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Ginkgo biloba
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general | styling | pruning | repotting | Ginkgo chichi bonsai | gallery Ginkgo bonsai photos | bonsai links | reactions from readers and videos


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Ginkgo bonsai (photo HeMeng)
Ginkgo bonsai
Ginkgo bonsai (photo HeMeng)
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Xi'an, China (photo Marc Bautry)
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The Ginkgo biloba tree can also be grown as a bonsai.
You can buy a Ginkgo bonsai or grow one from seed or start with a seedling of 2-3 years old.

It is an outside bonsai and prefers full sun, but in very sunny areas part shadow is better. Young trees need some shelter in midsummer. Give plenty of water during the growing season.
Protect well against frost, for the Ginkgo is very sensitive for it in shallow pots because of the fleshy roots with moistury content that might burst open with frost. Therefore keep it fairly dry in winter. 
A bonsai needs to be more fertilized than a normal sized tree. Fertilize plentiful with organic manure: spring-October twice per month. 
A female branch may be grafted on the tree to get seeds earlier than normal. 

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Styling
Its natural shape is a good style. The large leaves and rather stiff, thick branches make it suitable for medium to large size growth. Also a broomlike style with an oval and towards the top even pointed shape (like a candle flame) or the Chokkan- or Moyo-Gi-style can be applied.

It does not need (much) wiring. Just prune the branches which are too long so that its form keeps  in balance.
The bark is delicate, so be careful; if you apply wire do it lightly and use aluminium wire.
Protect the bark with raffia and check regularly.
 

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Pruning
Pruning scars do not heal, so avoid making large scars. In spring and October the cluster leaves should be reduced to 2-3 leaves with the topmost leaf on the outside. Prune new branches back to 2-3 buds while the tree is young. You may top it regularly. 

Repotting
Young trees (up to about 10 years) need to be repotted every year in early spring just before the leaves appear. Older trees may be repotted every 2-3 years or only when necessary. Use basic soil mix that is well-drained, add 10% coarse sand and some grid. Do not prune the roots too much in the beginning.
 
 
 

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Ginkgo chichi bonsai
 

aerial chichi (photo Hiroshi Takahashi)In Japan many of the Ginkgos of over 100 years old or older produce aerial chichi. In Japan they are called “chichi icho" = chichi Ginkgo (chichi means nipple or breast), in China "zhong-ru" (meaning stalactite). Such trees can provide propagation material to grow a Ginkgo chichi bonsai. Female trees with large aerial chichi usually get no seeds.chichi (photo Cor Kwant)

Air-layering of relatively large branches from a chichi Ginkgo is the best method to get a chichi bonsai. This will result in a large plant within 3 years. Grafted or rooted plants take many years to form aerial chichi.

Girdling the trunk of a Ginkgo seedling with wire or bark ringing stimulates the forming of a chichi-like structure above the girdle.

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In China using aerial chichi for propagation has a long tradition. In places like Chengdu, Sichuan Province, the Taoist priests cut down these stalactite-like branches from the bases and planted them in pots. Eventually they grew into miniature plants (penjing) as commercial ornamentals. This practice has been carried on for generations.

An old Chinese legend:

It is said that when Emperor Kao Tsung moved from Kaifeng in the north to Nanking and Hangchow in the south in 1127, the imperial cavalcade crossed the Yangtze River into southern Kiangsu. Coming to a town called Chen I, near the city Kunshan between Soochow and Shanghai, an official named Kung I, a native of the northern capital Kaifeng, picked a branch of a Ginkgo, stuck it into the ground and prayed that if the branch lived, he would settle there. 
The branch later developed into a huge tree and in later years the trunk became gnarled and twisted and adorned with many hanging ‘nipples’ as in other venerable trees of the same kind.

. The great penjing master, Hu Yunhua, published a photo of a ‘stalactite’ Ginkgo penjing in 1987, titled ‘Single Peak Piercing the Clouds’ to which he added:Ginkgo stalactite bonsai depicted on a stamp of the People's Republic of China 1981

'This penjing created by an artist of the Sichuan School displays a highly unusual shape. The trunk resembles stalactite, a mineral formed through limestone corrosion. No human effort could possibly sculpture this kind of bole. 
In nature, Ginkgo trees of several hundred or even over a thousand years of age frequently develop a host of stalactite-shaped substances which suspend from the trunk. If these are removed in winter and planted upside down, an incredible thing will happen – foliage will sprout off the ‘stalactite’. The branches can later be wired. 
A penjing of unique style, known as ‘Stalactite Trunk’ or ‘Bamboo Shoot Ginkgo’ will result.'

