What is Bonsai?

            Bonsai is an art of developing and growing dwarf trees. The bonsai are ordinary trees but on their own they are not dwarfs. They are dwarfed by a system of pruning the roots and branches and restraining the branches by tying them with wires. Any tree or shrub can be made a bonsai if grown in a suitable container and kept dwarfed by special horticultural techniques. But there are certain plants which are more suited for bonsai like cedars, junipers and pines, or flowering ad fruit-bearing trees, such as azalea, cherry and plum, bamboo ad maple.

A Bonsai Tree

            Small-leafed and evergreen trees are very popular for making bonsai.

            Bonsai 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 nature itself. Trees growing in rocky areas of high mountains or overhung form the cliffs remain dwarfed throughout their lives.

            The potted plants, selected from a nursery can be made a bonsai by cutting them appropriately and wring their branches to control their shape and growth. The bonsai must be re-potted 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. Liquid fertilizer is used and the pruning and nipping of shoots is done 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 at the bottom.

            Miniature bonsai may rise up to two inches in height and require three to five years to grow. Small bonsai, two to six inches in height, require another five to ten ears 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 of more and be handed over from one generation to another as a valued family possession. In Japan, growing bonsai is a flourishing trade.