The Bonsai Diary
bone-sigh) is an ancient oriental
horticultural art form. The word Bonsai literally
means, in both Chinese and in the Japanese language, tree-in- a-pot.
Originally developed in the
Orient almost 2000 years ago, today the sublime art of bonsai is practiced throughout the world.
Shape-harmony-proportion-scale are all weighed carefully as art, and the human hand combines this
in a common cause with nature. The idea of
bonsai is to recreate some of nature's most stunning and beautiful
effects on trees which are reduced in scale.
The main definition of bonsai as an outlet for both art and
horticulture is quite wide. There are many myths which are
associated with bonsai. These not only provide confusion for budding
enthusiasts, but gives the pastime a bad name for anyone not majorly
experienced in the area. A bonsai is not a genetically dwarfed plant
and is not kept small by cruelty in any way. In fact, given an
adequate supply of water, air, light and nutrients, a properly
maintained bonsai should outlive a full size tree of the same
species. The techniques of Bonsai are no more cruel than that of any
other horticultural endeavour. It is also common belief that bonsai
are only a few centimetres tall. This is untrue, although bonsai are
small in comparison to their huge life-sized brothers, most are over
25 centimetres tall and up to 1 metre in height.
To the Japanese, there is a link to many of the ideals that their
society is based on. Zen Buddhism - where the pastime originated,
man, nature, elements and change all are intertwined into this
unique method of meditation and expression. To our world now, bonsai
is viewed as a hobby that allows a greater understanding and being
with nature and also a way to enhance our gardens.
Bonsai can be developed from seeds or cuttings, from young trees or
from naturally occurring stunted trees transplanted into containers.
Most bonsai range in height from 5 centimetres (2 in) to 1 metre
(3.33 ft). Bonsai are kept small and trained by pruning branches and
roots, by periodic repotting, by pinching off new growth, and by
wiring the branches and trunk so that they grow into the desired
The bonsai with its container and soil, physically independent of
the earth since its roots are not planted in it, is a separate
entity, complete in itself, yet part of nature. This is what is
meant by the expression "heaven and earth in one container". A
bonsai tree should always be positioned off-center in its container,
for not only is asymmetry vital to the visual effect, but the center
point is symbolically where heaven and earth meet, and nothing
should occupy this place. Another aesthetic principle is the
triangular pattern necessary for visual balance and for expression
of the relationship shared by a universal principle (life-giving
energy or deity), the artist and the tree itself. Tradition holds
that three basic virtues are necessary to create a bonsai:
shin-zen-bi standing for truth, goodness and beauty.
Given proper care, bonsai can live for hundreds of years, with
prized specimens being passed from generation to generation, admired
for their age, and revered as a reminder of those who have cared for
them over the centuries. Although these bonsai are extremely
beautiful - meticulously cared for over the years and containing
such a wealth of knowledge, age is not essential. It is more
important that the tree produce the artistic effect desired, that it
be in proper proportion to the appropriate container, and that it be
in good health.
Bonsai are ordinary trees or plants, not special hybrid dwarfs.
Small leafed varieties are most suitable, but essentially any plant
can be used, regardless of the size it grows to in the wild. In
Japan, varieties of pine, azalea, camellia, bamboo and plum are most
often used. The artist never duplicates nature but rather expresses
a personal aesthetic philosophy by manipulating it. The bonsai may
suggest many things, but in all cases must look natural and never
show the intervention of human hands (with the exception of Chinese
bonsai which in many cases depicts images of dragons and other
influential symbols of the culture at the time of origination).
Grown in special containers, bonsai are primarily kept outdoors
(with the exception of some plants suited, trained and grown
indoors), although they are often displayed on special occasions in
the tokonoma, the alcove in the traditional Japanese rooms designed
for the display of artistic objects or on a polished stand.
Overall, bonsai are something that are quite personalised and there
are no strict rules to abide by if you undertake it merely as a
hobby which to gain enjoyment out of. It does not have to be an
expensive commitment, but it is a commitment that requires a great
amount of time, patience, skill and endurance. Although things may
not go to plan, don't give up. Remember that the Japanese bonsai
masters were once beginners too and they have surely had their share
of trial and error.
This page is no more than a collection of local articles, pictures, and other sites, consolidated in one area for my purposes.
General Bonsai Articles
Fungus and Fertilizer
There's a Fungus Among'us
History of Bonsai
Night Blooming Cyrus Information
General Spring Care
General Summer Care
General Fall Care
General Winter Care