Welcome to All in One Bonsa

Bitten by the Bug

Welcome to All in One Bonsai...a blog that aims to remind me of what I have forgotten. Over the years I have been finding out as much as I can about the art of bonsai. I hope the information in this blog will shed some light to the beginning bonsai enthusiast out there.

I saw some bonsai trees at a corner market one night in Taipei and asked the guy if he was willing to teach me how to create these miniature trees. He directed me to a night school where all the instruction was in Chinese. My Chinese ability is very ordinary at the least so although I was learning bits and pieces, I really wasn't getting all I wanted from the course. The best parts were when the teacher would start pruning a beautiful tree or when he showed us how to repot a bonsai. The mystery was still out there but my interest wasn't waning, if anything it fueled my motivation to find out more. And so I did.

Let the adventure begin...

Recently I have discovered the joy of pottery. Bonsai and pottery are close friends so it was only a matter of time before I was introduced to her. Welcome to All in One Bonsai...and pottery.

Feel free to visit my site where you can purchase some of my handmade pottery. Quite a few pieces have been wood fired as it is the prefered method here in Taiwan:

Esty Shop: AllinoneCeramics

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bonsai Nurseries in Taiwan

Bonsai in Taiwan

I love Taiwan for many reasons but my favorite at the moment is that you are never too far from a great bonsai nursery.  Chinese New Year has just passed so I had the opportunity during my holiday to visit one of the very best.  I ended up buying 40 small pine and juniper trees to practice my wiring and shaping skills. The more I practice the less hesitant I become when trying to decide how to shape a small tree that will hopefully grow into something worthwhile.  The trees I bought are only a few years old and were quite cheap.  I hope to upload a few pictures of my efforts at a later stage.  

All in all a good catch today.
I would love to be able to take a lot of these trees back to Australia with me but unfortunately Australia has very strict laws preventing this from happening.  At the moment I plan on just appreciating them and learning how they grow.    
Please enjoy some pictures of bonsai nurseries I have visited over the past 3 years in Taiwan.  
Plenty of trees to choose from here.
Boxwood trees have magnificent bark texture.
Waiting in silence.
The bright afternoon sun warms these trees.


Hundreds of trees looking for a new home.

I bought 20 of these small pine trees.  I tried to select the greenest ones with a thick base. If you touch a pine and the needles are sharp it is a sure sign you have a healthy one.  Buy it!

These particular trees were imported from Japan and sold to Taiwanese customers. They are recovering from the flight so are protected under a shade cloth above.

An old juniper from a nursery 10 minutes from where I live in Taiwan.

A favorite of mine.  I love the trunk on this tree.
A very well organised and clean nursery found in the middle of Taiwan.

A forest planting.  Not really digging the scooter to the left.  Although, riding a scooter around Taiwan is a lot of fun.  

Delicate leaves of a maple.
A tiny nursery with a good deal of soul.

Many small bonsai trees at this nursery.  Shohin is the term used to describe small bonsai that you can hold in one hand.

The really small ones dry out so quickly.  You must water them all the time during the summer. It is best to place them on a tray of sand.  The roots will then grow through the drainage hole into the sand, staying alive and healthy.

More to come...
Please visit my online pottery shop at AllinoneCeramics for handmade ceramic pieces.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Weeds No More!

 Weeds No More!

It's Chinese New Year in Taiwan at the moment.  This means plenty of food, firecrackers all night long, and the traffic in Taipei halved as droves of cars head down south to visit their family.  A large percentage of Taipei is made up of people looking for jobs in the big city that actually come from towns further south.
Chinese New Year also marks the beginning of Spring on the lunar calendar.  The weather is slowly warming up a touch and the cherry blossoms are blooming as we speak.  Since I have 9 days holiday we have decided to bite the bullet and attempt to kill these weeds!

Out of control weeds sucking up the nutrients of our juniper trees.  It is difficult to see the trees.

Steeling myself for the work ahead.

My girlfriend ordered some weed kill non woven fabric made from some suppliers at her work.  You can order a range of this fabric, the best being organic and made from wood fibers.  The fabric will eventually break down in the soil and act as a natural fertilizer.  The other great things are after you lay it down on the soil you never have to use pesticides, and the water will be able to drain freely along with any fertilizers you add.  The problem with this fabric is that it is very expensive!
The non woven fabric we ordered is made out of polyester but contains no chemicals.  Farmers throughout Taiwan love this fabric as it stops weeds growing and keeps roots warmer, resulting in faster growth.  Today we attempted to use this fabric.

