A bonsai is a tree in a pot that has had styling, shaping and attention given to it to make it look like an old tree in nature. It is more than a mere tree in a pot.
A bonsai is a tree that is kept small by cutting the top and kept healthy by
pruning the roots. As a living thing, a bonsai works exactly the same way as the trees growing in the ground.
Bonsai is a living art form. The tree is your canvas. It does not matter how old a bonsai is, what matters is how old it looks. The oldest bonsai in the world are in the Japanese Emperor’s collection, some of them being 800 years old.
What are the most important things to learn about bonsai?
Correct watering, correct soil, appropriate sunlight, correct fertilising, protection from pests and diseases and patience are the key. If you can grow and care for a tree in your garden you will be able to grow and care for a Bonsai. However you’ll also need an understanding of how a tree grows, its root system and the correct seasonal timing for all the necessary maintenance such as root pruning, branch cutting and foliage trimming is vital to success.
If you learn how to grow and keep a tree healthy then you can style it. A bonsai is styled by both cutting to encourage growth in certain areas and/or wiring to shape controlling branch shapes with wire. There are styling guidelines available, that is the artistic side. The health of a tree is more important than its style. Its style can be continually altered because the tree is always growing.
The only “finished” bonsai is a dead bonsai.
What is NOT a bonsai?
A mere tree in a pot is not necessarily a bonsai.
An unstyled and/or unhealthy tree growing in a bonsai pot is NOT a bonsai.
So many pseudo bonsai are now in shops, that the public is largely unaware of what a bonsai actually is. A bonsai is not a sprig of a plant put in a small pot with or without wire on it.