Bonsai are a Lot More than Little Trees
Have you ever wondered when you walked past a bonsai kiosk in a shopping mall "What's bonsai all about?" If you're like I was, probably not. Then for no apparent reason (although my wife says it came from God) I became interested, at least enough to check it out. Here are some things I discovered. If you already know much about bonsai, this may be old stuff to you.
First, there are lots of different types. The two largest categories are indoor and outdoor. Yes, bonsai trees do go outdoors, not just on a coffee table. In fact even indoor bonsai need some outdoor time in the sun. The indoor category includes jade, ficus, dwarf eugenia and several others. Outdoor includes elm, cypress, juniper and more.
Bonsai can grow larger than the 6 to 8 inches you see at the mall. In fact carefully maintained plants may grow to 24 to 36 inches or more. This, of course, takes many years. During those years the grower is snipping branches and training the tree to achieve the desired shape. The trees don't grow randomly; this can be done over decades if one is dedicated enough. Of course, it requires a little more time than a house plant stuck on a shelf somewhere. The branches need pruning now and then and every couple of years or so, the tree requires root pruning and repotting. This is not as scary as it may seem.
Another thing I discovered is that not all bonsai are trees. Some, such as azalea and bougainvillea are shrubs or vines. Furthermore, these guys produce flowers just like their full grown counterparts. These make great valentines gifts. The camellia delivers its flowers throughout the winter so it is blooming in February. It is kind of amazing to see these little flowers that look exactly like the big ones. And it's not a product of modern science. In fact, as you may know, it is an old Chinese art that the Japanese developed along side the Chinese for centuries. Now it is enjoyed all over the world.
By the way, most people pronounce bonsai incorrectly. The bon is pronounced bone. I guess though it doesn't really matter how you pronounce it: it is still a beautiful art form.
My point in writing this little article is not to impress anyone with my great knowledge, but to inform people who, like I was, don't know a thing about the beautiful bonsai world. The trees and shrubs are beautiful and well worth the minimal time and effort required to care for them.