It can be difficult to see beauty when the world is at its darkest…
And this couldn’t be more true when the pandemic was just beginning to wreak havoc and chaos among mighty nations. Nobody is any the wiser. We all thought that it would end in a couple of weeks and that our lives would be back to normal. “It’s just a fluke, is all—” the understatement of the year (and the years to come). Then we all stayed at home and tried our best to wait it out patiently.
But then it didn’t end after two weeks. And not even after seven. Then the weeks turned into a year. And after that, who’s still counting, really. Living during a pandemic has become a “thing,” the “thing” that became everybody’s new normal. So when it did sink in that COVID was here to stay, we all refocused are “trying” in finding something that would entertain us and pass the time. Not to downplay the effects of the pandemic that we all experienced (and, unfortunately, are still experiencing), but it did give way to things that none of us would usually pay attention to pre-COVID. It somehow woke up the artists in many of us.
Pandemics, People and the Art of Bonsai
As the pandemic gave (despite forcibly) people more time to spend at home, many turned to the art of bonsai. According to Ravindran Damodharan, a former lawyer turned into one of India’s foremost bonsai artists, before the pandemic, 85% of his class were women. Now, though, his zoom classes have more participation from men.
Another bonsai artist named Veer Choudhary has also been conducting virtual classes. A Facebook Live of his even garnered 20 000 views from around the world. And those numbers are not only comprised of beginners but of seasoned artists that were curious to learn as well. These lessons and similar ones have been accessible with just a click since the pandemic happened. Prior to it, people would have to travel to conventions and exhibitions to learn bonsai techniques.
But what started as a hobby to pass the time during a pandemic has become so much more now. Bonsais are also used for landscaping and others — some might even say it is a lifestyle. From gardens, malls, and hotels to airports and corporate offices, one can spot them just about anywhere. Such an increase in demand is helping people, specifically those fond of bonsais, to support themselves financially.
The Art of Bonsai Around Us
Indeed, bonsais are around us. They, too, are not only limited as excellent additions to landscapes, but they have also been helpful factors in different aspects of our lives.
Landscaping and Horticulture
The Japanese style of gardening has a delicate balance. Each aspect of the landscape design is a crucial part of the overall output, be it aesthetic- and functionality-wise. One would typically find bonsais in these kinds of gardens.
In relation to this, another type of landscaping is commonly associated with bonsais. This Japanese art form called Saikei is derived from creating miniature landscapes. Sounds familiar? It is also similar to the Chinese art form Penjing and Vietnamese Hòn Non Bộ, both of which use trays to form landscapes with rocks, soil, and water.
Furthermore, bonsais have many charms. For one, bonsai trees can be used to express a particular feeling or atmosphere. Bringing out that expressive power of these plants can be fun and therapeutic. And from a horticulture standpoint, it is quite interesting to make trees healthier while keeping them small despite maturity. It could also be said that we humans have such reverence for trees that there is a desire to keep meticulously arranged greenery near us. As a matter of fact, some people go as far as calling their plants “babies” as one would a pet.
The art of bonsai is also a way for people to express their own scenery. The plant species that people use vary from place to place. There are certain bonsais in South Africa that is not available in Japan. But the Japanese Juniper is a popular variety all around because of its beautiful white, withered trunk.
Feng Shui of Bonsai Trees
When one thinks of feng shui, thoughts are often immediately drawn to rearranging furniture. But it can be much more than just facing the couch 45 degrees to the east. Much of what is done in feng shui involves connecting people to the environment around them. And one way of doing so is by bringing elements of nature into the home. Particularly, trees are connected to the wood element and represent growth and kindness. Also, they are connected to abundance because the fruits provide nourishment for people and animals.
While bonsai trees are compact and portable to place inside a home, they are also well…small and may not be the best metaphor for inhabitants of the home. For instance, their placement in a child’s room may not be ideal since children are in that stage of life that involves a lot of growth. On a similar note, if there is new growth in your life, a bonsai tree might not be something in your general vicinity.
But be that as it may, you could also benefit from bonsai trees with regard to discipline and structure. Not only those, but they could also open one’s eyes to interconnectedness. And this is a major aspect of feng shui philosophy, that we are not separate from anything. Interconnectedness is both found in both bigger (the universe) and smaller things (miniature plants and insects) than us.
Self-Discovery through Bonsai: Symbolisms of the Art in Films
During the turmoil that the surge of the pandemic brought when our hands are not dipped in soil and stained with bonsai evidence, we are on the couch searching through movies and series to binge. It seems fitting (yet not coincidentally) that what got us through during those dark times is the movie franchise The Karate Kid. How can it not? It’s a classic, after all, and has everything we want from an action movie. But what truly hooked us is the correlation between bonsai trees (because, let’s face it, we love us some bonsais) and Daniel’s journey as the Karate Kid.
In the movies, Sensei Miyagi and Daniel go bonsai hunting on a cliff’s ledge. They even open a bonsai shop in the third installment. So, truly, you can see how integral bonsai trees are in the life of the characters. Those trees that you could see scattered throughout the films reflect inner peace and symbolize what Karate should be. And as shown in the movies, knowledge about the stylings and overall upkeep of bonsai trees is an excellent way of teaching us about life.
But despite bonsai trees being a metaphor for Karate in the life of Daniel-san, it is also a great way for us to discover the tiniest of beauty that is hidden among the giant trees and crevices of rocks. That such discovery is the beginning of a lifelong journey that is filled with shaping and training. So if you think about it, the search for these bonsai plants is a journey to self-discovery, which is symbolic of finding one’s inner self, and survival against other elements. Therefore, the forming and styling of the trees is the shaping of the self and one’s destiny.
