Myths on Bonsai

- Vic Ceballos () - March 5, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Bonsai is getting to be increasingly popular among the masses. However, there are still many people who belabor on mistaken ideas about bonsai that discourage them from pursuing this art either as a hobby or business. There is therefore a need to demystify these ideas or “myths” in the minds of those who are curious about this art.

Bonsai is expensive hobby

It is not true that bonsai is an expensive hobby. While it may be true that generally bonsai is more expensive compared to other plants, there are ways of doing it which need not have to be expensive. For instance, the trees or plants that can be trained for bonsai and made as masterpieces are usually found in the wild, typically along the coastal rocky areas especially for species like the Bantigue, Argao, Bantolinao etc.

Strictly speaking, when found in the wild, they can be of no economic value as they even look like trash plants. But with a discerning eye to choose which are potential masterpieces and the application of artistry with patience over time, they can be made into priceless beauties.

Even the tools to be used need not be costly. The most basic tools are the pruning shears and the branch or concave cutters that can be bought at reasonable prices, depending on one’s budget. There is no denying that bonsai tools made in Japan are quite expensive. But with proper care and maintenance, they can last you a long time, if not a lifetime. The aluminum or copper wires that are used may be acquired from junk shops unless one wants to use brand new wires.

Bonsai growers need green thumbs

That one needs to have green thumb to grow bonsai is another mistaken notion. Too common is the story that one had a bonsai but died because he/she did not have a green thumb. In all probability if not in all cases, the new owner did not know the basic care requirements of the tree, thus leading to the tree’s demise or morbidity. The best counter-argument to this is how come farmers who plant rice are not concerned whether they have green thumbs or not, and yet they plant hectares and hectares of rice. The answer to this is because the farmers have to make a living out of their activity and they know what to do. The fact is we all have a green thumb, except that we neglect the basic horticultural needs of the trees resulting in their death.

Bonsai must be babied

Bonsai because of its miniature size (though most bonsai sizes are not really of that size) must be treated like a baby, such that it cannot be watered with ordinary water; it must be placed indoors and should not be placed in full sun. In other words, it must always be in an “incubator” atmosphere just like a baby. The truth is, bonsai is beautiful because it can withstand all the forces of nature and it gets tougher and its beauty continues to be enhanced as the years go by. Admittedly, there are times when a bonsai is given very special care such as after it has undergone repotting. Repotting involves the process of reducing the root ball to at least half the original volume and putting the plant in new potting medium. It may be likened to a person who has just undergone a major surgery and usually he is put in an intensive care unit. 

There are species that are very hardy and need no special care even after repotting. Examples of these are the Ficus sp. or what is commonly known as Balete, Bantigue, Limonsito, Argao, Candle Tree, Murraya paniculata or Kamuning and a host of other plants.

Bonsai is a tortured plant

Since a tree being trained as bonsai must be wired with the use of aluminum or copper wires so that its trunk or branches may have curves to simulate the appearance of an aged tree growing in an open field, most people think the tree is being tortured, not to mention that the roots of the tree are confined to small space offered by the container.

Instead of considering them as being tortured, they may be considered more as being trained and with it comes majestic beauty of a miniature tree.

The best analogy in using wires on bonsai is when one goes to an orthodontist to have his/her teeth aligned to look good. To achieve this, the dentist puts so some metal wires in your mouth over a period of time until such time that your teeth have been trained into their proper places.

With bonsai, the same concept is true. The wires are taken out after the trunk or branches have achieved the desired shape or form. They are not there to stay forever.

 With all these “myths” about bonsai having been debunked as such, one can now venture into this art with an open mind without fear that he/she is torturing the tree.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with