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Sky-high with Bonsai.

Bonsai is a recognizable term both in and out of the gardening community. For some people, it triggers memories of Mr Miyagi’s collection in the Karate Kid movies. For others, they imagine small trees in pots that look (and often are) thousands of years old. This is pretty close to the mark, but if you’re like us, and have wondered what exactly bonsai means, where it came from, and the different types, then keep on reading.

Bonsai is a Japanese term that literally translates to “planted in a container”. In practical terms, it means a potted plant that is grown to be a miniature representation of nature. Species are grown and treated in ways which stunt their growth, rather than being dwarf cultivars, and a true bonsai can be grown from any wild species of shrub or tree.

Whilst the modern-day interpretation of this ancient practice is centred around Japanese culture and techniques, the original horticultural practice of creating “miniature nature” is actually Chinese in origin, but was adopted and refined over time by Japanese Buddhists.

Little Differences.

So what’s the difference between a bonsai plant and a normal potted plant? Potted plants are just anything grown in a pot rather than in the ground. The pot is there just to hold the soil for them to grow, and you don’t really worry about how they grow or look, as long as you’re getting your fruit, flowers, or herbs.

Bonsai plants on the other hand are plants grown in pots that are manipulated to look like natural trees or forests but are kept miniature in size. Growers do this by pinching off buds and leaves to keep certain shapes, avoiding fertiliser to stunt growth, and manipulating the growth habit by wrapping branches with wire. The perfect bonsai is a realistic portrayal of a natural scene, all within the pot. This means it may also involve rocks and moss.

Different Styles of Bonsai.

Broom Bonsai (Hokidachi) - A straight and upright tree with branches shooting in either direction off the trunk.

Slanting Bonsai (Shakan) - A bonsai slanting in one direction, as if it reaching for sunlight from the shadows.

Windswept Bonsai (Fukinagashi) - Similar to slanting bonsai, the plant leans to one side as if it has been continuously blown by the wind.

Multitrunk Bonsai (Kabudachi) - A bonsai with multiple trunks all growing from a single plant, but made to look like multiple trees.

Forest Bonsai (Yose-ue) - A bonsai style to look like a forest. Similar to multi-trunk, but made from multiple plants, rather than a single tree.

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