Lilluputian Loveliness

Well, at least it is a start in that direction. A few of us attended a Bonsai class and these are some of our ‘finished’ bonsai.

Bonsai, growing trees in miniature, is an art that originated in China, but was perfected in Japan. It is a meeting of horticulture and art, sculpture and softscape. The art is an aesthetic balance between the plant and the containing vessel. Training a plant, that would never grow in this form naturally, into a tree form in miniature. That is what I see as Bonsai.

I took a class that was offered by the Niagara Falls Garden Club. It was taught by an experienced teacher who brought some of his creations for us to see. I went with three friends and we had a great time.

You can see none of our work is really very good, but with patience and practice, maybe our little junipers will age into some lovely specimens over time. Time is a key in doing bonsai. They are not an instant or finished art form.

The image below was a juniper that the teacher did only the night before our class. Pretty nice for an instant Bonsai.

Below, our teacher is wiring and trimming a student’s bonsai to train it into the desired shape. She is watching his technique.

The inspiration is plants of natural character. Trees growing off the side of cliffs, in rock outcrops, and plants surviving in salty conditions of seaside. Inspiration is gained by seeing plants in horrid conditions surviving harsh circumstance which has the effect of keeping the plants either stunted or contorted in shape. Seeing what nature has done and trying to imitate the look. We all were given a small juniper to clip and wire into these predetermined shapes.

Our choices were:

Formal Upright. The tree trunk tapers from the bottom to the top, imitating a normally sized tree, having a canopy or shape as pyramidal, conical, or rounded. They are usually potted in a square, rectangle or a round, shallow container.

This shape looks like a large tree.

Informal Upright. Very similar to Formal Upright, except that the trunk bends slightly. It is usually potted in a rectangular container.

This shape also looks like a large tree, but one that has been through many  years of hardship.

Slanting. The trunk slants with the lowest branch opposite to the slant to balance the composition. It is potted usually in a rectangular container.

This shape has a wind-blown appearance., like it was found along a coastline.

Semi-Cascade. The tree starts to grow upright, then by wiring and training, is guided to outward and downward. It is potted in a deep, round container usually.

This one reminds me of a plant hanging on for dear life cliff side. I wired mine to train it to be a semi-cascade over time.

Full cascade. The trunk of the tree grows outward and downward at a steeper angle than the semi-cascade. It is trained to reach well below the bottom of a deep, round container.

These were the forms we tried to achieve with our small junipers. Many of us had junipers that had a shape similar to this.

Here are photos from our class. Most participants are members of the Niagara Falls Garden Club. We started by trimming the junipers into one of the five main forms. After we finished that step, we trimmed the roots so that they would fit into the shallow containers. We packed the plant in with special soil, then finished off our bonsai with decorative rocks and moss.

After our class, our hostess treated us to homemade refreshments. We talked and got to know one another. There also was a plant exchange after the demonstration where club members brought potted garden plants to give to anyone willing to give them a good home. My one friend took home a Rose of Sharon.

Myself and my three friends are joining the garden club and look forward to the next meeting. They are talking about the next demonstration teaching the art of grapevine wreath making. That should be fun also.

Here some beautiful bonsai that can be found on websites promoting the art of bonsai. We can only hope after 30 years or so, our bonsai start to gain the look of these lovely plants.

Go to these sites if you want to see great artistry. We were just learning, so I thought I better show you what bonsai should look like.

I had done some bonsai before, but it was nice to learn from someone who has been doing it for many years, and get some inspiration to maintain it as a hobby.

This image is credited here. This looks like a very old and well cared for bonsai.

This image is found here. Cliff side or mountain clinging appearance to this specimen.

This image is found here. It looks like a red maple, only very small.

If your garden club has demonstrations, I would recommend have a bonsai class. We had a wonderful time and met many new people, all sharing a passion for gardening.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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7 Responses to Lilluputian Loveliness

  1. One says:

    I would very much like to join in the fun. A semi cascade with rocky cliffs and moss is beautiful. Did you notice the orbs in 2 of your photos?

  2. I would be great to have a group meet up of bloggers and do all the fun things we get to do in our garden clubs. Maybe we could do podcast demos. That would be great having a group of us getting together. We could host it on one of our blogs, maybe once a month. Well, just a thought. This is the second good idea you gave me.

    I did see the orbs, eerie moons from Pandora.

  3. Wow! Those old bonsai are incredible! I so love the poetic stance of these creatures.

    • Me too! I did bonsai a number of years ago then let the hobby slide. I planted them outside and left them grow. But now I have a new little guy to trim and I would love to see him grow the character of these magnificent specimens.

  4. If I had a very small garden or fewer children I think I would be completely fascinated by bonsai. As it is, I don’t think my attention span is healthy enough to take care of them.

  5. I’ve always been fascinated with the art of bonsai, but like Pink Hat, many children and grandchildren now and gardening and… and… occupy my time. So I enjoy others work. Maybe someday.

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