Secrets of the Orient revealed

It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and it’s lots of fun.

It provides beautiful artistic expression.

Bob Kauffman wants to spread the word about bonsai – you know, those lovely little trees that are all gnarled and bent, the ones that cost $300 or more at shows and then die three months after you bring them home.

Kauffman says you can make your own for about $30, including the fancy display pot, and keep it alive for decades.

Kauffman will teach a class on this art form at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 7, at the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden, 2711 Woodcock Road,


Almost any plant

He says you can start with almost any plant. Just make sure it is healthy. Look closely at the plant at the store.

Make sure it has a good, thick trunk and "ramifications." That means alternating branches, not all the branches growing from one side. And make sure the plant isn’t crowded in the pot you buy it in.

Leave the plant in the

original pot for trimming. Trim a little at a time. Then leave the plant alone for several days before doing more.

Before doing too much to the plant, read about it to find out what care the plant requires. Water, soil and temperature are important.

If the plant needs humid conditions, it will need different care than one that needs cold weather to encourage new growth.

400 hours of work

Bonsai happens slowly. Kauffman has a juniper he has worked on for easily 400 hours over the past two years.

Kauffman says a big mistake people make with bonsai is keeping the plants indoors. Many of them should be outdoors year-round. They can be brought in for display for two or three days at a time.

Sequim’s climate is perfect for many types of plants if they are watered well in warm weather.

Another mistake is not supplying enough drainage. Each pot should have a drainage hole in the bottom.

Kauffman uses plastic needlepoint fabric to cover the bottom of the pot. That lets water drain without losing the soil, and the plant doesn’t stand in water, which leads to root rot.

Mix special soil

Don’t use regular potting soil. Bonsai do well in soil that is a quarter organic and three-fourths nonorganic.

Go to a feed and grain store and buy chicken scratch plus some pumice. That mixture creates small pockets for air and water that the roots need.

Fertilizer should have no nitrogen, which causes leaf growth. A bonsai needs its roots and branches to grow slowly, not its leaves. Many leaves are trimmed and pruned so the plant’s form shows.

With some trees, such as maples and ficus, most leaves are removed each spring. The goal with bonsai is to have the plant look old even if it isn’t.

And to have fun.

Join the club

The next thing to do is join a bonsai club to get more tips on watering and on wiring, which changes trees’ shapes into esthetically pleasing forms. Kauffman says these are the most difficult parts of keeping bonsai.

The Dungeness Bonsai Society meets at 10 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the Pioneer Memorial Park clubhouse, 387 E. Washington St., Sequim.

It welcomes new members and gives advice freely.


in a name?

The term bonsai

joined the English language in the 1950s, drawn from Japanese bon, meaning "tray," and sai, meaning "planting."

Source: The Apple

Computer Dictionary

Reach Dana Casey at