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Get Started With Shohin Well

Text, and photos by Morten Albek, Denmark
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As a beginner in the art of Bonsai, it can be hard to avoid the eagerness for a fast result. Who does not want to admire a beautiful bonsai almost immediately, once the interest of these beautiful trees has been evoked? So,the perspective of the long time process of creating a bonsai from scratch can be a hard and frustrating blockade to begin with.

A newcomer in bonsai can have a good start in buying a pre shaped tree. Else getting a bonsai in your life combined with the long termed time aspect can be very frustrating, and in many cases even unrealistic.

Later you can slowly move on to start your trees from raw material, and even from collected material,after some years of experience.

In contradiction to this advice, I have to admit that I myself started all my bonsai from zero, and therefore I really had to learn the lesson of being patient. In the same breath I must say then, that I truly benefit from these lessons nowadays. But at the same time, I would have preferred an easier and not so bumpy road

Torben Pedersen with a shohin pine during a winter meeting.

Shohin For Beginers

Select a specimen that will be tolerant of the stress of being cut, wired, and replanted. Specimens like Cotoneasters, Lonicera and Juniperus, are advisable starters for growing Shohin. They can be found at nurseries in sizes suitable for beginners.

In the case of Shohin though, you have to pay very much attention to the daily care. Shohin has only a very limited amount of soil which some spare roots can consume water from. So they dry out easily. In general, by placing them in half shaded areas in the garden during spring and autumn, they will live well. In summertime on hot days, you might better move your small trees into the shadow. Else they will simply dry out too fast, and the risk of a dead Shohin will be bigger.

Morten Albek wiring a Juniperus chinensis

Be Satisfied

So donít hesitate to buy a small and satisfying bonsai that can be worked on. There are plenty of dealers who offer "ok" material for the start. The best advice is to get help from an experienced enthusiast;this will help you buying a healthy and tolerant plant to begin with. Better started off with view of success, than with disappointments and failures.

By the way, when you are enjoying and working with your first bonsai, you can already start collecting trees for future bonsai.

A bought bonsai is not a bad bonsai. Only the quality of the tree determines the potential of the plant plant,not its origin. But the story of a collected tree will add mental and historical value to a bonsai increasing its importance as a piece of art:

Like when a painting and its history melt together.


The newcomer to the art of bonsai often struggles with newly collected plants, dying between their hands. Mostly because they (myself included in early days) are too hasty in doing all at once. Or the collected plants are not healthy enough. Especially when collecting a tree the worst faults happen. It is absolutely essential to get a healthy root mass back home, with enough intact fine feeder roots. This is done by digging carefully around the root ball, and then packing it firmly in a towel, or anything else that is able to do the job.

Bind it tightly with a rope or tape, and plant it in a big wooden box at home. Prevent to damage the roots at the time of planting, and do not do anything to the tree but watering, for at least two or three years after.

It is a long time project, but you will have a strong healthy tree by following this advice,ready to be pruned,wired and formed.

In the meantime, you can work and enjoy your bought specimen.

One Thing At A Time

It is very important not to stress the tree by doing several operations at the same time. Let the tree rest,for example between wiring and transplanting. A doctor will not amputate the legs of a man, and then try to let him run afterwards.

Plants are living things, and they need full recovery from one operation before the next step is taken.

A thumb rule is to wait one to three months after transplanting before you start working on the tree. Or until you see clear signs of vigorous growth.

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