The purpose of bonsai is display. The trees need to be seen to be appreciated. That can be for oneself, one’s family and
friends, or for the public. For some individuals, that display is simply enjoying their trees in the growing area. For others, it can
involve showing the trees in the house or even at exhibitions. In all of these circumstances, the way the trees are displayed can
impact their aesthetics.
The display of bonsai is expected to be simple. The Philosophy of Display is that very often, less can be more. The
surroundings should enhance the tree but not draw one’s attention away from the tree.
The Growing Area
Everyone who gets into bonsai started with a single tree. The tree has to be located in an area such that it will survive. For
trees indigenous to the area, that will be outdoors. In the beginning, it may well be on a table or shelf on a porch, balcony or deck.
And as enthusiasts head into retirement, it can also end on a table or shelf on a porch, balcony or deck. The trees should have
their own area because they will require frequent watering and wherever they are placed, there needs to be provision for the water
that runs thru the pot.
The next level up from a Table or shelf is growing benches. Growing benches can generally accommodate more trees and
might have provision for a watering system. More substantial benches should be constructed from pressure-treated lumber or
cypress so that they resist the constant dampness. Other than after the first day after construction, I have never seen growing
benches where the trees are far enough apart to be viewed as individual trees. Nonetheless, one should strive for too much
bench rather than too many trees even if it is a goal never to be attained.
A wonderful approach to a beautiful growing area is to have individual posts for each tree. This approach is a very effective
means of limiting the size of one’s collection and highlights each individual tree. It does make the installation of an automatic
watering system more difficult and requires more time for caring for the trees – both of these issues are good for bonsai but maybe
not for modern working life.
Finally, any growing area should be visible from inside the home. It is nice to be able to see the trees under many
circumstances. They are beautiful in the sun. They are beautiful in the rain. They are beautiful when birds are flying around
them. (It is not beautiful to see squirrels burying nuts in pots or deer trimming your trees with authorization.) It is even nice to
view trees at night when they are lighted.
Displaying in the Home
Unless one has tropical bonsai, trees should not spend
prolonged periods inside the home. In the summer, they need
to get outdoor sun and in the winter the home is too dry.
Nonetheless, trees should come into the home for special
occasions. To display the trees to best advantage it is nice to
place them on mats or, even better, stands. They should be
shown against a neutral wall.
The Japanese have taken the display of trees and other
valuable r beautiful possessions to an art form. The home will
have a Tokonoma for display that changes frequently. While
this is highly unusual in the American home, several club
members have small tokonoma in their homes. One can also
see nice tokonoma in the shops of bonsai vendors and at
regional meetings of bonsai enthusiasts.
Brandywine Bonsai Society has two annual shows
where members exhibit their trees to the public. At those
shows trees are generally exhibited on stands with companion
or accent plants. The trees will generally get last-minute
refinement to enhance their beauty. What one is viewing is the overall composition - tree, pot, stand, companion, and backdrop.
The tree remains the focal point and everything else is there to enhance the tree. This is discussed further on the page where the
Philosophy of Display is discussed.
Brandywine Bonsai Society is an educational organization and as a result, the material in this site may be copied for
educational purposes. If large portions are copied, we would appreciate attribution. We welcome links to this site.