Chennai’s Bonsai enthusiasts are all set to tell us about this ancient Japanese art form

Life Style

A bonsai workshop in progress at a previous edition of Bodhi’s annual exhibition
| Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

On every second Saturday of the month, a small, passionate group comes together in the city, united by its shared love for the ancient Japanese art of bonsai. Here, Bon refers to a tray and Sai, means a plant – literally meaning a plant on a tray.  

For the 35-odd members of Bodhi, the Chennai bonsai association, there is a lot to explore and learn. “Our meetings are opportunities for knowledge exchange. From pruning roots, soil quality, or even discussing the weather and how to care for our bonsai during the different seasons, several aspects of this art come to the fore,” says T George, an executive member of the association. 

A bonsai from T George’s collection

A bonsai from T George’s collection

For newbies to learn more about this art, and for the public at large to be able to see different styles and species of bonsai, Bodhi is organising a three-day exhibition at Prem Vihar Hall, Madras Seva Sadan from December 1 to 3. Every member is putting their best foot forward, and choosing two to three of their favourite bonsai from their prized personal collections for display. 

Tracing his beginnings with bonsai, George says that he was keen on pursuing a hobby following his retirement around 12 years ago. “At that time, I decided to explore bonsai and stumbled upon the Bodhi club. I now have over 100 plants of which around 70 are bonsais,” he says. 

For Bodhi club president PB Yogesh, bonsais are a passion and an addiction, he says. “I started off with a small collection of around 10, and now have over 100 bonsais.

When asked about the common misconception of bonsais merely being characterised as stunted plants in small pots, Yogesh is quick to say that there are so many more facets to it. 

“I have bonsai that is so heavy that at least two to three people need to carry it. It is widely known that bonsais are plants with stunted growth, so people expect a height of not more than 1 foot, whereas it can go up to one-and-a-half metres,” he explains.

Plants which have branches are usually what are trained into bonsais, and even a simple plant can be presented in a grand manner. “At the exhibition, visitors can see how important the beauty of the plant and its pot is. Many people think there is only a specific style, but there are so many including broom style, cascade style, root-over-rock style, and even driftwood,” he adds. 

A bonsai beginner’s workshop will also be held on December 3 from 10am to 1pm. Beginners can expect to learn from scratch — how to select a pre-bonsai plant, how they can grow, develop, and shape it, as well as information about the type of soil needed, pruning, and its maintenance. 

“We hope that after the workshop, the participants join the Bodhi club and keep up their interest in this passion that brings together a passion for Nature and art. We have also been creating awareness in schools and colleges about taking this up as a hobby,” George adds.

Bodhi: The Chennai Bonsai Association’s exhibition is from December 1 to 3 at Prema Vihar Hall, The Madras Seva Sadan, Harrington Road, from 10am to 6.30pm. Entry is free. For the beginners workshop on December 3, register for Rs 2,000. For details, 9840273708. 

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