The word bonsai is a Japanese word that literally means ‘tree in pot’ and refers to the practice of manipulating trees to keep them artificially small while retaining the shape and appearance of their older, larger counterparts. This impressive appearance is obtained by growing the trees in small pots, constantly pruning the roots and branches, and shaping them using aluminium or annealed copper training wire. It is quite extraordinary that with a little care and attention a tree that would normally reach a height of several metres can be confined to the size of a houseplant. The word houseplant is used here merely to express the size, as some bonsai varieties are also suitable for the garden, patio or balcony!
The manipulated cultivation of trees in pots goes back farther in time than the bonsai cultivation in China. Historians believe that the ancient Egyptians were the first to grow plants in pots. The most tangible evidence of this comes from the ancient wall paintings in the Tomb of Nakht in Thebes. The first trees in pots were probably fruit trees, more specifically fig trees. The practice of bonsai cultivation that originated in China was developed further in Japan and refined to a fine art, producing the first living art forms.
Bonsai are miniature trees that are perfect copies of their large natural counterparts but are far smaller. Cultivation is a very intimate occupation, as it requires meticulous detailing. Attention must be paid to the branches, bark structure and roots. One of the fascinations of bonsai cultivation is that it requires a whole range of gardening techniques, such as pruning, planting, repotting, and training. This makes it a challenging activity for skilled gardeners.
Bonsai trees vary in height from a few centimetres to a metre. According to Japanese standards, the ideal height is seventy centimetres. The trees can vary in age from five years to three hundred years, and some unique examples in Japan are even hundreds of years older. These living antiques are worth between a quarter of a million and half a million euros. This may an interesting fact, but it is not the most important aspect of bonsai cultivation. The prime motivation is a love of nature, and a penchant for precision is another important element. Do you recognize yourself in this profile?
Growing a bonsai
As already mentioned, in order to keep a tree small it must be manipulated by using techniques such as pruning, pinching out and bending branches. Aluminium or annealed copper training wire is generally used to bend the branches.
A bonsai tree is only beautiful if it is healthy, and a great deal of love and attention is needed to achieve this. A suitable soil composition, regular fertilization and the right amount of watering are essential factors. The tree also has to be protected from insects.
Bakker has a number of excellent bonsai varieties in its product range. These precultivated trees are already several years old and have been trained, so they are ideal for taking on the artistic challenge.