The Art Of Bonsai

Twin trunk style bonsai (Acer buergerianum)
Maple and fern | Mendip Bonsai Studio

Bonsai trees provoke mixed responses, although well grown, they can be as beautiful as one of nature’s giants. This Trident maple (Acer buergerianum), grown in the twin trunk style, is around 120 years old. Its eggcup sized companion is some kind of fern. Techniques to keep plants so small include wiring them into shape, then pruning roots and branches while restricting them to very small containers.

It’s tempting to see them and feel torn. Is it unnatural? If so, is going against nature cruel?

Circular stand with bonsai trees
Bonsai trees in winter | Huntington Botanical Gardens

Bonsai practitioners view their extreme gardening as a traditional art form that extends the lifespan of the tree. Each of their plants has to be lavished with attention and kindness to keep it healthy.

Stand of Italian cypress bonsai trees with succulents
Italian cypress bonsai stand | Huntington Botanical Gardens

The odd time I’ve seen small stands of bonsai trees growing together, I’ve been amazed. These cypresses don’t look unhappy to me, although one does look like a member of the Household Guard adjusting their bearskin.

We can’t argue that nature is always kind to trees: the odds are stacked high against their potential offspring. A seed plucked from a tree and grown into a bonsai is more likely to live than seeds left to nature.

Most tree seeds are eaten, or fall on ground that is not hospitable. Those that germinate usually die from lack of water, nutrients or sunlight or the attention of deer and other creatures. Most seedlings that survive their first year come to grief well before they reach maturity. This might seem a bit harsh until we remember it is supposed to take millions of acorns on average to produce every mature oak.

I thought this subject would be a good way to introduce Becky’s October challenge, on the topic ‘Kind’.

[Becky is asking us to guess which of the men pictured in her post is her father. My (wild) guess is the third from the left on the middle row.]

34 Replies to “The Art Of Bonsai”

  1. I think bonsai is incredible and have never thought of it as kind or unkind. Just something impossible for me to ever achieve!

    What a thought provoking start to squares, I love it.

    1. Am sure I left a reply about Dad, I wonder if it’s hidden in spam? Anyway Dad was in front frow not middle, right at the end with the enormous quiff!

      1. You’ve probably had lots of people asking. I checked the spam but there’s nothing. It would have been a bit mean of them to put you in there on day one.

        1. Glad I wasn’t there, but slightly worried on day one I’m already imagining my replies. It usually takes until day 21 for me to do that ๐Ÿ˜…

  2. Interesting thoughts – and I love bonsais. The way they are created is fascinating, time consuming, skilled and – with Love.

  3. I don’t know much about bonsai and I am in awe of the maple. That circular presentation of the five bonsai plants with the marbled light behind it is absolutely elegant; though I’ve been to the Huntington, I don’t remember any of that. I guess I’ll just have to go back.

        1. I’d like to go there again too. I read recently that they were redesigning the cactus and succulent garden. I thought that part was truly amazing as it was.

          1. Really! I agree about how amazing that was. As I recall, that was the place I first saw “sky blue pink” in print; I’d always assumed that was something my Grandma Mauck made up. Yet another surprise in a garden!

  4. A very interesting post and you did a good job of making it relevant to the theme. The Hidden Lake Gardens south of where I live has a large collection of bonsai trees.

    1. That could become a life long challenge. I accidentally bonsaied a plant by leaving it in too small a pot for many years. When my sweetheart saw it he reproved me, and repotted it and now it’s a giant. I dare say that was not the same thing.

      1. I completely understand. There are so many trees I’d love to own, but simply don’t have the space for them. I have been considering getting into Bonsai for some time for this reason. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Nature is sometimes a lot like a bonsai gardener! I have a small stand of aspens in my yard that have not grown much in 20 years. They are all bent in one direction. I’m not sure if they are victims of the prevailing winds, or they are reaching out trying to catch a bit more sun!

    1. That’s a good point. One of my favourite (full sized) trees leans over. It is an area where they are planning to build some houses, but I am hoping against hope it will survive.

  6. Bonsai don’t do a lot for me, but I certainly recognise the work that goes into keeping them happy. Not my kind of thing though ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: