Miniature trees which are perfect copies of giant forest trees have been grown by the Japanese under the name bonsai for at least 800 years. Bonsai is an art which was first practised by the Chinese and it is in fact a Chinese word; it means literally ‘planted in a shallow dish’, but its modern interpretation is ‘artifically dwarfed tree’.
There are some trees still growing which are 500 years old, and not a few mere youngsters of 40 or 50 years which have become family heirlooms. Bonsai takes its place in the Japanese philosophy, and the small trees become objects of worship; they have a special place in Japanese homes are are treated with reverence, in the same way that Japanese floral art is also associated with their religion and philosophy.
The art of bonsai originally started because someone, probably an enthusiastic gardener, came across stunted specimens of this type of tree clinging to windswept cliffs and rocks on mountain tops, and was sufficiently intrigued by the shapes chiselled out by constant wind, allied to lack of food and water, to lift them and continue the process. From this it was a short step to growing them from scratch which, moreover, allowed complete control over the final shape and habit of growth.
These tiny trees have tremendous charm and fascination and, as you will find , if you start growing your own from seedlings, they are not difficult to train.