Bonsai literally means a tree on a tray: "bon" is a tray-like container, and "sai" means tree. As we all know, bonsai is a product of a variety of techniques which let a full grown tree thrive in a small container. The tree looks like a miniature version of how the tree species looks in nature, only with artistic additions that make it seem more poetic than a specimen in the wild.
This means that a bonsai is not merely a piece of horticulture. It is horticulture that is refined to the level of an art form.
While a bonsai needs the same ingredients as other trees and plants, like land, fertilizers, water and sunlight, it is the way these are administered to the bonsai that makes it a special form of horticulture. All these essential requirements are provided in order to make the bonsai tree take exactly the desired shape and size, leading experts to comment that bonsais are more art than horticulture.
They could be kept indoors or outdoors depending on the tree species, but it is the shape of a bonsai tree that determines the type to which it belongs. Bonsais are traditionally created in the following different shapes:
Cascade-full (Kengai): In this type of bonsai, the branches as well as the trunk of the tree are deliberately swept over to a particular side of the container and allowed to hang below the roots. It is designed to look like a tree growing at the edge of a cliff, buffeted by strong winds.
Clump (Kadudachi). In this variation of the bonsai, there are several trunks emerging from the same point in the clump of roots, giving it a look of overcrowded natural growth that can be found in forests.
Informal uprighFormal upright (Chokkan). This is a rigidly classical bonsai, usually with a very linear and upright trunk. The branches spread out in a balanced way so as to take on a triangular form.
Group / Forest (Yose-ue). This is where several bonsais are naturalistically planted and maneuvered on a container, so as to give the impression of a wood or forest.
Informal upright (Moyogi). In this form of bonsai, the trunk makes its twisty way through the branches, remaining balanced in form all the time. Like the Chokkan, the Moyogi also has a triangular overall formation.
Literati (Bunjingi). This bonsai mimics a tree of mature age, with no branches in the lower two-thirds of its trunk.
Raft (Ikadabuki). For this bonsai, the tree is laid flat, and its branches are placed in a sort of group formation pointing vertically.
Root over rock (Sekijoju). This bonsai has prominent roots which are maneuvered into place so as to flow over the central rock and then into the container itself.
Slanting (Shakan). This particular bonsai is a variation of the Chokkan, where the tree is bent in one direction as if seeking light or swayed by the force of the wind.
Twin trunk (Sojo). As the name suggests, this bonsai has two trunks that combine at the base, near the container.
All these types of bonsais are fascinating to true enthusiasts. Though the practice of bonsai originated in China, it was Japan that refined it, and some of the most exclusive owners and patrons of bonsai are found there. Some bonsais may have prices running into thousands and millions of dollars, because of their age, history, beauty and exclusivity. They are held in reverence in Japan.
But prices differ depending on the keeper, the age, the look and the demand. Most bonsais in the United States are much more affordable, and anyone can start off a bonsai hobby with minimal investment by collecting the tree from nature. From fifty dollars to a few hundred, ...
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