What Is A Bonsai
When you hear ‘bonsai’, the first image that comes to mind is a miniature tree. Aesthetic
miniaturization of trees that are grown in the containers is an art practiced by Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
For the Chinese, it is ‘penjing’, for the Korean ‘bunjae’, whereas for the Japanese, the term is ‘bonsai.’
The Chinese were the first to grow miniature-size trees in containers. They started doing so around 200 CE. This
is how herbal healers transported medicinal plants.
The practice spread to Japan during the Heian period. Landscape gardening was given importance during the
Tokugawa period. Maples and azalea were cultivated by the wealthy for a pastime activity.
The term used at that time was ‘hachi-no-ki’ which means “a tree in a pot.” Bonsai was used in the Meiji period
during the late 19th century.
There are various kinds of bonsai. These are the slant, formal upright, informal upright, raft, literati,
cascade, semi-cascade and the forest/group.
The slant style bonsai is like the straight trunk of any upright trees. The apex extends to the right or the
left of the base. The formal upright is similar to a straight and tapered trunk. This is as opposed to the informal
upright that has curves and bends with the apex usually found on top of the roots.
The raft bonsai is considered to be a phenomenon because it takes place after a tree is toppled from natural
force or erosion. The branches then expose the edge of the trunk. Roots grow from these buried portions. A literati
is when the trunk line is bare and there are minimum branches on a somehow contorted trunk.
Cascades are models of trees that grow on the side of the mountains and the water’s surface. The tip or the apex
of a cascade bonsai reaches underneath the lip of the pot. Finally, a forest or group bonsai is a group of trees
that grow altogether in a pot. These are usually of a similar species.
Bonsai are classed according to their sizes. There are styles and techniques associated to the shito and mame
bonsais. These are the bonsais that are grown in pots as small as thimbles.
The bonsai enthusiast must know that the smaller the size of the bonsai, the greater the care he must exert. The
miniature sized bonsai often requires special attention.
Bonsai is often found in the center of a garden when set alongside an urban or wild landscape. Bonsai collectors
put high value on the bonsai because of the plant’s ability to exhibit age as they mature.