Coimbatore-based M. Ponnuswami, the first Indian to become an international consultant to the World Bonsai Friendship Federation in the US, talks about this art form
Apart from coconut and palm trees, you can make bonsais from any Indian tree. Preferably, choose a small-leaved tree as it adds to the miniaturised effect. The various ficus varieties, rain trees, and blueberries are a few of the many options.
Are dwarf trees found in nature?
About 40 per cent of my bonsai collection is from nature, from abandoned buildings, wells and the like. I have a bonsai peepal tree that’s about 90 years old now, which I got from an abandoned well near a factory. Of course, one has to work further on such naturally stunted trees. You need to keep an eye open for such natural wonders.
What are the crucial requisites for a bonsai creation?
The bonsai tree should have all features of a big tree, such as canopy, trunk line, root line, fruit and flower yield, etc. The older the tree, the more valuable it is. There are 1400-year-old bonsai trees in the Japanese royal palace, for instance, which are guarded as royal heirlooms.
Some people think stunting trees is in macabre taste. What do you think?
Of course, in bonsai we stunt the tree’s growth, pinch off its leaves, and twist branches to suit our design. But don’t we trim trees, harvest leaves from tea and other plants, pluck flowers and fruits for our table, or chop down trees for timber? Bonsai is no more or less macabre than that.
How has bonsai art impacted you as a person?
It is a fascinating activity and the plants are a joy to look at. Bonsai has increased my power of concentration, and cured me of my short temper and touchy nature. I spend over an hour a day tending to my bonsai and time flies by. It serves me as a form of meditation; it keeps me peaceful and negates my worries.