The History of the Bonsai - 1800flowers.com
Art from the East
Bonsai is a well-respected and time-honored art form that originated in the Far East more than one thousand years ago. The art and mystery of the form involves training young trees and plants into miniature, stylized, majestic versions of fully mature specimens. Developed in China by Buddhist monks seeking to bring nature inside their temples, its influence and tradition spread easterly, arriving in Japan by the 12th century.
Bonsai translates literally from both the Chinese and Japanese to "little trees in pots". Alongside the development of bonsai, Chinese ceramics played an integral role in its aesthetic evolution. Container pots are typically shallow trays, chosen to complement the shape and artistry of the tree. In this way, a harmonious, grounded sense of landscape is created for the bonsai.
The challenge for the bonsai designer is to tease each tree or shrub into revealing its innermost essence and fundamental nature. Each artisan works within a set of traditional aesthetic guidelines and proscribed techniques to create the most artistic form possible. The qualities most admired in bonsai cultivation can also be seen as a part of the larger culture's ideals. These embody a reverence for three basic virtues: truth, goodness, and beauty. In addition, the Zen-like quietude of the art form is a reflection of Eastern philosophies regarding harmony between man, spirit, and nature.
AppreciationFor the viewer, the bonsai represents an opportunity to experience moments of quiet, peaceful reflection within the natural world. When one gazes upon a bonsai, a calming sense of timelessness, stability, and peace pervades. And since a bonsai is dependent upon its owner for its life, it has become a symbol of friendship, since relationships need to be tended and nurtured, just like the bonsai. Over time, bonsai grow more interesting, personal, and valuable. In Japan today, there are beautiful examples of old bonsai that are considered national living treasures. Given proper care, a bonsai can live for hundreds of years, but age is not essential for a bonsai to be deemed worthy of praise and admiration.
Bonsai Styles and TypesBonsai styles refer to the classical aesthetic traditions of form and shape; bonsai typesrefer to the individual species of tree, plant, or shrub.
Bonsai StylesThere are a wide variety of classical bonsai styles that careful training, pruning, and sculpting can create. Each style seeks to replicate an aspect of tree growth found in nature. Some are simple in shape, while others need advanced expertise and skill to achieve. All require years of patient tending as the bonsai grows into its idealized form.
Informal UprightA common style known as the Informal Upright, or moyogi , features a slight curvature in the trunk of the tree, giving its branches a sense of movement. The free-form boughs and trunk lend this bonsai a more relaxed or casual appearance
BroomThe Broom style, or hokidachi , is well suited to deciduous trees with leaves. This bonsai is characterized by an upright trunk with multiple fine branches growing upwards to form a leafy ball-shaped crown.
SlantingThe shakan or Slanting style lends itself to coniferous tree species. The tree is grown at a slanting angle, with the first branch pointing opposite the direction of the leaning trunk, to cultivate an element of harmony and balance.
Different species of trees, shrubs, and plants render diverse types of graceful bonsai forms. Below we outline the different species types we carry in our gallery, and give a few prime examples of the wonderfully varied kinds you will find within each category:
DeciduousDeciduous plants bear leaves that are typically shed during the fall (or, in tropical climates, during the dry season), and include trees, shrubs, and herbaceous specimens. After the leaves drop they go into a period of dormancy before a new growth cycle begins in the spring.
Sago PalmThis is an exotic, tropical tree species millions of years old, native to the islands of the East and South China Seas. While not technically a palm, it bears lush, dark-green palm-like fronds from its rounded, textured trunk. The Sago Palm makes a very interesting and unique ornamental bonsai.
Golden Gate FicusOur Golden Gate Ficus features a lovely Informal Upright style bonsai design, with a slight curvature trained into the trunk. This indoor bonsai's small, spritely leaves offer a lush sense of nature's greenery and a beautiful, sculptural form. The ficus is actually a kind of fig tree; much can be said about this tree's symbolism in the Old Testament bible.
GinkgoThe Ginkgo is an ancient tree species dating from the time of the dinosaurs. Their characteristic leaves are unlike any other on earth, with a classic bi-lobed fan-shape and a brilliant green color. In the East, it is considered a sacred tree, and a symbol of love.
EvergreenThe evergreen plant has leaves that literally stay green in every season. These can be both trees and shrubs types, from conifers with needle-shaped leaves such as pine and junipers, to oak and holly trees. Most evergreen bonsai require a winter dormancy rest period to keep them healthy.
JuniperThe juniper is one of the most popular and common bonsai species. It has a lightly scented, dense needle foliage and a trunk that can be trained into expressive, sculptural forms. This craggy evergreen lends itself to perfect miniaturization, making it a beautiful symbol of nature's indomitable spirit and strength.
Mugo PineThis pine species is a naturally occurring dwarf pine, featuring short, deep-green needles. In its normal habitat it grows in high mountain regions, making it an exceptionally hardy, cold-winter tolerant outdoor bonsai specimen. This general sturdiness and adaptability to harsh conditions has made the pine a symbol of immortality and longevity.
PodocarpusPodocarpus are relatives of the decorative yew tree and evergreen pine, with conifer-type short, flattened needles creating a delightful fringe-like appearance. Ours is an Asian varietal sculpted in the Informal Upright style of bonsai, featuring a gently curved trunk. Both the yew and the pine are symbols of longevity.
FloweringFlowering bonsai trees come in many different varieties and produce lovely blossoms, making them a favorite ornamental. Since the art of bonsai recreates the essence of a plant in miniature, flowering specimens are highly prized for the beauty, color, and scent they bring to outdoor and indoor landscapes.
GardeniaGardenias possess sensuous white flowers with a luxurious suede-like texture. Its glossy dark-green foliage creates a beautiful contrast to its pure white blossoms. The flower's legendary scent has been in prominent use for centuries to create luxurious perfumes.
AzaleasAzaleas are one of the most popular bonsai due to their generous production of bright pink blossoms and the length of their bloom time. But their beautiful green leaves will make a lush and pleasing outdoor ornamentation, even without the blossoming.
CamelliaOne of the most elegant flowering bonsai specimens is the Camellia. They produce their characteristic showy pink blossoms late fall through early spring. Because they bring bright spots of light and color to winter's gray months, Camellias are one of the most popular bonsai.
FruitingSome of the most appealing bonsai are those that bear fruit. Many varieties of fruit can be exquisitely cultivated into a sculpted miniature size. And fruiting bonsai will give two seasons of delight: first when it flowers, and again as it yields edible fruit. They're also a special educational treat for children, who can take interest in watching their full growing cycle.
PomegranateThe pomegranate is a lovely deciduous plant bearing gorgeous, vibrant-red flowers that ripen into a delectable, exotic fruit. It was renown throughout ancient Persia and Rome for its beauty as well as its medicinal and culinary purposes. And with its abundance of seeds, it's easy to see how it became a traditional symbol of fertility and prosperity.
Manderin OrangeCitrus oranges trees are a delight to behold: lovely green leaves frame tiny, waxy, white flowers which develop an intoxicating fragrance. After blooming, the bonsai will fruit with small edible oranges.
Grape Vine BonsaiA seasoned vine will bear fruit: our lovely Sonoma Valley Grape Vine bonsai bears tiny, edible cabernet grape clusters. Fruiting bonsai, like this vine, are happiest in full sun sites. Watch it flower in spring, and shed its leaves late in the fall.