The first step was to take the trees out of the soil.  It is still cold here in Taiwan so we hope the roots will not be damaged in any way.  Of course we should have laid this fabric down months ago when we first planted these trees.  We are taking a slight risk but since we are not cutting the roots we should be ok...

                                       Carefully taking these trees out of the soil

   Those white roots are what you hope to see.  They are the new growth and those guys are responsible for sucking up the water and nutrients to the foliage.  When root pruning we want to keep many of these roots but cut away the older ones.  More on that later.

After taking the trees out we chopped up the grass and weeds and then laid the fabric down over everything.  We hope to use the dead weeds as fertilizer for the trees. 

We asked the company that made the fabric to cut holes for us.  The plan was to replant the trees in these holes.  We soon realized that too many holes had been cut which means that some weeds will grow up through some of these holes since light be be doing its job..  Next time we will order less holes.  
It was a bit fiddly but after a few hours we managed.

Almost finished.
The last thing we had to do was use thick wire to hold down the fabric so it doesn't land on someone's roof.

Spring has arrived so let the growing begin.  And I say that satisfied that the growing will be the trees and not the weeds.  A day well spent.  

Sunday, 10 February 2013

History of Bonsai

The History of Bonsai

Bonsai is a hobby that many people around the world now enjoy.   These days you can almost find a bonsai club or society in any country in the world.  The art of bonsai seems to be growing at a rapid rate.  Some believe a reason for this is because the daily pace of life has increased to a frantic speed, and finding a counter-balance is healthy for your mind as bonsai is a slow but rewarding process.  I would have to agree, although I really don't feel as if my life runs at a break neck speed.  Nevertheless, bonsai is a way to reconnect with nature and enjoy the passing of seasons in a new way.   

As I was becoming more interested in bonsai I began thinking about the history of bonsai.  In my mind I associated bonsai with Japan so I thought the art had originated in this country.  I was wrong.  

Historians agree that there is not a single date where you can say bonsai began.   Like many art forms it has evolved over many years to where we are today. 

So where did it all begin?  The Chinese must take the credit as being the art's father, although Japan have their own style, terminology, and are credited for introducing bonsai to the western world.  

The Chinese have a long history of creating beautiful gardens for the imperial palaces throughout thousands of years.  The Chinese landscape is quite spectacular and has long been a source of contemplation and meditation.  Capturing this varied and magnificent landscape on a smaller scale is the beginnings of the art.  The first attempts at this scaling down in size were still quite large with some man made mountains being 10 feet high that were surrounded by flowers, various trees and ponds.  
This was a created scene for meditation and appreciation.  Over time the creation of these landscapes became reduced in size to where we know they were planted in a thin tray or dish that could be held in your hands.  

A picture taken from the tomb of Prince Chang Huai during the Tang Dynasty - 700 AD

The Chinese monks were also moved by miniature trees, especially the twisted ones with dead wood and broken branches.  They saw these trees on their meditative walks through the mountains and began uprooting them, planting these natural works of art in pots, and admiring them in their place of prayer.  The monks were taken with the thought of, "Although weather and time has beaten these naturally dwarfed trees down they still persist and find a way to survive every hardship."  This thought motivated them in their studies and quest in life.  They learned life lessons from these trees.  

Japan has always been fascinated with Chinese culture.  Chinese scholars frequently visited Japan where ideas and art was exchanged.  It was during this period when the Japanese would have first laid their eyes on beautifully potted trees.  Buddhism was also introduced to Japan by way of Vietnam, and Korea.  It was through Chinese Buddhist monks that an appreciation of miniature landscapes was born for the Japanese.  The exact time period is still unsure, however, historians believe it was around year 1000.  The earliest illustrations of bonsai in Japan are found in the year 1300.  

