What is Bonsai?

          Bonsai is the art of developing and growing dwarf trees. The bonsai specimens are ordinary trees and not hereditary dwarfs. They are dwarfed by a system of pruning the roots and branches and training the branches by typing with wire. Any tree or shrub would be called a bonsai if grown in a suitable container and kept dwarf by special horticultural techniques.

          This art originated in China about 1000 years ago, but it was pursued and developed by the Japanese in the 12th century. In fact, bonsai is a Japanese word which means ‘tray planted’.

          The inspiration for bonsai, in fact, comes from the nature itself. The trees grown in rocky crevices of high mountains or overhung from the cliffs remain dwarfed throughout their lives.

          The potted trees selected from a nursery can be trained as bonsai by cutting them appropriately and wiring their branches to control their shape and growth. The bonsai must be repotted every one to five years, depending on the species and the extent of the root growth. The gradual and systematic pruning while transplanting in subsequent years, reduces the size of the soil ball. Finally the tree can be fitted into the desired container which should be small and shallow. It is watered as frequently as any other plant. The liquid fertilizer is used and the pruning and nipping of shoots is performed during the growing season.

          The containers in which bonsai are grown are as vital for such a growth as the tree itself. The bonsai pots are usually earthenware. They may be round, oval, square, rectangular, octagonal or lobed and have one or more drainage holes in the bottom.

          Miniature bonsai may raise upto two inches in height and requires three to five years to grow. Small bonsai, two to six inches in height, requires another five to ten years to attain full growth. The medium-sized ones, six to twelve inches in height, can be produced in three years.

          Bonsai may live for a century or more and be handed over from one generation to another as a valued family possession. In Japan it is a flourishing trade. There exists a bonsai industry of considerable size.