Bonsai is the art of cultivating small trees that mimic the shape and style of full-sized trees. The word “bonsai” is a Japanese term that means “planted in a container.” It is a popular art form that originated in China more than a thousand years ago and was later introduced to Japan. The art of bonsai involves growing and caring for trees in small containers, which requires skillful pruning, wiring, shaping, and maintenance.
The ultimate goal of bonsai is to create a miniature tree that looks like it has grown naturally over many years. One unique style in bonsai cultivation is the Neagari Style.
This style involves exposing the roots of the tree above the soil level, which gives an impression of an aged tree with strong roots extending from its trunk. It creates a visual impact on viewers’ minds by exposing the beauty and strength of natural roots.
Definition Of Bonsai
Bonsai refers to the practice of growing trees or other woody plants in small containers. The word “bonsai” comes from two Japanese words: “bon,” meaning tray or pot, and “sai,” meaning planting.
The goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing miniature representation of nature, often with aged-looking features such as weathered bark, twisting branches or exposed roots. Bonsai cultivation can be challenging because it requires careful attention to detail throughout every stage of development: selecting suitable species for cultivation; shaping and training young plants; preparing soil mixes; providing appropriate light levels; watering/fertilizing schedules; pest control strategies; pruning/wiring techniques; etc.
Importance Of Neagari Style In Bonsai
The Neagari Style is one among several traditional styles used to cultivate bonsai trees. It is characterized by the exposing of the root structure that gives an impression of a tree with strong, complex roots.
This style is particularly useful for creating a mature-looking bonsai tree, especially for species that have naturally prominent roots. The Neagari Style also offers many creative possibilities in styling the bonsai, as it allows artists to showcase different patterns and shapes in root formations.
The exposed roots can be shaped and styled like above-ground branches or even woven into intricate patterns. This style creates a visual impact that draws attention to the complexities of the natural form.
Purpose Of The Guide
The purpose of this guide is to provide detailed instructions on how to create a Neagari-style bonsai tree from scratch. We will explore what makes this style unique; which tree species are best suited for it; how to prepare your soil mix and select container size; techniques for shaping your trunk and exposed roots using wire, pruning, carving tools or grafting; tips on watering/fertilizing schedules and pest control strategies; information on creating multiple trunks or air-layering techniques. Whether you’re an experienced bonsai enthusiast or just starting out with this fascinating art form, our guide will help you achieve amazing results with Neagari Bonsai cultivation.
The Basics Of Neagari Style
Definition And Origin
Neagari is a Japanese term used to describe the style of bonsai in which the tree’s roots are exposed above the soil level. This unique style originated from ancient Chinese techniques and was later adopted by Japanese bonsai artists. The word “neagari” is derived from two Japanese words, “nea” meaning root and “gari” meaning hunt.
The aim of creating a neagari style bonsai is to create an illusion of an old tree that has been uprooted or eroded by weather conditions, leaving the roots exposed above ground level. This technique requires careful shaping and styling of both branches and roots to create a harmonious design.
Characteristics And Features
The characteristic feature of neagari style bonsai is its exposed roots, which give it a distinct visual appeal. The roots are often twisted, gnarled, and contorted in various shapes that mimic those found in nature, such as those seen on mountainside trees where erosion or strong winds have affected their growth.
Neagari styled Bonsai also has an interesting visual contrast between the top branch structure (canopy) and the exposed root system below it. This helps create a sense of balance between what’s happening above ground with what’s going on beneath it.
Suitable Species For Neagari Style
Not all trees are suitable for neagari-style bonsai; this technique works best with certain species-specific traits such as shallow root systems or flexible trunks that can be wired into suitable shapes. Trees such as azaleas, maples, cypress pines, junipers, pines with shallow root systems are preferred candidates for creating neagari-style bonsai. A lot also depends on the age of the tree since older ones tend to have more character in their trunks and roots.
However, younger ones can also be trained into neagari-style bonsai over time. It’s important to note that certain species such as deciduous trees may not be the ideal candidates for neagari style since they tend to have deeper roots that extend further below the soil level.
Training For Neagari Style
The process of creating a neagari style bonsai begins with choosing the right tree species. A young sapling or a mature tree can be used depending on the desired size of the final product. It’s important to prune and train the roots while preparing for this style, ensuring they are trimmed and shaped in a manner that mimics nature.
