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Bonsai Book Reviews

Bonsai never seem to go out of style. These are certainly among the most admired plants. Whether they’re indoor or outdoor species, these require careful attention. With their reduced root systems and the limited soil space available, they dry out fairly quickly on hot summer days.

Anyone interested in starting bonsai will definitely need some good books to guide them through the different procedures and techniques. Here are some titles that will help.

“Successful Bonsai-Raising Exotic Miniature Trees” by David Squire was released by Firefly. This comprehensive, color illustrated paperback provides an overview of both indoor and outdoor species. This title will be especially helpful to novices. It walks you through the process from buying your first plants or growing them from seed to their cultural needs, routine care, seasonal maintenance, and troubleshooting when problems occur. The author begins with a brief introduction and history of bonsai, and also explains how the indoor bonsai differ from those grown outdoors.

In addition, he covers all the methods of propagation for indoor bonsai, showing how to take an existing plant and adapting it to bonsai culture by carefully pruning and training.

An entire chapter is devoted to proper training in order to achieve the desired style. There is a complete discussion of all the tools, materials, and supplies you’ll need to care for the plants. Nearly half of this book consists of an A-Z plant directory, including 15 species for outdoors and 60 for indoors. For each plant entry, there’s a gorgeous color photo, suggested styles, and complete step-by-step instructions on how to propagate, prune, train, and care for the plant.

At the end of the book there’s a list of other species that can be used for indoor bonsai. The appendix contains a glossary of terms and list of bonsai organizations.

“Bonsai with Japanese Maples” by Peter Adams was released by Timber Press. This groundbreaking, lushly color illustrated hardcover is suitable for both novice and advanced bonsai artists. In this title, the author shares his 50+ years of experience with the plants. By choosing to focus on two species of hardy bonsai, he goes into much more detail regarding style and training than the previous volume. In the first chapter, he describes the two species and explains why they’re suited to bonsai.

He gives step-by-step instructions on the different techniques that are needed year-by-year to achieve the desired effect. He devotes particular attention to scars and exposed roots as well as the refinement of trunks and roots.

Over half of this book consists of 23 bonsai specimen trees. The author showcases each individual bonsai with full color portraits of each. He chronicles how each one has been created by painstaking attention to detail each year of its existence. For each, there are color photos showing its development over the years, and how this was achieved. The author critiques each specimen, and suggests changes or improvements that might have been beneficial aesthetically. He even discusses what future action should be taken for each sample.

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