Repotting Season – Bonsai as an Aesthetic Observe – Ideas on the Artwork of Bonsai: Artistree Bonsai Weblog

It’s this cycle, this rhythm of stress after which restoration and the tree’s “reminiscence” of those occasions, as embodied by its kind, that results in the creation of nice, previous bonsai…

Walter Scott

The altering of the seasons indicators to bonsai practitioners that it’s time to carry out a sure set of actions on our timber. Late winter/early spring is the beginning of repotting season. Repotting is among the most labor-intensive actions in all of bonsai, an artwork kind crammed with labor intensive actions.

Primarily based on one’s particular location and sources (akin to accessing a temperature-controlled surroundings, a greenhouse, for instance), the repotting course of has a) been ongoing for a lot of weeks, b) solely just lately began, or c) should be weeks away. It subsequently gave the impression to be an applicable time to contemplate repotting for instance of the work that the bonsai artwork kind, the follow of bonsai, requires of us, and the way we expertise it. 

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The Expertise of the Bonsai Practitioner

Take into account how a lot time we spend really admiring a well-groomed bonsai (an aesthetic object). This isn’t to say that we don’t take pleasure in our timber between reveals or reveals. It’s simply to level out that more often than not we spend interacting with our timber is, nicely, work. Nonetheless, the alternatives we make whereas working are made so as to advance the tree artistically, aesthetically. Due to this fact, doing bonsai is an aesthetic follow. In different phrases, after we work on timber we’re having (and hopefully having fun with)  an aesthetic expertise. John Dewey, an American thinker and educator, explored these concepts in his ebook Artwork as Expertise, initially revealed in 1934. (1)

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

Bonsai as an Aesthetic Observe

In accordance with Dewey, the idea of the aesthetic-artistic human expertise is rooted in on a regular basis experiences. On the most elementary degree, he describes a residing organism interacting with its surroundings; the organism experiences starvation for instance, after which finds meals, efficiently fulfilling its want.  All organisms search to search out equilibrium with their surroundings. 

People have experiences all the time as we work together with the environment. Dewey considers the experiences that one undertakes with a particular objective in thoughts, and that then lead to a decision of some type, to be aesthetic experiences.  For Dewey, such decision is related to the identical emotion that one feels when appreciating an paintings or a gorgeous pure scene, it’s an aesthetic feeling. Are there actions that aren’t appropriate for aesthetic appreciation, that don’t produce an aesthetic feeling? Dewey would say that actions which are carried out in an incomplete, “slapdash” method or these carried out with an detached angle,  with out consideration for the standard of the end result, aren’t aesthetic. (1) 

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The experiences that bonsai practitioners bear whereas caring for his or her timber can all produce aesthetic emotions. Actions akin to partial defoliation, department choice, buying soil, sustaining instruments, fertilizing timber, monitoring for pests, selecting a pot, deciding on a show desk, even watering, are all able to being aesthetic experiences. Repotting is a type of actions.


Repotting is a vital course of. It’s best carried out at a sure time, usually not of our personal selecting, and it may be time-consuming. Repotting is  related to anxiousness for many people as a result of, together with the necessity to repot our timber inside a particular time-frame, the way in which during which repotting is carried out determines the progress of the tree for the foreseeable future, assuming that it survives. Keep in mind that repotting disrupts the concord that the residing organism (our tree on this case) has achieved inside its surroundings (the pot or container). In fact, the rationale we’re repotting is as a result of we imagine that the tree will quickly lose the equilibrium it has established inside its container because of impending soil particle collapse or compaction, root progress, and so forth.

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum

The act of repotting a bonsai consists of a roughly widespread set of actions (sifting soil, mixing, cleansing pots, maybe selecting new pots, releasing the tree, trimming roots, separating roots, cleansing and raking the floor soil, trimming roots once more, getting ready the pot, including soil, arranging the roots, including extra soil and chopsticking, securing the tree, including some sort of high dressing, watering completely, offering aftercare).  It’s the means during which one performs these actions, the preparation beforehand, the care and a focus to element whereas working, that determines whether or not the expertise of repotting is an aesthetic expertise; i.e., one which preserves and promotes the tree’s well being and vigor, one which advances the tree in the direction of the aesthetic objectives, the design, that we’ve got chosen for it.

With respect to at least one’s aesthetic objectives when engaged on a tree, Dewey writes [regarding the making of any object] that, “the doing or making is inventive when the result’s of such a nature that [the object’s] qualities as perceived [by the viewer] have managed the…manufacturing [of the object]. The aesthetic expertise…is thus seen to be inherently related to the expertise of constructing.” Whereas engaged on their timber, then, bonsai artists should undertake and preserve an appreciation for the expertise of the viewer of the tree; in doing so, the practitioner undergoes yet one more type of aesthetic expertise. (1)

Omiya Bonsai Artwork Museum


If the tree is wholesome and our aftercare is sweet, then the tree recovers from repotting, grows new roots and foliage, and begins to occupy the container as soon as once more because it regains vitality. A brand new state of equilibrium within the container is finally reached. This course of is repeated all through the lifetime of the tree, and never simply in response to repotting. Leaf pruning, department pruning, responses to excessive chilly, excessive warmth, drying winds, insect assaults, and any variety of occasions can disturb the equilibrium that the tree strives to realize. 

It’s this cycle, this rhythm of stress after which restoration and the tree’s “reminiscence” of those occasions, as embodied by its kind, that results in the creation of nice, previous bonsai by the hands of nature or aided by our personal palms. The Japanese idea of mochikomi refers back to the high quality possessed by a bonsai after years of cultivation in a container, present process many cycles of wiring, root pruning, repotting, department coaching,  and loving care by a talented artist. [Literal translation Mochi= to carry and komi = into or inside. “…the bonsai appears to meld with the pot, it appears to belong where it is”- Bjorn Bjorholm, podcast].(2)

This cycle of bonsai follow additionally adjustments the artist. The method of residing, throughout which we work together with the environment and the surroundings in flip acts on us, results in an accumulation of expertise. Dewey wrote, “…issues and occasions skilled move and are gone, However one thing of their which means and worth is retained as an integral a part of the self.” (1)


I wrote beforehand about appreciating a longtime bonsai as an aesthetic object, an paintings.  I’ve tried to point out right here that “doing” bonsai supplies the practitioner with a number of further alternatives to expertise an aesthetic feeling whereas performing the widespread actions required to each preserve a bonsai and to advance it artistically. We will then see that these actions of seasonal bonsai follow aren’t mundane or routine. After we strategy them fastidiously, performing full actions, and with the standard of the end result in thoughts, we can not solely recognize them extra however even really feel exhilarated as we carry out these aesthetic actions.


  1. Dewey, John. Artwork as Expertise (paperback) TarcherPerigee; 1st version (July 5, 2005)
  2. Bjorholm, Bjorn. Mochikomi, Bonsai Community Podcast, YouTube,
  3. Scott, Walter. Appreciating Bonsai as Aesthetic Objects, Artistreebonsai.weblog, 2023.

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