1. Is Bonsai cruelty to plants and trees?
Bonsai culture is only a part of gardening. In effect, it is only an extension of the “potted garden” culture in gardening. It is not possible to maintain a garden in an aesthetic way without pruning. All flowering and fruit plants are pruned regularly to get quality flowers and fruits in large numbers. In pot culture, plants, which typically have long lifespans, cannot live out their full life spans without pruning the roots and changing the soil [Generally plants, trees palms etc are grown in pots for foliage or flowers]. The main aim in Bonsai is to maintain the tree in full health and grow it for generations or to its full life span.
2. Is Bonsai against environment and nature?
The origin of bonsai lies in nature. This art begins after observing naturally miniaturized trees and plants growing in naturally adverse situations. These naturally miniaturized trees attain full maturity and character like that of other trees and plants in nature except for their size. This art creates or develops environmentally conscious artists or growers who love and enjoy nature in all its aspects, embracing trees, mountains, landscapes rivers, ponds lake etc. All these forms of nature are inspirations for the development of this art. Nature Herself is the grand master of all Bonsai growers.
3. Is Bonsai culture a dwarfing process?
Bonsai culture is not a dwarfing process. The dwarfed state of a plant is something to do with genetic variation. There is something lacking in its natural character when a plant is dwarfed. Its health is weak and the plant or tree is short lived. Meanwhile, the art of Bonsai is only a miniaturization process of trees and plants. It is possible only with the trees and plants, which can adopt to survive healthily in a different situation. Here the ‘different’ situation is a small shallow container that the plant withstands and grows vigorously after pruning of branches and roots. This is however possible only with certain species in the plant kingdom.
4. Is Bonsai developed by stunting a plant?
This is a very common comment that I always hear from the public when they visit a bonsai exhibition. They feel that the bonsais are small sized because manure and water is denied to these plants. Knowingly or unknowingly, a lot of bonsai growers especially the beginners and casual bonsai growers are guilty of this fault. They claim that they have been growing their bonsai tree for more than 20 or 30 years. But the tree looks like a 5 yrs old sapling. This is chiefly because the plant is starved and it turns into a stunted plant. It will not show or develop the characteristics of a mature tree in nature. This generally happens with all “potted garden” culture. After few years, these plants lose their vigor and health because of lack of proper care and food [ like care given to the Bonsai plants ] and die or the grower throws them out and goes for a new plant. This to me is actual cruelty to plants.
Let me give you an example. I once collected a bougainvillea like this, salvaged it from a garbage dump. It was a weak plant with a thick trunk line that tapered. With special care, I was able to restore its health and soon it started growing robustly and developed its characteristic features. I was rewarded for the 20 years of work I did on it too when it was picked as one of the best bonsais of bougainvillea. [see the photo]. It won the Best Flowering Bonsai Photo Contest in the All India Bonsai Convention held at Mysore in the year 2007.
5. Difference between dwarf plants, stunted plants and miniature plants?
The answer to this question lies in the answers to the 3rd and 4th questions.
6. Are Bonsais indoor plants?
Bonsais are not generally indoor plants. To develop and maintain a healthy bonsai you need to expose them to sunlight all day. Certain species may grow well with a few hours of sunlight and you can keep a Bonsai inside the house for 2 or 3 days at a stretch. After that you have to keep it out in the sunlight. This is the best and healthy way for tropical Bonsais. In temperate climates, especially in Europe and US, Bonsais are commercially developed [ mainly ficus and certain tropical plants which cannot survive outside in the cold weather] as indoor plants. They are maintained by providing sufficient artificial light and heat.
7. Is it true that the size of the fruits and flowers can also be reduced to a small size?
It is not possible to reduce the size of the flower or fruit in Bonsai. The genetic character of the plant is not changed in a Bonsai, since we do not do any genetic manipulation. By applying certain techniques [defoliation and pruning] we can reduce the size of the leaves to a certain extent.
8. Is it true that if we use the seeds and cuttings of Bonsai we will get a plant with the character of a Bonsai plant?
If we use the seeds and cuttings of a Bonsai we will get the saplings of the particular species with its natural character. The genetic character of the species is not changed in Bonsai culture. If Bonsai seeds and plants are commercially available in the market, it only means that the particular seeds or plants are suitable for bonsai culture.
9. Why and how do the trees survive in a small size with reduced growth?
This is mainly because the plant adapts to survive in the small container. It naturally reduces its growth and size according to the size of the pot. The same species can be grown as a Mame Bonsai [miniature Bonsai 5 to 6 inches] or as a landscape Bonsai or as a giant Bonsai [size above 4-5 ft]. The pruning and shaping of branches and roots also help to retain the size of the tree according to the size of the pot.
10. Is it possible to make all trees and plants into Bonsai?
Only trees and plants that can adapt to survive healthily in pot culture are suitable for Bonsai. In a pot, it must grow vigorously after pruning the branches and roots. Any plant or tree struggling to survive in pots through its lifetime and cannot withstand repotting and branch and root pruning, is not suitable for bonsai. When made into a bonsai, trees are adapting to survive; and not struggling to survive.
11. If we plant a fully developed Bonsai in the ground, does it continue to grow slowly and remain as a Bonsai?
When a bonsai is replanted in the ground from the Bonsai pot, it changes its adopted character and grows according to its original character.