still life photos and nature photography: bonsai pics (or penjing, penzai, bonzai ... ) from the brooklyn botanic garden's bonsai garden

In bonsai, the cultivator must contemplate the infinitely possible scenarios - from the most adverse to the most favorable - that may have influenced ancient trees, and then strive to inspire the viewer with this spirit of perseverance, which the bonsai reflects through the visual and biological representation of such complex growth scenarios and the artist reflects through his or her perseverance in articulating such conception over decades of cultivation.

Hope you appreciate these photographs of the bonsai of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In this post, expect a short introduction to just what is bonsai and how to bonsai, and then a section specifically on the bonsai of Brooklyn

Just to give some background and allow for appreciation of the art of bonsai, allow me to quickly define bonsai and issue a quick summary of how to bonsai.

Define Bonsai; How to Bonsai

A Japanese art form that involves the cultivation of genetically normal plant samples that the cultivator intentionally dwarfs through various techniques (including pot confinement and crown and root pruning). The art of bonsai originated in the Chinese art of penjing and dates from at least the early 7th century. The practice as a whole could be referred to as the cultivation of miniature trees, while the Japanese art form specifically is bonsai

Each culture has a unique aesthetic tradition of cultivation through bonsai techniques. The Japanese style of miniaturization demonstrates the following broad aesthetic:

  • Simplified, refined shapes and structures
  • Relatively large trunks as compared to the natural shape
  • Planted in simple, relatively unobtrusive containers painted with a muted color palette

The art of bonsai did not receive much attention in the United States until the mid-20th century despite large waves of immigration throughout the early 1900s. The art form finally received the attention it deserved in the wake of World War II as servicemen returned from Japan with plentiful bonsai specimens and recollections of their experiences with the art of bonsai in Japan.

Given this expanded exposure, new techniques for the cultivation of bonsai trees flourished. Traditional bonsai primarily consisted of suitable temperate trees cultivated outdoors. The diverse climates of the United States helped spread the practice into tropical and subtropical plants that could thrive outdoors in particular American climates and in managed climates in private homes.

I'll take a few sentences to briefly explain at a high level how to bonsai and a few introductory bonsai techniques:

  • Choose your tree
  • Select an appropriate container
  • Prepare the soil for the tree you have chosen
  • Plant the seed or sapling
  • Support the newly-planted environment
  • Maintain and tend to your bonsai as any other plant
  • Shape the bonsai to reflect the spirit of perseverance
  • Display the bonsai

Some common bonsai techniques for shaping the bonsai include wiring, tying, and weighting different parts of the tree to achieve the desired look.

Bonsai of Brooklyn

The bonsai garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden features trees from all the major styles of bonsai in order to demonstrate the range of the art of bonsai. Now consisting of approximately 350 trees, the bonsai garden grew slowly from its roots in 1925 when it started with just 32 specimens. You can observe the following styles at the Brooklyn bonsai garden: 

  • Formal upright bonsai
  • Informal upright bonsai
  • Slanting bonsai
  • Semi-cascade bonsai
  • Full cascade bonsai
  • Broom bonsai
  • Exposed root bonsai
  • Root over rock bonsai
  • Double trunk bonsai
  • Raft bonsai
  • Clump bonsai
  • Forest bonsai
  • Literati bonsai
  • Weeping bonsai

Look at my photographs above to try to identify the different styles. You can learn more about the different styles of bonsai and get a little bonsai how to advice on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's website. Check out this editorial on Bonsai Styles.

I think bonsai gardens would provide a unique inspiration for fashion designers who might look to this biological art form as an aesthetic that may be incorporated into innovative clothing designs. Think about hats or jackets or pants that interpret the bonsai garden aesthetic in the cascade bonsai with elegantly draping cloths and biologically-inspired materials. 

Architects could also interpret he aesthetic in the art of bonsai in new structures that take flight from the raft bonsai style or the exposed root bonsai style. Just think about it - bonsai architecture.

Thanks for reading, hope you found this interesting. Click through to the Sacco homepage to see more posts on art, clothing, urbanism, architecture, and lifestyle. Feel free to search in my archive for older editorials. 

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