The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes: Their Creation, Care, and Enjoyment

The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes: Their Creation, Care, and Enjoyment

The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes: Their Creation, Care, and Enjoyment

The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes: Their Creation, Care, and Enjoyment

Excerpt

THE ART OF GROWING AND caring for miniature trees is one which may be enjoyed practically anywhere in the world, although it has reached its apex in Japan. Owning a particularly fine bonsai , as the Japanese call these trees--the word is written with characters meaning "tray" or "pot" and "to plant"--is a responsibility, not to be undertaken lightly. A Japanese who owns bonsai has nearly always taken the trouble to turn himself into an expert; he has studied the art and is probably acquiring a collection of these little masterpieces. He gives up a good deal of his time to their care, belongs perhaps to a bonsai society, allows his best trees to appear in exhibitions, and attends the annual auctions, sometimes to buy, sometimes to sell, sometimes just to "study form." He may well have inherited his most valuable trees from his father and grandfather, for bonsai lovers, like bonsai growers, are both born and made, artists and craftsmen with a long tradition behind them. The all-too- common practice among Western visitors to Japan of buying a bonsai and then allowing it to die through neglect or ignorance is shocking to the Japanese. They know that the dead tree, flung on the rubbish heap with a rueful "Oh, well, it wasn't so very expensive anyway," represents many years of loving care by some unknown gardener, whose grandfather may have sown the seed.

But the amateur should not be discouraged by this talk of many years and heavy responsibilities involved in making and caring for a perfect specimen. Perfection is rare, and enjoyment does not depend on it; and, as will be pointed out, there are short cuts and "tricks of the trade" by which a handsome bonsai can be created in months rather than years. It is certainly not difficult to learn at least the basic rules which will keep a bonsai alive. With a little trouble anyone who loves . . .

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