Apr 6, 2017

A bonsai’s graceful perseverance is a mystery. The art form represents trees that have adapted to extremely rugged mountainous conditions; their uncommon, poetic forms taking shape over centuries of survival. Yet when taken from a high, rocky environment and into the lowlands—say, in the garden of a suburban home—it could die.

In university professor and bonsai master Juan Lim’s garden, they are nurtured into dramatic, award-winning figures. Horticulture is a hobby he picked up 10 years ago from his sisters and a brother-in-law who develop more sophisticated plants. Winning at bonsai competitions had encouraged Lim to dive further into the art four years ago.

nolisoli profile juan lim bonsai
“It’s not just having a plant that’s been stunted in growth. Of all the plants, bonsai demands the most artistic considerations,” Lim says.
nolisoli profile juan lim bonsai
Techniques aren’t the only things necessary to have in properly caring for bonsai. A peaceful environment and state of mind are musts, too.

“The highest test of bonsai collection is winning. I have the most number of trophies in the shortest amount of time: almost 200 in the last two years,” he points out. In 2012, Lim won in the cascade category at the Bonsai and Suiseki Alliance of the Philippines. His 20-year-old Agoho tree was proclaimed the best in the show at the 68th mid-year Philippine Orchid Society Landscaping Competition last year.

“It’s not just having a plant that’s been stunted in growth. Of all the plants, bonsai demands the most artistic considerations,” he clarifies. Its principles, for instance, are exact: its trunk should be double the diameter of the secondary branch. The secondary branch should grow on the opposite side of the primary branch. You trim it, prune it, make the leaves healthy and nice, clean the bark of the plant, and re-root the tree every five years. You layer it and put fertilizer.

nolisoli profile juan lim bonsai
Juan Lim

But to Lim, following the principles of bonsai is just 49 percent of his winning formula. “Without love, gratitude to God, and praising [your bonsai] to the heavens, it will never be worthy of winning,” he says, likening his show of affection to his bonsai to the findings of Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto on the effect of human consciousness on the molecular structure of water.

Here is a man who controls and respects the bonsai on a reverential level, but Lim’s most important lesson is not some secret technique, but the importance of creating harmony between man and nature.

nolisoli profile juan lim bonsai

 

 “Bonsai reflects the state of mind of the owner and the home.” Juan Lim

 

“People come up to me and say, ‘I have bad luck, I can’t even make it grow and bloom,’ but in reality, they are planting in an environment that is full of negative energy. For example, a family at home fights a lot,” he explains, adding that he doesn’t allow people with negative energy to come into his garden. “Bonsai reflects the state of mind of the owner and the home.”

It boils down to what’s in our minds and hearts. Lim claims, “Peace of mind is the greatest asset we can have for a happy and healthy living. This is an inner victory, which only comes from knowing God intimately.”

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