Bonsai, a craft for the soul

 thehindu.com  11/22/2020 16:54:31 

Looking at the perfectly shaped miniature banyan tree thriving in its concrete flat-bottomed tub, it is hard to believe that the plant may be over 40 years old.

Fifteen years ago, the banyan was actually growing in a crack between the walls of an old building in Bengaluru, and the owners wanted to uproot it. I removed the sapling and replanted it first in the ground, and then in containers of incrementally small sizes, pruning the roots each time to make it a bonsai version of the original, G. Lakshmanasamy, a Tiruchi-born software professional who has recently launched a nursery and display area for his collection of mini plants in the city, told The Hindu.

Bonsai is an ancient Chinese horticultural technique (later refined by the Japanese) of cultivating miniature versions of plants and trees in an aesthetic manner. While the Chinese cultivated entire landscapes in bonsai, the Japanese concentrated on individual trees.

Mr. Lakshmanasamy has been sharing his passion for the art with his cousin G. Ramasamy, an elementary school teacher in Tiruchi.

They have collaborated to set up Bodhi Nursery and Aquarium at Dhanaratnam Nagar in Old Paal Pannai, and a major part of the display area is taken up by their collection of around 25 bonsai projects featuring banyan, adenia, cacti and crassula (Jade plant).

Visitors may also see a mini religiosa (Peepul) tree that has been transplanted from an open well seven years ago.

Twenty years ago, as a newcomer to Bengaluru, I was struck by a 70-year-old bonsai banyan sample that was displayed at the flower show in Lal Bagh, and immediately wanted to know how I could grow something similar, recalled Mr. Lakshmanasamy.

Unable to afford that bonsai tree, he repeatedly visited the gardener, a veteran municipal worker who used to create dwarf versions from the plants that were cut down during road clearing work in Bengaluru. I realised that this is a craft not just for the hands, but also for the soul, he said.

Working in Bengaluru first in a tissue culture firm, and later in IT, Mr. Lakshmanasamy would bring back plant cuttings to Tiruchi that he and Mr. Ramasamy would tend to on the terrace of their family home in Old Paal Pannai.

We decided to set up a nursery together after friends suggested that more people would enjoy learning about this ancient horticultural craft. And one can start with existing saplings rather than seeds, said Mr. Ramasamy.

The nursery has a website and WhatsApp number to reach out to those interested in developing this hobby locally. It also offers regular plant saplings for home gardens.

While samples start from 500, the cousins admit they would not have the heart to sell some of their older bonsai plants because of their sentimental value. People are amused by our obsessive love for bonsai, but we consider these are our most valuable possessions & they will be our legacy for our children, said Mr. Lakshmanasamy.

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