Bonsai or Penjing Elms

I worked in a greenhouse for a couple of summers during college and became very interested in Bonsai trees. Bonsai is often mispronounced by English speakers. It’s BONE-SIGH, not BONZ-eye. You get into the details when you like Bonsai, because it’s all about cultivation of leaves and branches to arrive at shape. It’s very contemplative, and so you almost learn it as a discipline. Well, I was kind of undisciplined. After purchasing my own and not doing much with it for a year, I ended up forgetting to water it for about 10 days. These little trees require so much moisture, and mine dropped all its leaves. I shot it full of fertilizer and probably over-watered it for a few days, because it came roaring back with sprouts, then dropped those almost immediately and went dormant. I’d killed it. That was my only Bonsai.

They’ve got a really good batch of them over at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This is one of them. It’s a little Chinese Elm, and considering that Bonsai originated from the Chinese art of Penjing (which you can pronounce like four different ways and PIN-JING is how most seem to do it), I guess this is actually a Penjing Chinese Elm. This tree stands maybe 16-18 inches high. They were out in the open on tables with alarm systems rigged up for anyone trying to touch them. Bonsai trees take a ton of effort, and it takes years to shape them into masterpieces, so I’m guessing these little guys were pretty old. I’ve never done a cutout image on this blog before, but the backgrounds at the showcase were a bit lackluster. It comes out a bit better on stark white.
Bonsai or Penjing Elms
Purchase a print of this photo


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