A bonsai forest is a carefully layered and aesthetically designed group of miniaturized trees, or bonsai, planted within a container to give the appearance of a forest. The focus of a bonsai forest, as opposed to a single bonsai, is on the arrangement as a whole, rather than the style of an individual tree. This may be achieved by varying the height of each plant to reflect the various ages of the trees in a forest or by employing different techniques to give the plants a different style, such as deadwood, live trees, or others. Cultivators of bonsai gardens tend to use the same species of trees in the same pot, although some do create mixed forests.
Preparation for planting a bonsai forest involves first drawing out the general outline of the forest. This is usually a time-consuming process during which the cultivator must not only think about how the trees should appear in the present, but also how they will grow into their positions in the future. The trees are usually arranged to create perspective, sometimes by planting larger trees in front of smaller ones to generate the illusion of a forest fading away into the distance. Then, the gardener must decide on the number of trees to use, though it is traditionally an odd number, and the types of accessories to provide, such as rocks or water. Once the trees are planted, they must be secured to their position to prevent displacing the forest. This can be done using wires that hold the roots of the trees to the bottom of the pot.
Caring for a bonsai forest is similar to caring for a single bonsai plant. Careful watering, fertilization, and appropriate sunlight are the minimal requirements. Watch for new growth, as it is a sign that the trees are doing well. Pruning is required to maintain the overall appearance, and the entire bonsai forest should be transplanted regularly: every two years when it is young, and every three to five years as it ages. At that point, the roots will have grown together and the entire arrangement should be treated as a single plant.
A bonsai forest is a great addition to any home and a natural step for every bonsai enthusiast. It brings about a whole new level of complexity and interest to the art of bonsai.