If you were to ask a dozen different bonsai hobbyists what makes bonsai so special, you’d probably get a dozen, or more, different answers.
Some look to the hobby as a calm, nurturing practice that establishes peace and tranquility. A way to bond with nature and watch life grow right on your tabletop.
Others see a tradition, a practice held close to the vest of a culture. Tapping into that practice is a way of reconnecting with that very culture.
These reasons and more are valid of course. Though, all hobbyists will agree that the valued aspects of the hobby are as varied as the species of bonsai, and the leaves on each branch.
All those who practice bonsai can agree that few hobbies offer the opportunity to blend nature with art into a prime visual and living example of the marriage between the two. That’s what sets bonsai apart from other hobbies. Patience, dedication, practice, skill and tradition are words that are often thrown around in the hobby; and rightfully so.
But watching the pieces of living art emerge and grow is a first-hand experience that only the natural world can provide. There is no machinery, no technology to confuse and convolute the process. Just nature doing what nature does.
However, these aren’t just weeds in a bowl. Bonsai practitioners must carefully tend to, form and sculpt their pieces of growing beauty into the natural forms that they envision. Whether it is a scene that reminds them of something they saw in nature, or a complete new image sprouting form the creator’s imagination.
Bonsai offers the opportunity for horticulturalists to become true artists. To take nature’s beauty, and sculpt it into the artist’s designs.
Few other hobbies in the world can offer this cooperation. This begs some to wonder why bonsai isn’t as popular as it could be. Geography can be one answer. Hobbies have a hard time crossing continents, even if they have been around for centuries. A lack of flash and dash is a theory with merit. A bright red sports car with a loud engine has more potential to attract hobbyists than a silent tree.
But while there is a large percentage of the general public questioning the popularity of bonsai, many are appreciating the scarcity of membership. Being a part of a hobby that has so few participants creates a sense of select-membership, a secret club where you have to know the handshake to get in the front door, lending to the mystique and lore of the hobby.
But there is room for more. The hobby can be just as beautiful and artistic if it were allowed to blossom and bloom into a more popular place in society.
This, then, is another part of the bonsai hobbyist’s to-do list. They must be wiling to share their hobby, their art, with those around them. Maybe then people will take more time to see the small trees on the tabletops, and appreciate the larger trees in life.