Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Appreciation of Trees

One, of the many things, I enjoy about Epcot are the festivals. In the fall there is the International Food and Wine Festival and going on right now is the International Flower and Garden Festival. Sadly, this is my second year in a row of having to miss the festival.

There are two things I specifically like about this festival. The first is that there is usually a whimsical garden design here or there that I find inspirational. This may be an old wooden ladder that is covered in various colors of dipped paint and holding paint pans as planters. You may find an old iron bed that has been transformed into a planting bed. And the creativity goes on and on.

The second thing that always, always draws my attention is the bonsai exhibits. These can be found in China and Japan. I have been a fan of bonsai long before I discovered the festival exhibits. In fact, it almost became a regular occasion of any visit to stop in the Mitsukoshi Department Store and purchase a bonsai starter kit to take home. After helplessly watching three or four of these become kindling, I decided that my money could be better spent. Yet, my inability to cultivate a bonsai did not diminish my admiration of them.

Bonsai is an art form and a form that requires years of practice and patience. It also has a history stretching back to 4000 BC. The Chinese called it penzai during the Jin Dynasty. Other oriental cultures took up the form and Japanese began developing their own versions of the form during the Heian period between 794 and 1185 AD. They used the term “bowl” or “bon” trees. One of the oldest known living bonsai has its beginning in 1610 and is now considered a national treasure of Japan.

To celebrate the festival and the magicians who cultivate these masterpieces I want to share a few bonsai photographs from the 2007 International Flower and Garden Festival. The first two are the miniature landscapes of the Chinese penzai tradition and the remaining three are some of the magnificent displays found near Japan’s Torii Gate.

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