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For many years the Chinese and Japanese have practiced the unusual hobby of making tiny trees. This hobby, called bonsai (bon - si), probably began in ancient China to show admiration for trees growing on mountains or cliffs. The gardeners appreciate how these trees have struggled under harsh growing conditions in order to survive. Because of strong wind, poor soil, and the need to root in tiny cracks, full grown trees look small and twisted. Bonsai gardeners try to create trees that look like old twisted trees to honor such determination and will to survive.

To produce these tiny trees, gardeners select a tree, such as an evergreen, maple, larch, or beech. The gardeners put seeds, cuttings, or a very young sapling in a tray made of shallow earthenware. The future tree needs to be placed off-center so that it can be more easily pruned, or trimmed and cut, into an irregular shape.

Once the tree is planted, the gardeners shape it by wrapping branches with wire to force their growth in a certain direction. In this way, the gardeners can make almost any shape they like over time. One branch can spread sideways, for example. Other branches can stay short and close to the dwarf trunk.

Once the tree is established, gardeners must also control the rate of growth. They do this by sometimes re-potting the bonsai. Each time, they skillfully prune just the right roots to reduce growth and produce the tiny, twisted branches.

Fully grown bonsai which would normally be 15 or 20 foot trees, range from barely two inches to an average of two feet. They take at least five years to create. With this much time and care required, it's not surprising that the gardener is proud of the grown bonsai as a work of art. It honors those qualities that have enabled trees in nature to survive by barely hanging on.

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4th Grade Reading Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test
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