The next sentences relates primarily to the German language. It can only be partially translated into English. We hope there will be no misunderstandings.
The term bonsai breeding is often (in german) used - also by us - for the sake of simplicity. However, breeding a bonsai is unfortunately not possible because the cultivation and styling of a bonsai has nothing to do with breeding in the strict genetic sense. In most cases, various tree species are used for bonsai cultivation, which do not differ genetically from the plants in the wild.
However, one must restrict the fact that certain - in the genetic sense - bred (or selected) varieties are particularly suitable for bonsai design. These "bonsai varieties" often have particularly small needles (e.g. Japanese pine varieties Zuisho and Kokonoe, an attractive leaf color (Japanese maple varieties Deshojo - carmine red - or Katsura - orange-red when shoot) or a fine branching with small leaves (e.g. Japanese maple variety Kiyohime).
Also with the term bonsai seeds you should be aware that these are normal tree seeds that are used for bonsai cultivation. Strictly speaking, there are no bonsai seeds.
Often, especially in the horticultural industry, people speak of growing bonsai (in earlier times it was even referred to as "raising a bonsai"). Since we want to cultivate our starting plants through creative techniques in a certain direction, growing bonsai fits much better. In the term bonsai cultivation we use, there is also the root of the word.
Spindle tree: young plant and prebonsai
If you want to grow a bonsai, this is, in our experience, quite feasible and worthwhile. Bonsai cultivation from both tree seeds and young plants has a major disadvantage: It takes many years longer than creating a bonsai from a prebonsai (= bonsai blank) or redesigning a "finished" bonsai that has already been designed. You should plan at least 10-15 years.
What are the advantages of growing a bonsai yourself ?
- You can influence the quality of the future bonsai right from the start. Subsequent correction is difficult to achieve, especially when it comes to the roots. When growing bonsai from young plants, a good root approach (Nebari) is not a problem.
- If the original plant for the bonsai tree is not too old, the trunk can be shaped very well according to your own wishes. In the case of purchased prebonsai (= bonsai blank) or even bonsai, the shape of the trunk can usually no longer be changed.
- Growing your own bonsai from "bonsai seeds" or young plants is a good opportunity for beginners to gain experience without having to use high-quality bonsai raw materials. Many young plants can be used to test how the respective tree species react to different bonsai shaping techniques. If you feel safe then you can always buy a good bonsai or prebonsai.
- Another important advantage of growing your own bonsai is: You only need a little money to get started. Young plants with naked roots from native tree species can be obtained in forest tree nurseries for less than 1 Euro, pre-styled bonsai young plants cost only a few euros.
Japanese larch bonsai, 15 years old
Prebonsai, bonsai blanks (raw material), bonsai young plants, Yamadori bonsai - all terms from bonsai cultivation. But what is what now ? What is behind these terms ? Are there clear definitions ? Is a bonsai blank the same as a prebonsai ?
Many questions ! Some terms are easy to define, others are not. Here are a few answers from our point of view.
We use bonsai for plants that have mostly already been potted in a matching ceramic bonsai pot, sometimes in a plastic bonsai pot. The main branches are designed. In many cases, the bonsai wire has already been removed.
The bonsai plant is now constantly being refined. A process that never really stops.
Yamadori Bonsai can also be clearly named: A Yamadori bonsai is a tree taken from nature (sometimes also from a nursery). Its purpose is to become a bonsai or it is already a bonsai, i.e. it is (more or less styled) in a bonsai pot.
Many Yamadori bonsai are very old. Especially when they were excavated in the mountains. In order to make a good bonsai out of it, drastic measures (e.g. deadwood designs such as jin and shari) are often necessary. We do not have any original plants taken "from nature" as we specialize in growing bonsai raw material.
Bonsai blanks (Montpellier maple, Hornbeam)
Prebonsai, bonsai blanks and bonsai young plants are always pre-designed starting plants for the bonsai styling. They are usually not yet in a bonsai pot or, if they are often not very well designed, in a plastic cultivation pot. That means the transition from prebonsai to bonsai is fluid.
For us, bonsai blanks are older young plants that have been prepared for several years for design as bonsai. Almost all of our bonsai blanks have good roots created by air-layering. In many cases the trunks have already been shaped with bonsai wire and this gives them an interesting trunk movement. Our bonsai blanks are usually still in the nursery container, which we mostly use for cultivation.
For us, compared to the raw bonsai, prebonsai are starting plants that are already more advanced. Usually they are potted in a plastic bonsai pot. The main branches have already been wired in most cases. The process of refinement into a bonsai has begun.
In many cases, young bonsai plants are not yet designed plants in the nursery pots. Young bonsai plants are often understood to mean something that does not differ from a normal nursery young plant.
For us, a young bonsai plant is a seedling or cutting, sometimes with a root ball or with bare roots (when buying). Such a plant can be pre-designed for bonsai or, like any nursery plant, planted outdoors.
Bonsai young plants are 2, 3 or 4 years old, in a nursery pot (about 10 cm in diameter).
These young plants are repotted every 1-2 years. The roots are corrected for the later design as a bonsai. The trunk is formed by wire at this stage. Later this is only possible to a very limited extent.
Quality of bonsai and raw material
Can conclusions be drawn from the terms about the quality of a bonsai or original plant ?
Very limited. A good prebonsai or a good bonsai blank can be of much higher quality than a finished bonsai. This can be seen most clearly in the price.