You can water them if you're keeping them outside, which you should be, if it's a Juniper. That's my mistake with my first tree, it was a juniper. I kept it indoors on my night stand and I killed it within a couple weeks. So if it's a temperate tree like that juniper you have to keep it outside. So but you know, they're very easy to take care of, you prune them maybe once or twice a year. It's very simple. So that would probably be one that I would recommend to most people. Japanese maple if you like deciduous trees instead of conifers, Japanese maples are also quite nice. Again those have to be kept outside. The reason that they're nice is because they are relatively slow growing. So you prune them once, usually in April, right when the new leaves will come out and they just sit there for the rest of the year. So it's one pruning per year. They require a little bit more water than the junipers. So maybe twice per day in the summer, but during the rest of the year once per day, or once every couple of days is enough. So they're very simple species to take care of as well. 

Oscar: Yeah, exactly and if you really like to keep your tree indoors?

Bjorn: If you want indoor trees Ficus are always good, Ficus Benjamina, for example Ficus retusa. These are all good trees that you can maintain inside, narrow leaf Ficus as well. The only problem with indoor trees is in the winter time, they do need light so you might need to set up a lighting system. It is a very simple small lighting system, if you don't have enough natural light entering whatever room you're keeping the tree in. But other than that, they're relatively easy to take care of as well. 

Oscar: Yeah, so in the beginning we already talked about that both you and I started Bonsai after watching The Karate Kid movie, so I think that was a very important way of popularizing it in the west. But what is the history of bonsai, because bonsai is the Japanese term, but it originates in China?

Bjorn: Yeah, so the the characters for Bonsai, ‘bon’ and ‘sai’, are kanji characters from China and they're pronounced ‘penzai’. So it’s exactly the same meaning, it’s just pronounced differently. So it would have started in China. Some people believe that it started in India with Ayurvedic medicine plants being put in pots or containers not for aesthetic purposes, but for transport purposes, and then that moved to China as a practice where it became more of an aesthetic sort of artistic practice. And then from there it moved to Japan, so there's all sorts of dispute about the timing of that when it moved from one country to another, but it seems like from China to Japan it would have moved there somewhere in the 700s. So 1300 years ago, more than likely, so there's a long history in Japan with bonsai. But what we think of as Bonsai today is really almost exclusively influenced by Japan. At least the Aesthetics in the way we practice it. What you see in China today, they still have Penzai or Bonsai there, but it looks a little bit different. It's a bit more natural kind of looking in China and then in Japan, it's more highly refined.

Oscar: Yeah and all the techniques that we know now are pretty much from Japanese origins.

Bjorn: Exactly. Yeah, most of the techniques that we work with today really originated in the 1970s and 1980s out of Japan. It's sort of what we call contemporary or modern bonsai. That's what we applied to the trees now. So all the Horticultural stuff, all of the technical stuff, all of the really aesthetic and artistic stuff that we applied at trees it's sort of emanated from that period.

Oscar: A brief history of bonsai and penjing. And all this history, I guess the larger concept of age in Bonsai is very important, right? 

Bjorn: Yeah. It's very important. So it's either a matter of finding a tree that is old and utilizing it in bonsai. Or finding a young tree and trying to make it look like an old tree, by wiring the branches down which kind of indicates age to the plant, like snow weighted the branches down over time or just the natural weight of those old branches have pulled them down over time. Bark characteristics for example, if you can find a tree that has flaky bark, that quite often looks a lot older than a smooth bark tree, it depends on the species, of course, but you can find something with that flaky bark or fissured bark. It usually indicates age and their ways to sort of expedite that or make the tree look older through certain techniques that we apply to the trees, but age is very important.

Oscar: All right, there's a tree, you must know about it I'm sure in Hiroshima… It's quite a famous tree because it was already sitting in a nursery in or near a Hiroshima when the bomb fell and everything around the nursery and the nursery itself was pretty much wiped away, but the tree was still there and somehow it survived. And it still alive today. But that tree is I think 350 years old, at least, documented History [check the Yamaki Pine Bonsai tree article here]. That’s amazing. Are there a lot of these very old trees in nurseries in Japan? 

