Bonsai, translated literally, means “tree in a pot.”
However, bonsai trees are more than just a potted plant. They are naturally dwarfed trees that are trained to look like mature trees in nature. The trees are living sculptures residing in a container that is carefully selected to fit in harmony with the tree.
The art originated in ancient China where trees and shrubs were first grown in pots to make their leaves, bark and roots easily accessible for medicinal purposes. Soon, these plants were being grown in pots to enjoy them for their beauty.
The art made its way to Japan, where the Japanese refined it to a high level. They introduced strict rules, defined styles and shapes and also developed specialized tools to use in designing the trees. Trees exist today in Japan that are hundreds of years old, having been passed down through many generations. It has become a sizable industry as well as an important art.
Bonsai has become synonymous with Japan and many people new to bonsai believe that the plants must look like the ones illustrated in books or featured in movies like “The Karate Kid.” The belief exists that bonsai are specialized plants and only these can be grown as bonsai.
In reality, bonsai trees are not mysterious, exotic, or of one particular species of tree. Bonsai can be developed from any woody tree or shrub that has naturally small leaves or needles so that they will appear to…