"How the Chinese make Dwarf Trees" from Scientific American


      "How the Chinese make Dwarf Trees" (1864):

        We have all known from childhood how the Chinese cramp their women's feet, and so manage to make them "keepers at home;" but how they contrive to grow miniature pines and oaks in flower-pots for half a century, has always been much of a secret.  They aim first and last at the seat of vigorous growth, endeavoring to weaken it as far as may consist with the preservation of life.  They begin at the beginning.  Taking a young plant (say a seedling or cutting of a cedar) when only two or three inches high, they cut off its tap-root as soon as it has other rootlets enough to live upon, and replant it in a shallow earthen pot or pan.  The end of the tap-root is generally made to rest on the bottom of the pan, or on a flat stone within it.  Alluvial clay is then put into the pot, much of it in bits the size of beans, and just enough in kind and quantity to furnish a scanty nourishment to the plant.  Water enough is given to keep it in growth, but not enough to excite a vigorous habit.  So, likewise, in the application of light and heat.  As the Chinese pride themselves on the shape of their miniature trees, they use strings, wires and pegs, and various other mechanical contrivances to promote symmetry of habit, or to fashion their pets into odd fancy figures.  Thus, by the use of very shallow pots, the growth of the taproots is out of the question; by the use of poor soil and little of it, and little water, any strong growth is prevented.  Then, too, the top and side roots being within easy reach of the gardener, are shortened by his pruning knife or seared with his hot iron.  So the little tree, finding itself headed on every side, gives up the idea of strong growth, asking only for life, and just growth enough to live and look well.  Accordingly, each new set of leaves becomes more and more stunted, the buds and rootlets are diminished in proportion, and at length a balance is established between every part of the tree, making it a dwarf in all respects.  In some kinds of trees this end is reached in three or four years; in others ten or fifteen years are necessary.  Such is fancy horticulture among the Celestials. -- The Technologist.


NOTES

1    Scientific American, New Series, Vol. 11, Issue 3, July 16, 1864, pg. 33.  Compare with 1862 article.  What other journals or newspapers was this story reproduced in?



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