While visiting a local nursery in February 2020, I bought a starter bonsai tree (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’). It was beautiful, but how do I care for it? My search for printed resources began. The book I found was so helpful that I wanted to share it with GR readers.
The author trained with bonsai master Kunio Kobayashi, owner of the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in Tokyo (type his name into Google and prepare to be amazed). This book was first published in the U.K. and later updated for a U.S. version.
The most basic of content—how a (full-size) tree works—starts off the book, so you’ll understand how it translates to what a bonsai needs. All of the background beginner content is here, including a brief history of bonsai, styles/types of bonsai shapes, choosing the correct pot, basic tools and equipment, soil types, preparing your pot for planting, and even display ideas.
I found a chapter titled “Seasonal tasks” especially useful. Maintenance projects are included for each season of the year. I had wanted to prune my bonsai immediately, but this chapter suggested waiting until spring because the tree isn’t actively growing yet. This is a section I’ll bookmark and refer to throughout the year.
Like many bonsai books, there are plenty of great photos inside. What makes this book notable is the quantity of how-to projects with step-by-step photos (20 different projects!). From styling a young juniper or maple to creating a broom shape – you’ll find all sorts of tutorials no matter what your skill level. I used the “Wiring explained” section to try wiring my juniper’s branches into the start of a semi-cascade shape. Already have a bonsai but it needs some TLC? Check out the repotting, pruning, or “Rescuing a half-dead tree” chapters.
There are even 20 pages of a plant care directory, which lists a tree species (both Latin and common names), its care requirements, recommended USDA Hardiness Zones, and more.
Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced in growing bonsai, you’ll likely find something useful in this book. I plan to keep mine handy on a bookshelf for many years. Recommended.
UPDATE as of May 2021:
I’ve owned my bonsai tree for a full year and am pleased with the progress I’ve made, thanks to the guidance from this book. In mid-summer 2020, I bought wire to start styling (retraining) the branches into a windswept shape. The section titled “Styling a young juniper” provided step-by-step photos to help me select which branches to wire and how to secure the wire into the soil. The photo shows the wires in place.