Once you’ve selected your tree, it’s essential to carefully remove soil from around its trunk by using chopsticks or root hooks gently. This will expose some parts of the root system, allowing you to visualize how your neagari style bonsai will grow.
To create an exposed root effect, most artists prefer adding gravel or rocks underneath the bonsai tree at its base. This enhances stability while adding some interesting visual interest below ground level.
Preparing For Neagari Style
Choosing The Right Tree
The first step in creating a neagari style bonsai is to choose the right tree. Generally, deciduous species are preferred for this style, as they provide a thick trunk and strong roots that can be shaped easily.
Examples of suitable species include maple, elm, oak, and willow. It’s important to select a healthy tree with good trunk thickness and taper.
The trunk should have some interesting movement or bends that can be used to create an attractive neagari style bonsai. The roots should be thick and spread evenly around the base of the tree.
The soil used for neagari style bonsai should be well-draining and rich in nutrients. A mix of akadama, pumice, and lava rock is often recommended as it provides excellent drainage while retaining moisture and nutrients. It’s important to prepare the soil before planting your tree.
Start by sifting out any debris or small rocks from the soil mix using a fine mesh sieve. Then wet the soil with water until it is moist but not soaking wet.
Root pruning is an essential step in preparing your tree for neagari style bonsai. Start by removing any large or damaged roots using sharp pruning shears or scissors.
It’s important to cut cleanly without tearing or damaging any remaining roots. Next, carefully comb out the remaining roots using a root rake or chopstick to separate them gently and encourage radial growth around the base of the trunk.
This process will help create a stronger root system necessary for shaping your neagari style bonsai. Once you’ve finished combing out all of the roots, place your tree into its pot with fresh soil mix with care to ensure that no air pockets form around its roots.
Caring For Your Neagari Style Bonsai
Creating your neagari style bonsai is only the first step; caring for it is equally important. A healthy bonsai will grow stronger, and its branches will develop nicely, showcasing its unique beauty. Here are a few tips to keep your neagari style bonsai healthy and thriving:
One of the most critical aspects of caring for your neagari style bonsai is watering. It’s essential to keep soil moist but not too wet or dry. Water more often during hot weather and less during colder months or winter.
The amount of water needed will depend on the species. It’s important not to overwater because this can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause dehydration, leading to leaf loss or death.
Neagari style bonsai requires regular fertilizing throughout the growing season (spring through summer). Use a balanced fertilizer, with an equal ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Avoid fertilizing during dormancy periods in the fall or winter when trees focus on developing their root system rather than new growth.
Pruning is an essential part of maintaining your neagari style bonsai’s shape and beauty. Regular pruning promotes ramification (branching), which creates a fuller canopy with smaller leaves that are more proportionate to each branch’s size.
When pruning your tree, make sure you use sharp shears or scissors and cut just above a leaf node or bud. To ensure that your neagari style bonsai remains healthy and robust, it’s crucial to monitor its growth regularly by examining its roots’ health periodically while ensuring proper watering schedules followed all year round.
Creating A Neagari Style Bonsai
Step-By-Step Guide To Trunk Formation
Neagari-style bonsai requires a well-formed trunk that projects a unique visual aspect. The following are the fundamental steps you must follow to create an attractive neagari-style bonsai tree.
1) Initial Cut And Removal Of Roots
Begin by selecting the right tree. Ideally, you should choose young trees from a nursery with thick roots and thin stems. The first step is to select the front side of the tree using its most robust root system as a guide.
Placing the tree on its side, use your tools to remove any soil covering the base of your chosen root system. Remove all roots that are thicker than one-third of an inch.
You can begin with a saw or pruning shears before using concave cutters for precision cutting. The removal process will encourage new feeder roots from above the cuts, ensuring efficient nutrient distribution throughout the tree’s lifespan.
2) Wiring And Shaping The Trunk
With all excessive foliage removed, it’s time to shape your neagari-style bonsai using wirework techniques. Wrap wire around your tree’s trunk as tightly as possible without injuring it. Then wrap another piece over this initial wrapping in an opposite direction to create an X-shape.
With both wires in place, carefully bend your trunk into shape. Ensure that you have enough wiring on hand for any other shaping needs since wiring will be necessary throughout your project.
