With spring just around the corner, many people are thinking about getting out into their yards to perform some much needed yardwork. Others are ready to dig around in their flower gardens, planting and weeding, fertilizing and watering. Yet, one form of cultivation and "gardening" slips through the cracks, very unnoticed.
Bonsai is the art of planting, growing, shaping, and maintaining trees. Not just any old tree though…miniature trees. An ancient art of the Chinese or Japanese (there is some controversy as to where it truly originated), bonsai has been not just a pasttime, but a lifestyle, one of both honor and prestige. Bonsai dates back to several thousand years ago, as some trees even last hundreds of years. Because of this immense time span, the art of bonsai has taken on many shapes and forms, each person experimenting with different species of trees and different shapes. The ideology behind bonsai is to not only miniaturize the trees, but to preserve their natural shapes, in other words, to shape them in accordance with how they grow in nature…spontaneously. The bonsai enthusiast takes great pains to ensure that the tree looks as though it were plucked out of the wilderness.
There are many different styles of bonsai, each having some philosophical correlation, considering that Buddhist monks (whether Japanese or Chinese) began the art of bonsai. Trees can be grown individually, or in groups resembling a forest, which is actually how they were originally developed and grown thousands of years ago. One of the singular tree forms is called Fukinagashi, in which the tree looks windblown, with all of its branches pushed to one side, as if a terrific wind were howling through its boughs. Another style, called Hokidachi, resembles more of a western tree look, or in other words, a maple tree look. A singular trunk that tapers as it rises, and the crown of the tree shaped like a ball. Yet another style, sometimes called the cascading style, or Kengai, projects the trunk in a horizontal position, with all of the limbs dangling downwards, draping over the side of pot.