The Three Ages of a Bonsai Exhibit
August 1 @ 10:00 am - October 17 @ 1:00 pm
“How old is it?” may be the most frequently asked question by visitors to the Clark Bonsai Collection in Shinzen Friendship Garden. The answer is much more complex than it may seem. Bonsai actually have three ages: their true age, that is how old the plant is; its apparent age, that is how old the artist has made it look; and how long a particular plant has been a bonsai. Adding complexity to the question of age is that some bonsai have a true age of just a few years, while others have a true age that can be a thousand years or older!
One concept that must be understood in the discussion of age in bonsai is not how old the plant is, but how old it appears. The truth being, that most bonsai are just a few years old. Asking “How old is it?” is to disregard the talents and skills of the bonsai artist. The essence of bonsai is to create the image of a miniature tree. An important aspect of that image is to impart the impression of “age.” If the artist has been successful, the bonsai appears to have the age appropriate for the given image. Some bonsai may oﬀer the image of a young tree just beginning to contend with its environment.