Bonsai: Trees as Living Art

GardeningNanaLogo_FeatureIn a Center Grove backyard, the world-class bonsai master, Mark Fields, has his bonsai collection, nursery, and school called Bonsai by Fields, LLC. A well-known bonsai master, Craig Coussins of the UK says this about Mark: “His beautiful nursery contains many fine specimens and a great deal of excellent material to create and develop your own bonsai under Mark’s expert tutelage.”

Mark’s interest in bonsai started when he was 8 years old and grew as he trained in Europe and studied and showed across the USA from New York to Oregon. Bonsai (pronounced bōn-ˈsī) is an art that started in China and Japan and became popular in the USA with the movie, Karate Kid. Bonsai means a tree on a tray and is the art of growing miniature trees.

Mark’s Chinese Elm

Mark’s favorite is this bold Chinese Elm shown with a small Broom bonsai called a “mame”. He has the display trays, special soil (called Akadama) and accessories for sell along with a variety of plants.

We’ve selected a few photos that will give a glimpse of Mark’s bonsai knowledge and show some of his collection. Just like Mark, his 5-year-old twins, Lincoln and Addison, have started young in their love of bonsai, and we’ll use their favorites to tell about bonsai. Lincoln’s favorite is a Trident Maple “forest,” Addison’s favorite is a Bougainvillea with pink flowers, and Mark’s favorite is a Chinese Elm.


This Gingko biloba is 100 years old and was imported from Japan with a history sheet listing it’s age & story. Often in Japan the bonsai are passed from grandfather to son making them a true heirloom plant.

Lincoln’s maples give us one example of a bonsai process where trees are started from cuttings, allowed to grow outside, then brought into the tray where shaping steps begin. The process continues until you have the bonsai in a display tray like the picture of Trident Maples that Mark started in 1995.


These conifer bonsai show a variety of styles and are just a small part of Mark’s collection which also includes deciduous and tropical plants.

These are living trees so maples will drop their leaves, or like Addison’s Bougainvillea, they will bloom with flowers and some will have fruit. The trees are kept miniature by controlling their growth with pruning, but the fruit will be regular size; so an apple bonsai tree can only have a few fruits allowed to stay on the tree.

Mark’s Bougainvillea

Mark’s blooming bougainvillea which was displayed last month at the Indianapolis Bonsai Club shows the artistry and elegance of bonsai.

The technique of wiring is done in Mark’s favorite, the Chinese Elm, but you’d have to look close to see the wires. Working with live trees is an artistic process that never ends, and you can see that in Mark’s beautiful Gingko, imported from Japan, that is over a hundred years old.


This is the Root-over-Rock style, which is a process of exposing the roots. Another popular method is called “Jin” where bark is removed on the trunk or branch to “age” the tree.

See the trees as living art, and you can imagine the cascading Ponderosa Pine growing on a windswept Colorado mountain; feel serene wandering in a maple forest among the fall colors, and then appreciate the heritage in the 100-year-old Gingko.

1995 Trident Maples

Mark started this Trident Maple forest in 1995. He also has several Zelkovas or Japanese gray bark elms that make stunning bonsai forests.

Mark recommends a book by Craig Coussins, Bonsai for Beginners, and for children, the Bonsai for Kids by Frank Milhalic. According to Mark, the best way to get started with bonsai is a “hands on” approach with workshops or classes or joining a club like the Indianapolis Bonsai Club. Mark’s web site has information and links on all these topics. From his web site, you can also arrange a visit to see his collection or call Mark at 317-439-0678. You’ll be hooked on bonsai!

Addison’s Bougainvillea

Addison is learning with her favorite, a blooming bougainvillea. Go to one of Mark’s workshops or enroll in his school to learn to create your own bonsai.

Lincoln’s Trident Maple

Lincoln is starting a Trident Maple forest shown here in a growing tray. Over time the trees will be pruned, defoliated and eventually the roots manipulated till the desired bonsai style is achieved.

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