While the art of bonsai trees care is widely attributed to have developed in China more than a thousand years ago its true roots lie in antiquity. Archaeologists have found evidence of trees grown in containers in ancient Egypt, the Middle East and Mediterranean. However it is probably fair to say the Chinese turned the growing of miniature trees in a small container into a true art form which was then, sometime in the eighth century AD, embraced by Japan, spreading from there to countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.
One of the bonsai legends from China concerns an emperor who used bonsais to create a miniature model of his entire kingdom, complete with rivers, lakes, hills and trees, so he could view the world he ruled over from his palace window. He would, of course, have had servants did all the bonsai trees care for him – and woe betide them if they should die.
The Japanese have, in the centuries since, refined the growing and care for bonsai tree care and it’s now become a hobby practiced widely throughout the world. The word bonsai is itself Japanese. It is in fact two words – bon, meaning tray and sai meaning growing.
Many bonsai growers use wire to help twist their tree’s trunk into gnarled and windswept shapes, sometimes giving them the appearance of dragons or birds. The shape speaks of tranquility, endurance and a timelessness that evokes an emotional response.
The tree, despite being miniaturized, behaves like its full grown relatives and experiences the rhythm of the season, losing its leaves in winter and, if it’s a flowering shrub, producing buds in spring. As the creator, and those tasked with the bonsai trees care, this gives a rewarding sense of creativity and hopefully inner peace.
When creating a bonsai, almost any woody bonsai tree cares or shrub can be used. Firstly you must decide whether you want your bonsai tree inside or outside. Outside trees do not thrive inside and generally the same goes for inside trees placed outdoors. Two trees often recommended for beginners are the Japanese red maple and the juniper. You can of course choose to start with seeds, but they do take a little more time and effort.
One of the most popular styles is the windswept look, where a gnarled, ancient looking tree appears to have survived centuries of wintry blasts. While, with proper bonsai trees care, many of these specimens can live for centuries, others are nowhere near as old as they look. Bonsai masters have, over the years, perfected the art of creating that tortured, aged appearance.