There’s a lot to be said about an art form that has lasted thousands of years. The Chinese developed Penjing, but the Japanese took it to the next level. It took its roots in this country in the 1100s. The people perfected the techniques that evolved alongside Zen Buddhism. Meditation is central to this practice, making the bonsai tree a fitting addition.
It’s evident that growing bonsai trees is more than just container gardening. There are many traditions, aesthetic practices, and accepted styles associated with these plants. It even has its own set of specialized tools for trimming the trees. Its purpose is to recreate Nature in its purest form. The plant’s shape is a classic example of a tree in the wild.
The grower’s hand isn’t visible in its care. Nature is the steward. Creating this miniature tree becomes the focus of meditation and a connection with the land. Of course, even the meticulous maintenance is a form of mindfulness. Therein lies one of the many benefits of bonsai trees.
Bonsais Arrive in America
The art had already begun to spread globally, most notably with the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The popularity of bonsai trees in America took off after World War II, particularly on the West Coast. The beauty and serenity of the plants resonated with people and culminated in the formation of the California Bonsai Association.
Then, 1980 marked a milestone with the First World Bonsai Convention. Bonsai trees transcended their religious association to become part of the collective consciousness. Many organizations offer classes in this art form. You’ll also find outstanding collections available in botanical gardens across the country.
Caring for Bonzai Trees
Over 1,700 species are suitable for this craft. Even some houseplants, such as the Ficus Ginseng (Ficus microcarpa), lend themselves well to this care. Tradition calls for using a shallow, neutral container. It gives the focus to the plant and makes the tree seem larger because of its greater width. The exceptions are bonsai trees in the cascade style representing a mountain slope.
These plants thrive best in well-drained soils that strike the correct balance of moisture retention. Perlite and pumice make excellent choices instead of potting soil. Specialized tools allow you to shape and trim the tree to the desired form. Hobbyists often use copper wire for training the plant. It’s essential to prevent injury or scars.
Likewise, the bonsai tree shouldn’t resemble a perfectly trimmed hedge. Imperfection instead of symmetry is the norm. Remember that you’re creating a representation of a wild-growing tree in all its raw beauty. It should be evident that Nature is the artist, and she can fetch a high price for her work. The most expensive bonsai tree was a Juniper Bonsai, sold in 1981 for $2 million.
Growing bonsai trees is a rewarding hobby. It encourages mindfulness, and can help provide welcome relief from the stress of everyday life. Like gardening, it is a craft that you must spend time learning and observing. It’s an excellent way to bring the outdoors into your home to keep Nature close at hand.