A Huge Influence Blooms in Miniature Gardens

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A miniature pine displays a dramatic form in a pot. EVERYDAY CHINA

Seeing these “gardens” is like looking at a universe in a flowerpot.

The miniature carved branches stretch and twist, artistically demonstrating the vitality of nature, allowing the viewer to stop and ponder the circle of life. Penjing potted landscape, also known abroad as bonsai, is a signature of high-level garden art in Suzhou, Jiangsu province.

Ever since Wanjing Shanzhuang (“A Hill Station of a Thousand Scenes”) was opened in the ruins of an ancient temple near Tiger Hill in 1982, Tan Qiuyi has been tending to these exquisitely designed plant trays .

More than 600 works of penjing art are now displayed at the site, the largest center for the graceful art of horticulture in Suzhou, a city known for its classical gardens.

After working for four decades, Tan is now a leading horticulturist. Reviewing the years spent with these plants, which grow extremely slowly, the 59-year-old jokes that he barely notices the fleeting passage of time.

“If you are patient, nature will give you a wonder,” he says. “It takes years to create the perfect plantation.”

Each penjing should be watered twice a day to maintain the ideal humidity. Sometimes the job gives Tan a sense of duality. On the one hand, he actively prunes the branches to convey elegance and beauty as if he were an artist. On the other hand, physical labor, such as making smelly organic fertilizers, makes him feel like a farmhand.

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