Musing on Design: Bonsai – Tiny Landscaping Using Very Little Water
Eye of the Day’s interest in gardening, plants and outdoor living goes beyond residential and commercial landscape architecture and into a special type of gardening—almost a form of intellectual gardening—with Joe Kalina, a man who is certainly musing on design.
Joe is always interested in a challenge and always interested in intellectual probing. He received his degree in Fine Arts, worked as a draftsman and then pursued a degree in Business Administration while working as a designer at Northrup Grumman. Now “retired,” Joe has a million projects, but one has held his attention since 1977.
With his knowledge of the elements of design, the art of Bonsai became a challenge and a love for him. He first chooses a potential tree by looking at the size of the trunk based on how he envisions the outcome in the distant future. He then examines how the roots are dispersed around the base of the trunk to give structure and visual pleasure. The optimum plant has many branches which in traditional Bonsai practice are numbered.
Practicing the art of Bonsai is a true form of meditation and has helped Joe to gain the discipline to learn patience, as many of his projects have been ongoing for decades. For a few hours almost every day, tiny leaves are pulled and even tinier pine needles are removed with tools that are almost surgical. Copper wires and wooden spacers are used to coax the tree into shapes that are traditionally sound as well as pleasing to the eye.
Many of the same methods that are used in landscape design are used in Bonsai: planning, strategy, use of sculptural elements, linear design, visual significance and personal style. Joe has become genius at planning his unique landscapes, but he acknowledges there is time to learn even more patience. He is a patient man.