400 year old Bonsai tree, Hiroshima survivor
The Yamaki pine is nearly 400 years old and survived the Hiroshima bombing.

Bjorn: Oh, yeah. There are some trees that have been grown from seed in many instances, that are 400, 500 and 600 years old. And there's track of traceable history of those trees as well. Just like the Hiroshima Pine which by the way that Hiroshima Pine is now at the US National Arboretum collection in Washington DC. So if you're interested in seeing something like that with so much history, you can go to the Arboretum in DC and actually see it in person. I believe it's called the the Yamaki pine. So it is this big Japanese White Pine, that's a very impressive tree, but it did survive the Hiroshima bombing. But beyond that, all throughout Japan, you'll find trees again that are grown from seed that are three four five hundred years old. You'll also find trees that are eight, or nine hundred years old that are Yamadori, collected trees. So these will be trees that were in nature growing in the mountains that collectors would have gone out, dug up out of the mountains brought them down and put them in pots. You can train them as Bonsai. So you'll see a lot of trees that were collected a hundred two hundred years ago. They were already five or six hundred years old when they were collected out of the mountain. So they're now seven, eight hundred, nine hundred years. 

The prices of Bonsai trees

Oscar: That’s amazing. So these very old trees, I guess, they’re very expensive?

Bjorn: Yeah, there is a big range in terms of price with trees. Some of the more expensive trees that you see coming out of Japan and other places like Korea, for example, they are in the seven-figure range so over a million dollars. Those are very very rare though. Most of the the very expensive trees that we see in Japan usually you'd say from $20,000 to $100,000. So what's that? Probably 15,000 euros to 80,000/ 90,000 Euro somewhere in that range. Those are considered the top quality trees and every once in a while, you’ll see a tree that goes all the way to seven figures, but that's very very rare [read about expensive Bonsai trees here].

Oscar: So what makes a bonsai expensive? Age is a very obvious one.

Bjorn: Right, age, in Japan in particular, it sort of comes in waves. So it's a very saturated market in Japan. There's a lot of really good material, and then the species within that material there will be sort of fads and changes in preferences over time. So for example back in the 1980s, Japanese maples were very popular so they were very expensive. And nowadays they're not that popular so the prices have gone down, whereas junipers, for example over time they've always gone up in value. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that you can no longer collect those Yamadori that we just talked about. You can no longer legally collect those out of the mountains. So the trees that were collected in the past, that's all they have available there, so the price of those trees have gone up and up and up and up. It's sort of like a housing market, you know, but I don't think it'll end up being a bubble because there are no other trees that you could throw into the market. 

Oscar: Exactly supply is limited and the demand is there.

Bjorn: Exactly the demand is there. Junipers in particular are the most expensive trees that you'll find in Japan. Very old, collected Yamadori that are four, five six hundred years old that are well developed, that have certain characteristics like deadwood on the trunks, movement in the trunks. With the deadwood that would have an interplay of a live vein which is what's attached to the roots running up the trunk and feeding the foliage at the top of the tree. So those characteristics are all very important when you’re considering the price or the value of a tree.

Bonsai styles and shapes

Oscar: Does the style and shape of a tree add to the value?

