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 shallow containers is an art practiced by the people of Japan, China and Korea. The art is now becoming more and more popular in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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, 794 to 1185 AD. Landscape gardening was given importance during the Tokugawa period 1603–1867 A.D.. 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.

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