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Saikei - Tray Landscape

By Jyoti and Nikunj Parekh, India
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This article originaly appeared in "Florida Bonsai" the magazine of the Bonsai Societies of Florida.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher of "Florida Bonsai" magazine.

Saikei, word consists of two Japanese words, 'Sai' meaning a plant and 'kei' meaning a view or a scene. A harmonious combination of young plants and rugged stones creates a natural scene in Saikei. Pioneering efforts in establishing the new school of Saikei were made by a leading Bonsai artistes and teachers Mr. Toshio Kawamoto and Tom Yamamoto of Japan.

In pursuing the art of Bonsai as well as Saikei, the first aim is to imitate nature in miniature. For this, we need to understand nature. Careful observation and repeated study of physiological and growth characteristic of trees, enables us to expose the concealed beauty through Saikei and Bonsai.

To begin making Saikei:

1.We need shallow ceramic tray of either round, oval, rectangle or island shape.

2. Stones or rocks with rough and jagged surface are preferable than smooth, shiny, reflective ones. The stones or rocks should be small enough to be carried easily. They should be of similar type in texture but varying in size. Stones with white streaks on top can give the effect of snow capped mountains and white lines running vertically give the effect of streams or waterfall. We in the tropics, have sandstone, limestone or natural stones, which are found in quarries. Use can also be made of burnt coke or clinker, which has a rough, porous body with blackish brown color.

3. Grow or collect small trees or plants, grown in small nursery pot or poly bags, so that they have small compact roots. Shape the trees by trimming; pruning and wiring, keeping in mind the growing habits and style of the main tree. All other trees should resemble the main tree in style.

4. Select odd number of trees of various trunk thicknesses. The main tree should always be well grown and have good shape. Other remaining trees should be of varying thickness and height.

5. To make Saikei natural, we can use, small dwarf grasses and ground covers with tiny leaves. Surface moss is also useful, provided it is of a fine texture. Finely shredded sphagnum moss can be a good alternative to surface moss.

In Saikei arranging stones and plants in a tray can create different scenes. Tall stones, embedded in soil can make a cliff scene. Flat rounded stones can be used for making riverside and pond scenes. Pond can come on one side or can be in front. In the cliff scene, where the stones are prominent, small plants give sense of proportion.

While arranging stones as well trees in a tray, main large stone and a well-grown main tree are placed more in the front and off center of the tray. Other stones are placed according to the arrangement. Smaller trees are placed on the sides and behind. This creates depth in the arrangement. None of the tree trunk should overlap or hide the other tree, when viewed from the front. Trees should not be in a row, but placed in different positionsand levels.

Many a time, the soil level inSaikei is much higher than thedepth of the ray. These slopes are covered with moss and a few complimentary plants like grasses and ground covers.

River and pond areas are covered with coarse river gravels or broken tiny marble chips. Small ceramic bridges, hut, temple or animal figures are used to add interest in the composition.

Over the period of time, the same small plants of Saikei become mature. They can be separated and made in to interesting bonsai. So Saikei is a future bank for a good bonsai material.

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