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What is bonsai?

Welcome to the world of nature in miniature!

The word bonsai (pronounced "bone-sigh," with equal accent) is the combination of two Japanese words which translate to "tray planting." They are trees in containers, miniaturized through artful horticultural techniques. From its origins in China and earlier, the art has been developed over the centuries to its present state by the Japanese, and today finds practitioners throughout the world.

Many Western observers expect all bonsai to be hundreds of years old, and they are often disappointed when they learn that a beautiful and venerable-looking tree is not very old. But the fact that a tree can survive in a small pot, and continue to grow, produce fruit and flowers, and maintain all the other characteristics of a tree in nature is a wondrous achievement in itself. Bonsai need not be ancient. The objective in bonsai art is to create the illusion of a mature tree. This is accomplished through careful selection of material, followed by the design, development and care process. The result becomes an idealized tree at a very compact size. 

While almost any suitable species of tree or shrub can be cultivated in a container, the art of bonsai is to make a small tree into a masterpiece. It is shaped, trimmed and trained, often using wire to set branches and trunk into the desired design. The wires are removed after training is completed. Designs follow aesthetic rules which have been developed and refined over the years by the Masters.

If you would like to learn more about bonsai, please visit our "Become a Member" page. We invite you to join the Yama Ki Bonsai Society, where members study and learn the fundamentals and the details of selection, potting, wiring, training, and care. We have programs and presentations designed to appeal to the experienced bonsai artist and to the novice. 

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