Bonsai are miniature trees grown in pots. The aim of
bonsai culture is to
develop a tiny tree that has all the elements of a large tree growing in
a natural setting. This look is achieved, principally, by branch and root
pruning and shaping, but other factors are also important. The texture of
the trunk, its look of age, the moss and the underplantings in the container
-- all contribute to the illusion of a miniature tree as it is seen in nature.
A presentable bonsai can be created in a few seasons. Cultivating these
miniature potted trees is both an intriguing hobby, and a means of adapting
a wide range of plants to specialized and decorative uses. Bonsai require
daily watering during their growing season, and, because the plants are
rooted in shallow pots, careful pruning.
Bonsai are kept outdoors most of the year, but -- from time to time -- these
miniaturized versions of nature are brought indoors for display. Only certain
tropical trees, shrubs, and vines can be continually kept indoors full time
Bonsai, as an art form, stems from ancient oriental culture. It originated
in China and was developed by the Japanese. In the 13th century, the Japanese
collected and potted wild trees that had been dwarfed by nature. These naturally
formed miniatures were the first bonsai.
When demand for the small trees outstripped the supply, Japanese gardeners
began to train bonsai from native trees. They shaped the trees to give them
the illusion of age and naturalness. Over the years, the Japanese devised
standards of shape and form which gradually began the classic bonsai styles.
American bonsai are much freer in concept and style than Japanese bonsai.
American bonsai growers have recognized that the horticultural and aesthetic
rules are important, but are specifically aimed at Japanese culture. Because
of this, Americans have taken oriental styles and applied them to plants
never grown by the Japanese. Therefore, the rigid procedures and names used
by the Japanese are not used in this bulletin.