3) Adding Texture To The Trunk Surface
Use hand tools like chisels or rotary tools to add texture to your tree trunk surface after shaping it into neagari style form. This technique involves gently carving away small portions of wood from surfaces that require texturing while leaving other parts smooth.
The textures you carve should resemble that of a mature tree trunk, but you can add small details like knots or scars to make it stand out. Make sure to add the texture evenly throughout your tree trunk.
4) Careful Maintenance And Watering
Watering is crucial when creating neagari-style bonsai since root systems are susceptible to root rot or other fungal diseases due to overwatering. Water your bonsai once every few days, depending on your climate conditions, with enough water to soak the soil thoroughly. Prune any unwanted growth regularly, avoiding sparsely vegetated areas altogether.
Your neagari-style bonsai will require special care from time to time, so be prepared to put in some extra effort as it develops. By following these steps carefully and maintaining them accordingly, you’ll create an attractive neagari-style bonsai that will last for many years.
Advanced Techniques For Neagari Style
Root Grafting Techniques
Root grafting is a technique used in creating neagari style bonsai that involves joining the roots of two different trees to form one. It is an advanced technique that requires experience and patience. Root grafting is usually done when the tree’s original roots are not suitable for neagari style or if the desired trunk size is too large compared to the tree’s root system.
The first step in root grafting is selecting two trees with compatible bark, wood, and roots. The goal is to join the roots of one tree onto another’s trunk to create a more substantial nebari (base).
The joining process typically takes place during early spring, right before new growth starts. To begin, cut off all branches from both trees’ trunks and prepare their surfaces by smoothing them out with a chisel or knife.
Then, make an incision on each trunk so that they will perfectly fit together when joined. The next step involves wrapping the joint with raffia tape and securing it tightly using wire.
This process ensures that both trunks are strongly joined by allowing new growth to fuse the roots of both trees together over time. You should water your newly grafted tree well during this period and keep it in partial shade until it shows signs of new growth.
Air Layering Techniques
Air layering is another advanced technique used in creating neagari style bonsai. It allows you to create additional roots on a section of your chosen species while still connected to its parent plant before separating them into two separate individuals.
The air layering process typically takes place during spring or summer when there are many active buds on your species’ trunk. The first step involves identifying the section of the trunk where you want to create new roots.
Then, make a ring-shaped incision around the section of your chosen species’ trunk and wrap it with moist peat moss or sphagnum moss. The next step involves wrapping the moss-covered section with plastic wrap and securing it tightly with wire.
This process creates a humid environment that stimulates root growth on the section of your species’ trunk you selected earlier. You should water your air layered tree well during this period and keep it in partial shade until it shows signs of new growth.
Creating Multiple Trunks
Creating multiple trunks is another advanced technique used in neagari style bonsai creation. It involves using one tree with multiple trunks to create a more substantial nebari (base).
This technique requires careful planning before starting because you want to ensure that each trunk is still attached to its parent’s root system. To begin, select a suitable species for creating multiple trunks and prepare them for separation by removing all branches from the main trunk except for those near where the intended separation will occur.
Then, remove soil gently from around each trunk without damaging their roots. The next step involves separating each trunk carefully while ensuring that they remain attached to their parent’s root system.
You can use sphagnum moss wrapped around each separated stem’s roots or plastic tubing as temporary support during this process, depending on how small or large your separated trunks are. After separating all trunks successfully, repot them into individual containers filled with soil mixtures suitable for their specific needs.
Place them in partial shade and water regularly until they show signs of new growth. Overall, these advanced techniques require experience and patience but are worth it if done correctly as they can help achieve an impressive neagari style bonsai tree.
Caring For Your Neagari Style Bonsai
Watering Tips – Keeping Your Bonsai Hydrated
One of the most important aspects of caring for your Neagari style bonsai is watering. Given that bonsai trees are grown in small containers, they tend to dry out quickly, which can damage the roots and even kill the tree.
To avoid this, you need to water your bonsai on a regular basis. The frequency of watering depends on several factors such as temperature, humidity, size of the pot and species of tree.
As a general rule, you should aim to keep the soil slightly damp but not too wet or too dry. It’s also important to ensure that water is reaching all parts of the root system by soaking it thoroughly.
