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Where can I see an explanation or illustration of the bonsai lifecycle from seed to death?
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mikebritten25
Dec 20, 2020
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Duncan, I don't know of such an illustration or guide. Depending on the source of the plant, the steps that need to be taken to create a bonsai (i.e., the bonsai life or development cycle) vary. Many bonsai books and magazines discuss (and illustrate) how to create a bonsai from seed (rare), from nursery stock, field material specially grown for bonsai, cuttings, and collected trees. The process can be quite different different for plants from different sources. For example, if you are creating a bonsai from seed, one goal is to cut of the taproot of seedlings to encourage nice, radially arranged, surface roots. Another goal for seedlings is to thicken the trunk as much as possible (lots of fertilizer and a good balance of water and oxygen). For nursery stock a goal is often to create or accentuate interesting movement in the trunk in and primary branches, often with heavy gage wire (structural wiring). Another important step in developing nursery stock is often to prune unnecessary branches and foliage to reveal the tree within the bush. Usually nursery stock also needs to be repotted into a shallower bonsai container. For collected material, the first step is to ensure the root system recovers from collecting and develops well in a bonsai-sized container. Often collected trees also need to be pruned back (once the root system is healthy) to reveal the best characteristics of the tree. At some point, a seedling, nursery plant, field grown plant, cutting and collected tree will move beyond those "development" phases/goals into "refinement." That often involves increasing fine branching (ramification) through pinching and wiring those secondary and tertiary branches into artistic and photosynthetically efficient locations. Reducing leaf or needle size through defoliation and other techniques is often another goal for trees in refinement. The kicker is that once you have developed and refined your tree into a beautiful bonsai for display it continues growing and gets overgrown and bushy; then you return to the refinement (and maybe even development) process again. So, it truly is a cycle, not a one-way process from start through development to a final refined bonsai. I just checked my copy of "Principles of Bonsai Design" by David DeGroot. He has chapters on "Selecting Plant Material" "Initial Design," and "Refinement." He shows nice examples (photos and drawings) of trees in each chapter. It is a really nice book but I know other materials (books and magazines) have similar content. Maybe there is a comprehensive chart of infographic of the bonsai life cycle (I like your choice of words) but it would have to be very complex and (and ramified!). Hope this is at least a little helpful, Mike
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