Monday, November 19, 2012

First Things to Know to Starting Saikei

By studying landscapes in nature, we can envision saikei we would like to construct. As you travel throughout the country, take pictures of various landscapes for inspiration. When constructed the saikei will include rocks, trees, grasses, mosses and perhaps an accessory or two to complete the picture all staged on a beautiful tray or rock.

bolt and nuts of saikei
Saikei Ornament
img source: bonsaibark.com

What is needed for saikei?

First let us consider the nuts and bolts of saikei. This is a general list; there will be cases where not all items would be used.
  1. A container (see list below)
  2. Small trees (see description of ideal traits of saikei trees below)
  3. Rocks: these may need to be cut
  4. Grasses and small plants
  5. Mosses
  6. Accessories if desired
  7. Bonsai mediums (soils) appropriate for the species of trees
  8. Muck
  9. Wire
  10. Epoxy putty
  11. Hydraulic Cement
  12. Fiberglass dry wall tape
  13. Plastic needlepoint grid
  14. Bonsai tools and gloves
  15. Small plastic bags
  16. Grid or large paper and pencil

What are the characteristics of a saikei container?

  1. Shallow
  2. Sized in proportion to the amount of material you will work with.. more room it usually better as it conveys good spatial relationships
  3. Shaped to reinforce the design
  4. Colored in harmony to the design
  5. Light and moveable once designed …being able to move the final saikei is critical to its care in the northeast
  6. Sturdy
  7. Have drainage (if no drainage holes are present, you may drill them or compensate by using a larger grain size drainage layer under the growing layer and modifying your watering technique to drain the basin after watering)

Materials that make good containers:

  1. Rock slab or slabs
  2. Pottery
  3. Cement (reinforced), consider using Ciment Fondue
  4. Wood, you can make you own containers
  5. Three dimensional rocks

What are the characteristics of good trees for saikei?

  1. Small leaves
  2. Short internodal spaces that create tight growth habits
  3. A good silhouette that looks like the fully grown tree even when young
  4. Firm, small well developed root ball that will allow you to work over a wider time period when designing your saikei
  5. Tolerant of heat and cold and shade
  6. Long lived
There are many species that work will in saikei; if the tree fits all the above characteristics it is worth a try.

To prepare seedlings for saikei:

  1. Grow seedlings or cuttings in small containers to allow transplanting at any time
  2. Keep the trees well trimmed and shaped
  3. Wiring can be done while in the training pot if you wish or later while in the saikei

Characteristics of grasses or ground cover plants to be used in saikei:

  1. Naturally short with leaves close to the ground
  2. Strong root system
  3. Spread rapidly in container conditions
  4. Hardy
  5. Shade tolerant

Characteristics of mosses to be used in saikei:

  1. Fine texture
  2. Short
  3. Good color that is retained throughout the year
  4. Tolerant of dryness
  5. Spreads easily
  6. Variety of species

Bonsai mediums (soils) for saikei:

  1. Have excellent drainage
  2. Are well sifted
  3. Are dry to start with
  4. Match the needs of the species being used
  5. Need to be of at least two sizes
  6. Larger grains for the base
  7. Smaller grains for the main growing layer
  8. Optional fine grains as a top finishing layer for mosses



Ornaments for saikei:
Ornaments can be used with restraint in these landscapes to add to the visual illusion. Be sure they fit these requirements:
  1. Sized proportional to the landscape
  2. Delicate in design and color
  3. Used sparingly
  4. Fit the mood you are trying to create

Rocks for saikei:

  1. Illustrate full sized landscape rocks even through they are small
  2. Match in texture and color
  3. Will survive winter weather conditions
  4. Have shapes that replicate those in your vision of the landscape

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