Bonsai refers to miniature trees grown in containers (“bon”, means container and “sai” means planting). Growing trees to size much smaller than normal is a Japanese, as well Chinese and Vietnamese tradition. The three cultures having their own terminology. It is a practice that focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. Bonsai trees can be miniature at 3 cm as well as relatively large at 200 cm, with an interesting Japanese size classification i.e. eight-handed (largest bonsai) through 6-handed, 4-handed, 2-handed, 1-handed, palm, fingertip, and poppy seed (smallest).
Not all but woody trees and perennial shrubs are suited to bonsai, especially those with small leaves or needles. Besides, the subject has to meet the aesthetic standards. Crown and root pruning are the essentials of creating bonsai, while growth is restricted by the pot environment. Throughout the year, the miniature tree is shaped to limit growth meet the artist’s detailed design, and is completely independent of even to date. Rather it depends on the art of keeping the tree small by different manipulations that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees. So does miniaturizing trees have an impact on their lifespan? Perhaps not considering trees dating back to the 17th century have survived to the present and wonderfully too.
The practice of planting trees in containers goes back to the 6th century although one of the oldest-known living bonsai trees is Pinus pentaphylla (a 5-needle pine) is thought to be at least 500 years old and reported as early the 17th century. By the end of the 18th century, miniature tree cultivation was quite widespread and had begun to interest the public. Special tools for such a practice were developed in the early to mid-20th century and following World War II, the Japanese tradition of growing miniaturized, mature trees became increasingly accessible to Western and world audiences including hands-on training. Japanese teachers also travelled widely to impart training on the global level. All this gradually led to Bonsai conventions that are held every 4 years at different locations.
The phenomenon of growing miniature versions of trees has now definitively reached a world-wide audience. There are over twelve hundred books on the subject and the related arts, in at least twenty-six languages, available in over ninety countries and territories. Magazines in over thirteen languages and newsletters are available on-line besides educational videos. Plant material from every location is being trained into a miniature version and displayed at local, regional, national, and international conventions and exhibitions for enthusiasts and the general public.
Cultivation and care of miniature trees requires techniques and tools that are specialized to support the growth and long-term maintenance of trees in small containers. Seeds are rarely used to obtain source material. The source plant is often mature or partially grown when the creator begins work. It includes cuttings and nursery stock. A number of techniques are used to create miniature trees including i) lea trimming, ii) pruning of trunk, branches and roots, iii) wiring, iv) bud grafting onto the trunk, and v) defoliation etc. Maintaining the long-term health of a tree in a container requires some specialized care techniques including optimum watering and nutrient application, regular change of pot, and placement under appropriate environmental conditions.
Sense of aesthetics and artistic touch is very important. Most practitioners follow the aesthetic principles laid out by Japanese tradition. These include i) keeping the tree small enough to be container-grown while giving the look of a mature tree, ii) keeping the proportions as natural as possible, iii) avoiding artificial symmetry, iv) maintaining natural look without exhibiting the artist’s touch.
In Islamabad, Pakistan, one can see a variety of miniature trees in nurseries located in Sector H-9. Pakistan Bonsai Society is also in existence, while Bonsai Exhibition was organized at Defence Housing Society in 2015. Thus there seems to be a good scope of expanding the activity for interior decoration as well as for fun. With miniature versions of trees, one gets the feeling of carrying an entire tree in one hand.You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for more updates. Otherwise fill in the subscription box above, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.