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How to grow, sculpt and trim Bonsai Trees
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GROWING, TRIMMING, SCULPTING AND PRUNING
This quote couldn’t be truer. Growing and sculpting bonsai trees can be quite a satisfying hobby. It is a hobby; however, that requires a tremendous amount of patience.
When you take a simple sapling and mold it to your desire, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful piece of art you can truly be proud of!
The term bonsai literally means plant in a pot or tray planting. Bonsai however is much more than simply a plant in a pot. The goal of bonsai is to create the appearance of great size and age. This is accomplished by creating a bonsai with strong roots that extend in all directions, creating a sense of stability, a large trunk which tapers as it goes upward, a clear apex, and well formed and well placed branches. These features all combine to create a careful blend of symmetry, balance and proportion. It also must be displayed in a pot which harmonizes well with the plant material.
Bonsai is the art of growing trees in a confined space to simulate certain environmental conditions such as great age, extreme weathering, twisted or contorted form, landscape, or other factors. Bonsai trees are modeled on and take inspiration from nature. The idea of bonsai is to recreate some of nature's most stunning and beautiful effects on trees which are reduced in scale.
When undertaking bonsai, you are beginning an experience that will expand your horizons in countless ways.
You may find a new sense of appreciation for nature; you may start looking at trees, bushes and shrubs differently. You will certainly find yourself looking around all the "worst parts" of your local nurseries where they keep the plants that most people wouldn't look twice at. How the art of bonsai will change you is as unpredictable as nature itself, but be assured of one thing: Bonsai will change the way that you look at things.
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.
The tree and the pot involved with bonsai form a single harmonious unit where the shape, texture and color of one, compliments the other. Then the tree must be shaped. It is not enough just to plant a tree in a pot and allow nature to take its course - the result would look nothing like a tree and would look very short-lived. Every branch and twig of a bonsai is shaped or eliminated until the chosen image is achieved. From then on, the image is maintained and improved by a constant regime of pruning and trimming.
Bonsai is the art of dwarfing trees or plants and developing them into an aesthetically appealing shape by growing, pruning and training the trees into containers according to prescribed techniques.
Overall, bonsai is a great interest, hobby or even profession to undertake. Although famous theologians have claimed that it is actually 90% art to a meager 10% of horticulture, it has to be said that a successful bonsai is most definitely a horticultural masterpiece.
Once arriving in the Western world, this enjoyable and rewarding pastime has never turned back, and has gained a magnificently diverse range of plant material and techniques.
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 is an artistic representation of a natural tree. It is an image, an illusion of nature. It is smoke and mirrors that defies the senses. The best bonsai are magicians' tricks that have fooled the eye into seeing a far off place in the distant past, or the side of a craggy cliff. We all have to strive to be the magician."
In this book, we will introduce you to bonsai techniques and how to grow your own bonsai masterpieces. The beauty of bonsai is that there is no definitive “right way” to do it.
We can offer up tips and tricks to craft your own bonsai, but how. Enter into the world of bonsai and gain a new insight into life!
The history of bonsai is long and storied. Bonsai first appeared in China over a thousand years ago on a very basic scale, known as pun-sai. Pun-sai was the practice of growing single specimen trees in pots. These early specimens displayed little foliage and rugged, gnarled trunks which often looked like animals, dragons and birds. There
are a great number of myths and legends surrounding Chinese bonsai. The grotesque or animal-like trunks and root formations are still highly prized today.
With Japan's adoption of many cultural trademarks of China - bonsai was also taken up, introduced to Japan during the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333) by means of Zen Buddhism - which at this time was rapidly spreading around Asia. The exact time is debatable, although it is possible that it had arrived in AD 1195 as there appears to be a reference to it in a Japanese scroll attributed to that period.
Once bonsai was introduced into Japan, the art was refined to an extent not yet approached in China. Over time, the simple trees were not just confined to the Buddhist monks and their monasteries, but also later were introduced to be representative of the aristocracy - a symbol of prestige and honor. The ideals and philosophy of bonsai were greatly changed over the years. For the Japanese, bonsai represents a fusion of strong ancient beliefs with the Eastern philosophies of the harmony between man, the soul and nature.
In an ancient Japanese scroll written in Japan around the Kamakura period, it is translated to say: "To appreciate and find pleasure in curiously curved potted trees is to love deformity".
Whether this was intended as a positive or negative statement, it leaves us to believe that growing dwarfed and twisted trees in containers was an accepted practice among the upper class of Japan by the Kamakura period. By the fourteenth century bonsai was indeed viewed as a highly refined art form, meaning that it must have been an established practice many years before that time.
Bonsai were brought indoors for display at special times by the 'Japanese elite' and became an important part of Japanese life by being displayed on specially designed
shelves. These complex plants were no longer permanently reserved for outdoor display, although the practices of training and pruning did not develop until later - the small trees at this time still being taken from the wild.
In the 17th and 18th century, the Japanese arts reached their peak and were regarded very highly. Bonsai again evolved to a much higher understanding and refinement of nature - although the containers used seemed to be slightly deeper than those used today. The main factor in maintaining bonsai was now the removal of all but the most important parts of the plant. The reduction of everything just to the essential elements and ultimate refinement was very symbolic of the Japanese philosophy of this time.
At around this time, bonsai also became commonplace to the general Japanese public - which greatly increased demand for the small trees collected from the wild and firmly established the art form within the culture and traditions of the country.
Over time, bonsai began to take on different styles, each which varied immensely from one another. Bonsai artists gradually looked into introducing other culturally important elements in their bonsai plantings such as rocks, accent plants, and even small buildings and people which is known as the art of bon-kei. They also looked at reproducing miniature landscapes in nature - known as sai-kei which further investigated the diverse range of artistic possibilities for bonsai.
Finally, in the mid-19th century, after more than 230 years of global isolation, Japan opened itself up to the rest of the world. Word soon spread from travelers who visited Japan of the miniature trees in ceramic containers which mimicked aged, mature, tall trees in nature. Further exhibitions in London, Vienna and Paris in the latter part of
the century - especially the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 opened the world's eyes up to bonsai.
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