What is Bonsai?
First, let me do away with the common misconception that bonsai is a species of tree.

It is not.

Bonsai is an art-form, and like other forms of art aims to provoke the senses, emotions and thoughts of the viewer. The bonsai artist attempts this by creating, growing, warping and training a miniature tree in a pot to conform to his or her overall idealistic goal. Like all art forms, there is no right or wrong (although there are guidelines) and every unique bonsai creation has merit of it's own.

Benefits of Bonsai
Bonsai not only gives an artist the opportunity to create something beautiful, but also provides stimulation on an intellectual and spiritual level. Bonsai artists have a solid knowledge of horticulture and the techniques associated with this speciality including pruning and wiring.  And because the artist is creating an artificial representation of natural beauty they often find themselves subconsciously learning about the living world around them and start looking at nature in a different way. Bonsai artistry also touches the spiritual side and, when working on their trees, the bonsai artist can reach a deeply meditative state of mind.

Bonsai Species
Many species of tree can be utilised in bonsai including (but not limited to) maple, larch, elm, beech, pomegranate, crab apple, fir, birch and cedar.

Bonsai Styles
The choice of species will depend on the bonsai style that the bonsai artist is aiming to achieve. The various styles are each miniature representations of how a full-sized tree may grow in nature based on it's environment. For example, the Fukinagashi style depicts a tree that has grown in area that is exposed to very strong winds and the Kengai style depicts a tree that has grown in a mountainous region.

Beginning Bonsai
Bonsai begins with a small, stunted tree or sapling that is placed in a pot, providing the bonsai artist with the 'canvas' with which to perform his work. Alternatively, the artist's starting point can be the planting of seeds in the pot, which gives them more control and power over their final design. Obviously, working from the seed takes longer and requires more skill, so the beginner bonsai artist is recommended to start their training with a ready-grown tree.

Bonsai Techniques
As stated earlier, the goal of the bonsai artist is to create a tree that depicts their own vision. This is performed  by pruning, wiring and watering the plant to manipulate it's growth to get the desired effect. Click here to find more information about the different bonsai techniques that the beginner needs to learn.

Bonsai is a relatively inexpensive hobby in terms of monetary cost, however bonsai does require a commitment of time, patience and stamina.