A few months ago I wrote a post on whether bonsai needed to grow in pots or could, in effect, be grown in your own garden beds. Puritanically speaking, growing them in pots does define them – and where their definition comes from.
On the same tangent, many gardeners stereotype bonsai into being all about miniaturising trees and flowering shrubs, like the gardenia, are rarely – if ever – given the opportunity to grow at clipped height. The closest we come to growing a gardenia bonsai is to plant them in a hedge and trim them for height purposes.
Yet shrubs like the gardenia lend themselves quite well to forming as a bonsai. Their leaves will remain short and stout when clipped while their flowers still offer their rambunctious fragrance – even in miniature. Gardenias also offer the gardener year-round foliage making them perfect for a bonsai pot.
The trick with growing a gardenia bonsai is to keep ahead of it’s growth speed. While many bonsai plants tend to have a seasonal growth spurt before producing blooms it can often seem like the gardenia continually forges ahead requiring extra maintenance throughout the year.
Unlike most bonsai, a gardenia will likely need its roots trimmed every year and its foliage pruned every few months until flowers begin to produce. Plus, if you’re more than a novice with gardenias in your garden beds you will have to resist pouring on the water and fertiliser – unless, of course, you’re happy to maintain a bonsai on a weekly schedule!
Growing a gardenia bonsai is very rewarding, not only for the shapes you can create with their twiggy branches but because you will also be rewarded with their fabulous scent every spring and summer.