#946 Bonsai trees

One thing that always makes me smile though so far in my life I have not had the patience to successfully pull it off is bonsai trees. Every time I see bonsai trees I am in awe of their beauty and the amount of patience it must take to create such a thing.

bonsai tree

Remember in Karate Kid when Mr. Myagi was teaching Daniel about trimming a bonsai tree, telling him to picture the tree in his mind?
Mr. Myagi: “Trust the picture.”
Daniel: “How do I know if my picture is the right one?”
Mr. Myagi: “If it comes from inside you, always right one.”

Bonsais are a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ. The art of bonsai as we know it, traces back almost 2000 yrs.

These trees are sort of the opposite of the Sequoia Trees although like the Sequoia and the Joshua Tree, this little fella has been around a long time. Well, actually the art form has as you can use almost any type of tree or plant but more on that later.

The word ‘bonsai’ is made up of 2 Japanese characters or word phrases, “bon” & “sai.” “Bon” is the pot, tray or container; the “sai” is the tree or potted planting. The original word comes from the Chinese word “P’en Tsai” which sounds similar and has nearly the same meaning.

bonsai tree snow

The definition of the term “bonsai” is a plant, usually a tree or shrub, that is grown in a container and made to look like a mature tree even though it is rather small. This is accomplished through the use of various training techniques. The plant usually does not exceed one meter in height and often is much smaller.

There are many different techniques used to form your mini tree. These techniques include leaf trimming, pruning, wiring branches and trunks, clamping, grafting, and defoliation.

The key to maintaining a healthy plant is in being able to control the degree of stress that a plant will take and still remain healthy. Maintaining the long-term health of a tree in a container requires some specialized care techniques because you will actually be manipulating the tree into doing something Mother Nature did not intend it to do.

History of Bonsai

bonsai tree on rock

While most people think it all began in Japan, according to Bonsai Boy it actually originated first in China and then spread eastward to Korea and then on to Japan. The art of bonsai was spread by Buddhist monks who wished to bring the “outdoors” inside their temples. Who could blame them right? Many scholars feel that bonsai were being grown in China as far back as 1,000 BC. yet bonsai first appeared in Japan during the 12th century.

Since bonsai literally means “tree in a tray” the tree and container must form a single entity. Even to this day the most desired containers for the finest Japanese bonsai are often antique Chinese containers.

Maybe in the near future I will try to grow and shape a tiny tree for myself. It could be fun to see if I can ‘trust the picture’. It would be amazing to have a bunch of bonsai trees bordering a lazy river or koi pond.

If you would like to try for yourself check out American Bonsai Society for a lot of good information. In the mean time I will enjoy the work and creativity others have giving to the art and I am sure that will make me smile.

Have you ever tried to grow and condition a bonsai tree? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

10 Replies to “#946 Bonsai trees”

  1. Thank you very much for the information on Bonsai trees. I remember watching Karate Kid and getting to know what they are when younger.

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