Bonsai (bon-sai), the Japanese word, literally means ‘tray planting’. It is the art of dwarfing trees or plants into pleasing shapes. Although widely accepted that this skill originated in China, it is the Japanese that developed it into a truly ethereal art form. Bonsai can be created from almost any perennial woody tree or shrubs which produce true branches. They are dwarfed by confining growth in pots and branches are shaped, clipped and teased to get the ultimate shape and thereafter continuously trimmed and pruned into the desired effect.
Some species of trees are commonly nurtured as bonsai because they have the desired features, such as small leaves or needles. This practice appeared in China well over a thousand years ago and was known as ‘pun-sai’ or ‘pent-sai’ (tray plant) – the cultivation of landscapes and trees in pots. The diverse landscape of China’s mountains and clouds became the search for perfect rocks in order to re-create the vastness of the mythical world in miniature form. In fact, it was the Chinese preoccupation with legends and mythical surroundings that begat the idea. The Chinese ‘pun-sai’ incorporated images of fire dragons, mountains, serpents and was of greater importance than trees or plants. Bon-sai – the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character for pent-sai – embraces the natural world and in particular trees, Japan being of a much less diverse landscape, so the two practices are really quite different.
Bonsai art is intense. It must perfectly and accurately represent an ideal image. As you might imagine, this art is far too time-consuming for most people, and really does require a deep passion, but most of us would love to own a Bonsai. Not surprising then that artificial Bonsai is one of the most sought after artificial plants.
The leap in manufacturing techniques has allowed everyone to own a realistic and intricately detailed ‘tray plant’. There is some high quality, and therefore very expensive artificial bonsai that are so realistic it is extremely difficult to know it’s not real even when rubbing the leaves.
The artificial Bonsai looks most effective in a minimal setting and allows the stark beauty of the item to dominate its surroundings. Using accentuating planters and trays, an artificial bonsai can totally transform a space or area and create a perfect ‘Zen’ environment.