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WHAT EXACTLY IS BONSAI?

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Bonsai  is simply the ancient art form of dwarfing trees. It is a unique blend of horticulture and art at its very best. Although it is widely accepted as a Japanese art form, bonsai has become a world renowned hobby.

Bonsai is not a species of plant. Any plant that grows a woody stem can be used. The word bonsai, literally translated from Japanese, means 'tree in pot'.

So, what makes a bonsai different from any other houseplant? The difference is that it is an art form. Developing a small tree to look as if it were 50 feet tall and 100 years old is not an easy task, but the artist who creates a bonsai is taking their inspiration from nature and reproducing it in miniature.

This is what sets bonsai apart, it is a living piece of art and a bonsai can often outlive its creator. Many valuable bonsai are over 200 years old, or older, and have often been handed down from generation to generation.

Have you ever seen a spruce tree growing in the Bahamas? Or a palm tree in the Adirondacks? No, simply because the tree needs the environment that it is native to. Applying this premise to bonsai simply means that trees from the tropical and subtropical areas of the world must stay warm all year round.

Trees from temperate regions that have cold winters must go dormant in the winter months. Dormancy for temperate zoned plants can only be induced by cooler temperatures. If you keep a temperate bonsai inside during the winter months, then you must have it in an area where there are cooler temperatures so that it can maintain a dormancy period. A good example of this would be an unheated room, a drafty window or any area that is kept between 35 and 60 degrees F. If you do not achieve the dormancy for the tree it would be equivelant to staying awake for weeks on end. If a tree is from a warm climate, like Brazil for example, then it would be fine in the winter in a 70 degree environment and would continue growing.

This seems very confusing when you are new at keeping bonsai. Most people buy a tree and believe they are doing everything by the book but without knowing what temperatures the tree needs in the winter they will unknowingly be the cause of the tree's demise. This very often leads to the misconception that all bonsai are hard to take care of, and that simply is not true.

Bonsai are meant to be enjoyed daily and also taken care of daily. With only 5 minutes per day you can have a perfectly healthy tree. Five minutes of pruning a couple of overgrown branches, checking for dryness, and spray misting once a day is all that is required to keep and maintain a healthy bonsai.  

Exposed root Chinese Elm  

 "Bonsai, 
 the nicest gift you can give someone...
a living piece of art"  

How to make a bonsai  
What kind of trees are used?

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