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Bonsai may not be quite as mainstream here in the states, however it's becoming increasingly popular. If you're serious about this ancient Japanese horticultural technique, a handful of proper gardening tools play an important role to create even the most basic bonsai designs.
Each bonsai tool performs a specific task related to shaping and training these exquisitely beautiful living masterpieces. The sheer number of bonsai tools available makes it difficult to decide which ones to purchase if you’re new to this gardening art form. Luckily, beginning bonsai hobbyists need several fundamental tools to get started with this fun and rewarding pastime.
Bonsai enthusiasts utilize different types of shears for controlling the growth of tree specimens. Specialized shears come in a range of sizes. Large shears allow the user to prune thick branches but they can't manage delicate shaping. Small scissors fit into tight spaces to trim dainty growth, such as new leaves and buds.
The concave pruner performs an essential function for the bonsai cultivator. This pruner is designed to remove branches flush to the trunk by creating a slight depression. The elongated wound created by the concave pruner ensures rapid healing and minimal scarring.
Training the growth of bonsai typically involves using wire to properly position the branches and trunk. Standard wire tools work for cutting specific lengths to arrange the branches. Once the branches are positioned in place specially designed bonsai metal thread cutters snip the training wires without causing damage to the tree.
Repotting a bonsai requires a gentle touch and the help of a special tool. The root hook or pick easily removes old soil and helps straighten tangled roots. The single prong of the bonsai root hook cleans the root system causing minimal bruising and breakage. The root hook features a rounded tip to further lessen damage to the plant.
This advanced technique is respectively known as jin and shari by stripping branches away and removing the bottom portions of evergreen bark by using a pair of jin pliers. The pliers compress and tear away bark and wood to give it the appearance of old weathered bonsai limbs. You can also use jin pliers to tie and unwind training wire.
On certain occasions bonsai training calls for a heavy-duty tool. Trunk splitters are designed to separate the trunk and thick branches along their length to facilitate positioning. The splitter can also be used to remove layers of wood from the branches making it easier to bend and shape them.
The half-sphere blades of the knob cutter resemble a parrot’s beak. This design allows the knob cutter to quickly nibble away at unwanted surface wood. The bonsai knob cutter cleanly removes undesirable bumps, knots or raised scarring on branches and trunks with a biting motion. The tool eliminates excess trunk material to ensure the proper fit into its container.
The pruning sickle is the perfect tool to remove soil around the edge of the rootball. Repotting a bonsai can often be difficult to remove it because of tangled and coiled root material stuck to the walls of the container. The curved sickle blade is inserted along the wall of the pot inside the perimeter. The blade cuts the roots and the bonsai eventually loosens and is easily pulled from its decorative pot.
The tweezer spatula is a special tool to remove some soft new tree buds to stimulate the ones on the inside of the branches to create a full canopy. The tweezer has a minute serrated tip that allows for a good grip. This exacting tool can also pull out dead bonsai needles and remove weeds around the base of the tree. It has a spatula on the opposite end to adjust the roots when repotting.
This precise leaf cutting tool is used for a specific technique that involves removing leaves during the warm months to force new leaf growth. The leaf cutter is spring loaded with very sharp blades to make defoliating quick and easy.
Bonsai soil scoops are typically made of plastic or stainless steel that keeps them from oxidizing. The scoop is extremely useful for changing out old soil and repotting as the root system expands. These bonsai scoops are designed to place the soil right where you need it. The scoops come in a variety of sizes and are multipurpose tools for filling your bird feeder, scooping up garden mulch and adding fertilizer to your other plants.
© 2019 Linda Chechar
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 29, 2020:
Lorelei, glad you liked the article about the bonsai essential tools. The mini trees are adorable!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 29, 2020:
I have been fascinated by the tiny Bonsai trees for as long as I can remember. I almost purchased one years ago but for some reason passed it by. One of these years though it is definitely going to happen.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 19, 2019:
Linda, these miniature trees are quite amazing. There are also additional precision tools and techniques for bonsai experts. Thanks for your comment!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 18, 2019:
Bonsai is a very interesting art. I'm always impressed to see the features of full-size trees in such small specimens. Thanks for sharing the information about the tools. I didn't realize that so many different tools were required to create the trees.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 15, 2019:
I'm glad you enjoyed the article, Martin. Thanks for your comment!
Martin Visconti from USA on July 15, 2019:
Great article.I did not know they used that many tools in their hobby. I have always liked the look of the trees and enjoyed learning more about them.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 14, 2019:
Liz--They are very pricey but it is a wonderful hobby and stress reliever.
Liz Westwood from UK on July 14, 2019:
Bonsai are fascinating, but I understand that they are quite expensive. This is a useful toolkit and guide for any aspiring bonsai owner.