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In recent years, many North American gardeners have discovered the joy of growing and caring for Bonsai trees.  These small trees, which are kept indoors although they can be grown outdoors as well, provide hours of enjoyment.  Additionally, the bonsai has tremendous success at reducing stress and centering the gardener's thoughts.  In fact, many experts assert that growing a Bonsai tree is more about spirituality and achieving artistic perfection than it is about gardening!  While Bonsai trees were once confined to Japan and other Asian countries, they are now becoming increasingly popular in the West, as more and more people look for activities that will help them deal with their hectic and stressful lives. 

"Bonsai" is a Japanese word that means, "Tray planted."  Bonsai trees are called this because they are planted in a small pot or tray and kept indoors, although good Bonsai trees are more than hardy enough to leave outside all year round.  There is not one specific species of tree used for Bonsai trees.  Instead, a variety of conifer or small-leafed deciduous trees can be used along with other interesting and beautiful plants and trees.  Regardless of the species chosen, it is important that the tree and the pot match each other harmoniously since the goal of Bonsai is to have a pleasing shape from top to bottom.  Your Bonsai tree can be a variety of different sizes ranging from miniature trees that are only two inches high at maturity to average trees that reach up to two feet in height or more. 

Bonsai trees are usually grown from seedlings, allowing them to be carefully controlled.  The idea of a Bonsai tree is to produce an image in your mind that you want your tree to look like, preferably that of an old tree.  Then, the bonsai is trained to that shape.  Training of Bonsai trees is achieved through constant pruning.  By limiting growth in certain directions, your Bonsai tree "learns" not to grow that way.  You can also shape your Bonsai tree's trunk and branches by using wires to limit growth.  However, the wires should be removed before maturity to prevent scarring. 

Bonsai tree horticulture has become somewhat of an art form in Japan.  Bonsai artists with skill can evoke images of the age of the tree, or can even grow their trees to show seasons.  The history of Bonsai can be traced to China more than 1,000 years ago, but it is in Japan that that Bonsai has matured as an art form.  The spiritual element of Bonsai dates back to a time when only Buddhist monks raised Bonsai trees.  Before pruning, the monks would meditate to find a vision of harmony and then try to make that vision a reality.  Much the same is true today, which is why Bonsai trees are so useful at reducing stress.  To care for your Bonsai tree properly, you should first center yourself by thinking of the tree.  This kind of deep contemplation has the effect of blocking out other concerns, at least for a short time.


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Iron Glaze ~ Noodle Bowls
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Japanese Rice Bowls ~ Set of 5
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