National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia, Canberra

As part of the National Arboretum,a National Bonsai/Penjing collection is already operational and available for public viewing. Set in the grounds of Commonwealth Park, opposite the National Library of Australia and set back from the attractive walking tracks that ring Lake Burley Griffin, the collection offers a fascinating insight into the ancient arts of miniaturising trees.

What are Bonsai and Penjing ?

Bonsai is a Japanese word meaning tree in a pot. It has become an art form, related to tree penjing, in which woody plants are grown in containers as representations of aged or interesting trees. The three expressions of bonsai are: single tree, multiple tree, and forest. The objective of Bonsai is to emulate nature, to recreate in miniature a giant tree in the wild.

There are many guidelines for the aesthetic styling of bonsai and many techniques are used in their cultivation.The training of bonsai is mostly accomplished by manipulating trunks and branches through pruning and wiring.Bonsai need to be root pruned and repotted occasionally,fertilized regularly and watered properly.

In Chinese, pen also means pot or container and jing is translated as landscape or scenery. The three types of penjing are: tree penjing, landscape penjing, and water and land penjing. The art of containerising wild trees probably originated in ancient China before being introduced to Japan.

Bonsai Societies throughout Australasia

Bonsai societies, study groups and clubs have been established throughout Australia and New Zealand. New South Wales boasts most groups of all the Australian states, but Queensland and Victoria also provide extensive opportunities for enthusiasts. For example, a Bonsai Celebration, hosted by the Illawarra Bonsai Society, was held at the Bankstown Sports Club in Sydney over the weekend of May 14-17.The international bonsai demonstrator was Salvatore Lipace from Italy.

Opportunities are rather more limited in New Zealand, and are restricted to the main urban areas. Auckland and Hamilton, in the North Island, host societies, as do Christchurch and Dunedin, in the South Island.

The National Arboretum,Canberra

The Bonsai and Penjing Gardens in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park form part of the collection being built as part of the National Arboretum in Canberra.The plan for the 250 hectare site involves a “mosiac of permanent gardens, outdoor sculptures, bonsai display, a spacious outdoor events area.”

“It is anticipated that the National Arboretum will be one of the centrepieces of Canberra’s centenary in 2013 … Between 2005 and 2009 approximately 22,600 trees have been planted at the Arboretum in 42 forest lots.These new forests … are in addition to the existing historic plantings of Cork Oaks and Himalayan Cedars … The Australian National University will undertake research on climate change as part of this program of plantings.” National Arboretum Canberra : Department of Land and Property Services.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park forms part of an expanding plan to establish a National Arboretum in the Australian capital.