Ever heard about bonsai ? Few of you might have and the most probable answer that would come across would be a mini tree. But let me clarify the most popular misconception about bonsai being considered as a tree. Bonsai is a lot more than just a tree. Normally, a tree would take any shape and size but, Bonsai is way more complicated than that. It takes a great deal of patience and virtue to call it a Bonsai. It is the art form of cultivating, shaping and maintaining tiny trees. It’s a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of practising patience, nobility, and sympathy. The word bonsai literally means “tray planting” which hails from ancient China. It is difficult to go into detail about what makes a Bonsai tree a Bonsai tree. These tiny inanimate creatures require a lot of attention, skills, and patience for their best appearance. The beautiful trees they create are the zenith of extensive time and effort. Obviously, not every small potted plant is a Bonsai. A Bonsai tree looks like a normal tree but in a miniature form. There are different styles of Bonsai tree which define what the final form of Bonsai looks like, but in general, the idea is that it is a miniaturised version with a great deal of craftsmanship. These plants when they are attached with a bond with their masters have the connection with inner peace. As they are specimens that can last for hundreds and hundreds of years, they can also remind us of all those histories and the generations of hands that have touched them. This makes Bonsai even more special and really deserving of our appreciation. The Bonsai display is rich in an elegant atmosphere. Cultivating bonsai is a very artistic hobby and hence Bonsai masters who care for these trees are not less than a painter or a sculptor. Keeping Bonsai is a sense of love for nature. Growing a Bonsai can help us inculcate quite a lot of spiritual values as well. Growing a Bonsai isn’t easy as it seems when we think about it. But we can upgrade our skills by giving them an adequate amount of time and effort. Most people think that Bonsai is an indoor plant which is true to some extent but usually bonsai are outdoor plants. They are supposed to be kept outdoors even during winter. Woody plants must go through a period of cold dormancy in order to survive. This dormancy completes a yearly cycle but will need winter protection. The urge is strong for beginners to grow their bonsai indoors. Although a few traditional species for bonsai may be grown indoors year-round if they are given a dormant rest period, we should be aware that this requires some skills usually obtained from growing bonsai for a few years. Buying a Bonsai directly from a nursery and placing it in a corner can’t be said an art but experimenting with the plant with a great level of patience is a must. This helps to create our own Bonsai. Trimming the plant in accordance with trussing intuitions is a game-changer. The more we show our love, the more healthy our Bonsai become. Managing the weeds and watering them along with timely trimming is a part of growing Bonsai. After getting a bonsai the most common mistake that people tend to attempt is that they change the vessel of Bonsai as soon as they buy it. This shouldn’t be done because the plant requires some time to adapt to the sudden change in the environment. Only after Bonsai has developed the trunk to our desired size can we trim and start to shape. A taper is a part that gives a small “tree-look” to your bonsai. The shape can be trunk with thick broad branches at the bottom, and smaller thinner branches at the top, or the tree can lean in one direction or can be in Cascade-style where the tree grows downward and reaches beyond the bottom of the pot. Other designs make use of roots growing over rocks. Bonsai can be shaped as a "Windswept" which makes it appear as if it has been shaped by a strong wind. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees. Some of the most popular Bonsai trees are:
1. The Chinese Elm Tree, has been one of the most popular bonsai tree types. Its fast growth, small leaves, and tolerance to overwatering make it a perfect bonsai tree for a beginner.
2. Portulacaria trees, also known as baby jade, are excellent beginner bonsai species because they don’t need to be watered regularly. Overwatering might cause the roots of the tree to rot so watering the tree only after the top layer of the soil is dry and should be noted.
3. Rosemary: these are edible and can be a great way to build your bonsai hobby. Frequent watering is necessary for rosemary plants to thrive, but they’re also vulnerable to root rot, so make sure to keep the plants in a pot with sufficient drainage and avoid overwatering.
4. Juniperus : Junipers are popular as they are aesthetic and are hardy trees that can withstand aggressive pruning(trimming). They can be trained to be indoors as well and are beginner friendly. They do well in bright, sunny light. Overwatering can cause the roots to rot.
5. Pine : Pine trees are popular as bonsai because they can be easily shaped as they are highly trainable. Pine trees are characterised by needles that appear in bundles of two to five, and bark that becomes rough or starts to peel off as it ages. They require direct sunlight and should be watered daily or twice a day depending upon the requirement.
6. Ficus: Bonsai does better on outdoor displays than indoor ones, but the ficus does well in an indoor environment. They have visually interesting trunks. Indirect bright light is preferred by them and overwatering should be avoided.
(Sampada Tandan is a computer engineering student)