Bjorn: It can in some instances. Like I said, the the smaller characteristics within the tree, all of those added together will add to the value of the tree. But all of those characteristics added together also indicate the style of the tree to some degree. So, you know, you can break bonsai down into a handful of basic shapes that we sort of follow as guidelines. Just like anything, rules and guidelines are made to be broken, but it's good to know the basic general shape. So for example, it's probably best to start with formal upright, which is basically just a straight trunk on the tree. So the apex of the tree is directly over the base of the tree, the trunk tapers perfectly straight trunk and then you have branching on both sides of the tree. It’s a very difficult style to pull off because all bonsai need to have directionality. So they're either moving to the right or moving to the left. But when you have a perfectly straight trunk, the only way to indicate the directionality is through the lengths of the branches. So you have to be able to create balance within the branches to get you that directionality and create a beautiful well-balanced tree. So even though it sounds like a simple style, formal upright is actually very hard to create. And then the second style which is much easier to create would be a Moyogi, which is an informal upright. So you take the style of the formal upright and you just add some curvature to the trunk. Sort of like an S shape for example, and that will give you a moyogi or an informal upright. That's a relatively easy style to pull off and probably the most common shape that you'll see in bonsai. I think for most people that's the image they have in their head of what a Bonsai tree looks like, that shape — it's like, so most material that you'll find will have a few curves in the trunk and then you can build a nice well-balanced branch pattern off of that. And then another style would be the cascade style where you have a pot, the tree’s in a pot and the lowest branch of that tree cascades below the bottom of the pot. So it's another style that's relatively difficult to pull off but it can be very beautiful. The reason it's difficult to pull off is because most of the trees that we use in Bonsai are what's called apically dominant, so the Apex is stronger than the lower branches. So to take a low branch and cascade it down very far will inevitably weaken that branch over time. So you have to apply various horticultural techniques to balance the energy between the top of the tree and that low branch. But if you can pull it off it's a really beautiful style. And then sort of a variation on that style would be semi-cascade where the lowest branch doesn't dip below the bottom of the pot, it just dips below the top lid of the pot. So that's another really nice style. I actually prefer that style myself. It’s a bit more compact and tight and just looks nicer to me.

Oscar: It’s a bit more elegant maybe.

Bjorn: Yeah it could be a bit elegant. It could be very powerful as well. You know with a full cascade, that long dangling branch, that can add a lot of elegance to the design. But when you remove that and pull the tree back in and make it more compact, you can have a much more powerful look to the tree, which I tend to prefer with that style. And then one other style that I really like is something called Bunjin or Literati style, which is where you have very slender trunk, relatively tall trunk. Not a lot of movement in the trunk. Not a lot of taper in the trunk, but a majority of the foliage is located in the top, usually at a third to a quarter. So everything emanates from the top and nothing down low. It sounds like an easy style to pull up, but it's actually quite difficult. It's one of those styles where you know, if you go out nature, you'll see maybe like a forest, a big Forest and out of the forest, you might see one Lone Pine sticking up above the canopy of the lower canopies of all the deciduous trees. That's the Literati, that tree is a literati, it’s made it through, broken through the canopies, broken through the under story, it made it out just to survive. They have relatively straight trunk but they'll have old bar to them, just a little bit of foliage at the top, and we try to apply that to plant material in bonsai and it's difficult to pull off and make it look nice, but if you can do it, it’s fantastic. And it's one of the beautiful styles. 

Oscar: Yeah so hard, you don't see much of those trees done in a really nice way. It's yeah, it's hard. If you want to see photos or check some more information about these styles, go to the website [Bonsai styles and shapes article]. We have a big article on Bonsai styles. One more style that I would like to put forward is the forest. Because I don’t think that it’s the most popular tree in Bonsai exhibitions but I find them beautiful myself, but I think they're quite hard to make, did you ever create a forest yourself? 

Bjorn: Yeah, forests are very difficult to put together though. So you know usually in Bonsai, what we try to do is use odd numbers. So if you're doing a forest composition we want to use 7 trunks, 9 trunks, 11 trunks, once you get beyond 11 or 13 trunks visually it’s hard to tell how many are in there so it does not really matter so it's odd or even beyond that, but usually we start out with an odd number of trunks. And then to create a sense of balance with those trunks it's very difficult. And we want to make sure that none of the trunks line up when you look at the the forest planting from the front and from the sides. You don't want it to look like hedgerows. Because you want it to look like a natural forest that sprung up within a pot. So it is a very difficult style to pull off. But what I've noticed is that people who are just getting into Bonsai or maybe have never seen bonsai and they come to a Bonsai Nursery, say they come to my Nursery or they go to an exhibition, the trees that they gravitate towards first are always the forest plantings and the rock plantings. It’s just a natural feeling I guess, you know the desire to be in the forest. One of those things that just draws people in.

Oscar: And maybe easier to understand also like a small miniature forest is much easier to understand then, maybe the Literati style.

Bjorn: Yeah Literati styles is the most difficult I think to comprehend fully, but the forest planting like you said and rock plantings to this it just it feels natural it feels it's easy to understand. Yeah completely agree. 

Japanese maple Bonsai tree
Japanese maple bonsai by Walter Pall.

