Years and years of controversy and malicious looks. Those are some of the other things that the art of bonsai has been subject to, aside from the excitement that bonsai enthusiasts constantly share with the world. They do say that you cannot please everyone. And please everyone…one cannot simply do when it comes to bonsais.
Another debate that usually triggers ethical concerns regarding bonsais is how living things feel. And bonsais being plants that are taken care of to grow, one can conclude that, yes, bonsais can also feel like humans and animals.
While such issues are rooted in best intentions, they often only lead to misinformation, causing detest and ridicule from many who do not practice the art of bonsai firsthand.
Kind of contradictory, wouldn’t you say? Bonsais have a rich ancient, peaceful history, and yet here we are, discussing (more like convincing and defending, really) the ethical and environmental issues that many claims.
So before any critics out there downright say that we are blinded by our passion for bonsais, let’s discuss the truth (not just OURS and every bonsai artist’s truth) that is rather far from all the misconceptions that circulate the internet.
Do Bonsais Feel Pain?
Fallacies, I tell you!
Where do such notions even come from? Is it because bonsais are miniaturized versions of their normal selves? Thus, the assumption is that bonsai artists are “stunting” their growth and causing these plants pain.
Generally, bonsais, or any plant for that matter, lack a central nervous system and a brain. With humans and animals, pain sensors are developed and act as a defense mechanism in avoiding physical harm. This, however, is not the case for plants and trees.
There have been studies that prove that while plants can feel certain sensations, these are nothing more than acknowledgments. They are not perceived by plants as feelings of pain.
So how can growing bonsais be cruel when the plants are given more attention and care than a normal tree? Just consider the amount of patience needed to grow a bonsai, unlike any other form of gardening. And to further dissuade any negative connotations…many bonsais have outlived their caregivers. We’re not even talking about a single caretaker, mind you. Bonsais have managed to be passed down from generation to generation! So to any that will argue that pruning or trimming bonsais cause pain, well…we’re fairly certain that you are not someone who spends time taking care of plants and just another misinformed critic. No worries, though. We’re here to educate and share what we know, not to criticize anyone who has a different “opinion.”
Myths and Complaints
It is the word that describes the entirety of the art of bonsai. But such a loaded word does not and will never translate to unethical.
At this point of our discussion, we are going to tackle the myths and complaints that some people have regarding bonsais. Some of these are:
Myth One: Against Natural Phenomena
Is there some law of nature that dictates that bonsai plants are the neglected members of the family?
We think not.
Many have come to believe that bonsais are trees deprived of nature’s gift because they are cultivated in confined spaces. True, they are planted in pots and not directly on the soil, but this does not mean the plants do not get what they need to grow. It’s just that bonsais or any potted plant will require less nutrition and watering. You don’t need to water a small plant the same way you would a big tree, right? You will end up killing it. The way of bonsais is nothing unnatural. Ultimately, the size and shape come out on their own.
Myth Two: Bonsais Receive Less Water and Feeding
As already mentioned (but just to reiterate all the same), a small plant does not have the same watering and feeding needs as its larger counterparts. Bonsais need just the right amount of water and fertilizer. The ‘over’ in overwatering and overfeeding means eventually killing your bonsai. It may require fewer needs, but that is not saying that you are watering or feeding your bonsai less than its requirements.
All in all, no plant or tree, whether a bonsai or not, survive below optimum conditions. So make sure that your bonsai, if you have one, is provided with everything in the right amount. Anything with ‘over’ is a major no-no.
Myth Three: Injuring Bonsais Through Wiring
How do you think bonsais acquire their beautiful looks? Not without help, most definitely. Bonsai owners wire their plant’s branches and trunks to achieve a desirable appearance. Thin wires are especially helpful with this.
Now, the common complaint here is that wiring can scar the branches and create holes in the trunk. This is false, of course. The wiring process is done so meticulously and carefully that no harm comes to the bonsai. As a matter of fact, wiring is a great way of providing additional support for the bonsai’s trunk to grow well.
Myth Four: Plant Damages Caused by Pruning
Pruning comes with the bonsai territory. You have to prune both the roots and shoots of your bonsai occasionally. This way, the unnecessary extra growth is cut off and will give way to the growth buds. As long as you do not come near the apical buds with your cutters, there is simply no way that you are damaging your plant.
Besides, bonsai enthusiasts and caretakers alike have proven that pruning the roots and trunks only ever increases the plant’s growth.
Myth Five: Intentional Growth Impediment
The argument for myth number five is that bonsai trees do not have enough space to grow. While it is true that bonsais are planted in small pots, it is in no way stopping them from growing.
The plants are genetically mutated to achieve a miniature size. It actually takes ten to twenty years before bonsais even reach their ultimate size and shape. It is best to be reminded that the beauty of bonsais lies in miniature art. Our aim, if anything, is not to hinder growth but to increase longevity.
Bad for the Environment?
Scratches head…just how exactly are bonsais bad for the environment when wild bonsais do naturally grow!
Cultivating bonsais is not harmful to the environment. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all — to quote Julia Stiles when she played Kat Stratford in the film 10 Things I hate About You.
Moreover, bonsais do not deprive other plants of their resources. They do not even pollute or contaminate others. If anything, they make one’s home an extension of nature which is highly beneficial to the environment.
Bonsai Artists are Tree Huggers!
With all of that said, it is safe to conclude that we and every other bonsai enthusiast are tree huggers (sometimes, even literally). Basically, trees are life. Our life. So we tend to them, grow them, air-layer them, and prune them. The gist? We love them.
More than anyone, bonsai artists understand the meaning behind the art. That growing these miniature plants is an elixir to living a fulfilling life.
No need to scream bloody murder on us. For we did not commit any crimes here…
Hopefully, we made our point and that it came across. Overall, bonsais are excellent examples and proof of what nature is capable of. That when nudged in the right direction, nature can grow for as big or as little as it can. And that pain would not be an issue.
Visit our shop and grab yourself your very own bonsai tree! We promise that it’ll change your life.