The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia

The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia

Bonsai is an Asian art form using cultivation techniques to produce small trees in containers that mimic the shape and scale of full-size trees. The Japanese loanword “bonsai” has become an umbrella term in English, attached to many forms of potted or other plants. The art of growing Bonsai trees in Scandinavia has during the last decade become steadily more popular.

Bonsai means “tree in a pot” and as long as it gives the illusion of being a grown-up tree in miniature, it really can be anything.

The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia
Bonsai means “tree in a pot”

There are no Bosai species with genetically coded dwarfism – everything is the result of meticulous gardening.

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The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia
It’s a long way from shrub to bonsai, but the way from bonsai to obsession seems to be short. A small shrub can quickly become a large forest of several hundred trees requiring daily care and carefully selected holiday waterers.  Patience, root cropping, care, shape cutting and bending of branches with aluminum wire and weights are a must.

Wood-shredding makes scars in the tree and quickly forces new shots. Fire and chemicals can cause the appearance of a pine that has been standing for 100 years on a hard rock rather than a decade in a garden.

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A bonsai tree can grow older than its counterpart in nature. But they all have something in common. The trunk should be thick, preferably with dead wood and twisted roots, the branches should be perfectly proportioned, and the foliage as small as possible.

The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia
Thor Holvila from Sweden started making pots for his own trees

Thor invited to Japan
Thor Holvila from Sweden started making pots for his own trees. After graduating from Schillerska Art School in Sweden, he became an apprentice to Paula Lindfors, a Raku technique pioneer in Sweden. In 2009, he opened his own studio and today his pots are in huge demand across Europe and the United States. In 2017 Thor was invited to work for a month with Shuhu (Hidemi Katoako) in Tokoname, Japan, amongst other great Japanese bonsai potters.

The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia
Thor Holvila Bonsai pot

Hidemi is today the fifth-generation bonsai potter. It makes the Kataoka family one of the few that have produced bonsai pots for over 150 years. He has been awarded a certified “traditional craftsman.” And he is also a master of Ikebana classical style and has written several books on the subject.

The sacred trees of Scandinavia
Trees have always been considered sacred in Scandinavia, and each species has a relationship to the Norse gods. “The tree symbolizes our strive towards the light, with our roots firmly anchored deep into the earth´s soil and our history,” says Thor and adds, “I admire from a distance the stubborn pine on the cliff by the sea, or as it is settled down in the acidic bog where no one else dares to stand. Without flowers and any other attributes, it expresses the simple man´s striving forward. ”

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Today, there are several Bonsai artists all over Scandinavia, and the interest in this art is growing.

The Art of Growing Bonsai Trees in Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg