Monday, April 06, 2015

What's nice and what's bad about bonsai? Part 1

What's nice and what's bad about bonsai?

This is an interesting question posted on Pinoy Tropical Bonsai Group's FB wall. I collated the answers and presented them here. By the way, all pictures of bonsais here are not mine. I'm three years into the hobby and most of my bonsais are still in their material-training stages, some even do not have leaves yet.

Good about bonsai:

1. It is relaxing and therapeutic. Bonsais are orginally used as meditation tool by Buddhist monks. By focusing on a bonsai tree the monks could achieve a state of closeness with nature and its spirits--a harmonious unity of humanity with nature and with the universe. 

This is achieved by repudiating the self (ego) through meditation by focusing on the representation of nature, which is the bonsai. And blah, blah, blah...

Of course most contemporary bonsai-ist now are not Buddhist monks and do not know an iota of a difference between yin, yang, and yung, yong, or they even know or care about meditation and all that eastern philosophy. But even in the absence of these esoteric eastern  stuffs, the hobbyist only has to look at bonsai to feel their calming effect and to achieve the aura of being close to nature...blah,blah,blah. 

Another thing is because bonsai comes in different sizes  you can put many trees in a small garden or even within the confines of the home, office, or even inside a car. Yes, I have seen picture of cars with live bonsai (as opposed to artificial) on the dash board. I 

Personally this is one of the reasons why I engaged in the hobby.   

2. You learn a lot about the diversity of trees in the Philippines.

Before I started the hobby I knew very little about our native tree species. I could name some fruit trees, some hardwood and a few medicinal trees. But since engaging in the hobby I have expanded my taxonomy of Philippine trees and can even identify some them by just looking at their leaves. 

Aside from taxonomy, there's also horticulture: How to take proper care of the trees, their behavior,  propagation, diseases and cures, pests and control, etc.

Training techniques like wiring, clip and grow, reduction, branching etc. stuffs that I am still trying to figure out.

3. Saving Trees from destruction.

 Many areas in our country are being developed into residential and industrial areas and many trees are felled to clear spaces.  This is the best bonsai hunting site because these tree are being saved from destruction

Many of my materials acquired are charred, indications that they are victims of slash and burn farming.

4. Investment

Bonsai is an artwork and just like any works of art, it has monetary value. I don't know much about bonsai market and how they are priced. I guess it will depend on the buyers capacity to pay. it could go to millions to a few hundred pesos.

I am into the hobby as a catharsis--a fancy word for artistic outlet. And most of my bonsai materials do not have the potential for financial returns, in fact they are practically worthless to a trained eye, but if I measure the amount of water, the time I spent training, trimming, pulling weeds plus the emotional investments I poured into them, I would say they are priceless.

There is a bonsai market out there many people are engaged in the bonsai trade and are making something out of it.  I guess each to his own: some engage in it for they get something spiritual or emotional out of bonsai and some engage in it for for financial or business reasons and it maybe that it could be for both reasons.

5. Recognition/Awards/Prizes

This is what most bonsai-ist aim for. I don't know how much the prizes for these exhibitions are, but I saw a documentary about bonsai exhibition on TV and one bonsai owner told the host that the cash prices are a few thousand pesos, not even enough to cover for the water and the fertilizers spent for his tree. I guessed its not about the money but its about the recognition and the affirmation of the artist. (The owners are sometimes not the artist and the artists sometime are not the owners.Many owners do not even touch their trees, they employ people to do artistic works.)

6.Lots of online Friends.

Since joining bonsai FB groups, I have accumulated good friends. I learn a lot from them, share photos and experiences with them, ,joke with them, etc. I was also able to purchase materials.

There you are. I slept the whole afternoon and I have nothing to do so I blogged about this. Tomorrow, If I'm in the mood, I might blog about the bad side of bonsai.

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