The definition of the term “Bonsai” is a plant, usually a tree or shrub, that is grown in a container and made to look like a mature tree through the use of various training techniques. The plant usually does not exceed 1 meter in height. The art of Bonsai as we know it, traces back almost 2000 yrs. The word bonsai is made up of 2 Japanese characters or word phrases, “bon” & “sai”, ” Bon” is the pot , tray or container, the “sai” is the tree or potted planting. The word Bonsai equally applies to indoor and outdoor plants. The original word Bonsai comes from the Chinese word “P’en Tsai” it sounds similar to bonsai and has nearly the same meaning. It couldn’t be further from the true spirit of bonsai if we restrict our interpretation in this way. It is indeed a tree in a pot, but a tree that has been subjected to a number of horticultural and aesthetic disciplines, through which visual harmony and botanical well being is achieved. The essence of classical Bonsai is to produce a healthy miniature representation of a tree.
The ultimate challenge for the Bonsai designer is to expose the essence of the tree. The art of Bonsai is telling a story through living illusion. The artist strives to find avenues for personal expression within the confines of good horticultural practice. Bonsai is a pleasant mix of form, thought, and suggestion, in a miniature world; and like all good art, it endures.
Beginners and students often share the same concern: having the ability to maintain a healthy plant. The key is in being able to control the degree of stress that a plant will take and still remain healthy. “Stress” here is not psychological stress, but referring to the horticultural practice of being able to know how much is too much, and how much is too little. This principal applies to all aspects to Bonsai culture, including air, water, soil, sun, nutrients, temperature, altitude, pruning, etc. The challenge is to have the willingness to learn, experiment and accept the results of these efforts. Another aspect central to Bonsai is time. The growth process takes time, and there are no shortcuts. A growing year is the usual yardstick by which success is measured. Caring for you Bonsai over time creates a deep sense of satisfaction. There is no replacement for time; it is always constant and moving forward. It is said that through the study of Bonsai, one will learn more than Bonsai.
Bonsai is about trees, trees grown in miniature. It is also about time and space and about life and attitudes. Historically, Bonsai was a part of the culture, an important part of family heritage. Equally, Bonsai can be simply a horticultural past time requiring no more than a measure of common garden sense, some artistic ability and plenty of patience.
Bonsai is an ancient Japanese art form where natural tree forms are created in miniature, in a tray-like container, for the purpose of contemplation. It surely must be of the most popular of the Japanese arts in South Africa today with many bonsai clubs gathering around the country, members meeting to share their enjoyment of this fascinating art with one another. The challenge of creating nature in miniature, as a living piece of art; seeing to its daily needs and being rewarded in turn with that connection to nature missing from so many urban lives today fuels the growing number of enthusiasts. Originally the Japanese who although did not discover bonsai but rather popularized it to Westerners, based the styling of their trees on the Japanese Black Pine and the way it grew in nature. These are known today as the Classical Japanese styles and they include Informal upright, Leaning trunk, Cascade and more.