Pots and containers

Oscar: So we talked about Bonsai right, it's a potted plant. But how important is the pot?

Bjorn: Pot is actually very important. So with the pot the idea is to complement the tree. Basically you can sort of think of the pot as a picture frame for the tree, so you don't want the pot to overpower the tree. The bonsai itself is the main focal point and then the pot is meant to complement that and frame that. So for example you wouldn't want to use a pot that's overly large for say a very feminine kind of dainty tree because it's going to overpower the tree and all you're going to notice is the pot and not the tree. You might want to use something that's, softer lines, smaller, shallower. That doesn't draw your eye away from the plant. So and then color of course is another big thing. You can either use the color to complement or contrast portions of the tree. So for example, if you're working with hornbeam, hornbeams tend to have a whitish color bark. So what we tend to do with hornbeam is you just plant them in darker container, so maybe a really dark blue container and you get a really nice contrast between the bark and the pot. So the pot doesn't detract from the bark, it actually makes the bonsai stand out more. So through the contrast you bring your eye or the viewers eye towards the tree rather than towards the pot. So it's all about finding that nice balance with the color and also with the shape and the size.

Oscar: We talked about Bonsai Styles and you already mentioned a little bit about the difference between Japan and China — what kind of differences can you tell in the U.S. versus maybe Europe or both of those compared to Japan, are there are a lot of different styles and feelings in bonsai worldwide?

Bjorn: It seems like most folks in the west, so in Europe and in the United States kind of gravitate towards trying to learn the techniques that are applied to trees in Japan, that aesthetic — most people are exposed to Japanese Bonsai and that aesthetic influences the way that they design their trees. But there are various cultures all over the world and that would inevitably influence down the road how people think about Aesthetics and how they want to apply those aesthetics to the tree. So Japan is usually a good launching pad to go off in terms of design and understanding Aesthetics and bonsai art, but then your own personal flavour and your own cultural background will inevitably influence how you style trees. 

Last but not least; advice on how to get started with Bonsai

Oscar: So we talked about age being important in Bonsai. We talked about styles, we talked about how you can grow a tree from seed or cuttings or even collect it or buy it in a nursery. But if I hear this podcast and I'm interested in Bonsai and I'm eager to get started. What would your advice be? 

Bjorn: So my recommendation would be to learn as much as possible before you jump in and actually purchase a tree. So there's a lot of really good places online to get that information. You can go to Bonsai Empire’s YouTube page. Check out all the videos that they have there. And we also have through some online classes that you can take. We've got a beginners class, an intermediate class and an advanced class online. So it's a video tutorial setup where you can watch these lessons. We kind of explain to you how to source material, how to design material, how to pot the material, how to take care the material. So I recommend that you learn that first and then go out and start searching around say your local garden center for example. That’s usually the best place to find something to start with to turn into a Bonsai. In the United States like I said we’ve got Home Depot, which is kind of the commercial places where you can go or just a local garden centre and search through the Juniper section, the Azalea section, or the pine section, and pick you know one or two species that you really have interest in. Purchase those, design those and learn everything about those, and then from there you kind of branch out a little bit.

Oscar: All right that was a ton of information Bjorn, thanks a lot for doing this podcast with me.

Bjorn: It was my pleasure.

Oscar: And to all the listeners out there, thanks a lot for listening and just go to our website or youtube channel if you want to learn about bonsai. Google Bonsai Empire, or check it out on our Bonsai Youtube channel, there’s a lot of free tutorials out there. So thanks for listening and see you next time!

Master the art of Bonsai

Master the art of Bonsai
Overview of our courses

Master the art of Bonsai

Online Bonsai Courses Learn from leading Bonsai experts at your own pace, from the comfort of your living room!

Continue exploring

Aqua Bonsai

Aqua Bonsai

Bonsai trees growing in just water?

Aqua Bonsai
Bag end

Bag end

The miniature version of Bag End

Bag end
Top 10

Top 10

The best Bonsai trees

Top 10

Master the art of Bonsai

Master the art of Bonsai
Overview of our courses

Master the art of Bonsai

Online Bonsai Courses Learn from leading Bonsai experts at your own pace, from the comfort of your living room!