Art & Architecture + [ramification]

Bonsai Aesthetics
Bonsai Aesthetics

Bonsai Aesthetics

When most people think of growing Bonsai trees or plants, they think of young trees grown in small containers to keep the plant small. But there is much more to the total aesthetics of Bonsai plants. Miniaturization is just one of many ways to achieve the look and feel of your Bonsai plant. The ideal is to grow a small tree that closely resembles larger trees of the same kind.

Japanese Art of Bonsai

While miniaturization is an ancient aesthetic of the Japanese art of Bonsai, another aesthetic that is just as old is pruning, or leaf reduction. This helps create the sense that the tree is mature. It is not enough to grow a small tree; a tree that evokes a sense of wisdom and age is essential for Bonsai aesthetics. Pruning often means removing a branch from the Bonsai plant, to achieve the shape and curvature desired. It is important to ensure any scar from pruning is in the back of the plant. Bonsai plants are generally only shown from one side, to hide such scars. A scar would show the hand of the artist in forming the tree, and part of the aesthetics of Bonsai is to make sure you can never see the artist’s work visibly on the tree. It is even better to allow time to hide such scars with bark growing over them.

Ramificatio

There is another Bonsai aesthetic, called ramification, which is splitting twigs and branches into smaller ones to keep a sense of proportion in the plant. Proportion is something to keep in mind as the artist strives to make the tree a smaller version of a regular one. Needles, leaves and branches must all be miniaturized. If they are too large, the beauty of the Bonsai is lost and the tree can look ridiculous.

In every Bonsai plant, the roots should be exposed, but each root should not cross over other roots. The roots need to flare as they disappear into the soil, and the trunk of the tree should be visible about a third of the way up before branches begin. Then artistic sense can be used to achieve a look of balance to the tree, with branches curving and even negative space playing a part in visually balancing the tree. Symmetry is not the desire; in fact, asymmetry is preferable in Bonsai aesthetics.

Bonsai Wiring

Using wire to make your Bonsai tree bark achieve the shape you desire is often done, but must be done carefully. Wrapping the wire until the stretched bark is “lignified,” or looks more woody, is important, but it is just as important to take off the wire before it becomes too embedded into the bark. Removing the wire at that point might be harmful to the tree, and damage the overall look and feel of your Bonsai plant. It is important for the grower to think carefully about the feelings they want their Bonsai plant to inspire as the grower tends to it over time. A good plan ensures the aesthetic that is most appealing to the grower, and results in a beautiful Bonsai tree.