Loving the Art of Bonsai

Fall colored bonsaiI was thinking and studying about gardening even when I was a young girl. At the age of 5 or 6, I found books on the art of bonsai in Rich’s department store in Atlanta. As a child, I was mesmerized by the intricacies of the tiny trees. I marveled at the step-by-step pages that showed potting and pruning techniques. I knew when I got older I wanted to create these tiny living sculptures.

When I became a married adult, I wanted to try this fascinating hobby that I had read about. I contacted bonsai experts in my area and also a local bonsai club. I was so excited to attend classes to learn this amazing art form. I was even more intrigued with the location of the classes.

They were held at a monastery in a rural part of our state. The monks had perfected this time-consuming art and sold finished trees, pots, and raw material to the public. They also, at that time, held classes. It was an amazing adventure to sit in a class taught by these gentle monks. Some who looked to be about the age of 60 but later I found out were in their 90’s. This was one of the many ways for the monks to be self-sufficient, along with baking and selling many wonderful types of bread. It is a wonderful memory of a very creative time in my life.

I have enjoyed through the years belonging to the Atlanta Bonsai Club, going to seminars, attending bonsai conventions, taking classes from bonsai masters, and seeking out bonsai nurseries across the country. I have created several beautiful trees and unfortunately lost a few when we moved due to the freezing temperatures in moving trucks. I’d like to share photos of my most recent specimens. Both trees are Trident Maples and achieve a beautiful color in the fall. The Japanese inspired stand was made by my loving hubby who is great at building beautiful things.

The actual word bonsai means “tree in pot.”  The training that a tree goes through to make a bonsai is very technical. It also requires special tools and varying sizes of copper wire.

Bonsai is a type of pruning and training, not a specific variety of tree. Many types of trees can be used as material for bonsais. Some trees to think about using are:

  1. Japanese maples
  2. Various pines (white pine, mugho pine)
  3. Maples (red, white)
  4. Junipers
  5. Boxwoods
  6. Azaleas
  7. Cryptomerias
  8. Cypress

I highly recommend reading Bonsai: Special Techniques by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Keep Your Bonsai Perfectly Shaped by Herb L. Gustafson, and Miniature Living Bonsai Landscapes by Herb L. Gustafson.

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