A Bonsai Garden

A Bonsai Garden

Part of Ep. 1101 Garden Style

Learn about the wide variety of native trees that can be used to create a bonsai garden.  Bob Eskeitz, head of the Badger Bonsai Society, introduces us to the ancient art of bonsai.

Premiere date: Mar 01, 2003

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Isn't this beautiful? You're looking at an exquisite small-scale garden in a very small backyard. Now, this isn't a miniature garden. This is a bonsai garden. We're in the garden of Bob Eskeitz. And Bob is the head of the Badger Bonsai Society. Bob, this whole yard is just beautiful.

Bob:
Thank you.

Shelley:
This isn't considered a dwarf garden or a miniature garden. It's something completely different.

Bob:
Due to the fact that everything is either in a pot, on a slab over rock, and not in the ground.

Shelley:
And these are not dwarf perennials or anything, you focus on trees.

Bob:
No, they are not.

Shelley:
Give me a definition of "bonsai."

Bob:
"Bonsai" mainly is "tree in a pot," or "tree in a tray." The art goes back to 200 B.C., at least. But the Chinese brought it to Japan around 1200. And then, the Chinese began styling them when they ran out of dwarf trees in the mountains to use. So, you can take a ten-year-old tree and make it look a hundred years old.

Shelley:
It's a true art, then. This looks like it's ancient.

Bob:
It is an art form.

Shelley:
I think of bonsai as the very delicate and very expensive imported plants from Asia.

Bob:
Not true. Not if you go out and collect. There's a lot of native trees around here that can be used for bonsai.

Shelley:
Really?

Bob:
This is Black Spruce Marianas from up north. Northern Wisconsin. Hemlock.

Shelley:
Northern Wisconsin? Just a plain, common hemlock?

Bob:
Right. This was a juniper off of someone's lawn.

Shelley:
Locally? That you just went and dug it up?

Bob:
It had about five trunks on it. And I styled it to make it look like an older tree.

Shelley:
So, you can basically take just about anything. What would be the advantage, though, of using these over the beautiful Asian imports?

Bob:
The price, for one thing.

Shelley:
Price is good.

Bob:
And I really like to push native material, but it just seems like everybody wants the Japanese material.

Shelley:
I would assume these are a little hardier.

Bob:
Yes, they are hardy. The only thing, you have to winter them over out of the wind. That's about it.

Shelley:
So, a lot of advantages, especially if you're starting out with this art form.

Bob:
With native material, right.

Shelley:
Do you have deciduous local plants that also work?

Bob:
Yes, there are some over here.

Shelley:
Let's take a look. Bob, you weren't kidding when you said I could take anything out of my backyard. Isn't that just a mulberry?

Bob:
Yes, it is a mulberry, which makes a very nice bonsai. I gave a mulberry Best of Show at the Iowa State Fair this year that had been quite old.

Shelley:
So, I can turn that into a work of art?

Bob:
Yes.

Shelley:
Not the one next to it, that's a box elder. That's a weed tree.

Bob:
You can work with something like this. If you just want to practice, you can use anything to practice with and make a tree.

Shelley:
And make something pretty.

Bob:
Yes.

Shelley:
Wow. What's that there, then?

Bob:
This is crab apple, which I collected about four years ago. It was over eight feet tall. I just took the last foot off of it this year.

Shelley:
So, you take it off, bit by bit each year.

Bob:
This will be the new leader.

Shelley:
So, it's a regular ornamental crab apple. You're going to get flowers and fruit, then, too?

Bob:
Yes. Flowers and fruit.

Shelley:
It looks ancient. Now, the leaves are going to shrink down.

Bob:
The leaves will reduce some. Flowers and fruit do not reduce, but leaves will reduce.

Shelley:
But that's kind of okay with something like this, because they're pretty small.

Bob:
Oh, yes. Right.

Shelley:
So, we might not want to try an apple tree.

Bob:
No, but it might look cool.

Shelley:
And a willow tree, a plain old willow.

Bob:
Willow, yes. I just cut a branch off and rooted it. It'll come off down in here. This will end up being the top of the tree.

Shelley:
So, really, anything out of the backyard.

Bob:
Yes.

Shelley:
When I look at these, especially you're finished trees, I see beautiful works of art. I have trouble visualizing how you get to that step. Can you show me the before, during and after?

Bob:
Yes, this is usually stock material. It comes in containers like that.

Shelley:
So, that's what it looks like when it comes through your door.

Bob:
And I will pot it up one year to get more roots on it. Style it, you style it while it's in the nursery container.

Shelley:
That means using the wires that you've wrapped around here?

Bob:
Yes, use wires. Prune branches off And then, you will end up putting it into a pot.

Shelley:
Oh, wow! That's the finished product. It's beautiful. Look at how far it's come from that. Where do people go if they would like to learn more about bonsai?

Bob:
Well, Badger Bonsai has a Web site with links to other clubs throughout the state, nationwide and even international.

Shelley:
And of course, your own Badger Bonsai Society.

Bob:
Yes.

Shelley:
Wonderful. Bob, thank you very much.

Bob:
You're quite welcome.

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