Bonsai are miniature trees grown in pots. The aim of bonsai culture
is to develop a tiny tree that has all the elements of a large
tree growing in a natural setting. This look is achieved, principally,
by branch and root pruning and shaping, but other factors are also
important. The texture of the trunk, its look of age, the moss
and the under plantings in the container — all contribute to the
illusion of a miniature tree as it is seen in nature.
A presentable bonsai can be created in a few seasons.
Cultivating these miniature potted trees is both an intriguing hobby,
and a means of adapting a wide range of plants to specialized and
decorative uses. Bonsai require daily watering during their growing
season, and, because the plants are rooted in shallow pots,
careful pruning. Bonsai are kept outdoors most of the year,
but — from time to time — these miniaturized versions of nature
are brought indoors for display.
Only certain tropical trees, shrubs, and vines can be continually
kept indoors full time as bonsai. Bonsai, as an art form, stems
from ancient oriental culture. It originated in China and was
developed by the Japanese. In the 13th century, the Japanese
collected and potted wild trees that had been dwarfed by nature.
These naturally formed miniatures were the first bonsai.
When demand for the small trees outstripped the supply,
Japanese gardeners began to train bonsai from native trees.
They shaped the trees to give them the illusion of age and
naturalness. Over the years, the Japanese devised standards of
shape and form, which gradually began the classic bonsai styles.
American bonsai are much freer in concept and style than
American bonsai growers have recognized that
the horticultural and aesthetic rules are important, but are
specifically aimed at Japanese culture. Because of this,
Americans have taken oriental styles and applied them to plants
Never grown by the Japanese. Therefore, the rigid procedures
and names used by the Japanese are not used in this bulletin.