Caroline and Fred Wieland are throwing an open garden this weekend for people to see their collection. It’s magnificent.
The Wielands took classes for several years while he worked at the American Embassy in Japan in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Although you shouldn’t ask about a bonsai plant’s age, there are some in their collection that have been groomed for 30-plus years.
You can learn the basics in six to eight hours, but masters of the art spend decades.
There is no such thing as a bonsai tree, Fred explained. Think of the word “bonsai” as a verb instead of adjective. The goal is to train a plant to resemble its full-size version. One could bonsai a magnolia but because of the si ze of the flower, it would be disproportionate.
The approach for bonsai is to be able to bring the plant into the house to enjoy. But it’s not a house plant, Caroline said. It is still a tree that needs to live outdoors.
Bonsai means plant in container. The pots are shallow with large holes, Fred said. To keep the tree healthy, one must trim the top growth and the roots equally. He said most of his trees go into increasingly smaller containers because the roots become more efficient.
The Wielands generally start with a plant that is about 2 years old. The most important factor is the design process – deciding the shape and performing the initial trimming. It can take half an hour to several days to complete.
Once the design is set, it only takes 20 to 30 minutes a year – yes, a year – to shape the plant. There also is watering and fertilizing, but that’s it.
Using wires will shape branches, although you are not to force the plant into an unnatural condition in Japanese bonsai. The wires are only left on for about three months, any longer and the wire will cut into the plant as it grows.