Book Review: Bountiful Bonsai

Bountiful Bonsai:  Create Instant Indoor Container Gardens With Edible Fruits, Herbs And Flowers, by Richard W. Bender

The author has made a bit of a niche for himself as someone who seeks to combine an appreciation for the traditional arts of bonsai from Chinese and Japanese Buddhism with American impatience and a desire for productivity.  This happens to be the second book of his that I have read and I appreciate his focus on edible gardening [1].  To be sure, there are likely many readers who would be able to take the author up on his suggestions of how to combine an appreciation for harvests with an aesthetic appreciation of bonsai, and though there are some tradeoffs here, the author is honest about those tradeoffs and ambitious in seeking to provide a place for an expansion of interest in the art of bonsai in a way that serves a sustainable interest in people growing food and herbs for themselves to enjoy.  If it is likely to be a considerable length of time before I am involved in any such efforts myself, at least this is the sort of book whose approach I can definitely appreciate.

This book of slightly more than 100 pages is a pretty quick and easy read.  The author begins with an overview of bonsai as an art including its history and how it became popular in the United States thanks to the Karate Kid series (1).  After that, the author gives some discussion about how one can create instant bonsai, mostly through buying bonsai-ready plants at nurseries or salvaging plants that would otherwise be targeted for destruction outside (2).  The third and largest chapter contains the author’s discussion of various edible trees and herbs that are suitable for medium to large bonsai creations, including a wide variety of fruits, herbs like basil and thyme, all organized alphabetically by their common names (3).  Many of these discussions include pictures as well as the author giving some idea of the water requirements and yields and how one can best prune such trees to keep them smallish as well as bountiful in an indoors environment.  After this the author gives some tips on how one can find future bonsai, mostly through buying seeds sight unseen or taking an interest in local nurseries (4).  Finally, the author discusses how to care for bonsai on a long-term basis (5) as well as enjoy the bountiful harvest that can result from training bonsai herbs and trees that provide an edible and useful harvest (6).

Over and over again the author brings up the fact that he lives in Colorado and has been able to grow, indoors, a large variety of tropical and subtropical edible bonsai arrangements.  One wonders how much room he has in his house to have so many plants, and to reflect on the tragedy that took place when wildfires damaged or destroyed many of the trees that appear in this book.  By and large, though, despite those concerns, this book was quite an enjoyable one to read.  I do not know how popular bonsai is for gardeners, since I tend to see it only in Japanese or Chinese gardens, but the combination of aesthetically pleasing as well as agriculturally productive fruit trees and herbs is appealing for someone who grew up in a family where growing fruits and gardening were definite interests.  Perhaps someday I will engage in the same efforts myself, time and conditions permitting.  Books like this are a pleasure to read as someone who enjoys beautiful trees and who also has a fine taste in enjoying tasty food, and it appears the author combines these interests as well.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Book Review: Bountiful Bonsai

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Sugar Snaps And Strawberries | Edge Induced Cohesion

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