A popular feature of the National Arboretum is the extensive collection of bonsai and penjing. If you are like us you will have some idea about bonsai, being miniature versions of trees, growing in small decorative Japanese dishes. Bonsai has been practised in Japan for at least 1,200 years.
Penjing is quite similar but involves more than one tree. Penjing is the art of growing a miniature landscape in a pot or tray, and has been practised in China for at least 1,400 years.
The oldest known bonsai and penjing are over 600 years old. While trees can live for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, bonsai and penjing can live indefinitely because of the constant regeneration of their roots.
About 80 bonsai and penjing are usually on display in the Collection, including a variety of traditional and modern styles, and both exotic and Australian trees. They are all on loan from the artists, or their family or friends.
Penjing may have an attached a story or piece of poetry, and include rocks, different trees, ground covers and small figurines or objects.
An important philosophical principle of bonsai and penjing is reverence for old age and respect for individuals who have survived life’s difficulties with humility and dignity.
Bonsai and penjing artists sculpt the living tree to produce a miniature version of a full-size tree growing in the wild. They are designed to create a sense of calm and peacefulness.
Some of the native Australian trees on display last Friday were Banksias, Eucalypts and Tea Tree.
We were all quite intrigued, but I am sorry I did not have better light for photos. It is a place I would like to return to!
Growers say the bonsai art inspires a great love and respect for nature and an understanding of universal truths … which can only be a good thing!