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Bonsai – the growing of trees in miniature is an age old art-form that is a pleasure to behold. On just one table can be seen small windswept pines, lonely oaks in valley basins, droopy branched trees overhanging cliffs and ripe, ready to be picked plum trees. But just how are Bonsai created? And how did it all get started?
Although modern chemical techniques can be used, many still prefer to use the natural method of reducing the size of a tree. Bonsai can be cultivated from seeds or cutlings. In the case of seeds it is preferred to use them from naturally smaller trees, planted in soil mixed with half sand. After four to eight months they germinate and are left to grow in the normal way. Cuttings are planted like those of any other tree. The miniaturizing begins after about nine months of growing outside.
The side roots are cut out with a spade, at about six to eight inches from the trunk. At eighteen months the side roots are cut again. This procedure is repeated at 24, 32 and 36 months. Then the tree is planted in a shallow flowerpot. The taproot is now cut, stopping all means of future growth.
The shape if the container is carefully selected to blend in with the theme of the scene envisioned and the type of tree being cultivated. Containers are usually of earthenware. It will be lined with a metal net to prevent the earth from sticking to it’s sides. The tree remains in it’s original container for two or three years, after which it is replaced to prevent the roots from rotting. Then the twigs are pruned with scissors, and the branches are bent by wire to achieve the desired look. At regular periods, the tree is lifted out of the pot for cropping of the roots. Bonsai thrive in fresh air and so, unless in cold weather, can be left outside. They shouldn’t be left indoors for more than a week.
So, how did Bonsai come about? The credit is attributed to a Twelfth Century Japanese Temple owner by the name of Honen Shonin. He wanted small trees to decorate his small Bodo Temple. It is not known, however, whether he originated or merely copied the dwarfing technique. In the Seventeenth Century the Dutch introduced Bonsai to the western world.
The word Bonsai means ‘shallow pot cultivation.’ Some bonsai are very old, with one in Osaka reputed to be over 600 years of age. This delicate, loving art-form has, therefore, thrilled young and old for a long time. If you haven’t already seen this wonder of nature in miniature for yourself, why not seek it out? You won’t be disappointed.