Why are bonsai so expensive?
As the title of this article would indicate, bonsai are expensive. "But, why?", is the question. How do you put a price tag on a bonsai? What are they worth and what price makes sense for an individual tree? Throughout this article I will try to answer these questions and help educate you on a few factors that add to their cost.
Let's start with, "What are bonsai?" Simply put, bonsai are living works of art. The art of dwarfing a regular tree to create a perfect miniature representation of nature in a small pot. Originating in China, the practice of creating tiny trees and landscapes [penjing] appeared as far back as the sixth century.
The price of a bonsai depends on numerous factors.
The more mature a bonsai looks, the higher its price. The most expensive trees we know of are all old and have been kept in pots for generations.
High-quality tools, pots, and display tables are often transported form foreign countries further affecting the price of bonsai trees.
Not every bonsai available for sale is ancient, obviously. Before they become living works of art bonsai begin their lives like any plant, as a seed or seedling. "Yes", bonsai trees can be grown from seed or a seedling. Some tree species are rare or more difficult to grow, and therefore more expensive. Bonsai trees require regular pruning, watering, monitoring. Both the cost of land and the cost of labor further add to the price of the miniature trees. Some of the bonsai trees that are field grown might have been cultivated and trained for several decades – ranging from 6 to 50 years.
Bonsai trees can also be naturally collected trees that grow freely in nature. This particular type of bonsai trees are extremely rare and their high price is intricately related to the obstacles collectors face. Known as the Japanese practice of Yamadori, collecting trees that grow in the wild is considered by many to be the very essence of the art of bonsai. Nonetheless, this type of bonsai trees are one in a million. Keeping in mind that they are unique, it is logical that their price is much higher than that of regular trees.
The bonsai artist
The time and devotion this process requires is unlike almost any other forms of artwork. While the work is almost a form of sculpture, the plants are living things and will always react in their own way. The people who work with these plants/trees can truly be called artists. The spectrum of care, attention, knowledge, and artistic skills needed to create a bonsai tree masterpiece is often unknown to the patrons of their art. These people keep learning for years before they become capable of nurturing a bonsai tree properly, so it is only fair that their hard work is appreciated by receiving an honest remuneration.
To give you some idea of the level of skill, knowledge and creativity these master artists must have let me give a brief description of what it takes to "train" a bonsai. They're often bent and twisted into shape, positioned around rocks, or even placed with other trees to simulate a tiny forest. The tree's growth is restricted by years of pruning, wiring, re-potting, and grafting, and the plants need to be checked on and often watered every day. Many of these techniques require years to master, and any errors made can result in permanently ruining the shape or even killing a plant that has been growing for centuries.
Taking care of a bonsai tree differs much from attending to the needs of just about any other type of plant. The true essence of the art of bonsai is to challenge yourself into becoming a more disciplined, better organized, patient, dedicated, and consistent person, for these, are all virtues that can be applied to just about any other aspect of life. The real question, however, is not why are bonsai trees so expensive but how to learn to appreciate the efforts, love, and knowledge that have been dedicatedly applied for years before a bonsai tree gradually starts turning into a masterpiece.