Benefits of Bonsai Trees
There is no denying the aesthetic appeal that bonsai plants provide around a space. But these miniatures yet attention-grabbing additions are more than just delightful to gaze upon. They, too, have countless other benefits pertaining to physical, mental, and even spiritual aspects. And with such a closely linked evolutionary history, it is no surprise that we do not have any aversion to bringing nature indoors.
Some of the benefits include:
Home and Community
- Family Heirloom. Did you know that bonsai trees can easily outlive their owners? Numerous bonsais have been reported to be over 1 000 years old. Who knows, the one you are currently tending to will be the same tree that your great great great grandchildren will be taking care of.
- Beautiful Addition to Any Space. And this is despite the available space you may have. A thoughtfully placed bonsai might just be the key to bringing expansiveness into a small space. It is also notable that this hobby enables those who lack the space for a garden or large plant the chance to immerse themselves in the natural world.
- Special Gift. Giving a bonsai can be a thoughtful gesture, especially for meaningful occasions. The gift of bonsai offers a gentle reminder that with love and care, things grow resilient. So if there’s a wedding, business pursuit, and other related milestones in the horizon, you know what to give already.
Health and Wellness
- Maintaining Humidity. A study has shown that keeping plants indoors can reduce dry skin, coughs, and sore throats, which are all linked to plants’ ability to maintain the humidity.
- Purify Air. One of the best things about plants is their ability to reduce air pollutants. But keep in mind that some species are better at doing the job than others.
- Well-Being. Being in the presence of plants can already positively influence everything from stress levels to productivity.
Personal and Spiritual Growth
- Sparks Creativity. Getting into the art of bonsai trees is a great way to connect with and unleash your creative side. By incorporating the proper techniques, your bonsai can grow in almost any way you want. Your adaptability and curiosity will also be influenced as these are essential to creativity. Achieving the desired outcome will require you to learn new techniques like how to guide growth using cages, pruning, and rope training. Just remember that at the end of the day, your bonsai will grow as it pleases (surrendering control, right?).
- Cultivating Patience. Your bonsai’s growth signifies your growth as well. But bonsai plants grow comparatively slow than other traditional houseplants. Does this mean that your growth as a person is hindered? Far from it, actually. It only means that you grow in patience, instead. The beauty in this is that while you are taking care of it now, you are also looking at the future and honoring your long-term goals.
- Nurturing Self-Confidence. The art of bonsai trees is synonymous with learning new methodologies, planning ahead, and problem-solving. Such efforts can help your confidence grow similar to your tree. Every new species you successfully nurture and procedures undertaken is a reminder of your capability. And as you move from being a novice into a confident caretaker, you will learn how to stay curious, and your knowledge of caregiving will flourish.
From Being an Art to a Science
Nowadays, especially in western countries, bonsai has become a hobby that focuses on the perfection of the tree. It has become a science that actually involves many surgical-like procedures. It has become common to use enzymes, fertilizers, and even growth hormones. These methods may ensure bonsai growth, but the true essence of the art, which is patience, meditation, self-discovery, and peace, disappears due to the obsession with speeding the growth and perfecting the form of bonsais.
As such, it is worth recalling that the art of bonsai trees has associations with Buddhist monks in China who revered the plants with such religious significance. They see the art as a link between God and humankind. For them, it is an effort to strive to follow the divine path through the growth and form of bonsai trees, even though on a human scale.
And quite frankly, we would be wise to follow them. It is by surrendering control that we will see the rawest and most beautiful of growth.
Taking Care of Bonsai Trees
After establishing how truly beneficial the art of bonsai is, it is safe to conclude that since it takes care of you, you should also take care of it in return.
And although bonsai trees are more of a delicate bunch than the average indoor plants, they will only require a few basic rules for proper care and maintenance:
Several factors dictate the optimal spot for your bonsai trees. However, the decisive factor is the particular species that you have. Is it an indoor or an outdoor tree?
This may just be the most important part of taking care of plants. The frequency of watering depends on several factors like:
- Size of the pot or tray
- The soil mixture you will use
- Species of your tree
- Time of the year
It really depends on those, so we can’t tell you how to water your bonsai without us knowing the details first. But a few basic guidelines and understanding will help you identify when your bonsai needs to be watered.
It is helpful for your bonsai to survive and thrive by regularly fertilizing it during the growing season. It is common for trees to extend their root system to search for nutrients. But bonsais being their miniature constricted selves, are confined to small pots. Thus, they will need proper fertilization to replenish the soil’s nutrient content.
Regularly transplanting and repotting bonsais will prevent them from being pot-bound and potentially starving to death. Pot-bound is when your tree uses up the nutrients available in the soil and when the roots start to grow to the shape of your pot. Because the space and nutrients are lacking, your tree will stop growing. And if no actions are taken, it is a guarantee that your bonsai tree will die. When you report or transplant your bonsai, you are basically resupplying it with the nutrients it needs to grow.
Wrapping Up: Join the Bonsai Journey
Wouldn’t it be nice to embody bonsais? In the sense that they show how one triumphs over survival from harsh conditions and elements. That once the storm is over, it is still standing, more beautiful than ever. And isn’t this persistence and resilience in simple words? What makes life beautiful is not just the successes that come after, but that we became better people because of the hard work and struggles that we went through.
Did this article convince you of partaking in the journey that is the art of bonsai trees? It sure did the trick for us, and we’re already in love with bonsais! You can explore our other articles about the tools one might need and just about everything there is to know about bonsais. We even made individual articles for specific bonsai species. So chances are, we already covered the bonsai plant that you have or may want in the future.