Bonsai- is a Japanese term meaning “planted in a container” and this art of Bonsai has interestingly been around for a thousand years. Growing and nurturing a Bonsai in simple terms is the method by which a miniaturised but realistic representation of a full grown plant/tree is undertaken.
For the record, Bonsais are not genetically dwarfed plants and in fact, almost any tree species can be used to grow one. Techniques like buds pinching, pruning, wiring branches, defoliation are used.
We spoke to Veer Choudhary ( Software engineer and Bonsai expert) to get an insight into the art of growing a bonsai. He has been associated with this platform for the past six years.
In India, there are a lot of conventions and exhibitions of Bonsai that take place but none on this mammoth scale. This is the first time on an international level with such a display. Moreover, these bonsais are of international standard.
The conclave is conducted with visits from International Masters who teach us new techniques,” says Veer Choudary, a delegate from Kakinada who came to attend India’s largest International bonsai convention and exhibition, Bonsai Namaste in Pune.
“Earlier people used to carry small medicinal plants in pots. Whenever they were travelling, it was easy for them to carry those pots, pinch some leaves or other useful parts of the plant and use it to cure off the illness or a wound. As they kept plucking it, over the years it became a small tree.
Styles: Exposed root style, Informal upright style, Twin trunk style, Root-on-rock style, Mame (miniature) bonsai, Formal upright style, Slanting style.
Bonsai Sizes: Daiza or large bonsai, Kifu or medium bonsai, Shohin or small bonzai, Mame or tiny bonsai
Bonsai Tools: Long handed scissors, Japane style scissors, Root scissors, Bus scissors, Branch cutters, Knob cutter, Long handle wire cutter, Wire cutter, Branch splitter, Jin plier
“Later the Chinese saw it and took it. Actually, is was first in India, but there wasn’t anything known among Indians about bonsai hence the Chinese took it and followed the same policy. After that, the Japanese made it a subject. The deeper origins show that it was in India because the gurus here used to carry the medicinal plants to heal their devotees.”
Speaking about the technical aspect of growing a bonsai, he says, “They cannot be grown indoors, since every plant requires sunlight, but one can alternate them, bringing them in for some time and then keeping out to get sunlight. But they require sunlight without doubt.
“It is just like the normal process as far as growing a bonsai is concerned. Seeding in adequate soil, watering and caring. You need to trim them as and when required, give them a structure with coils and wires (both aluminium and copper) to help them retain the shape. They need a lot of extra care as they are in shallow and less soil.
Once you learn the concept and technicalities of a bonsai tree, you will automatically learn how to take care of your plants.
Things to remember: Water every day. Frequent feeding. Soil shouldn’t be always moist. Never use cocopeat and vermicompost as they hold too much of moisture, instead use organic manure.
“A bonsai takes minimum of three years to get the look, from a basic plant to grow into a bonsai. Now we have come up with new technologies where we can grow bonsai faster, in a very natural way and finishing it in about a year and a half. I would recommend people not to buy a bonsai until and unless they know everything about the tree.
“There is no difference between a bonsai and a normal plant, except the size. The smallest bonsai is called a sheeto bonsai, anything that is just a size of your thumb, the biggest is the courtyard bonsai which is anything larger than 3fts.
Species: Ficus Bonsai, Juniper Bonsai, Japanese maple, Chinese elm, Carmona, Jade tree, Azalea, Pines, Serissa, Bald Cypress, Antidesmo, Briers, Blue Brio from Vietnam etc.
Trees than can be converted into a bonsai:
Peepal, Gardenia, Banyan, Dwarf Jade, Mango, Fig, Bougainvillea, Citrus, Lemon and Orange, Pomegranate, Jacaranda, Magnolia, Japanese Winterberry, Olive, Orange Jessamine, Tamarind, Silverberry, Pachira aquatica (Money tree) etc.
“Many people are in the misconception that we are being cruel to the trees by cutting and chopping them.
“We are not being cruel, actually we are making them look much better. We are making them look more appreciable and showing people the value of trees.”
Talking about his exposure towards bonsai, he says, “I was a person who knew nothing about plants seven years ago.
“I was completely a software engineer, busy with my computer. I didn’t even know how to buy a small plant from a nursery.
“Eventually, I started bonsai and I learnt everything from the internet and books.
“Today, I know the value of nature. I had to get back home and give up my job. When, I went back, and had all the time to kill, I decided not to and resorted to gardening instead. Day and night, I was into bonsai and that’s how I ended up growing a garden full of bonsai out of different plants,” he signs off.
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