What Is Bonsai ?
Bonsai is a miniature, container-grown tree that generally adheres to Japanese principles. Each Bonsai Tree is an art that is ever-growing and constantly changing, it is an art that is never complete. The term “Bonsai” literally means, “planted in a container” in Japanese. Bonsai is a tradition and an exquisite, ancient, horticultural form of art dating back thousands of years in China and Japan. Bonsai trees, like beautiful paintings, give the grower a sense of effort and satisfaction, while giving the viewer a mode of contemplation.
Where did I learn about Bonsai?
I chanced upon Bonsai, at a masterclass held in Bangalore, India, by ‘You,me and Bonsai’ who invited Bonsai Master T.B Govindraj to conduct it, as an initiative to spread practical knowledge about Bonsai, and clear a lot of Bonsai related fallacies.
What misconceptions did I have that ‘You Me and Bonsai’ Helped clarify?
- I used to think that Bonsai trees are genetically modified into their miniature sizes – I was wrong! My Bonsai Master explained to us that I was confused with ‘dwarfing’ plants which required genetic engineering. Bonsai, on the other hand, was the application of skilled techniques like root reduction, pruning, wiring, and grafting to produce miniature trees that mimic mature ones
- I always thought that Bonsai trees were indoor plants – I learned that most Bonsai plants aren’t indoor plants, and must be placed in an area with adequate sunlight and exposure to all the four seasons. However, there are a few trees like the Ficus that withstand, and can be grown indoors.
- I inferred that Bonsai trees must have started off as Bonsai seeds – I was surprised to find that there is no such thing as Bonsai seeds! Any perennial, woody-stemmed tree or shrub can be converted into a Bonsai, by cutting through its tap root, and following Bonsai techniques of pruning, wiring and potting.
- I was ignorant about the various styles of Bonsai – At the workshop that You Me and Bonsai set up, I learned that Bonsai trees can be styled in different ways as per the grower’s requirement. The various styles are formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascade, semicascade, weeping,broom and raft styles.
- I assumed that Bonsai fruits are miniature versions of normal fruits and can’t be consumed – I was wrong again! Since Bonsai trees aren’t genetically engineered to be dwarfs, the fruits are of normal size! They look, feel and taste exactly as a normal fruit would!
- I thought that my only requirement would be a pot, a watering can and a plant – I was surprised when our instructor took out a whole bag of tools, when it was time to create our own Bonsai. Evidently, we needed an assortment of tools such as knob and wire cutters, Pruning shears, Branch cutters, A miniature rake, and a poker to create our masterpiece.
- It seemed obvious to me that once my Bonsai was re-potted, my work would be done – Needless to say, it wasn’t that way. I learned that the lifespan of a Bonsai tree is similar to that of its counterpart in nature! Which could even be more than 100 years! Since the tree is in a pot, it would require patience, time and a lot of TLC such as good Bonsai soil, root pruning, regular plant pruning, good sunlight and aeration, without which it would take no time for your Bonsai to die!
- I was unaware that Bonsai trees are living heirlooms! – With proper care, a bonsai tree can live for hundreds of years, and so for many families in Asia, they are symbols of life. Bonsai trees are a prized family treasure and can be passed down through many generations.
Would I head back for another workshop?
I undoubtedly would! I’m quite happy to say that I’m tending to three Bonsai Plants now, one of which I curated at the workshop, the second which belongs to my baby brother(Yes, he’s a plant lover !), and the third, was a special, thoughtful gift. As much as I read up and keep myself updated, there’s always something new that the trees teach me, perhaps my next workshop would help me understand them better!
Special Thanks to Vivek And Krithika from You Me and Bonsai, for letting me photograph their personal Bonsai Garden, and sending me pictures when I realized photography wasn’t my niche.