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The Wonderful Art of Bonsai
By
Jay Smith

The potential for enjoyment of Bonsai trees is enormous. These are the dwarf-sized trees that have been developed in the Asian countries of China and Japan for many hundreds of years. Most people have to go out to a forest to experience the marvelous plants that we call trees.

But in the hands of a master Bonsai creator, the beautiful trees can be reduced in size to the point where they can be brought indoors to be enjoyed at any time. And the person who learns this age-old art so that he or she learns how to create this small piece of beauty experiences even more of a thrill -- something closely akin to producing a child, but with the added advantage of being able to shape and design it themselves. And these trees grow more beautiful with age. Some renowned trees are as old as five hundred years or more.

Naturally, they need nurturing and care, just as any prized possession does, especially things that are living and developing, in the same way a child develops. But the care that is needed is not difficult, though it may require some time and some special equipment (not overly-expensive). And, of course, these beautiful trees can be purchased at any Bonsai nursery.

Usually it never enters the head of the admirer of Bonsai that they have the potential of creating them on their own. Becoming a member of any local Bonsai Club (they're virtually everywhere) will provide all the support and direction a person might require. It's exciting to sit in front of one of these miniature trees and realize that this tiny tree in its tiny pot might otherwise be growing tall in some forest somewhere. And you can pick it up, turn it, and see all sides of it without leaving your chair.

They truly are a marvel, these Bonsai trees. The word Bonsai itself means "tree in a pot." And there is not just a single species of tree that is adaptable to your particular area. There are hundreds -- even species that would normally not be considered a tree, such as shrubs, bushes and even plants like roses and many herb species. But, no matter what kind of plant you may have in your pot, it's always called a "tree" in Bonsai language.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to study with the great master, John Naka, also addressed as "Sensei" (master teacher). Sadly, Sensei Naka left us a few years ago, and has been greatly missed by all who knew him and knew of him. He wrote the consummate manual on the subject of Bonsai, which was his true passion. He traveled all over the world to teach and judge competitions and he loved every minute of it. He made his home in Southern California, but the world was truly his, gaining enormous respect wherever he traveled.

If you're thinking of creating or buying a Bonsai tree, you must bear one thing in mind at all times -- these are living things, and do require care and even love. You can't go away on vacation for a week or two and expect to find your tree alive when you return -- unless you've wisely made arrangements to have someone take care of your tree for you. And that person must know intimately the requirements of the tree. A trusted neighbor who, upon seeing the tree for the first time, says, "Oh, isn't that cute?" is not the person to entrust your tree with.

The principle tree for a beginner to start with is the Japanese Black Pine (pinus thunbergii), primarily because itís the easiest to grow and work with, and also that it's available in most areas and climates. It can be grown anywhere in the U.S. and most of North America. It's extremely hardy and adaptable to even adverse weather conditions and makes a superb-looking Bonsai tree.

If youíre looking for a new adventure and hobby, I believe youíll be happy and contented with your own Bonsai trees. Itís an especially good interest for people who are home-bound, and who need something to make them feel vibrant and needed, and to give them continuing joy. Yes, a good Bonsai tree is a tru

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