Bonsai: Tray Landscapes
Tray landscapes and forest plantings of bonsai have universal appeal. Their popularity stems from the fact that they look so natural. It is said that a well made forest planting can be so convincing that you could almost imagine yourself walking in a real forest. There is peace, tranquility and beauty and this can be enjoyed over a long period of time because the plants are living.
These lovely compositions are not as difficult to make as you would imagine. They require the minimum of skill and just a little imagination.
Tray or miniature landscapes have their origins in China where this art has been practised for over 2,000 years. It is all part and parcel of Chinese garden art, in which miniaturization plays a central role. Tray landscapes are to the Chinese whatare to the English gardener. The only difference being that the Chinese miniature landscapes are true to scale and intended to represent natural scenery in three dimensional form. by contrast are created mainly for the interest of the plants themselves. Scale is not so important. There is also an analogy with landscape painting where the artist captures on a piece of canvas or paper the essence and mood of what he sees in nature. The bonsai artist of course does this with living plant material.
Tray landscapes are still made today in China and Japan. In fact the Chinese refer to bonsai as Penjing or ‘potted scenery’ because their trees are usually planted with rocks and miniature ornaments to create the right perspective and scale. Some Chinese potted landscapes consist almost entirely of rock. The rocks in this case symbolize mountains and are often displayed in very ornate bonsai pots or marble stands.
The Japanese tray landscapes are more natural in appearance. They resemble more closely what is actually seen in nature. Volumes can be written about this very interesting subject — but in a limited guide such as this it is not possible to go into depth. The object here is to give you a feel for what thisof bonsai entails and to encourage you to have a go at making it yourself.
In creating a tray or miniature landscape, the aim is to make a picture, not simply to put a few plants together on a tray. The composition must have an aesthetic appeal. Some people have a natural gift for arranging things tastefully. They seem to have a perfect sense of balance and harmony. But this can also be achieved with practice. There is of course nothing to stop you copying the ideas of others and improving on them. Practice makes perfect and in the fullness of time you could make lovely miniature landscapes yourself. The example that follows will give you some idea of what is possible using very ordinary plant material that can be purchased in almost any garden centre or nursery.