By D L Ennis
Bonsai. I know you have all heard of Bonsai, but what do you really know about it? Bonsai, in Japanese, is translated as to mean “plant and tray” or “tray planting”. A congruent merger of the pot and tree, a single entity complimented by texture, color and shape, this is Bonsai. More art than horticulture, all twigs and branches are manipulated or removed in favor of the look which forms this masterpiece of grace and beauty.
At one time there were a lot of myths, which followed bonsai; however, in recent years most of them have been dispelled. Facts are that if a bonsai is suitably cared for, -given sufficient sources of nutrients, air, light and water- it could and probably should out live a tree of the same species grown in nature. Another unjustified myth is that bonsai is cruel, that it harms the tree. The practice of bonsai is no more cruel, or harmful, than pruning your shrubs or trees in your own landscape.
Although most any small leafed plant can be used, in Japanese style bonsai, azalea, bamboo, camellia and various pines are some of the most favorable plants. No special hybrids or dwarf trees are required as commonplace plants, which might grow in the wild, are appropriate. You must remember that bonsai are the same plants that are grown outdoors and that they are not indoor plants, with the exception of plants that are suited and trained to grow indoors.
It is know that bonsai was being practiced in China over a thousand years ago and was called, pun-sai. Pun-sai trees had meager foliage and gnarled trunks resembling dragons, animals and birds. Many legends and myths are associated with, Chinese bonsai. The peoples of China with their thirst for imaginary creatures used their conjured, dragons and serpents, as models for their pun-sai as these images were more intriguing than an image of a tree.
Zen Buddhism brought bonsai to Japan during the Kamakura era from, 1187-1333 and was practiced by the Buddhist monks and their monasteries. In time, aristocrats were introduced to bonsai where it became a symbol of honor and prestige. Over the years, the philosophy of Japanese bonsai with its strong ancient beliefs, merged with the eastern philosophies of nature, man and soul, as one. Bonsai was seen as a decidedly refined form of art by the fourteenth century.