If you don’t have time to water your bonsai frequently, consider investing in an automatic watering system or placing it in a humidity tray. This will help maintain an even level of moisture around the roots and prevent water stress.
Fertilizing Tips – Providing Nutrients For Growth
Fertilizing your Neagari style bonsai is essential for promoting healthy growth and vibrant foliage. Because bonsai trees are grown in small containers with limited soil nutrients available, they need additional fertilizer applied regularly throughout the growing season.
There are many different types of fertilizers available including organic fertilizers like fish emulsion and synthetic fertilizers like Miracle-Gro®. Decide which type is best suited for your specific tree species.
When applying fertilizer, use a balanced formula with equal amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Different ratios may be necessary depending on whether your tree is in its growth period or resting phase.
Be careful not to over-fertilize as this can lead to nutrient burn and ultimately kill the tree. Follow manufacturer’s instructions closely and always err on the side of caution.
Pruning Tips – Shaping Your Bonsai
Pruning is a crucial part of maintaining the shape and size of your Neagari style bonsai. By removing unwanted branches or leaves, you can encourage healthy growth and create an aesthetically pleasing shape.
The best time to prune your bonsai is during its dormant phase. This usually takes place in late winter or early spring for most species.
During this time, the tree is not actively growing, which reduces the risk of damaging new growth. When pruning, use sharp and clean tools to make a precise cut without tearing or crushing any part of the tree.
Cut at an angle and always leave a small stump above where you made your cut to allow for regrowth. Remember to never remove more than one-third of the total foliage at any one time as this can weaken the tree and reduce its ability to recover.
Caring for your Neagari style bonsai requires regular attention and careful consideration of its unique needs. Proper watering, fertilization and pruning will promote healthy growth and create a stunning addition to any garden or indoor space.
Common Mistakes To Avoid In Creating A Neagari Style Bonsai
Over-Wiring The Trunk
One common mistake when creating a neagari style bonsai is over-wiring the trunk. While wiring is necessary to shape the tree, too much can cause damage to the bark and inhibit growth. It’s essential to remember that the wiring should only be used as a temporary measure, and it should be removed once the tree has set into its desired form.
Using Inadequate Soil Mixture
Another common mistake is using an inadequate soil mixture for your neagari style bonsai. The soil needs to be well-draining, but also retain enough moisture for healthy growth. A mix of organic and inorganic materials like pine bark, perlite, and vermiculite works well.
Inadequate watering is another common mistake that can lead to poor tree health or even death. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause dehydration and root damage. It’s crucial to check moisture levels regularly and adjust watering accordingly.
Poor Selection Of Species
Choosing an unsuitable species for neagari style bonsai is another frequent mistake made by beginners. Not all trees are suitable for this style; it’s best to research which species work well before starting on your project.
Ignoring Maintenance Needs
Ignoring maintenance needs is a common mistake that leads many beginners astray when creating their neagari style bonsai. It’s essential not only to create the initial form but also maintain it as it grows over time. Regular pruning, fertilizing, and pest control are essential aspects of keeping your neagari style bonsai healthy and beautiful.
Creating a neagari style bonsai is an intricate process that requires patience and skill. Avoiding common mistakes like over-wiring, inadequate soil mixture, poor species selection, inadequate watering, and ignoring maintenance needs can ensure healthy tree growth and longevity.
With proper care and attention to detail, your neagari style bonsai can become a beautiful addition to your collection. Remember to enjoy the process of creating and maintaining your bonsai tree and take pride in the final result.
After reading this, check out our other articles on:
Frequently Asked Questions
The rule of three in bonsai refers to the principle of creating visual interest and balance by grouping elements in threes, such as branches, leaves, or accent plants.
The rarest type of bonsai tree is a species called the “Bristlecone Pine,” which grows at high elevations and has a slow growth rate, making it difficult to cultivate.
The “Bunjin” or “Literati” style is often considered the most challenging bonsai style due to its unconventional, asymmetrical appearance and the difficulty in achieving the desired naturalistic look.
Nebari refers to the visible surface roots of a bonsai tree, which play an important role in the tree’s overall aesthetic appeal and stability.
The “golden rule” of bonsai is to maintain the balance between the size of the tree and the size of the pot it is planted in, ensuring that the tree has enough space for its roots to grow and receive proper nutrients.