December 17, 2008

The art of bonsai, take a tour of Shanti Bithi Bonsai

Bonsai is often referred to as the Japanese art of miniature trees.  However, the habit of dwarfing trees in pots began in China around 200 AD and it wasn’t until centuries later that these techniques were introduced to Japan.  Unlike Chinese gardens, which were loose, free, and expansive, Japanese gardening, limited by space, was more precise and contained.  There, the practice of growing bonsai was quickly adopted and refined.  The tree designs and containers became smaller and more compact, and bonsai evolved into the horticultural art form that it is today.

A bonsai consists of two parts:  the plant and the pot brought together in visual harmony.  The plant is usually a tree or a woody shrub, and the pot can be a conventional pottery bonsai container, or even a slab of flat but interesting rock.  Bonsai are not genetic dwarfs, but, rather, normal plants whose roots are pruned and contained in a confined space.  The foliage is kept in proportion by continual pinching and regular pruning of new growth.  And interesting shapes are achieved by bending branches with the use of wire. Bonsai can live for many years when cared for properly.  In fact, in Japan, some bonsai are several hundred years old, and each passed down from one generation to the next.

Not too far from my home in Bedford is the Shanti Bithi Bonsai in Stamford, Connecticut. This remarkable nursery was created by garden designers, Carole and Jerome Rocherolle, and it has become one of the largest growers and importers of Bonsai in the United States.  We paid a visit to them recently and I thought it would be interesting to give you a little tour of their beautiful establishment now, in December, and then return again in the spring, when their bonsai are in full splendor.      

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