The Japanese regard bonsai as a union of very old beliefs and Eastern philosophies regarding harmony between man, his soul and nature.
Much focus and patience is required to carefully prune the roots and branches to prevent unwanted growth. The best bonsai specimens portray nature accurately in miniature form.
It’s important to remember that the goal of bonsai is not to duplicate nature, but instead to communicate its spirit and essence.
Monks began using bonsai for meditative purposes as they tried to join the elements of earth, water and sky. Making bonsai is therefore a Zen Buddhist practice which helps the gardener become closer with nature and more importantly with one’s self. The process is never-ending as the tree requires constant attention in order to flow harmoniously and naturally. With the appropriate love, a well-cared for bonsai can live for hundreds of years.
So what are the main styles for growing bonsai that resemble that balance with nature?
1) Formal upright – this form looks like a human standing upright. It is grown straight with balancing symmetry.
2) Informal upright – this technique is meant to resemble windswept trees that remain upright despite their conditions.
3) Slanting – this shape is similar to dense forest trees that lean toward the light over streams.
4) Cascading – this style reminds the viewer of waterfalls as nature pulls the water down.
5) Semi-cascading – this final method evokes a picture of plants and other vegetation that grow on cliff faces, yet stretch toward the sun.
As you can see, this ancient horticultural art form allows the gardener to become like the creative forces of nature. Through much contemplation and meditation one can produce the mysteries of nature in a living thing which then embodies these quintessential qualities.