As the art was spreading and more and more people were being exposed to bonsai, the more people began looking for naturally dwarfed trees that could be planted into a pot.  In the early periods only the wealthy and political players could indulge themselves in this art.  The majority had more pressing concerns in their life and finding the time to create bonsai trees was not really an option.  Throughout Japan and China there have been feudal ages and peaceful periods.  During these less turbulent times, the average citizen began looking for ways to get more out of their lives.  The art of bonsai grew during these peaceful times and declined during war times.  As a result of more people enjoying the hobby, they began collecting trees all over the place!  I know it is hard to believe but these days very few naturally dwarfed trees can be found in China or Japan.  National parks have also made collection illegal in some places.  A shortage of trees gave rise to propagation and cultivating skills and eventually to the birth of the nursery.  The Japanese were the ones who invented bonsai wire!

Japan being smaller in size than China, began to develop their own styles that suited their environment and way of thinking.  Their bonsai is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism - less is more.  Bonsai with empty space as opposed to the Chinese style which is more like miniature landscape art.  The Japanese are really opposed to adding figurines such as bridges, animals, fishermen, and small temples to their bonsai.  The Chinese have no problem adding many of these figures to their compositions.
           A photo I took of a juniper at a Taiwan bonsai exhibition.  Chinese/Taiwan style.  I have to say not all Chinese bonsai contain figurines at all.  I just wish to highlight some differences between Chinese and Japanese bonsai.
     A Japanese Black Pine in Japan.  I took this photo before I tried to wire it.

In 1800 a group of Japanese scholars studying Chinese arts met to discuss the miniature tree styles that were being created in Japan.  At this meeting the word BONSAI was used to describe them for the very first time.

Bon - A shallow tray, pot, container, dish.
Sai - planting, planted
Bonsai:  A tree which is planted in a shallow container.

In China, many years before the Japenese were exposed to the art, were using a different term to describe their work.  They were using the term Penjing.
Pen - tray
Jing - landscape

Penjing:  Landscape on a tray.

Japan introduced their bonsai to the Western World at a trade fair in Paris in the year 1898.  The viewers were amazed at these small trees and many thought the Japanese were using some kind of mystical oriental practice to maintain their small size.  At times bonsai has a negative stigma attached to the name by some people thinking that the trees are tortured and mistreated.  This is definately not the case as bonsai lovers are lovers of nature and bonsai trees are nurtured daily to maintain excellent health.

The first European language book written about bonsai was published in 1902.  The book was written in French.  The very first English bonsai book was published in 1940.  A more popular book titled Miniature Trees and Landscapes was written by Yuji Yoshimura and translated into English in the year 1957.

Bonsai in the West grew tremendously after World War II.  Many soldiers saw bonsai in Japan and Japanese immigrants brought their love of bonsai with them when settling into another country.

I was very surprised to discover that bonsai in the West is a relatively new art.  If a guy from Geelong, Australia can get hooked on it I am sure there are many more people around the world not really knowing of the existence of bonsai and how the hobby can be practiced by anyone, anywhere in the world, these people can also be bitten by the bug!

        An award winning bonsai tree at the annual Taiwan Bonsai Exhibition, 2012

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

January 4th, 2013

January 4th 2013.  A little over a month since we planted.
Being winter here in Taiwan at the moment is a blessing and a curse.  A curse because it rains a lot and the temperatures idle at around 14 degrees Celsius in the middle of winter.  This is not that cold but the rain does become an inconvenience.  If you have planted small juniper trees in the ground, then winter becomes a little blessing because you don't have to water them!  

Our plot of land is a 15 minutes motor bike ride up into the Yamingshan mountains.  On cold days like today it is nice to know the trees do not need too much care from their owners.  However, weeds do grow.  We do not want the roots of the weeds stealing the nutrition from the roots of our junipers.  At some stage I think I will need to slip on some gloves and do a bit of manual labor by removing these weeds.  Spraying weed kill is a bad idea as it will also poison our junipers.

The junipers are becoming used to their new home.  Spring and Summer is when we should see a lot of growth in the thickness of the trunk and branches.  Planting in the Winter is a good idea because the roots lie dormant and you will not damage them.
The next time we plant trees in the ground like this I will seriously consider laying down a sheet of anti weed non-woven mat with 'tree holes' cut in the mat.  This way the mat will prevent the weeds from growing while also promoting air circulation and good water drainage and evaporation. 
The good thing is there will always be a next time.