Although it is possible that the Chinese were the first to start planting small wild trees in pots there is no doubt that it has been the Japanese who have raised the culture of Bonsai trees to the art it is today.
Interest in Bonsai goes back many centuries in Japan. The first authentic record is in a picture scroll painted early in the fourteenth century by Takakane Takashina. Originally Bonsai (the word simply means a plant in a tray or container) were more or less confined to grotesque and tortured shapes.
After this came the extremely formal pyramidal forms, developing towards the end of the 19th century into softer, more natural forms. Nowadays the majority of trees are trained simply to look like natural trees in miniature. We have come to a time when there is a place for all of Nature’s moods for the Bonsai enthusiast.
About the beginning of the 20th century the interest in Bonsai began to spread to the Western world, especially to America. The United States now have many Bonsai societies and clubs.
Here in Great Britain we have now caught “bonsai fever” as well. There are many bonsai societies and clubs throughout the country. These all hold regular meetings for discussion and instruction.
Some also publish journals and news letters that are informative and interesting.
A Trident Maple which has been trained in the clump style and is approx.40 years old The Bonsai Kal and the British Bonsai Association exhibit trees at the Royal Horticultural Society’s halls in Vincent Square, and put on exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show every year. Bonsai culture is not regarded as an art form in this country but the Japanese Government recognized it as such in 1935. Perhaps we shall reach those dizzy heights one day!
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