CHENNAI: A few years ago, the sheer joy of nurturing the saplings, the innate bonding that they developed and the pleasure of being in the midst of green made many take to gardening. But with the cost and constraints of land in the city and the shrinking size of the homes, residents of apartments now have to be content with adorning their kitchens with potted plants and blanketing balconies with creepers.
But not everyone is willing to compromise. As a result, banyans and peepuls now line up some balconies, while mangoes and tamarind rest on the terrace. Only, they have shrunk a bit to fit inside compact homes.
Bonsai trees are increasingly finding a place in many apartments as they simulate a lush ambience. Mammoth banyans with lush canopy come in miniature forms, retaining the weather-beaten look and fitting in even the most space-starved places.
The passion for the hobby has egged on many in the city to meticulously tend, prune and wire the miniature trees.
When a handful of bonsai growers accidentally got together at a workshop in the city a couple of years ago, they realised the need to start an association to help grow each others' foliage. Bodhi, a Chennai-based Bonsai association, was born some months after the workshop.
“There aren't a good number of materials available to assist Bonsai growers. We decided to start an association, which will popularise the art of dwarfing trees and help us grow trees in the right way,” explains K. Sivaji, president of the association.
His little backyard has space to accommodate over 400 petite trees, each of different variety and age. Sourced from Japan, China and Chennai, they retain almost every aspect of the fully grown trees.
Suseela Vergis has nearly 200 potted trees bordering her house. From extravagant ceramic vases to plain-looking terracotta ones, the stout-rooted woods are placed in a variety of containers. “Maintaining a bonsai needs a lot of patience, particularly if you want to buy a sapling and nurture it into a tree. Mature ones are sold in the market but they are very expensive,” says Ms.Vergis, who is also the vice-president of Bodhi.
The association, with 20 members, organises periodical workshops and exhibitions to popularise the art of growing Bonsais.
When P.B. Yogesh took up the hobby, little did he know that these small trees would take up a major chunk of the space in his house. His terrace is lush with greenery, with an astounding line up of petite pots holding triangle-shaped trees. “Fruits will be of the same size, despite the miniature form of trees. Bonsai is all about such incredible facts of nature,” says the dental surgeon.
While the rules of shaping bonsais are well laid out in Japan and China, Ms.Vergis says nature should be the teacher for any bonsai grower. “You can grow a tree in any shape you want as long as it gives you happiness when you look at it. Bonsai is a great stress buster. It provides a soothing contact with nature,” she adds.
Mr. Sivaji suggests novices to opt for banyans, as they are easy to maintain.