Bonsai is a Japanese word that came from the Chinese words “pun sai”, which means ‘tree in a pot’. It can also be a shrub or a vine and not just trees. Many people mistakenly think that a bonsai tree is a naturally small plant or some kind of a special plant when in fact a bonsai tree is an average tree or plant that has been trained to retain its small size. They still go through the same stages of growth each season. A bonsai tree bears flowers or fruits and shed leaves just like its normal-sized counterpart.
Another common misconception about bonsai tree is that it originated in Japan. The growing of a bonsai was a Chinese practice that was brought to Japan some 5 centuries ago where it was transformed as an art form. The West came to know of it only in the early 1900s and since then, it became not only a favorite hobby by many but was also considered a serious art form in horticulture. Today, bonsai tree exhibits and shows, bonsai stores, bonsai auctions all abound in the West.
An important concept that every beginner should understand in cultivating a bonsai tree is pruning, which is the technique that allows the tree to stay small. Without regular pruning, the tree will by all means grow to its normal height and size, doing away with the whole idea of a bonsai tree.
The roots of a bonsai tree must be pruned annually so that it will remain healthy. When the roots are pruned, it produces a tiny dense ball or pack of root that allows it to be transplanted to a suitable container. In root pruning, one-third of the roots are removed yearly so that you can introduce new soil and give space for new roots to develop.
The height of a bonsai tree can vary. There are trees that are a few centimeters high and some reaching up to a meter. There are no limitations as long as the bonsai tree is grown in a pot and achieves the image of a full grown tree as it would in nature.
One of the first things you will learn in growing a bonsai tree is that it has two aspects – aesthetic and horticultural. There are plenty of rules under these two but when it comes to aesthetics, do not be too focused on following the rules. Do not be afraid to experiment and be creative. Just remember that the key to a beautiful bonsai tree is creating a miniature image of a tree that looks so natural as if no human intervention was involved.