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Basal chichi forming is stimulated by conditions of continuous stress over a long period of time. Examples can be found on the Sumter plantation in South Carolina where about 10 million Ginkgo trees are cultivated for the leaf production. Trees of about 5 years old are cut back to near ground level and many are pushed over and partially uprooted by the harvesting equipment. In this way you may create multitrunked Ginkgo bonsai that mimic the form of trees growing naturally on steep, eroding mountain slopes. With proper training such “basal chichi” bonsai can develop into a “forest” of stems, like a group planting of seedlings but with a more rugged, individualistic appearance.

* More about Ginkgo chichi bonsai in: Del Tredici P, Ginkgo chichi in nature, legend & cultivation, International Bonsai - 25, no.4, 1993.

About chichi you can read more on my Tree-page.

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Ginkgo bonsai
Gallery Ginkgo Bonsai photos
Click on the picture to see a larger image.
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Bonsai Arboretum
Biot, France
Cor Kwant

Bonsai Arboretum
Biot, France
Cor Kwant

Bonsai Arboretum
Biot, France
Cor Kwant

Shohin
Higuchi Takeshi 

Shohin
Higuchi Takeshi

Bonsai Arboretum
Biot, France
Cor Kwant

Bonsai Arboretum
Biot, France
Cor Kwant

fall colour
 Chris Guise

Atsuko Kato

Atsuko Kato

Xi'an, China
Marc Bautry

Xi'an, China
 Marc Bautry

Hortus VU Amsterdam
Cor Kwant

Eric Cuijpers

Bot. garden, Montreal
Liviu Craciun

Huntington Bot. 
gardens, Pasadena, CA
Colin Swales

Huntington Bot. 
gardens, Pasadena, CA
Colin Swales

China
HeMeng

China
HeMeng

Stamp People's Republic 
of China 1981

Redwood Empire 
Bonsai Society TreeBay.com

Golden State Bonsai Federation
TreeBay.com

Ginkgo 'Tubifolia'
Nigel Kent 

Ginkgo forest
Nigel Kent 

Han kengai
Tengu

Chokkan
Paul of the Tree Amigos

Thomas J.

John Quinn

Wolfgang Putz

Mark Fields

 Parc Oriental, Maulévrier
France
Cor Kwant

Daan Giphart

David Yedwab
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Gary Swiech
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Paul Wolters

Museo del Bonsai, Marbella
Spain
Cor Kwant

Museo del Bonsai, Marbella
Spain
Cor Kwant
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Kyoto Botanical garden
Japan
Sando Tomoki

Dan Barton

Mike Page

China
HeMeng

China
HeMeng
Wagashi art: Ginkgo bonsai
Wagashi art: Ginkgo 'bonsai'
Japan 2007

Penjing (dwarf) Ginkgo trees
Qingxi garden, Sichuan
China
James Wilkins

Please email me your Ginkgo bonsai information!!

Bonsai links
 
Chikanobu 1896
Bonsai Guide Book In Japan
Search the Bonsai archives of L-Soft.com
Helpful Gardener Bonsai Forum
Bonsai Clubs International
Bonsai in Asia Guide Book: All about bonsai in Asia
The Bonsai Primer: Ginkgo
Bonsai On The Web
Tengu's Bonsai Website
Bonsai - Webseite von Putz Wolfgang
Bonsaisites.com: many Bonsai links
Bonsaimania
Vivero Bonsai-Wu
Bonsai
The Art of Bonsai project
GardenWeb: bonsai forum

Ginkgo bonsai (photo Cor Kwant)

Reactions from readers and videos
Ginkgo bonsai do well with leaf trimming.  Here in Washington State, USA I leaf trim anytime from last week of May to first week of June (usually June).  Leaf trimming causes a new set of smaller leaves to grow. Leaf trim every leaf on the tree. Cut the leaf stem half way between the base of the leaf and stem attachment. Leave the half stem on the tree. It will dry and fall off. - Tom Phelan

Video
Ginkgo bonsai nursery in China
This video shows a bonsai nursery in China that grows Ginkgo bonsai trees.
You can see stunning examples of Ginkgo trees. Also a demonstration of pruning, grafting and more.

Ginkgo bonsai nursery in China

Ginkgo bonsai nursery in China

Ginkgo bonsai nursery in China

Ginkgo bonsai nursery in China


 
Jinjiang Bonsai garden (photo: James Wilkins)
Dwarf (Penjing) Ginkgo, China
Ginkgo penjing
 

 
 
 
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