Filtered for bonsai trees

18.04, Thursday 11 Mar 2021


LEGO’s beautiful Botanical Collection (launched December 2020) includes flowers, as bouquet and stems, and a bonsai tree.

The bonsai tree is delicate, with a gently curving trunk, and a choice of green leaves or pink blossom. Here’s a review.

Here’s a nice touch: the brinks are made from LEGO’s new sustainable sugarcane-based bioplastic, not ABS, continuing their trend of rolling out this new material with plant pieces first. More on the design here (2018).


During his fifth year in Japan, Neil began to think about what an American style of bonsai could be.

Long read about Ryan Neil, bonsai artist, who spent six years in an apprenticeship in Japan, and then returned home to Oregon to develop bonsai using American trees: The Bonsai Kid, Craftmanship Quarterly (Fall 2015).

Neil apprenticed with bonsai master Masahiko Kimura, and when he arrived:

On this particular day, Kimura was restyling a 1,000-year-old spruce.

I’ve laid palms on standing stones in the Outer Hebrides that were placed there by human hands 5,000 years ago, but I can’t even conceive of actively styling a millennium-old tree. Staggering.

On Ryan Neil’s website, there’s a gallery of his American bonsai – and (to my uneducated eye) there’s a difference in the aesthetic from what I imagine as “traditional” bonsai. They’re dramatic! Windswept! Motion and age in solid form!

How much of this is Neil’s own style, and how much is what the American trees “want” to become?

An ancient art, in symbiosis with a new environment and a new embodiment. So I’m taken with this work in discovering a new vernacular.

What would the bonsai of Low Earth Orbit Habitat 1 want to be?


Here’s a command line bonsai tree: cbonsai

It draws a colourful, random tree using ASCII art in your terminal, each time the command is invoked.

The code built on my Mac with a minimal amount of coercion, so I currently have a tree growing in the corner of my screen, the procedural generation unfolded at one tick per second.

It’s meditative. I feel like I could watch this for a peaceful 100 seconds each morning, the success of my day augured by the spread of the branches and the dynamic flow of the foliage.

SEE ALSO: Desktop Meadow (Windows only) which I haven’t tried, but the video is gorgeous. Tiny pixel flowers grow atop the title bars of your windows, and then little birds fly by and land and bring you messages. Swoon.


Azuma Makoto’s Paludarium series.

The exhibit is heavily influenced by the miniature ecosystems [called paludarium], made popular by the 19th century British aristocrats. Much like a terrarium, these ecosystems are traditionally formulated in glass tanks to preserve the aquatic or plant life and maintain its aesthetic appeal. …

The Paludarium TACHIKO and YASUTOSHI are fully equipped with a responsive drip-feed water system, as well as a mist machine that activates to control the temperature and humidity within the cylindrical and cube glass chamber.

Do check out these photographs which showcase the futuristic look of these metal and glass containers, woven with pipes and cabling, each housing a single bonsai.

Beautiful, yes, and also hauntingly alone.

They make me think of Carl Sagan’s famous lines about Earth, the pale blue dot: Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

I kinda want every child to be given one of these at the beginning of school, and to be given time, assistance and encouragement to care for it over the years. If you grow up collecting Pokemon, expecting in adult life a Pokedex of your friends, you create Facebook. If you grow up with Minecraft, you create modular architecture. If you grow up with closed-system miniature ancient trees, fragile plant/machine symbionts made of lignin, cellulose and glass, requiring your care yet outliving you ten times over, you create… what?

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