Essence of a Bonsai

Essence of a Bonsai

Bonsai is a living art. The term “living” here is multi-dimensional. It is not only a living tree that facilitates the art form but also a living process that needs consistent growing, evolving and designing.

Bonsai is a physically and mentally immersive practice. In a busy, stressful world such as ours it can be hard to be aware of our interdependence with the natural world. Having a bonsai plant forces you to remember to care for it and in turn, take care of yourself. The routine and care of bonsai teaches patience, and instills a sense of gratitude and calm in one’s everyday life. Even viewing bonsai has been studied to improve psychological and physiological feelings of relaxation and stress.

The objective of the art is to depict and mimic nature in its most innate form. Every element of nature is analyzed and taken into account - from the bottom to the top: surface roots, to trunk to branches and sub-branches, foliage, canopy, taper, flowers and fruits.

Apart from the physicality of the tree, keen attention is paid to its structure and context - the space between branches that lets sunlight flow through, the styles that weather patterns influence and the intrinsic beauty that surrounds the tree in its natural form. However, the most important aspect that is captured is the “Kokoro” of the tree the connection its mind, body and spirit of the tree – it’s presence, personality and magnificence.


Inspiration is paramount when practicing this art. Inspiration comes from nature, from inspiring designs, fellow artists, masters and often-times imagination. The central design depends on the source of the material whether it is, self-cultivation, Yamadori or purchasing ready bonsais and continuing its design process. Self-cultivation may take years as trees follow their natural course to mature but true vision can patiently manifest in this design process. Yamadori is purchasing “bonsai-friendly” material with thick trunks that saves time by eliminating the natural process of maturation.

When it comes to styles, a true Bonsai lover cannot pick between their favorite styles as each style has its distinctness and beauty. There are five basic styles: formal, informal, cascade, semi-cascade and slanting. The choice of style is most dependent on the shape of the trunk, the size and the height of the tree. There are additional styles that depend on the number of trunks – the single, the twin trunk, multiple trunk, saikei etc. Beyond that, styles can also depict natural influences, Windswept style that shows the flow of wind, weeping style that shows the force of gravity. Often times, additional elements of nature are used – Bonsai growing through a rock, over a rock, on a slab, in a tray etc. Finally, roots are also used to further accentuate the style by showing the growth of roots, exposed roots and aerial roots. When you think about the permutations and combinations the above styles can create, the possibilities are limitless. There can be more than 15000 bonsai styles

Design also depends on the variety of the tree, the origin of the tree and the climate and conditions of your location. There are various techniques to design – from basic clip and grow, to wiring to a combination of both techniques. While it is a personal choice to choose a technique you like, it is also very important to be mindful about the biological needs of the tree.

And finally when all is taken care of…..we can see the Soul of the Tree In the Bonsai.

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