By Peter Chan
Published by Octopus Books USA
1290 Avenue of the Americas
4th and 5th Floors
New York NY 10104
5½” x 61½”
The first two sections explain the history of bonsai, how to get started, tips for choosing a tree, and the difference between caring for indoor and outdoor bonsai. Yes, you can grow bonsai outdoors, depending on your climate and the tree species you select!
The third section of the book is titled “Looking after bonsai.” This 14-page chapter covers basic hardiness zone information, pruning, environment, watering/fertilizing, repotting, common ailments, and even propagation. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and while it’s nicely done, the finer points of bonsai can’t be explained in a few pages. Pruning a bonsai could be an entire book by itself. I’d encourage anyone interested in the subject to join an organization to learn more.
The majority of the book (172 pages) profiles 180 different tree species. Trees are divided into four types: Outdoor coniferous, outdoor broadleaf, outdoor flowering, and indoor/tropical and subtropical. Each two-page spread features one tree, following sort of a “Plant portraits” format, with highlights, care and maintenance requirements, growth patterns, and cautions. Both common and Latin names are provided at the top of each page.
The best part of this section is the photos. Author Peter Chan traveled the world to photograph these trees, and they are fantastic specimens. Kent Johnson and I shared plenty of “oohs and ahs” while browsing the trees.
If you’re interested in taking up bonsai as a hobby, this book will give you a good start. And if you’re inspired by pictures of amazing miniature trees, there’s plenty to enjoy here too.