Bonsai are trees or shrubs grown in special containers according to certain classic forms established by the Japanese. The plants are trained to be objects of beauty, nature reproduced in miniature. From a few inches to two feet or more in height, they seem to be fully grown and aged. The plant and the container must harmonize much as a painting and its frame. The word "bonsai" comes from two Chinese characters, bon meaning "container" and sai meaning "to plant". The same word is used in both the singular and plural to designate the art, as well as all material grown in the bonsai style.

There are five basic styles: formal up right informal upright, slanting, semi-cascading and cascading. Many sub-styles and combinations exist: clump, twin trunk, multiple trunk, sinuous, driftwood, windswept or root-over-rock. All are variations of the five classic forms.

All bonsai are sculptural, three-dimensional objects with well-defined front, back, left and right sides. When on display they are always viewed from the front, where a sparseness of foliage exposes the graceful or solid trunk line a feature the Japanese enjoy very much. The back displays fullness and creates the necessary depth.

Bonsai are created from seedlings, layerings, cuttings, nursery stock or naturally dwarfed native plants. From the beginning the tree is grown in a particular style and shaped by pruning and wiring. Refinements in form again by pruning and wiring are continued throughout the life of the plant, although a well-proportioned, twiggy tree will develop in a few
years' time.
<< Previous Bonsai Display | Back to Bonsai | Next >> Bonsai History