Monday, August 30, 2004

Ancient art of miniature trees is attracting double-takes on streets of SL

It's an oriental art as old as Eastern philosophy and you can get a piece of it this week in Storm Lake.

Paul Oh of Dallas,Texas, is selling bonsai trees on the Super 8 parking lot at the corner of Lake and Milwaukee in Storm Lake, which has attracted curious double-takes from many passers-by.

Oh, who grew the trees himself, has a variety of prices on the elegant Japanese junipers ranging from $20 for three-year trees to $450 for 30-year.

Oh, who is of Korean descent, said the art of bonsai is common to China, Japan, and Korea.

Oh said some bonsai trees have been in the same family for generations, with some trees reaching up to 600 years old. In a few rare cases, bonsai trees can reach over 1,000 years old. Anything over 100 years old, said Oh, is "priceless".

The art of bonsai involves trimming and wrapping wire around individual branches so they are trained in certain directions. The analogy to life is that we can train ourselves through our experiences to grow in certain ways. Most bonsai are juniper and pine, though Oh noted that some are ginkgo and Japanese red maple. No two bonsai are exactly identical.

Oh said the bonsai expresses the beauty and volume of a tree grown in a natural environment. The literal meaning of bonsai is "planted in a tray."

The difference between bonsai and ordinary potted plants is that the latter are usually plant species in which the flowers or leaves are the focus of appreciation, while with the former, the beauty of the entire tree and its harmony with the container in which it is planted is the matter of aesthetic concern.

There are various styles of bonsai, but, like trees found in their natural environment, no two are exactly identical. Bonsai with straight, thick trunks, slanting trunks, or double or triple trunks are seen in nature. Bonsai, in other words, is an attempt to artificially perfect natural tree forms in miniature.

A recent trend in bonsai is to rate even the feeling of a forest by group-planting a number of trees in a tray to give the impression of a miniature forest.

According to Oh, bonsai is an art which expresses in miniature the beauty of natural tree forms. A single tree in a pot can suggest a striking element of landscape. Yet the aim of bonsai to interpret rather than copy nature. It is a "living sketch" in which aesthetic qualities of the plant are made prominent through careful cultivation.

As a living work of art, the bonsai tree changes from season to season. Buds sprout in early spring, followed by summer's green foliage. The autumn brings rich color to the leaves and winter reveals the tasteful shape of a bare tree.

Oh will continue to offer the bonsai trees for sale in Storm Lake through Sunday.