Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Garden Design No. 3 - Bonsai

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I love sculpture in a garden. Whether created from man-made materials or living plants. But I find it a definite bonus when that art form offers a tranquility in the garden as well. Bonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers that does just that.

The Chinese have a similar practice in the tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ. The Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years, and has evolved its own unique aesthetics and terminology.

Bonsai provides two benefits to its gardeners: contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). Bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. There are some bonsai in existence that are over 150 years old!

A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree of a species suitable for bonsai development. Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning.

I appreciate the Japanese Maple and flowering types of Bonsai, but the varieties that marvel me most are the traditional evergreen art forms.

There is definitely a tranquility and peace in a Bonsai garden like no other.

The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is home to one of the largest collections of bonsai and penjing in North America. Here's a link to their virtual tour http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/collections/VirtualTours/BonsaiVirtualTour.html

Here are a few books available on Bonsai gardening.

Image and Content Sources:  Wikipedia, Bonsai Gardeners, The Garden Lady, US National Arboretum Museum.

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